Translated by the Rev. S. Thelwall.
Text edited by Rev. Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson and first published by T&T Clark in Edinburgh in 1867. Additional introductionary material and notes provided for the American edition by A. Cleveland Coxe, 1886.
Chapter I. Truth Rather to Be Appealed to Than Custom, and Truth Progressive in Its Developments.Having already undergone the trouble peculiar to my opinion, I will show in Latin also that it behoves our virgins to be veiled from the time that they have passed the turning-point of their age: that this observance is exacted by truth, on which no one can impose prescription'no space of times, no influence of persons, no privilege of regions. For these, for the most part, are the sources whence, from some ignorance or simplicity, custom finds its beginning; and then it is successionally confirmed into an usage, and thus is maintained in opposition to truth. But our Lord Christ has surnamed Himself Truth,  not Custom. If Christ is always, and prior to all, equally truth is a thing sempiternal and ancient. Let those therefore look to themselves, to whom that is new which is intrinsically old. It is not so much novelty as truth which convicts heresies. Whatever savours of opposition to truth, this will be heresy, even (if it be an) ancient custom. On the other hand, if any is ignorant of anything, the ignorance proceeds from his own defect. Moreover, whatever is matter of ignorance ought to have been as carefully inquired into as whatever is matter of acknowledgment received. The rule of faith, indeed, is altogether one, alone immoveable and irreformable; the rule, to wit, of believing in one only God omnipotent, the Creator of the universe, and His Son Jesus Christ, born of the Virgin Mary, crucified under Pontius Pilate, raised again the third day from the dead, received in the heavens, sitting now at the right (hand) of the Father, destined to come to judge quick and dead through the resurrection of the flesh as well (as of the spirit). This law of faith being constant, the other succeeding points of discipline and conversation admit the "novelty" of correction; the grace of God, to wit, operating and advancing even to the end. For what kind of (supposition) is it, that, while the devil is always operating and adding daily to the ingenuities of iniquity, the work of God should either have ceased, or else have desisted from advancing? whereas the reason why the Lord sent the Paraclete was, that, since human mediocrity was unable to take in all things at once, discipline should, little by little, be directed, and ordained, and carried on to perfection, by that Vicar of the Lord, the Holy Spirit. "Still," He said, "I have many things to say to you, but ye are not yet able to bear them: when that Spirit of truth shall have come, He will conduct you into all truth, and will report to you the supervening (things)."  But above, withal, He made a declaration concerning this His work.  What, then, is the Paraclete's administrative office but this: the direction of discipline, the revelation of the Scriptures, the reformation of the intellect, the advancement toward the "better things? "  Nothing is without stages of growth: all things await their season. In short, the preacher says, "A time to everything."  Look how creation itself advances little by little to fructification. First comes the grain, and from the grain arises the shoot, and from the shoot struggles out the shrub: thereafter boughs and leaves gather strength, and the whole that we call a tree expands: then follows the swelling of the germen, and from the germen bursts the flower, and from the flower the fruit opens: that fruit itself, rude for a while, and unshapely, little by little, keeping the straight course of its development, is trained to the mellowness of its flavour.  So, too, righteousness'for the God of righteousness and of creation is the same'was first in a rudimentary state, having a natural fear of God: from that stage it advanced, through the Law and the Prophets, to infancy; from that stage it passed, through the Gospel, to the fervour of youth: now, through the Paraclete, it is settling into maturity. He will be, after Christ, the only one to be called and revered as Master;  for He speaks not from Himself, but what is commanded by Christ.  He is the only prelate, because He alone succeeds Christ. They who have received Him set truth before custom. They who have heard Him prophesying even to the present time, not of old, bid virgins be wholly covered.
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Throughout Greece, and certain of its barbaric provinces, the majority of Churches keep their virgins covered. There are places, too, beneath this (African) sky, where this practice obtains; lest any ascribe the custom to Greek or barbarian Gentilehood. But I have proposed (as models) those Churches which were founded by apostles or apostolic men; and antecedently, I think, to certain (founders, who shall be nameless). Those Churches therefore, as well (as others), have the self-same authority of custom (to appeal to); in opposing phalanx they range "times" and "teachers," more than these later (Churches do). What shah we observe? What shall we choose? We cannot contemptuously reject a custom which we cannot condemn, inasmuch as it is not "strange," since it is not among "strangers" that we find it, but among those, to wit, with whom we share the law of peace and the name of brotherhood. They and we have one faith, one God, the same Christ, the same hope, the same baptismal sacraments; let me say it once for all, we are one Church.  Thus, whatever belongs to our brethren is ours: only, the body divides us.
Still, here (as generally happens in all cases of various practice, of doubt, and of uncertainty), examination ought to have been made to see which of two so diverse customs were the more compatible with the discipline of God. And, of course, that ought to have been chosen which keeps virgins veiled, as being known to God alone; who (besides that glory must be sought from God, not from men  ) ought to blush even at their own privilege. You put a virgin to the blush more by praising than by blaming her; because the front of sin is more hard, learning shamelessness from and in the sin itself. For that custom which belies virgins while it exhibits them, would never have been approved by any except by some men who must have been similar in character to the virgins themselves. Such eyes will wish that a virgin be seen as has the virgin who shall wish to be seen. The same kinds of eyes reciprocally crave after each other. Seeing and being seen belong to the self-same lust. To blush if he see a virgin is as much a mark of a chaste  man, as of a chaste  virgin if seen by a man.
But we withal retort the self-same line of argument. For he who knew elsewhere how to make mention of each sex'of virgin I mean, and woman, that is, not-virgin'for distinction's sake; in these (passages), in which he does not name a virgin, points out (by not making the distinction) community of condition. Otherwise he could here also have marked the difference between virgin and woman, just as elsewhere he says, "Divided is the woman and the virgin."  Therefore those whom, by passing them over in silence, he has not divided, he has included in the other species.
Nor yet, because in that case "divided is both woman and virgin," will this division exert its patronizing influence in the present case as well, as some will have it. For how many sayings, uttered on another occasion, have no weight'in cases, to wit, where they are not uttered'unless the subject-matter be the same as on the other occasion, so that the one utterance may suffice! But the former case of virgin and woman is widely "divided" from the present question. "Divided," he says, "is the woman and the virgin." Why? Inasmuch as "the unmarried," that is, the virgin, "is anxious about those (things) which are the Lord's, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit; but the married," that is, the not-virgin, "is anxious how she may please her husband." This will be the interpretation of that "division," having no place in this passage (now under consideration); in which pronouncement is made neither about marriage, nor about the mind and the thought of woman and of virgin, but about the veiling of the head. Of which (veiling) the Holy Spirit, willing that there should be no distinction, willed that by the one name of woman should likewise be understood the virgin; whom, by not specially naming, He has not separated from the woman, and, by not separating, has conjoined to her from whom He has not separated her.
Is it now, then, a "novelty" to use the primary word, and nevertheless to have the other (subordinate divisions) understood in that word, in cases where there is no necessity for individually distinguishing the (various parts of the) universal whole? Naturally, a compendious style of speech is both pleasing and necessary; inasmuch as diffuse speech is both tiresome and vain. So, too, we are content with general words, which comprehend in themselves the understanding of the specialties. Proceed we, then, to the word itself. The word (expressing the) natural (distinction) is female. Of the natural word, the general word is woman. Of the general, again, the special is virgin, or wife, or widow, or whatever other names, even of the successive stages of life, are added hereto. Subject, therefore, the special is to the general (because the general is prior); and the succedent to the antecedent, and the partial to the universal: (each) is implied in the word itself to which it is subject; and is signified in it, because contained in it. Thus neither hand, nor foot, nor any one of the members, requires to be signified when the body is named. And if you say the universe, therein will be both the heaven and the things that are in it,'sun and moon, and constellations and stars,'and the earth and the seas, and everything that goes to make up the list of elements. You will have named all, when you have named that which is made up of all. So, too, by naming woman, he has named whatever is woman's.
When this kind of second human being was made by God for man's assistance, that female was forthwith named woman; still happy, still worthy of paradise, still virgin. "She shall be called," said (Adam), "woman." And accordingly you have the name,'I say, not already common to a virgin, but'proper (to her; a name) which from the beginning was allotted to a virgin. But some ingeniously will have it that it was said of the future, "She shall be called woman," as if she were destined to be so when she had resigned her virginity; since he added withal: "For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and be conglutinated to his own woman; and the two shall be one flesh." Let them therefore among whom that subtlety obtains show us first, if she were surnamed woman with a future reference, what name she meantime received. For without a name expressive of her present quality she cannot have been. But what kind of (hypothesis) is it that one who, with an eye to the future, was called by a definite name, at the present time should have nothing for a surname? On all animals Adam imposed names; and on none on the ground of future condition, but on the ground of the present purpose which each particular nature served;  called (as each nature was) by that to which from the beginning it showed a propensity. What, then, was she at that time called? Why, as often as she is named in the Scripture, she has the appellation woman before she was wedded, and never virgin while she was a virgin.
This name was at that time the only one she had, and (that) when nothing was (as yet) said prophetically. For when the Scripture records that "the two were naked, Adam and his woman," neither does this savour of the future, as if it said "his woman" as a presage of "wife; "but because his woman  was withal unwedded, as being (formed) from his own substance. "This bone," he says, "out of my bones, and flesh out of my flesh, shall be called woman." Hence, then, it is from the tacit consciousness of nature that the actual divinity of the soul has educed into the ordinary usage of common speech, unawares to men, (just as it has thus educed many other things too which we shall elsewhere be able to show to derive from the Scriptures the origin of their doing and saying,) our fashion of calling our wives our women, however improperly withal we may in same instances speak. For the Greeks, too, who use the name of woman more (than we do) in the sense of wife, have other names appropriate to wife. But I prefer to assign this usage as a testimony to Scripture. For when two are made into one flesh through the marriage-tie, the "flesh of flesh and bone of bones" is called the woman of him of whose substance she begins to be accounted by being made his wife. Thus woman is not by nature a name of wife, but wife by condition is a name of woman. In fine, womanhood is predicable apart from wifehood; but wifehood apart from womanhood is not, because it cannot even exist. Having therefore settled the name of the newly-made female'which (name) is woman'and having explained what she formerly was, that is, having sealed the name to her, he immediately turned to the prophetic reason, so as to say, "On this account shall a man leave father and mother." The name is so truly separate from the prophecy, as far as (the prophecy) from the individual person herself, that of course it is not with reference to Eve herself that (Adam) has uttered (the prophecy), but with a view to those future females whom he has named in the maternal fount of the feminine race. Besides, Adam was not to leave "father and mother"'whom he had not'for the sake of Eve. Therefore that which was prophetically said does not apply to Eve, because it does not to Adam either. For it was predicted with regard to the condition of husbands, who were destined to leave their parents for a woman's sake; which could net chance to Eve, because it could not to Adorn either.
If the case is so, it is apparent that she was not surnamed woman on account of a future (circumstance), to whom (that) future (circumstance) did not apply.
To this is added, that (Adam) himself published the reason of the name. For, after saying, "She shall be called woman," he said, "inasmuch as she hath been taken out of man"'the man himself withal being still a virgin. But we will speak, too, about the name of man  in its own place. Accordingly, let none interpret with a prophetic reference a name which was deduced from another signification; especially since it is apparent when she did receive a name rounded upon a future (circumstance)'there, namely, where she is surnamed "Eve," with a personal name now, because the natural one had gone before.  For if "Eve" means "the mother of the living," behold, she is surnamed from a future (circumstance)! behold, she is pre-announced to be a wife, and not a virgin! This will be the name of one who is about to wed; for of the bride (comes) the mother.
Thus in this case too it is shown, that it was not from a future (circumstance) that she was at that time named woman, who was shortly after to receive the name which would be proper to her future condition.
Sufficient answer has been made to this part (of the question).
But to these two (arguments), again, there is one who appears to himself to have made an ingenious answer; (to the effect that) inasmuch as Mary was "betrothed," therefore it is that both by angel and apostle she is pronounced a woman; for a "betrothed" is in some sense a "bride." Still, between "in some sense" and "truth" there is difference enough, at all events in the present place: for elsewhere, we grant, we must thus hold. Now, however, it is not as being already wedded that they have pronounced Mary a woman, but as being none the less a female even if she had not been espoused; as having been called by this (name) from the beginning: for that must necessarily have a prejudicating force from which the normal type has descended. Else, as far as relates to the present passage, if Mary is here put on a level with a "betrothed," so that she is called a woman not on the Found of being a female, but on the ground of being assigned to a husband, it immediately follows that Christ was not born of a virgin, because (born) of one "betrothed," who by this fact will have ceased to be a virgin. Whereas, if He was born of a virgin'albeit withal "betrothed," yet intact'acknowledge that even a virgin, even an intact one, is called a woman. Here, at all events, there can be no semblance of speaking prophetically, as if the apostle should have named a future woman, that is, bride, in saying "made of a woman." For he could not be naming a posterior woman, from whom Christ had not to be born'that is, one who had known a man; but she who was then present, who was a virgin, was withal called a woman in consequence of the propriety of this name,'vindicated, in accordance with the primordial norm, (as belonging) to a virgin, and thus to the universal class of women.
If "the man is bead of the woman,"  of course (he is) of the virgin too, from whom comes the woman who has married; unless the virgin is a third generic class, some monstrosity with a head of its own. If" it is shameful for a woman to be shaven or shorn," of course it is so for a virgin. (Hence let the world, the rival of God, see to it, if it asserts that close-cut hair is graceful to a virgin in like manner as that flowing hair is to a boy.) To her, then, to whom it is equally unbecoming to be shaven or shorn, it is equally becoming to be covered. If" the woman is the glory of the man," how much more the virgin, who is a glory withal to herself! If "the woman is of the man," and "for the sake of the man," that rib of Adam  was first a virgin. If "the woman ought to have power upon the head,"  all the more justly ought the virgin, to whom pertains the essence of the cause (assigned for this assertion). For if (it is) on account of the angels'those, to wit, whom we read of as having fallen from God and heaven on account of concupiscence after females'who can presume that it was bodies already defiled, and relics of human lust, which such angels yearned after, so as not rather to have been inflamed for virgins, whose bloom pleads an excuse for human lust likewise? For thus does Scripture withal suggest: "And it came to pass," it says, "when men had begun to grow more numerous upon the earth, there were withal daughters born them; but the sons of God, having descried the daughters of men, that they were fair, took to themselves wives of all whom they elected."  For here the Greek name of women does seem to have the sense "wives," inasmuch as mention is made of marriage. When, then, it says "the daughters of men," it manifestly purports virgins, who would be still reckoned as belonging to their parents'for wedded women are called their husbands''whereas it could have said "the wives of men: "in like manner not naming the angels adulterers, but husbands, while they take unwedded" daughters of men," who it has above said were "born," thus also signifying their virginity: first,"born; "but here, wedded to angels. Anything else I know not that they were except "born" and subsequently wedded. So perilous a face, then, ought to be shaded, which has cast stumbling-stones even so far as heaven: that, when standing in the presence of God, at whose bar it stands accused of the driving of the angels from their (native) confines, it may blush before the other angels as well; and may repress that former evil liberty of its head,'(a liberty) now to be exhibited not even before human eyes. But even if they were females already contaminated whom those angels had desired, so much the more "on account of the angels" would it have been the duty of virgins to be veiled, as it would have been the more possible for virgins to have been the cause of the angels' sinning. If, moreover, the apostle further adds the prejudgment of "nature," that redundancy of locks is an honour to a woman, because hair serves for a covering,  of course it is most of all to a virgin that this is a distinction; for their very adornment properly consists in this, that, by being massed together upon the crown, it wholly covers the very citadel of the head with an encirclement of hair.
It is not permitted to a woman to speak in the church;  but neither (is it permitted her) to teach, nor to baptize, nor to offer, nor to claim to herself a lot in any manly function, not to say (in any) sacerdotal office. Let us inquire whether any of these be lawful to a virgin. If it is not lawful to a virgin, but she is subjected on the self-same terms (as the woman), and the necessity for humility is assigned her together with the woman, whence will this one thing be lawful to her which is not lawful to any and every female? If any is a virgin, and has proposed to sanctify her flesh, what prerogative does she (thereby) earn adverse to her own condition? Is the reason why it is granted her to dispense with the veil, that she may be notable and marked as she enters the church? that she may display the honour of sanctity in the liberty of her head? More worthy distinction could have been conferred on her by according her some prerogative of manly rank or office! I know plainly, that in a certain place a virgin of less than twenty years of age has been placed in the order of widows! whereas if the bishop had been bound to accord her any relief, he might, of course, have done it in some other way without detriment to the respect due to discipline; that such a miracle, not to say monster, should not be pointed at in the church, a virgin-widow! the more portentous indeed, that not even as a widow did she veil her head; denying herself either way; both as virgin, in that she is counted a widow, and as widow, in that she is styled a virgin. But the authority which licenses her sitting in that seat uncovered is the same which allows her to sit there as a virgin: a seat to which (besides the "sixty years"  not merely "single-husbanded "(women)'that is, married women'are at length elected, but "mothers" to boot, yes, and "educators of children; "in order, forsooth, that their experimental training in all the affections may, on the one hand, have rendered them capable of readily aiding all others with counsel and comfort, and that, on the other, they may none the less have travelled down the whole course of probation whereby a female can he tested. So true is; it, that, on the ground of her position, nothing in the way of public honour is permitted to a virgin.
But it is not so; but from the time when she begins to be self-conscious, and to awake to the sense of her own nature, and to emerge from the virgin's (sense), and to experience that novel (sensation) which belongs to the succeeding age. For withal the founders of the race, Adam and Eve, so long as they were without intelligence, went "naked; "but after they tasted of "the tree of recognition," they were first sensible of nothing more than of their cause for shame. Thus they each marked their intelligence of their own sex by a covering.  But even if it is "on account of the angels" that she is to be veiled,  doubtless the age from which the law of the veil will come into operation will be that from which "the daughters of men" were able to invite concupiscence of their persons, and to experience marriage. For a virgin ceases to be a virgin from the time that it becomes possible for her not to be one. And accordingly, among Israel, it is unlawful to deliver one to a husband except after the attestation by blood of her maturity;  thus, before this indication, the nature is unripe. Therefore if she is a virgin so long as she is unripe, she ceases to be a virgin when she is perceived to be ripe; and, as not-virgin, is now subject to the law, just as she is to marriage. And the betrothed indeed have the example of Rebecca, who, when she was being conducted'herself still unknown'to an unknown betrothed, as soon as she learned that he whom she had sighted from afar was the man, awaited not the grasp of the hand, nor the meeting of the kiss, nor the interchange of salutation; but confessing what she had felt'namely, that she had been (already) wedded in spirit'denied herself to be a virgin by then and there veiling herself.  Oh woman already belonging to Christ's discipline! For she showed that marriage likewise, as fornication is, is transacted by gaze and mind; only that a Rebecca likewise some do still veil. With regard to the rest, however (that is, those who are not betrothed), let the procrastination of their parents, arising from straitened means or scrupulosity, look (to them); let the vow of continence itself look (to them). In no respect does (such procrastination) pertain to an age which is already running its own assigned course, and paying its own dues to maturity. Another secret mother, Nature, and another hidden father, Time, have wedded their daughter to their own laws. Behold that virgin-daughter of yours already wedded'her soul by expectancy, her flesh by transformation'for whom you are preparing a second husband! Already her voice is changed, her limbs fully formed, her "shame" everywhere clothing itself, the months paying their tributes; and do you deny her to be a woman whom you assert to be undergoing womanly experiences? If the contact of a man makes a woman, let there be no covering except after actual experience of marriage. Nay, but even among the heathens (the betrothed) are led veiled to the husband. But if it is at betrothal that they are veiled, because (then) both in body and in spirit they have mingled with a male, through the kiss and the fight hands, through which means they first in spirit unsealed their modesty, through the common pledge of conscience whereby they mutually plighted their whole confusion; how much more will time veil them?'(time) without which espoused they cannot be; and by whose urgency, without espousals, they cease to be virgins. Time even the heathens observe, that, in obedience to the law of nature, they may render their own fights to the (different) ages. For their females they despatch to their businesses from (the age of) twelve years, but the male from two years later; decreeing puberty (to consist) in years, not in espousals or nuptials. "Housewife" one is called, albeit a virgin, and "house-father," albeit a stripling. By us not even natural laws are observed; as if the God of nature were some other than ours!
These crimes does a forced and unwilling virginity incur. The very concupiscence of non-concealment is not modest: it experiences somewhat which is no mark of a virgin,'the study of pleasing, of course, ay, and (of pleasing) men. Let her strive as much as you please with an honest mind; she must necessarily be imperilled by the public exhibition  of herself, while she is penetrated by the gaze of untrustworthy and multitudinous' eyes, while she is tickled by pointing fingers, while she is too well loved, while she feels a warmth creep over her amid assiduous embraces and kisses. Thus the forehead hardens; thus the sense of shame wears away; thus it relaxes; thus is learned the desire of pleasing in another way!
It remains likewise that we turn to (the virgins) themselves, to induce them to accept these (suggestions) the more willingly. I pray you, be you mother, or sister, or virgin-daughter'let me address you according to the names proper to your years'veil your head: if a mother, for your sons' sakes; if a sister, for your brethren's sakes; if a daughter for your fathers' sakes. All ages are perilled in your person. Put on the panoply of modesty; surround yourself with the stockade of bashfulness; rear a rampart for your sex, which must neither allow your own eyes egress nor ingress to other people's. Wear the full garb of woman, to preserve the standing of virgin. Belie somewhat of your inward consciousness, in order to exhibit the truth to God alone. And yet you do not belie yourself in appearing as a bride. For wedded you are to Christ: to Him you have surrendered your flesh; to Him you have espoused your maturity. Walk in accordance with the will of your Espoused. Christ is He who bids the espoused and wives of others Veil themselves;  (and,) of course, ranch more His own.
It is incumbent, then, at all times and in every place, to walk mindful of the law, prepared and equipped in readiness to meet every mention of God; who, if He be in the heart, will be recognised as well in the head of females. To such as read these (exhortations) with good will, to such as prefer Utility to Custom, may peace and grace from our Lord Jesus Christ redound: as likewise to Septimius Tertullianus, whose this tractate is.
The recurrence of this emphatic expression in our author is worthy of special note. He knew of no other "Vicar of Christ" than the promised Paraclete, who should bring all Christ's words to remembrance, and be "another Comforter." Let me quote from Dr. Scott  a very striking passage in illustration: "The Holy Ghost, after Christ's departure from the world, acted immediately under Christ as the supreme vicegerent of his kingdom; for next, and immediately under Christ, He authorized the bishops and governors of the Church, and constituted them overseers of the flock (Acts xx. 28). It was He that chose their persons, and appointed their work, and gave them their several orders and directions: in all which, it is evident that He acted under Christ as His supreme substitute. Accordingly, by Tertullian he is styled 'the Vicarious Virtue, or Power, 'as He was the Supreme Vicar and substitute of Christ in mediating for God with men."
The Vulgate reads, preserving something of the original epigrammatic force, "Vocabitur Vir-Ago, quoniam de Vir-O sumpta est." The late revised English gives us, in the margin, Isshah and Ish, which marks the play upon words in the Hebrew,'"She shall be called Isshah because she was taken out of Ish." This Epithalamium is the earliest poem, and Adam was the first poet.
As to the argument of our author, it is quite enough to say, that, whatever we may think of his refinements upon St. Paul, he sticks to the inspired text, and enforces God's Law in the Gospel. Let us reflect, moreover, upon the awful immodesty of heathen manners (see Martial, passim), and the necessity of enforcing a radical reform. All that adorns the sex among Christians has sprung out of these severe and caustic criticisms of the Gentile world and its customs. And let us reflect that there is a growing licence in our age, which makes it important to revert to first principles, and to renew the apostolic injunctions, if not as Tertullian did, still as best we may, in our own times and ways.
The iniquity here pointed at has become of frightful magnitude in the United States of America. We shall hear of it again when we come to Hippolytus.  May the American editor be pardoned for referring to his own commonitory to his countrywomen on this awful form of murder, in Moral Reforms,  a little book upon practical subjects, addressed to his own diocese.
Hippolytus speaks of the crime which had shocked Tertullian as assuming terrible proportions at Rome in the time of Callistus  and under his patronage, circa A.V. 220. But in this case it was not so much the novelty of the evil which attracted the rebuke of the Christian moralist, but the fact that it was licensed by a bishop.
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