On the Veiling of Virgins - Tertullian
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.
Chapter II. Before Proceeding Farther, Let the Question of Custom Itself Be
But I will not, meantime, attribute this usage to Truth. Be it, for a while,
custom: that to custom I may likewise oppose custom.
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.
Chapter III. Gradual Development of Custom, and Its Results. Passionate
Appeal to Truth.
But not even between customs have those most chaste  teachers chosen
to examine. Still, until very recently, among us, either custom was, with
comparative indifference, admitted to communion. The matter had been left to
choice, for each virgin to veil herself or expose herself, as she might have
chosen, just as (she had equal liberty) as to marrying, which itself withal
is neither enforced nor prohibited. Truth had been content to make an
agreement with custom, in order that under the name of custom it might enjoy
itself even partially. But when the power of discerning began to advance, so
that the licence granted to either fashion was becoming the mean whereby the
indication of the better part emerged; immediately the great adversary of
good things'and much more of good institutions'set to his own work. The
virgins of men go about, in opposition to the virgins of God, with front
quite bare, excited to a rash audacity; and the semblance of virgins is
exhibited by women who have the power of asking somewhat from husbands,
 not to say such a request as that (forsooth) their rivals'all the more
"free" in that they are the "hand-maids" of Christ alone  'may be
surrendered to them. "We are scandalized," they say, "because others walk
otherwise (than we do); "and they prefer being "scandalized" to being
provoked (to modesty). A "scandal," if I mistake not, is an example not of a
good thing, but of a bad, tending to sinful edification. Good things
scandalize none but an evil mind. If modesty, if bashfulness, if contempt of
glory, anxious to please God alone, are good things, let women who are
"scandalized" by such good learn to acknowledge their own evil. For what if
the incontinent withal say they are "scandalized" by the continent? Is
continence to be recalled? And, for fear the multinubists be
"scandalized," is monogamy to be rejected? Why may not these latter rather
complain that the petulance, the impudence, of ostentatious virginity is a
"scandal" to them? Are therefore chaste virgins to be, for the sake of these
marketable creatures, dragged into the church, blushing at being recognised
in public, quaking at being unveiled, as if they had been invited as it were
to rape? For they axe no less unwilling to suffer even this. Every public
exposure of an honourable virgin is (to her) a suffering of rape: and yet
the suffering of carnal violence is the less (evil), because it comes of
natural office. But when the very spirit itself is violated in a virgin by
the abstraction of her covering, she has learnt to lose what she used to
keep. O sacrilegious hands, which have had the hardihood to drag off a dress
dedicated to God! What worse could any persecutor have done, if he had known
that this (garb) had been chosen by a virgin? You have denuded a maiden in
regard of her head, and forthwith she wholly ceases to be a virgin to
herself; she has undergone a change! Arise, therefore, Truth; arise, and as
it were burst forth from Thy patience! No custom do I wish Thee to defend;
for by this time even that custom under which Thou didst enjoy thy own
liberty is being stormed! Demonstrate that it is Thyself who art the coverer
of virgins. Interpret in person Thine own Scriptures, which Custom
understandeth not; for, if she had, she never would have had an existence.
Chapter IV. Of the Argument Drawn from 1cor. XI. 5-16.
But in so far as it is the custom to argue even from the Scriptures in
opposition to truth, there is immediately urged against us the fact that "no
mention of virgins is made by the apostle where he is prescribing about the
veil, but that 'women' only are named; whereas, if he had willed virgins as
well to be covered, he would have pronounced concerning 'virgins' also
together with the 'women' named; just as," says (our opponent), "in that
passage where he is treating of marriage,  he declares likewise with
regard to 'virgins' what observance is to be followed." And accordingly (it
is urged) that "they are not comprised in the law of veiling the head, as
not being named in this law; nay rather, that this is the origin of their
being unveiled, inasmuch as they who are not named are not bidden."
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.
Chapter V. Of the Word Woman, Especially in Connection with Its Application
But since they use the name of woman in such a way as to think it
inapplicable save to her alone who has known a man, the pertinence of the
propriety of this word to the sex itself, not to a grade of the sex, must be
proved by us; that virgins as well (as others) may be commonly comprised in
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
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
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).
Chapter VI. The Parallel Case of Mary Considered.
Let us now see whether the apostle withal observes the norm of this name in
accordance with Genesis, attributing it to the sex; calling the virgin Mary
a woman, just as Genesis (does) Eve. For, writing to the Galatians, "God,"
he says, "sent His own Son, made of a woman,"  who, of course, is
admitted to have been a virgin, albeit Hebion  resist (that
doctrine). I recognise, too, the angel Gabriel as having been sent to "a
virgin."  But when he is blessing her, it is "among women," not among
virgins, that he ranks her: "Blessed (be) thou among women." The angel
withal knew that even a virgin is called a woman.
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.
Chapter VII. Of the Reasons Assigned by the Apostle for Bidding Women to Be
Turn we next to the examination of the reasons themselves which lead the
apostle to teach that the female ought to be veiled, (to see) whether the
self-same (reasons) apply to virgins likewise; so that hence also the
community of the name between virgins and not-virgins may be established,
while the self-same causes which necessitate the veil are found to exist in
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.
Chapter VIII. The Argument E Contrario.
The contraries, at all events, of all these (considerations) effect that a
man is not to cover his head: to wit, because he has not by nature been
gifted with excess of hair; because to be shaven or shorn is not shameful to
him; because it was not on his account that the angels transgressed; because
his Head is Christ.  Accordingly, since the apostle is treating of
man and woman'why the latter ought to be veiled, but the former not'it is
apparent why he has been silent as to the virgin; allowing, to wit, the
virgin to be understood in the woman by the self-same reason by which he
forbore to name the boy as implied in the man; embracing the whole order of
either sex in the names proper (to each) of woman and man. So likewise Adam,
while still intact, is surnamed in Genesis man:  "She shall be
called," says he, "woman, because she hath been taken from her own man."
Thus was Adam a man before nuptial intercourse, in like manner as Eve a
woman. On either side the apostle has made his sentence apply with
sufficient plainness to the universal species of each sex; and briefly and
fully, with so well-appointed a definition, he says, " Every woman." What is
"every," but of every class, of every order, of every condition, of every
dignity, of every age?'if, (as is the case), "every" means total and entire,
and in none of its parts defective. But the virgin is withal a part of the
woman. Equally, too, with regard to not veiling the man, he says "every."
Behold two diverse names, Man and woman'"every one" in each case: two laws,
mutually distinctive; on the one hand (a law) of veiling, on the other (a
law) of baring. Therefore, if the fact that it is said "every man" makes it
plain that the name of man is common even to him who is not yet a man, a
stripling male; (if), moreover, since the name is common according to
nature, the law of not veiling him who among men is a virgin is common too
according to discipline: why is it that it is not consequently prejudged
that, woman being named, every woman-virgin is similarly comprised in the
fellowship of the name, so as to be comprised too in the community of the
law? If a virgin is not a woman, neither is a stripling a man. If the virgin
is not covered on the plea that she is not a woman, let the stripling be
covered on the plea that he is not a man. Let identity of virginity, share
equality of indulgence. As virgins are not compelled to be veiled, so let
boys not be bidden to be unveiled. Why do we partly acknowledge the
definition of the apostle, as absolute with regard to "every man," without
entering upon disquisitions as to why he has not withal named the boy; but
partly prevaricate, though it is equally absolute with regard to "every
woman? ""If any," he says, "is contentious, we have not such a custom, nor
(has) the Church of God."  He shows that there had been some
contention about this point; for the extinction whereof he uses the whole
compendiousness (of language): not naming the virgin, on the one hand, in
order to show that there is to be no doubt about her veiling; and, on the
other hand, naming "every woman," whereas he would have named the virgin
(had the question been confined to her). So, too, did the Corinthians
themselves understand him. In fact, at this day the Corinthians do veil
their virgins. What the apostles taught, their disciples approve.
Chapter IX. Veiling Consistent with the Other Rules of Discipline Observed
by Virgins and Women in General.
Let is now see whether, as we have shown the arguments drawn from nature and
the matter itself to be applicable to the virgin as well (as to other
females), so likewise the precepts of ecclesiastical discipline concerning
women have an eye to the virgin.
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.
Chapter X. If the Female Virgins are to Be Thus Conspicuous, Why Not the
Male as Well?
Nor, similarly, (is it permitted) on the ground of any distinctions
whatever. Otherwise, it were sufficiently discourteous, that while females,
subjected as they are throughout to men, bear in their front an honourable
mark of their virginity, whereby they may be looked up to and gazed at on
all sides and magnified by the brethren, so many men-virgins, so many
voluntary eunuchs, should carry their glory in secret, carrying no token to
make them, too, illustrious. For they, too, will be bound to claim some
distinctions for themselves'either the feathers of the Garamantes, or else
the fillets of the barbarians, or else the cicadas of the Athenians, or else
the curls of the Germans, or else the tattoo-marks of the Britons; or else
let the opposite course be taken, and let them lurk in the churches with
head veiled. Sure we are that the Holy Spirit could rather have made some
such concession to males, if He had made it to females; forasmuch as,
besides the authority of sex, it would have been more becoming that males
should have been honoured on the ground of continency itself likewise. The
more their sex is eager and warm toward females, so much the more toil does
the continence of (this) greater ardour involve; and therefore the worthier
is it of all ostentation, if ostentation of virginity is dignity. For is not
continence withal superior to virginity, whether it be the continence of the
widowed, or of those who, by consent, have already renounced the common
disgrace (which matrimony involves)?  For constancy of virginity is
maintained by grace; of continence, by virtue. For great is the struggle to
overcome concupiscence when you have become accustomed to such
concupiscence; whereas a concupiscence the enjoyment whereof you have never
known you will subdue easily, not having an adversary (in the shape of) the
concupiscence of enjoyment.  How, then, would God have failed to make
any such concession to men more (than to women), whether on the ground of
nearer intimacy, as being "His own image," or on the ground of harder toil?
But if nothing (has been thus conceded) to the male, much more to the
Chapter XI. The Rule of Veiling Not Applicable to Children.
But what we intermitted above for the sake of the subsequent discussion'not
to dissipate its coherence'we will now discharge by an answer. For when we
joined issue about the apostle's absolute definition, that " every woman"
must be understood (as meaning woman) of even every age, it might be replied
by the opposite side, that in that case it behoved the virgin to be veiled
from her nativity, and from the first entry of her age (upon the roll of
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!
Chapter XII. Womanhood Self-Evident, and Not to Be Concealed by Just Leaving
the Head Bare.
Recognise the woman, ay, recognise the wedded woman, by the testimonies both
of body and of spirit, which she experiences both in conscience and in
flesh. These are the earlier tablets of natural espousals and nuptials.
Impose a veil externally upon her who has (already) a covering internally.
Let her whose lower parts are not bare have her upper likewise covered.
Would you know what is the authority which age carries? Set before yourself
each (of these two); one prematurely  compressed in woman's garb, and
one who, though advanced in maturity, persists in virginity with its
appropriate garb: the former will more easily be denied to be a woman than
the latter believed a virgin. Such is, then, the honesty of age, that there
is no overpowering it even by garb. What of the fact that these (virgins) of
ours confess their change of age even by their garb; and, as soon as they
have understood themselves to be women, withdraw themselves from virgins,
laying aside (beginning with their head itself) their former selves: dye
 their hair; and fasten their hair with more wanton pin; professing
manifest womanhood with their hair parted from the front. The next thing is,
they consult the looking-glass to aid their beauty, and thin down their
over-exacting face with washing, perhaps withal vamp it up with cosmetics,
toss their mantle about them with an air, fit tightly the multiform shoe,
carry down more ample appliances to the baths. Why should I pursue
particulars? But their manifest appliances alone  exhibit their
perfect womanhood: yet they wish to play the virgin by the sole fact of
leaving their head bare'denying by one single feature what they profess by
their entire deportment.
Chapter XIII. If Unveiling Be Proper, Why Not Practise It Always, Out of the
Church as Well as in It?
If on account of men  they adopt a false garb, let them carry out
that garb fully even for that end;  and as they veil their head in
presence of heathens, let them at all events in the church conceal their
virginity, which they do veil outside the church. They fear strangers: let
them stand in awe of the brethren too; or else let them have the consistent
hardihood to appear as virgins in the streets as well, as they have the
hardihood to do in the churches. I will praise their vigour, if they succeed
in selling aught of virginity among the heathens withal.  Identity of
nature abroad as at home, identity of custom in the presence of men as of
the Lord, consists in identity of liberty. To what purpose, then, do they
thrust their glory out of sight abroad, but expose it in the church? I
demand a reason. Is it to please the brethren, or God Himself? If God
Himself, He is as capable of beholding whatever is done in secret, as He is
just to remunerate what is done for His sole honour. In fine, He enjoins us
not to trumpet forth  any one of those things which will merit reward
in His sight, nor get compensation for them from men. But if we are
prohibited from letting "our left hand know" when we bestow the gift of a
single halfpenny, or any eleemosynary bounty whatever, how deep should be
the darkness in which we ought to enshroud ourselves when we are offering
God so great an oblation of our very body and our very spirit'when we are
consecrating to Him our very nature! It follows, therefore, that what cannot
appear to be done for God's sake (because God wills not that it be done in
such a way) is done for the sake of men,'a thing, of course, primarily
unlawful, as betraying a lust of glory. For glory is a thing unlawful to
those whose probation consists in humiliation of every kind. And if it is by
God that the virtue of continence is conferred, "why gloriest thou, as if
thou have not received? "  If, however, you have not received it,
"what hast thou which has not been given thee? "But by this very fact it is
plain that it has not been given you by God'that it is not to God alone that
you offer it. Let us see, then, whether what is human be firm and true.
Chapter XIV. Perils to the Virgins Themselves Attendant Upon Not-Veiling
They report a saying uttered at one time by some one when first this
question was mooted, "And how shall we invite the other (virgins) to similar
conduct? "Forsooth, it is their numbers that will make us happy, and not the
grace of God and the merits of each individual! Is it virgins who (adorn or
commend) the Church in the sight of God, or the Church which adorns or
commends virgins? (Our objector) has therefore confessed that "glory" lies
at the root of the matter. Well, where glory is, there is solicitation;
where solicitation, there compulsion; where compulsion, there necessity;
where necessity, there infirmity. Deservedly, therefore, while they do not
cover their head, in order that they may be solicited for the sake of glory,
they are forced to cover their bellies by the ruin resulting from infirmity.
For it is emulation, not religion, which impels them. Sometimes it is that
god' their belly  'himself; because the brotherhood readily
undertakes the maintenance of virgins. But, moreover, it is not merely that
they are ruined, but they draw after them "a long rope of sins." 
For, after being brought forth into the midst (of the church), and elated by
the public appropriation of their property,  and laden by the
brethren with every honour and charitable bounty, so long as they do not
fall, -when any sin has been committed, they meditate a deed as disgraceful
as the honour was high which they had. (It is this.) If an uncovered head is
a recognised mark of virginity, (then) if any virgin falls from the grace of
virginity, she remains permanently with head uncovered for fear of
discovery, and walks about in a garb which then indeed is another's.
Conscious of a now undoubted womanhood, they have the audacity to draw near
to God with head bare. But the "jealous God and Lord," who has said,
"Nothing covered which shall not be revealed,"  brings such in
general before the public gaze; for confess they will not, unless betrayed
by the cries of their infants themselves. But, in so far as they are "more
numerous," will you not just have them suspected of the more crimes? I will
say (albeit I would rather not) it is a difficult thing for one to turn
woman once for all who fears to do so, and who, when already so turned (in
secret), has the power of (still) falsely pretending to be a virgin under
the eye of God. What audacities, again, will (such an one) venture on with
regard to her womb, for fear of being detected in being a mother as well!
God knows how many infants He has helped to perfection and through gestation
till they were born sound and whole, after being long fought against by
their mothers! Such virgins ever conceive with the readiest facility, and
have the happiest deliveries, and children indeed most like to their
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!
Chapter XV. Of Fascination.
Nay, but true and absolute and pure virginity fears nothing more than
itself. Even female eyes it shrinks from encountering. Other eyes itself
has. It betakes itself for refuge to the veil of the head as to a helmet, as
to a shield, to protect its glory against the blows of temptations, against
the dam of scandals, against suspicions and whispers and emulation;
(against) envy also itself. For there is a something even among the heathens
to be apprehended, which they call Fascination, the too unhappy result of
excessive praise and glory. This we sometimes interpretatively ascribe to
the devil, for of him comes hatred of good; sometimes we attribute it to
God, for of Him comes judgment upon haughtiness, exalting, as He does, the
humble, and depressing the elated.  The more holy virgin,
accordingly, will fear, even under the name of fascination, on the one hand
the adversary, on the other God, the envious disposition of the former, the
censorial light of the latter; and will joy in being known to herself alone
and to God. But even if she has been recognized by any other, she is wise to
have blocked up the pathway against temptations. For who will have the
audacity to intrude with his eyes upon a shrouded face? a face without
feeling? a face, so to say, morose? Any evil cogitation whatsoever will be
broken by the very severity. She who conceals her virginity, by that fact
denies even her womanhood.
Chapter XVI. Tertullian, Having Shown His Defence to Be Consistent with
Scripture, Nature, and Discipline, Appeals to the Virgins Themselves.
Herein consists the defence of our opinion, in accordance with Scripture, in
accordance with Nature, in accordance with Discipline. Scripture founds the
law; Nature joins to attest it; Discipline exacts it. Which of these (three)
does a custom rounded on (mere) opinion appear in behalf of? or what is the
colour of the opposite view? God's is Scripture; God's is Nature; God's is
Discipline. Whatever is contrary to these is not God's. If Scripture is
uncertain, Nature is manifest; and concerning Nature's testimony Scripture
cannot be uncertain.  If there is a doubt about Nature, Discipline
points out what is more sanctioned by God. For nothing is to Him dearer than
humility; nothing more acceptable than modesty; nothing more offensive than
"glory" and the study of men-pleasing. Let that, accordingly, be to you
Scripture, and Nature, and Discipline, which you shall find to have been
sanctioned by God; just as you are bidden to "examine all things, and
diligently follow whatever is better." 
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.
Chapter XVII. An Appeal to the Married Women.
But we admonish you, too, women of the second (degree of) modesty, who have
fallen into wedlock, not to outgrow so far the discipline of the veil, not
even in a moment of an hour, as, because you cannot refuse it, to take some
other means to nullify it, by going neither covered nor bare. For some, with
their turbans and woollen bands, do not veil their head, but bind it up;
protected, indeed, in front, but, where the head properly lies, bare. Others
are to a certain extent covered over the region of the brain with linen
coifs of small dimensions'I suppose for fear of pressing the head'and not
reaching quite to the ears. If they are so weak in their hearing as not to
be able to hear through a covering, I pity them. Let them know that the
whole head constitutes "the woman."  Its limits and boundaries reach
as far as the place where the robe begins. The region of the veil is
co-extensive with the space covered by the hair when unbound; in order that
the necks too may be encircled. For it is they which must be subjected, for
the sake of which "power" ought to be "had on the head: "the veil is their
yoke. Arabia's heathen females will be your judges, who cover not only the
head, but the face also, so entirely, that they are content, with one eye
free, to enjoy rather half the light than to prostitute the entire face. A
female would rather see than be seen. And for this reason a certain Roman
queen said that they were most unhappy, in that they could more easily fall
in love than be fallen in love with; whereas they are rather happy, in their
immunity from that second (and indeed more frequent) infelicity, that
females are more apt to be fallen in love with than to fall in love. And the
modesty of heathen discipline, indeed, is more simple, and, so to say, more
barbaric. To us the Lord has, even by revelations, measured the space for
the veil to extend over. For a certain sister of ours was thus addressed by
an angel, beating her neck, as if in applause: "Elegant neck, and deservedly
bare! it is well for thee to unveil thyself from the head fight down to the
loins, lest withal this freedom of thy neck profit thee not!" And, of
course, what you have said to one you have said to all. But how severe a
chastisement will they likewise deserve, who, amid (the recital of) the
Psalms, and at any mention of (the name of) God, continue uncovered; (who)
even when about to spend time in prayer itself, with the utmost readiness
place a fringe, or a tuft, or any thread whatever, on the crown of their
heads, and suppose themselves to be covered? Of so small extent do they
falsely imagine their head to be! Others, who think the palm of their hand
plainly greater than any fringe or thread, misuse their head no less; like a
certain (creature), more beast than bird, albeit winged, with small head,
long legs, and moreover of erect carriage. She, they say, when she has to
hide, thrusts away into a thicket her head alone'plainly the whole of it,
(though)'leaving all the rest of herself exposed. Thus, while she is secure
in head, (but) bare in her larger pans, she is taken wholly, head and all.
Such will be their plight withal, covered as they are less than is useful.
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.
Vicar of the Lord, p. 27.
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."
She shall be called woman, p. 31.
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.
These crimes, p. 36.
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
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.
 [Written, possibly, as early as a.d. 204.]
 John xiv. 6.
 John xvi. 12, 13. See de Monog., c. ii.
 See John xiv. 26.
 Comp. Heb. xi. 40, xii. 24.
 Eccles. iii. 1, briefly.
 Comp. Mark iv. 28.
 Comp. Matt. xxiii. 8.
 John xvi. 13.
 Comp. Eph. iv. 1-6.
 Comp. John v. 44 and xii. 43.
 The allusion is perhaps to 1 Cor. xiv. 35.
 Comp. 1 Cor. vii. 21, 22.
 1 Cor. vii.
 1 Cor. vii. 34.
 Gen. ii. 19, 20.
 Mulier, throughout.
 Viri: so throughout.
 See Gen. iii. 20.
 Gal. iv. 4.
 [i.e., Ebion, founder of the Ebionites.]
 Luke i. 26, 27.
 1 Cor. xi. 3 sqq.
 Gen. ii. 23.
 1 Cor. xi. 10.
 Gen. vi. 1, 2.
 1 Cor. xi. 14, 15.
 1 Cor. xi. 3.
 See Gen. ii. 23.
 1 Cor. xi. 16.
 1 Cor. xiv. 34, 35; 1 Tim. ii. 11, 12.
 1 Tim. v. 9.
 See 1 Cor. vii. 5. Comp. ad Ux., l. i. c. viii.; de Ex. Cast., c.
 So Oehler and others. But one ms. reads "concupiscentiae fructum"
for "concupiscentiam fructus;" which would make the sense somewhat plainer,
and hence is perhaps less likely to be the genuine reading.
 Gen. ii. 25, iii. 7 (in LXX. iii. 1, iii. 7).
 See ch. vii. above.
 See Deut. xxii. 13-21.
 Gen. xxiv. 64, 65. Comp. de Or., c. xxii. ad fin.
 Oehler's "immutare" appears certainly to be a misprint for
 Vertunt: or perhaps "change the style of." But comp. (with Oehler)
de Cult. Fem., l. ii. c. vi.
 i.e., without appealing to any further proof.
 As distinguished from the "on account of the angels" of c. xi.
 i.e., for the sake of the brethren, who (after all) are men, as the
heathens are (Oehler, after Rig.).
 i.e., as Rig. quoted by Oehler explains it, in inducing the
heathens to practise it.
 See Matt. vi. 2.
 1 Cor. iv. 7.
 Comp. Phil. iii. 19.
 See Isa. v. 18.
 So Oehler, with Rig., seems to understand "publicato bono suo." But
it may be doubted whether the use of the singular "bono," and the sense in
which "publicare" and "bonum" have previously occurred in this treatise, do
not warrant the rendering, "and elated by the public announcement of their
good deed" ' in self-devotion. Comp. "omnis publicatio virginis bonae" in c.
iii., and similar phrases. Perhaps the two meanings may be intentionally
 Matt. x. 26. Again apparently a double meaning, in the word
"revelabitus" = "unveiled," which (of course) is the strict sense of
"revealed," i.e., "re-veiled."
 Comp. the note above on "publicato bono suo."
 Comp. Ps. cxlvii. (in LXX. and Vulg. cxlvi.) 6; Luke i. 52.
 See 1 Cor. xi. 14, above quoted.
 See 1 Thess. v. 21.
 See 1 Cor. xi.
 1 Cor. xi. 6, etc.
 The Christian Life, vol. iii. p. 64.
 Tertullian speaks of the heathen as "decimated by abortions." See
ad Uxor., p. 41, infra.
 Lippincotts, Philadelphia, 1868.
 Bunsen, vol. i. p. 134.
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