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Quintus Septimius Florens Tertullianus
On prayer

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XXII. ANSWER TO THE FOREGOING ARGUMENTS.

They who make this concession ought to reflect on the nature of the word itself--what is the meaning of "woman" from the very first records of the sacred writings. Here they find it to be the name of the sex, not a class of the sex: if, that is, God gave to Eve, when she had not yet known a man, the surname "woman" and "female"--("female," whereby the sex generally; "woman," hereby a class of the sex, is marked). So, since at that time the as yet unwedded Eve was called by the word "woman," that word has been made common even to a virgin. Nor is it wonderful that the apostle--guided, of course, by the same Spirit by whom, as all the divine Scripture, so that book Genesis, was drawn up--has used the selfsame word in writing "women," which, by the example of Eve unwedded, is applicable too to a "virgin." In fact, all the other passages are in consonance herewith. For even by this very fact, that he has not named "virgins" (as he does in another place where he is teaching touching marrying), he sufficiently predicates that his remark is made touching every woman, and touching the whole sex; and that there is no distinction made between a "virgin" and any other, while he does not name her at all. For he who elsewhere--namely, where the difference requires--remembers to make the distinction, (moreover, he makes it by designating each species by their appropriate names,) wishes, where he makes no distinction (while he does not name each), no difference to be understood. What of the fact that in the Greek speech, in which the apostle wrote his letters, it is usual to say, "women" rather than "females;" that is, gunaikas. (gunaikas) rather than theleias (theleias)? Therefore if that word, which by interpretation represents what "female" (femina) represents, is frequently used instead of the name of the sex? he has named the sex in saying gunaika; but in the sex even the virgin is embraced. But, withal, the declaration is plain: "Every woman," saith he, "praying and prophesying with head uncovered, dishonoureth her own head." What is "every woman, but woman of every age, of every rank, of every condition? By saying" every" he excepts nought of womanhood, just as he excepts nought of manhood either from not being covered; for just so he says, "Every man." As, then, in the masculine sex, under the name of" man" even the" youth" is forbidden to be veiled; so, too, in the feminine, under the name of "woman," even the "virgin" is bidden to be veiled. Equally in each sex let the younger age follow the discipline of the elder; or else let the male "virgins," too, be veiled, if the female virgins withal are not veiled, because they are not mentioned by name. Let "man" and "youth" be different, if "woman" and "virgin" are different. For indeed it is "on account of the angels" that he saith women must be veiled, because on account of "the daughters of men" angels revolted from God. Who then, would contend that "women" alone--that is, such as were already wedded ant had lost their virginity--were the objects of angelic concupiscence, unless "virgins" are incapable of excelling in beauty and finding lovers? Nay, let us see whether it were not virgins alone whom they lusted after; since Scriptures saith "the daughters of men;" inasmuch as it might have named "wives of men," or "females," indifferently. Likewise, in that it saith, "And they took them to themselves for wives," it does so on this ground, that, of course, such are "received for wives" as are devoid of that title. But it would have expressed itself differently concerning such as were not thus devoid. And so (they who are named) are devoid as much of widowhood as of virginity. So completely has Paul by naming the sex generally, mingled "daughters" and species together in the genus. Again, while he says that "nature herself," which has assigned hair as a tegument and ornament to women, "teaches that veiling is the duty of females," has not the same tegument and the same honour of the head been assigned also to virgins? If "it is shameful" for a woman to be shorn it is similarly so to a virgin too. From them, then, to whom is assigned one and the same law of the head, one and the same discipline of the head is exacted,--(which extends) even unto those virgins whom their childhood defends, for from the first a virgin was named "female." This custom, in short, even Israel observes; but if Israel did not observe it, our Law, amplified and supplemented, would vindicate the addition for itself; let it be excused for imposing the veil on virgins also. Under our dispensation, let that age which is ignorant of its sex retain the privilege of simplicity. For both Eve and Adam, when it befell them to be "wise," forthwith veiled what they had learnt to know? At all events, with regard to those in whom girlhood has changed (into maturity), their age ought to remember its duties as to nature, so also, to discipline; for they are being transferred to the rank of "women" both in their persons and in their functions. No one is a "virgin" from the time when she is capable of marriage; seeing that, in her, age has by that time been wedded to its own husband, that is, to time. "But some particular virgin has devoted herself to God. From that very moment she both changes the fashion of her hair, and converts all her garb into that of a 'woman.'" Let her, then, maintain the character wholly, and perform the whole function of a "virgin:" what she conceals for the sake of God, let her cover quite over. It is our business to entrust to the knowledge of God alone that which the grace of God effects in us, test we receive from man the reward we hope for from God. Why do you denude before God what you cover before men? Will you be more modest in public than in the church? If your self-devotion is a grace of God, and you have received it, "why do you boast," saith he, "as if you have not received it? " Why, by your ostentation of yourself, do you judge others? Is it that, by your boasting, you invite others unto good? Nay, but even you yourself run the risk of losing, if you boast; and you drive others unto the same perils What is assumed from love of boasting is easily destroyed. Be veiled, virgin, if virgin you are; for you ought to blush. If you are a virgin, shrink from (the gaze of) many eyes. Let no one wonder at your face; let no one perceive your falsehood. You do well in falsely assuming the married character, if you veil your head; nay, you do not seem to assume it falsely, for you are wedded to Christ: to Him you have surrendered your body; act as becomes your Husband's discipline. If He bids the brides of others to be veiled, His own, of course, much more. "But each individual man is not to think that the institution of his predecessor is to be overturned." Many yield up their own judgment, and its consistency, to the custom of others. Granted that virgins be not compelled to be veiled, at all events such as voluntarily are so should not be prohibited; who, likewise, cannot deny themselves to be virgins, content, in the security of a good conscience before God, to damage their own fame. Touching such, however, as are betrothed, I can with constancy "above my small measure" pronounce and attest that they are to be veiled from that day forth on which they shuddered at the first bodily touch of a man by kiss and hand. For in them everything has been forewedded: their age, through maturity; their flesh, through age; their spirit, through consciousness; their modesty, through the experience of the kiss their hope, through expectation; their mind through volition. And Rebecca is example enough for us, who, when her betrothed had been pointed out, veiled herself for marriage merely on recognition of him.




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