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 time).
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 right 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 rights 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!