On the way, he was joined by a Moor, who began to jest at some of the Christian doctrines, especially at the perpetual virginity of the Blessed Virgin.
A highly sensitive and imaginative child, she very early began to practise asceticism and see visions, and at the age of seven solemnly dedicated her virginity to Christ.
His arguments and exhortations may be gathered from many of his epistles and from his tract Adversus Helvidium, in which he defends the perpetual virginity of Mary against Helvidius, who maintained that she bore children to Joseph.
Those numbered 11-22, written in 344, are almost all directed against the Jews; the subjects are circumcision, passover, the sabbath, persuasion (the encyclical letter referred to above), distinction of meats, the substitution of the Gentiles for the Jews, that Christ is the Son of God, virginity and holiness, whether the Jews have been finally rejected or are yet to be restored, provision for the poor, persecution, death and the last times.
Another horrible sacrifice was regularly demanded by Phoenician religion: women sacrificed their virginity at the shrines of Astarte in the belief that they thus propitiated the goddess and won her favour (Frazer, ibid.
The Argives believed that Hera recovered her virginity every year by bathing in a certain spring (Paus.
Renunciation of the state of wedlock was anyhow imposed on the faithful during the lengthy, often lifelong, terms of penance imposed upon them for sins committed; and later, when monkery took the place, in a church become worldly, partly of the primitive baptism and partly of that rigorous penance which was the rebaptism and medicine of the lapsed, celibacy and virginity were held essential thereto, no less than renunciation of property and money-making.
Indeed, judging from another Syriac MS. of earlier date, which includes the latter writings in its canon, it seems that the Epistles on Virginity gradually replaced the earlier pair in certain Syrian churches - even should Lightfoot be right in doubting if this had really occurred by Epiphanius's day (S.