Antiquity Teen Vogue Interview: How to be a Virgin

We hung out with this season’s most eligible bachelorette and two of her coaches.

Things got real, real fast.

Demetrias Anicia is a fourteen-year-old who knows what she wants! After her family moved suddenly from Rome to North Africa,[1] Demetrias decided to become a Bride of Christ. Mom and Grandma used their networks and hired two of the best coaches in Christendom for Demetrias.[2] Today we talk with Pelagius and Jerome to discover what advice they can give her on how to be the best virgin. ATV readers want to know!

Antiquity Teen Vogue: Demetrias, tell our readers why you decided to embrace perpetual virginity and become a Bride of Christ?

Demetrias: Well, you know, I could have married an old dude I barely know, moved to a strange house in an unfamiliar country, and risked dying in childbirth or I could stay home with the fam, read a lot, and worship God. Jesus is cool and I like the idea of being married to him. And my mother and grandmother are the best.

ATV: But there have to be challenges! Let’s turn to your first coach. Pelagius, can you tell us where you are from? What do you think of her choice?

BP: Please, call me Brother P. I’m originally from Britain. The Anicius family and I have been friends for a long time.[3] The first point I want to make is that what Demetrias is doing here is a significant sacrifice for her family since it means she will produce no heirs. That is a very big deal for the noble Anicii.[4] Given the sacrifice both for her family and for Demetrias, it’s important that she be a virgin in the best way. I am positive that she can! Attitude counts and that’s why I’ve written her an instruction manual. She doesn’t need flattery; she needs concrete advice and encouragement.[5]

ATV: And Brother J., how about you? Where do you hail from and what do you think of Demetrias’ choice?

HPDBJ: That’s Herr Professor Doktor Brother Jerome, if you please.

ATV: I beg your pardon, Herr Professor Doktor Brother Jerome. Please enlighten us.

HPDBJ: I live now in Bethlehem, although I have lived in Rome and elsewhere. Demetrias’ family and I are strangers. I have another huge project I’m working on right now, but this young virgin’s faithfulness in becoming a living sacrifice to God is so significant that I decided to make a bit of time for the occasion.[6] After all, everyone knows that athletes perform better when there are spectators to cheer them on.[7] Three cheers for Demetrias in the Virgin Olympics (well, actually for her mother and grandmother).[8] Also, her father will suffer because she won’t produce heirs for the family line, so he deserves some flattery too.[9] I’ve written on moral instruction elsewhere. You can find my Yes, Eustochium, Marriage is for Sinners in all the best libraries.[10]

ATV: Since moral instruction has been mentioned, Brother P., can you talk to us a bit about human nature?

BP: Oh! This is my favorite subject. The first thing to note is that God created amazing creatures when he created human beings.[11] It is important to know that it is good and right to strive for your goals because God gave us all the capacity to perfect ourselves.[12] Demetrias needs to take inventory of her personal strengths[13] and know that she can do anything that she really wants to do. I imagine your ATV readers would enjoy the quiz too.

ATV: For sure! But first, Brother P. could you say some more about this rad idea that a young woman can do anything she wants to do? Doesn’t God have something to do with it?

BP: But, of course, God has everything to do with it. God gave free will to men and women.[14] That people can choose to do good demonstrates the greatness of God. If people were simply automatons and chose the good because they could not choose to do bad, there would be no virtue in doing good. We know that the ability to choose good is part of human nature because the Scriptures point to many people who were virtuous before Christ came to teach us.[15] We see “chaste, tolerant, temperate, generous, abstinent and kindly pagans” living among us today.[16] With Christ as her own teacher offering grace to her, there is no stopping Demetrias![17]

ATV: I understand you have a problem with this idea, Herr Professor Doktor Brother Jerome?

HPDBJ: Yes, I most certainly have a problem with this idea! Mr. Pelagius is making a sinister argument here and I dread the thought of your impressionable readers encountering the idea that a young virgin should think for herself, let alone consider that human nature is good! It is my considered opinion that young people and, especially virgins should “obey [their] betters, be subject to those who are excellent, and, after the rules of scriptures, to learn the path of [their] life from others and to not make use of the worst instructor, [their] own self-confidence.”[18] And, to the heretical — and I use this term on purpose — to the heretical idea that human nature is good, well, just look at Adam and Eve!

ATV: What about Adam and Eve, Brother P.?

BP: Adam was cast out of Eden because he made a bad choice, he rejected the good.[19] Scripture sets before us the ability to choose the good, to choose life.[20] Demetrias is an intelligent young virgin. She can seek out what God wants her to do through earnest study and then knowing what God wants her to do she can choose to do it.[21] She can pursue a simple, righteous life and a modest diet.[22] The most important thing is to establish good habits of mind, body, and heart right now.[23]

ATV: And what are your thoughts about diet, Herr Professor Doktor Brother Jerome?

HPDBJ: “Great Jesus!”[24] Diet? Food? “Eve was cast out of Paradise because of food!”[25] I do not agree with Mr. Pelagius that Demetrias should restrict her diet too much by shunning meat, wine, and olive oil.[26] The key thing is that she needs to “act against [human] nature, or rather act above nature” and live “as if she did not have a body.”[27] That is the task of perpetual virginity; the rewards in heaven will be great.[28]

ATV: Brother P., what do you think of Herr Professor Doktor Brother Jerome’s program for Demetrias?

BP: Why don’t we ask Demetrias?

Demetrias: Um, can I call a friend?

ATV: Of course!

BP: Demetrias can certainly speak for herself, but I’m happy to help. I believe in moderation in all things[29] and in the Golden Rule.[30] If our young virgin uses her head and follows her conscience,[31] prays regularly in private, studies Scripture earnestly, is not tempted to humble-brag,[32] conducts herself modestly when appropriate and assertively when required,[33] and can rely on the support of her mother and grandmother in good works,[34] I believe she will do very well.

ATV:  Herr Professor Doktor Brother Jerome, would you like the last word?

HPDBJ: I would. Never forget this maxim: “I know the good does not dwell in me, that is, in my flesh; for to wish is beside me, but to do good is not. For I do not do the good that I wish, rather the evil that I do not wish.” (Rom 7: 18-19)[35] In order to know her place and stick to it, Demetrias needs to pray six times a day[36] and she always needs to keep wool in her hands.[37] Idle hands are the devil’s workshop! (Proverbs 16:27)[38] She needs to avoid “boys with curly hair” like the plague.[39] I could go on, but I’ve said this all before. She should just be a virgin and like it.[40] “Around thirty years ago, I published a book on the preservation of virginity… My language offended quite a few people. That book remains, those people do not.”[41]

Editor’s Note (sixteen centuries later):

What a difference there might have been in the history of Christianity if Pelagian theological anthropology with its view of human nature and its innate capacity for good had won out over the dismal Augustinian view (that human nature is essentially sinful) embraced here by Jerome. The condemnation of Pelagius by the Council of Carthage in 418 meant that the doctrine of original sin would define the limits of free will and human agency. The Church required that sinners believe that as inheritors of Adam and Eve’s sin they could not depend upon conscience to guide them toward grace.[42] Indeed, as Jerome indicates above, righteous persons were expected to feel ashamed of their very nature as well as their bodies. Pelagius believes that such a view is contrary to the miraculous work of God who endowed human beings with remarkable gifts of reason and will. He believes in the ability of human beings to liberate themselves with Christ as their teacher. Contra Hawley who writes that the Pelagian heresy encourages individuals to be self-centered and elitist,[43] Pelagius himself seemed to argue that people naturally following their own conscience would incline toward the good written on their hearts. His statement that “it is much more unworthy to be a slave in one’s mind than with one’s body”[44] embraces the ideal egalitarianism of the early Church and the prospect of human liberation from an unjust social order. Remarkably, in his letter to Demetrias, Pelagius seems to extend himself to talk about how young women can trust themselves in understanding what they read and in knowing what they want. This position was not endorsed by patriarchal Christianity and one wonders how official and unofficial Church doctrine on women’s place in society might have been different if Pelagian theology had been accepted.

Works Cited

“A letter from Jerome (414)” in Epistolae: Medieval Women’s Latin Letters, ed. Joan Ferrante. Accessed November 6, 2021. https://epistolae.ctl.columbia.edu/letter/1282.html.

“A letter from Pelagius (413)” in Epistolae: Medieval Women’s Latin Letters, ed. Joan Ferrante. Accessed November 6, 2021. https://epistolae.ctl.columbia.edu/letter/1296.html.

Beck, John H. “The Pelagian Controversy: An Economic Analysis.” The American Journal of Economics and Sociology 66, no. 4 (2007): 681-96.

“Demetrias” in Epistolae: Medieval Women’s Latin Letters, ed. Joan Ferrante. Accessed November 6, 2021. https://epistolae.ctl.columbia.edu/woman/155.html.

Hawley, Joshua. “The Age of Pelagius” in Christianity Today June 4, 2019. https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2019/june-web-only/age-of-pelagius-joshua-hawley.html.

 “Letter XXII. To Eustochium” in NPNF2-06. The Principal Works of Jerome, ed. Philip Schaff. Accessed October 6, 2021. https://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf206.v.XXII.html.


[1] The Anicius family fled Rome after the city was sacked by Goths in 410 C.E.

[2] Evidently, the mother wrote to both Jerome and Pelagius as well as to Augustine. Leo I later weighed in as well. “A letter from Pelagius (413)” in Epistolae: Medieval Women’s Latin Letters, ed. Joan Ferrante, accessed November 6, 2021, https://epistolae.ctl.columbia.edu/letter/1296.html.

[3] “Demetrias” in Epistolae: Medieval Women’s Latin Letters, ed. Joan Ferrante, accessed November 6, 2021, https://epistolae.ctl.columbia.edu/woman/155.html.

[4] Pelagius, “A letter from Pelagius,” 14, 1.

[5] Pelagius, “A letter from Pelagius,” 1, 1.

[6] “A letter from Jerome (414)” in Epistolae: Medieval Women’s Latin Letters, ed. Joan Ferrante, accessed November 6, 2021, https://epistolae.ctl.columbia.edu/letter/1282.html. 2.

[7] Jerome, “A letter from Jerome,” 2.

[8] Jerome, “A letter from Jerome,” 2.

[9] Jerome, “A letter from Jerome,” 3.

[10] “Letter XXII. To Eustochium” in NPNF2-06. The Principal Works of Jerome, ed. Philip Schaff, accessed October 6, 2021. https://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf206.v.XXII.html.

[11] Pelagius, “A letter from Pelagius,” 2, 2.

[12] Pelagius, “A letter from Pelagius,”

[13] Pelagius, “A letter from Pelagius,” 2, 1.

[14] Throughout the letter, Pelagius makes references to “even women” having virtues that are given to men.

[15] Pelagius, passim.

[16] Pelagius, “A letter from Pelagius,” 3, 2.

[17] Pelagius, “A letter from Pelagius,” 9, 1.

[18] Jerome, “A letter from Jerome,” 17. Emphasis added.

[19] Pelagius, “A letter from Pelagius,” 8, 1.

[20] Pelagius, “A letter from Pelagius,” 2, 2.

[21] Pelagius, “A letter from Pelagius,” 9, 1.

[22] Pelagius, “A letter from Pelagius,” 21, 2.

[23] Pelagius, “A letter from Pelagius,” 17, 2.

[24] This reads like an epithet at Jerome 6.

[25] Jerome “A letter from Jerome,” 10.

[26] See Pelagius, “A letter from Pelagius,” 18, 2 and Jerome “A letter from Jerome,” 11.

[27] Jerome “A letter from Jerome,” 10. Emphasis added.

[28] Jerome “A letter from Jerome,” 19.

[29] Pelagius, “A letter from Pelagius,” 21, 2.

[30] Pelagius, “A letter from Pelagius,” 9, 2.

[31] Pelagius, “A letter from Pelagius,” passim.

[32] Pelagius, “A letter from Pelagius,” 20, 1.

[33] Pelagius, “A letter from Pelagius,” 19, 3.

[34] Pelagius, “A letter from Pelagius,” 22, 1.

[35] Jerome, “A letter from Jerome,” 9.

[36] Jerome, “A letter from Jerome,” 15.

[37] Jerome, “A letter from Jerome,” 15.

[38] It is surprising that Jerome himself does not cite Scripture here.

[39] Jerome “A letter from Jerome,” 19.

[40] Jerome “A letter from Jerome,” 19.

[41] Jerome “A letter from Jerome,” 19.

[42] A sophisticated economic analysis of the reasons why Pelagius was condemned for reasons of self-interest is presented in John H. Beck, “The Pelagian Controversy: An Economic Analysis.” The American Journal of Economics and Sociology 66, no. 4 (2007): 681-96.

[43] Joshua Hawley, “The Age of Pelagius” in Christianity Today June 4, 2019. https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2019/june-web-only/age-of-pelagius-joshua-hawley.html.

[44] Pelagius, “A letter from Pelagius,” f 22, 2.

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