The Seven Deadly Sins

The Seven Deadly Sins, also known as the Capital Vices or Cardinal Sins, is a classification of the most objectionable vices that has been used since early Christian times to educate and instruct followers concerning (immoral) fallen humanity's tendency to sin. The final version of the list consists of wrath, greed, sloth, pride, lust, envy, and gluttony, This particular list is not found in Scripture, although each of these things are considered sins, for "all wrongdoing is sin" (1 John 5:17).

The Catholic Church divides sin into two categories: venial sins, in which guilt is relatively minor, and the more severe "mortal" sins. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, a "mortal" or "deadly" sin is believed to destroy the life of grace and charity within a person and thus creates the threat of eternal damnation. "Mortal sin, by attacking the vital principle within us – that is, charity – necessitates a new initiative of God's mercy and a conversion of heart which is normally accomplished within the setting of the sacrament of reconciliation."[1]

Beginning in the early 14th century, the popularity of the seven deadly sins as a theme among European artists of the time eventually helped to ingrain them in many areas of Catholic culture and Catholic consciousness in general throughout the world. One means of such ingraining was the creation of the mnemonic acronym "SALIGIA" based on the first letters in Latin of the seven deadly sins: superbia, avaritia, luxuria, invidia, gula, ira, acedia.[2]

Biblical Lists

In the Book of Proverbs 6:16-19, it is stated that the Lord specifically regards "six things the Lord hateth, and seven that are an abomination unto Him," namely:

  • A proud look
  • A lying tongue
  • Hands that shed innocent blood
  • A heart that devises wicked plots
  • Feet that are swift to run into mischief
  • A deceitful witness that uttereth lies
  • Him that soweth discord among brethren

    While there are seven of them, this list is considerably different from the traditional one, the only sin on both lists being pride.

    Another list is Galatians 5:19-21, includes more of the traditional seven sins, although the list is substantially longer: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, "and such like". Since Paul goes on to say that the persons who practice these sins "shall not inherit the Kingdom of God", they are usually listed as (possible) mortal sins rather than capital vices.

    Another list is 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, "Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God."

    Development of the Traditional Seven Sins

    The modern concept of the Seven Deadly Sins is linked to the works of the 4th century monk Evagrius Ponticus, who listed eight evil thoughts in Greek as follows:[3]

  • Γαστριμαργία (gastrimargia) gluttony
  • Πορνεία (porneia) prostitution, fornication
  • Φιλαργυρία (philargyria) avarice
  • Ὑπερηφανία (hyperēphania) hubris – in the Philokalia, this term is rendered as self-esteem
  • Λύπη (lypē) sadness – in the Philokalia, this term is rendered as envy, sadness at another's good fortune
  • Ὀργή (orgē) wrath
  • Κενοδοξία (kenodoxia) boasting
  • Ἀκηδία (akēdia) acedia – in the Philokalia, this term is rendered as dejection

    They were translated into the Latin of Western Christianity (largely due to the writings of John Cassian),[4] thus becoming part of the Western tradition's spiritual pietas (or Catholic devotions), as follows:[5]

  • Gula (gluttony)
  • Fornicatio (fornication, lust)
  • Avaritia (avarice/greed)
  • Superbia (hubris, pride)
  • Tristitia (sorrow/despair/despondency)
  • Ira (wrath)
  • Vanagloria (vainglory)
  • Acedia (sloth)

    These "evil thoughts" can be categorized into three types:[6]

  • lustful appetite (gluttony, fornication, and avarice)
  • irascibility (wrath)
  • intellect (vainglory, sorrow, pride, and Discouragement)

    In AD 590, a little over two centuries after Evagrius wrote his list, Pope Gregory I revised this list to form the more common Seven Deadly Sins, by folding (sorrow/despair/despondency) into acedia, vainglory into pride, and adding envy.[7] In the order used by Pope Gregory, and repeated by Dante Alighieri (1265-1321) centuries later in his epic poem The Divine Comedy, the seven deadly sins are as follows:
    1. luxuria (lechery/lust)
    2. gula (gluttony)
    3. avaritia (avarice/greed)
    4. acedia (sloth/discouragement)
    5. ira (wrath)
    6. invidia (envy)
    7. superbia (pride)

    The identification and definition of the seven deadly sins over their history has been a fluid process and the idea of what each of the seven actually encompasses has evolved over time. Additionally, as a result of semantic change:
    * socordia sloth was substituted for acedia

    The modern Catholic Catechism lists the sins in Latin as "superbia, avaritia, invidia, ira, luxuria, gula, pigritia seu acedia", with an English translation of "pride, avarice, envy, wrath, lust, gluttony, and sloth/acedia".[8] Each of the seven deadly sins now also has an opposite among corresponding seven holy virtues (sometimes also referred to as the contrary virtues). In parallel order to the sins they oppose, the seven holy virtues are humility, charity, kindness, patience, chastity, temperance, and diligence.

    - Taken largely from "Seven deadly sins" on Wikipedia

    FOOTNOTES:

    1. Catechism of the Catholic Church, nn.1856. See also nn.1854–1864.
    2. Boyle, Marjorie O'Rourke (1997) [1997-10-23]. "Three: The Flying Serpent". Loyola's Acts: The Rhetoric of the Self. The New Historicism: Studies in Cultural Poetics, 36. Berkeley: University of California Press. pp. 100–146. ISBN 978-0-520-20937-4.
    3. Evagrio Pontico,Gli Otto Spiriti Malvagi, trans., Felice Comello, Pratiche Editrice, Parma, 1990, p.11-12.
    4. Remedies for the Eight Principal Faults
    5. Refoule, F. (1967) Evagrius Ponticus. In Staff of Catholic University of America (Eds.) New Catholic Encyclopaedia. Volume 5, pp644–645. New York: McGrawHill.
    6. Ibid
    7. Introduction to Paulist Press edition of John Climacus: The Ladder of Divine Ascent by Kallistos Ware, pg. 63.
    8."Catechism of the Catholic Church". Vatican.va. Archived from the original on 2008-03-27. Retrieved 2010-07-24.


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