Seven Deadly Sins

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A personification of pride, chief among the Seven Deadly Sins.

In Christian tradition, the Seven Deadly Sins, or more properly, the Seven Capital Vices are considered to be the seven vices with "certain fundamental reasons for moving the appetite" "which give rise to others".[1] They are:

The sins the vices lead to are not characterized by gravity of sin (the sins can take a full range of different severities); the word deadly seems to result from a confusion of the meaning of the word "capital". A capital crime is a way of describing the worst kinds of crime, with capital meaning "top". But a capital vice (or bad habit) uses the word capital with the meaning "head" or "leader", that is, giving rise to other sins, regardless of severity.[1]

Although a sin that leads to a flood of other sins can be "deadly" to a necessary spiritual task one is attempting to perform or even tragically "deadly" to the soul living according to sins not deadly in themselves, like the way an onrushing new disease can kill an already sickly patient.

Pope Gregory the Great (c. 540-604) elaborated this hierarchy of sins drawn from an allegorical meaning he found in the Bible in the book of Job (ch. 39) in his work The Books of the Morals or An Exposition on the Book of Blessed Job. They are commonly found in Medieval and Renaissance thought. Personifications or depictions of the seven sins (and their punishments in Hell) are also common in the art and literature of these periods, sometimes contrasted with the four cardinal moral virtues plus three theological virtues, although the virtues are not specifically opposed to a corresponding vice.

The seven sins may be categorized in three groups (see, for example, Dante's Purgatorio):

  • Pride, envy and anger are sins resulting from excessive self-interest.
  • Greed, gluttony and lust result from excessive desire for things outside the self.
  • Sloth results from a deficiency of the desires that inspire us to act for good or ill.

External link

A brief history of sin


  1. 1.0 1.1 Aquinas, Summa Theo. II-I, Q. 84