Seven Deadly Sins


Seven deadly sins “Cardinal sin” redirects here. For the former Archbishop of Manila, see Jaime Cardinal Sin. “Seven sins” redirects here. For other uses, see Seven deadly sins (disambiguation).

The “Seven Deadly Sins”, also known as the “Capital Vices” or “Cardinal Sins”, are a classification of vices that were originally used in early Christian teachings to educate and instruct followers concerning (immoral) fallen man’s tendency to sin.
The Roman Catholic Church divided sin into two principal categories: “venial”, which are relatively minor, and could be forgiven through any sacrament of the Church, and the more severe “capital” or “mortal” sins, which, when commited, destroyed the life of grace, and created the threat of eternal damnation unless either absolved through the sacrament of confession, or otherwise forgiven through perfect contrition on the part of the penitent.

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 Christian culture and Christian consciousness in general throughout the world. Listed in the same order used by both Pope Gregory the Great (b.540(?), d.604) in the 6th Century AD and later by Dante Alighieri in his epic poem The Divine Comedy (c.1308-1321),

The Seven Deadly Sins are as follows: Luxuria (extravagance, later lust), Gula (gluttony), Avaritia (avarice/greed), Acedia (sloth), Ira (wrath), Invidia (envy), and Superbia (pride/hubris).

Each of The Seven Deadly Sins has an opposite among the corresponding Seven Holy Virtues (sometimes also refered to as the Contrary Virtues). The identification and definition of The Seven Deadly Sins over their history has been a fluid process and, as is common with many aspects of religion as a whole, the idea of what each of the seven actually encompass has evolved over time. This process has been aided by the fact that they are not referred to in either a cohesive or codified manner in the Bible itself, and as a result other literary and ecclesiastical works referring to The Seven Deadly Sins were instead consulted as sources from which definitions might be drawn. Part II of Dante’s Divine Comedy, Purgatorio, has almost certainly been the best known source since the Renaissance (c.~1400), though many later interpretations and versions, especially those of the more conservative and Pentecostal Protestant denominations, have instead tended to portray the consequence for those guilty of commiting one or more of these sins as being eternal torment in Hell, rather than possible purification through penance in Purgatory.

Lust (Latin, luxuria)

Main articles: Lust (fornication, perversion) Lust is usually thought of as being obsessive or excessive thoughts or desires of a sexual nature. Unfulfilled lusts can lead to sexual or sociological compulsions and or transgressions including (but obviously not limited to) sexual addiction, adultery, bestiality, and rape. Dante’s criterion was “excessive love of others,” which therefore rendered love and devotion to God as secondary. However, lust and love are two different things; while a genuine, selfless love can represent the highest degree of development and feeling of community with others in a human relationship, Lust can be described as the excessive desire for sexual release. The other person can be therefore seen as a “means to an end” for the fulfillment of the subject’s desires, and becomes thus objectified in the process. In Purgatorio, the penitent walks within flames to purge himself of lustful thoughts.

Gluttony (Latin, gula)

Main articles: Gluttony (waste, overindulgence) Modern views identify Gluttony with an overindulgence of food and drink, though in the past any form of thoughtless excess could fall within the definition of this sin. Marked by unreasonable or unnecessary excess of consumption, Gluttony could also include certain forms of destructive behavior, especially for sport, or for its own sake. Substance abuse or binge drinking can be seen as examples of gluttony therefore. The penitents in the Purgatorio were forced to stand between two trees, unable to reach or eat the fruit hanging from either, and were thus described as having a starved appearance.

Greed/Avarice (Latin, avaritia)

Main articles: Greed (treachery, covetousness) Greed is, like Lust and Gluttony, a sin of excess. However, Greed (as seen by the Church) applied to the acquisition of wealth in particular. Thomas Aquinas wrote that Greed was “a sin against God, just as all mortal sins, in as much as man condemns things eternal for the sake of temporal things.” In Dante’s Purgatory, the penitents were forced to kneel on hard stone and recite the examples of avarice and its opposing virtue. “Avarice” is more of a blanket term that can describe many other examples of sinful behaviour. These include disloyalty, deliberate betrayal, or treason, especially for personal gain, as the case when someone lets oneself be bribed. Scavenging and hoarding of materials or objects, theft and robbery, especially by means of violence, trickery, or manipulation of authority are all actions that may be inspired by greed. Such misdeeds can include Simony, where one profits from soliciting goods within the actual confines of a church.

Sloth/Laziness (Latin, acedia)

Main articles: Sloth (laziness, sadness, apathy) More than other sins, the definition of Sloth has changed considerably since its original inclusion among The Seven Deadly Sins. It had been in the early years of Christianity characterized by what modern writers would now describe as apathy, depression, and joylessness – the latter being viewed as being a refusal to enjoy the goodness of God and the world He created. Originally, its place was fulfilled by two other aspects, Acedia and Sadness. The former described a spiritual apathy that affected the faithful by discouraging them from their religious work. Sadness (tristitia in Latin) described a feeling of dissatisfaction or discontent, which caused unhappiness with ones current situation. When St. Thomas Aquinas selected Acedia for his list, he described it as an “uneasiness of the mind,” being a progenitor for lesser sins such as restlessness and instability. Dante refined this definition further, describing Sloth as being the “failure to love God with all one’s heart, all one’s mind and all one’s soul.” He also described it as the middle sin, and as such was the only sin characterised by an absence or insufficiency of love. The more current view of the vice, as highlighted by its contrary virtue zeal/diligence, is the failure to utilize one’s talents and gifts. For example, a student who does not work beyond what is required (and thus fails to achieve his or her full potential) would be slothful. Modern interpretations are therefore much less stringent and comprehensive than they were in medieval times, and portray Sloth as being more simply a sin of laziness, of an unwillingness to act, and of an unwillingness to care. For this reason Sloth is now often seen as being considerably less serious than the other sins.

Wrath/Anger (Latin, ira)

Main articles: Wrath (anger, hatred, prejudice, discrimination) Wrath may be described as inordinate and uncontrolled feelings of hatred and anger. These feelings can manifest as vehement denial of the truth, both to others and in the form of self-denial, impatience with the procedure of law, and the desire to seek revenge outside of the workings of the justice system (such as engaging in vigilantism), fanatical political beliefs, and generally wishing to do evil or harm to others. A modern definition would also include hatred and intolerance towards others for reasons of race or religion, leading to discrimination. The transgressions borne of Wrath are among the most serious, including murder, assault, discrimination, and in extreme cases, genocide. (See Crimes against humanity.) Wrath is the only sin not necessarily associated with selfishness or self interest (although one can of course be wrathful for selfish reasons, such as jealousy). Dante described Wrath as “love of justice perverted to revenge and spite”.

Envy/Jealousy (Latin, invidia)

Main articles: Envy (jealousy, malice) Like Greed, Envy is characterized by an insatiable desire, they differ, however, for two main reasons: First, Greed is largely associated with material goods, whereas Envy may apply more generally. Second, those who commit the sin of Envy desire something that someone else has which they percieve themselves as lacking. Dante defined this as “love of one’s own good perverted to a desire to deprive other men of theirs.” In Dante’s Purgatory, the punishment for the envious is to have their eyes sewn shut with wire, because they have gained sinful pleasure from seeing others brought low.
Pride/Hubris (Latin, superbia) Vanitas with her mirror. Painting by Titian, c. 1515Main articles: Pride (vanity, narcissism), Hubris In almost every list Pride is considered the original and most serious of The Seven Deadly Sins, and indeed the ultimate source from which the others arise. It is identified as a desire to be more important or attractive than others, failing to give compliments to others though they may be deserving of them, and excessive love of self (especially holding self out of proper position toward God). Dante’s definition was “love of self perverted to hatred and contempt for one’s neighbour.” In Jacob Bidermann’s medieval miracle play, Cenodoxus, Pride is the deadliest of all the sins and leads directly to the damnation of the famed Doctor of Paris, Cenodoxus.
In perhaps the most famous example, the story of Lucifer, Pride was what caused his Fall from Heaven, and his resultant transformation into Satan. Vanity and Narcissism are prime examples of this Sin. In the Divine Comedy, the penitent were forced to walk with their heads bowed while they were whipped in order to induce feelings of humility.

In Proverb 6:16-19, it is stated that “There are seven things that the Lord hates and cannot tolerate” (quotes from ‘Today’s English Version’ translation of the Bible). These are: A proud look a lying tongue hands that kill innocent people a mind that thinks up wicked plans feet that hurry off to do evil a witness who tells one lie after another and someone who stirs up trouble among friends. While there are seven of them, these sins are significantly different in outward appearence from “The Seven Deadly Sins” list that arose later. The only sin among these which is clearly on both lists is Pride. “Hands that kill innocent people” may be taken to refer to Wrath. However, it is possible to imagine a case where one bad person killed another in a fit of anger, which would be an example of Wrath but not of killing an innocent; and similarly, cold blooded murder of an innocent would be one of the ‘hated things’ without necessarily being an example of Wrath. The remaining five of the “deadly sins” do not have even this loose correspondence to the ‘hated things’, even if it is easy to imagine how they might lead someone to acting in one of the ways described in Proverb.

Catholic Virtues The Roman Catholic Church also recognizes Seven Holy Virtues which correspond to each of the Seven Deadly Sins.

Vice Virtue

Lust (excessive sexual appetites), Chastity (purity of soul)

Gluttony (over-indulgence), Temperance (self-restraint)

Greed (avarice), Charity (giving)

Sloth (idleness), Diligence (zeal/integrity)

Wrath (anger), Forgiveness (composure)

Envy (jealousy), Kindness (admiration)

Pride (vanity), Humility (humbleness)

Punishments According to The Picture Book of Devils, Demons and Witchcraft, by Ernst and Johanna Lehner (Dover Publications, 1971), each of the Sins is associated with a specific punishment in Hell.

Sin Punishment in Hell Pride Broken on the Wheel.

Envy Placed in freezing water.

Wrath Dismembered Alive.

Sloth Thrown in Snake Pits.

Greed Put in pots of boiling oil.

Gluttony Forced to eat live rats, toads, lizards and snakes.

Lust Smothered in Fire and Brimstone.

Associations with demons In 1589, Peter Binsfeld paired each of the deadly sins with a demon, who tempted people by means of the associated sin. According to Binsfeld’s Classification of Demons, the pairings are as follows: Lucifer: Pride Mammon: Greed Asmodeus: Lust Leviathan: Envy Beelzebub: Gluttony Satan: Wrath Belphegor: Sloth There are also other demons who invoke sin, for instance the incubi and succubi invoke lust. The succubi sleep with men in order to impregnate themselves so that they can spawn demons. The incubi sleep with women to lead them astray and to impregnate them with demon spawn.

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