Where in the bible are the seven deadly sins?
Where in the bible are the seven deadly sins?
In the classical literature sense, aka, "Paradise Lost"...they're not in there, as a conglomeration called "the seven deadly sins."
There are three verses in Proverbs that gives seven things God "hates", though...check out Proverbs 6:16-19
Blessings on you, and thanks for your good quesiton!!
I'm going to answer mainly by quoting a discussion of the 7DS which I wrote for someone here who asked about that a while back. (I composed the answer myself, but earlier.) There are other threads on the Seven Deadly Sins on the board, and several other posts where I discuss them, along these lines, but somewhat differently.
Historic Christian Discussion of "Deadly Sins" or "Thoughts":
An Aid to Learning How to Put Our Lives in Godly Order.
Where The Concept Comes From
As traditionally listed in the West, the seven deadly sins are lust, gluttony, avarice, sloth (or acedia, "not caring"), anger, envy, and pride. This approach is articulated by Gregory the Great (540-604), perhaps influenced by John Cassian (ca. 360-435), and articulated repeatedly through later tradition, including Thomas Aquinas, Bonaventure, and Dante. Dante (1265-1321), for instance, identifies the sins in groups with the first three being excessive love for worldly things, sloth being an insufficiency of love, and the upper three being perversions of love. However, they can also be thought of as physical sins (lust, gluttony, avarice) and spiritual sins (anger, envy, pride) with sloth in the middle.
This enumeration by Gregory was a revision of the Eight Deadly Thoughts, as articulated, most likely, by Evagrius Pontius (or "Evagrius Ponticus") (345-399): Gluttony, lust, avarice, sadness, anger, acedia, vainglory, and pride. In all lists, the sins are ranged from the less serious to the more serious. Something closer to this approach is also taken, I'm told, by Cyprian of Carthage (mid 200s), Columbanus, and Alcuin. (Much of my info on this is second-hand, and may have errors of fact or emphasis, I'm afraid.)
These discussions represent ways of thinking about human problems, and what we need to do to overcome them, that the church engaged in in its pastoral duties through the centuries, based upon close and thoughtful pondering of Scripture. Just as say, Rick Warren's Purpose Driven Life, or Every Man's Battle, or the writings of Paul Tournier or James Dobson represent modern attempts to work out a Christian and Biblical approach to human and psychological issues, so these are part of the ancient attempts by Christians to elaborate, based on the Scriptures and through prayer and thought, a practical and helpful spiritual psychology.
The underlying thought: Trying to Get Our Motives Rightly Ordered
The essential thought behind the thinking about the "deadly sins" or "deadly thoughts" is not that these are the "worst sins", but more that these are areas of life in which we become dysfunctional, or wrongly oriented, leading to ongoing sinfulness and messed-up-ness. Thus, they are not just individual sins, but "vices" or areas of sin in which we become captive to sin. Thus Chaucer says in the Canterbury Tales "Now is it bihovely thyng to telle whiche been the sevene deedly synnes, this is to seyn, chiefaynes of synnes. [Now it behoves us to discuss the seven deadly sins, that is to say, the chieftons of sins] ... Now been they cleped chieftaynes, for as muche as they been chief and spryng of alle othere synnes. [They are called chieftons because they are the head and wellspring of all other sins.]"
Thomas (Aquinas)'s Beginner's Textbook (Summa Theologia II-II:153:4) puts it this way: "a capital vice [deadly sin, or deadly vice] is that which has an exceedingly desirable end so that in his desire for it a man goes on to the commission of many sins all of which are said to originate in that vice as their chief source". Thus, as one author comments "it is not then the gravity of the vice in itself that makes it capital but rather the fact that it gives rise to many other sins." Thomas, in saying that these vices have "exceedingly desirable ends", is emphasizing that they are based on misuse of inevitable and powerful natural human desires.
Thus we can think of the "seven deadly sins" as representing screw-ups in the basic motivational areas that get human beings going. Sex, food, and money (or material possessions) are obviously big motivators: they are areas in which not only do we sin (lust, gluttony, avarice), but in which people have classic psychological problems. The same is true of depression, which a modern term covering much of what categories like sloth, accedia, and sadness, are getting at. Depression represents a general discouragement or lack of motivation. Self-defense, a general desire for good things, and sense of self, again, are crucial areas of human motivation which get twisted around to become (habitual) anger, envy, and pride. (Pride, here, means things like elevation of the importance of self, exaltation of self, unwillingness to accept help from God, and so on. That is, it is referring to the opposite of humility, not appropriate pleasure in one's achievements, or those of one's family or country.)
I find this useful and practical
I myself find this very helpful. The question is not just "battling lust" or "anger" but understanding where our understandable, proper, motivations have gone astray, and trying to redirect these things to right ends, and with proper moderation and manner. Also, it helps us see "gluttony," or "avarice" for instance, not just as overeating or miserliness, but as a whole wrong attitude toward food (maybe including overfinickyness) or material possessions. I get much of my understanding from an essay by Dorothy Sayers, from Roberta Bondi, and from some contemporary Eastern Orthodox writers. (Sayers notes, hilariously, that when she mentioned the seven deadly sins in a lecture on something else an earnest young man came up after the lecture, interested to know that there were seven, and could she please tell him what the other six were. ) C.S.Lewis doesn't talk about them as a group, but a similar understanding underlies his treatment of human attitudes and problems in other contexts. That's true of other authors too.
The Psychology of Human "Passions" (or "Addictions" or "Passivities")
The emphasis in the Eastern church's tradition has followed Evagrius and the Eastern writers more closely. Some modern commenters state that "deadly thoughts" is a better way of expressing their meaning. Thus, the Eastern tradition, emphasizes avoiding the "passions" -- a term which we might best translate into modern English as "addictions" -- that is, the need to work on oneself not just to "avoid sin" but to keep by being swayed by moribund dispositions. Thus, certainly, one would like not to give in to depression, or anger, or lust. However, even when one has won that battle, there's a further distance to go: one would prefer not to take up one's energy battling those things as temptations, either. That is why something like "sadness" or "melancholy" is listed: as a characteristic disposition -- not just a reaction to some sad event -- this is obviously an enemy to the life Christians should be leading, which involves hope and joy.
In the Eastern Christian tradition, the list of destructive "passions" is not necessarily fixed: any area of life, or state of mind, to which one becomes wrongly attached, and which takes one's focus off God, might be regarded as a "passion". The idea is not that one is supposed to be a cold fish, not "passionate" about anything. Quite the opposite: such a tendency would itself be a "passion" or "passivity": an attachment to emotional uninvolvement, perhaps even "acedia" (spiritual carelessness or indifference). The whole approach is discussed well in Roberta Bondi's excellent book To Love as God Loves.
Freeing up our minds to focus on God, and repose our trust in Christ
The aim is to gear one's mind so that, freed of preoccupation with such matters, one is able to focus one's heart and mind on God, praying and praising Him in inner calm, and energetically. The passions -- including the eight deadly thoughts -- are things that get in the way, making our personal and emotional life something blown about by desires, rather than something which, with God's help, we have in an orderly state that is peaceful and fruitful. Though the language is somewhat different, that same thought is present in both the Eastern and Western versions. No one, so far as I know, is much concerned with exactly how many there are; the emphasis is on trying to open the basic areas of one's will and motivation to God, and have them get to a place where they help us do His will, rather than dragging us down.
As you can see from Scruffy Kid's excellent background explanation, the concept of "seven deadly sins" is based solely on tradition and has no support from the Bible at all. To be totally honest, I think the "seven deadly sins" were something the "church" dreamed up to keep the parishioners coming back to confessional so they would pay their penances. It's all about $$$$$$$$ and power.
That sort of thing is exactly why, until about 500 years ago (give or take) it was actually forbidden for anybody to own a copy of the Scriptures! (Did you know that?) The explanation given was that (begin high-toned nasal sounding platitudinal voice) "the people are not able to discern for themselves the deeper meanings hidden in the sacred writings and if we allow them to corrupt their thinking with all manner of 'wrong' understandings, there's no end to what 'heresies' they might come up with". (End high-toned nasal sounding platitudinal voice) In other words, they didn't want the people finding out from the Bible that they didn't need some priest or the "sacraments" to come to God, that they could actually do it on their own!
In fact, when people started circulating copies of the Bible "illegally", anybody caught with them in their possession were often literally burned at the stake, as were the ones copying and distributing them. They wanted you learning the "church's" doctrines, not the Bible's doctrines. And that's where the seven deadly sins come into the picture, because if you commit one of them, your only hope is to get your priest to pray you out of the hole you got yourself into (for a very reasonable penance fee, of course).
When the plain sense of Scripture make sense, seek no other sense.
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