Seven Deadly Sins

One of my favorite films of all time is Se7en (released in 1995). It stars Morgan Freeman, Brad Pitt and Gwyneth Paltrow; it was written by Andrew Kevin Walker and directed by David Fincher.
The film, as the title implies, is about the so-called seven deadly sins: Greed, Gluttony, Sloth, Lust, Pride, Envy and Wrath. The story revolves around two detectives: William Somerset (played by Morgan Freeman) and David Mills (played by Brad Pitt). In the film, Somerset– who is about to retire– is partnered with a young detective, Mills. It started with two murder cases: that of an attorney with the word “GREED” written in the man’s own blood, and that of an obese man with the word “GLUTTONY” written behind the man’s fridge. Before long, Somerset speculates that the killer (named in the film as John Doe, and played by Kevin Spacey) is using the seven deadly sins as the bases or modi operandi for his crimes. Armed with this theory, the two detectives surmise that they are expecting five more crimes to go, thereby completing the seven deadly sins. The twist in the film lies in the last two deadly sins, ENVY and WRATH, as both the antagonist and the protagonist play a direct role in committing the final two crimes.
While the concept of the seven deadly sins is not entirely biblical– as one will not really find a direct mention of these seven sins in the bible all at once in their exact connotation– they can be taken in context through the New Testament’s Epistle or Letter to the Galatians 5:19-21. The verses state the sins as follows: “The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.” (–New International Version)
The Old Testament, on the other hand, lists six things hated by the Lord (and seven abominable to Him). They are found in The Book of Proverbs 6:16–19, as follows: “There are six things the LORD hates, seven that are detestable to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, a false witness who pours out lies and a man who stirs up dissension among brothers.” (–New International Version). All in all, biblical reference to each of the so-called deadly sins can be found in various texts in both the Old and New Testament (whether implied or directly referred to), but not in only one chapter or group of verses.
The origin of the seven deadly sins can be traced back to the early Christians during the fourth to sixth century when monks and priests laid down the things to avoid in their personal quest for a virtuous life. Originally, they were eight sins according to a fourth-century monk by the name of Evagrius Ponticus. And these eight sins were, listed from bad to worst: gluttony, lust, avarice, sadness [yes, sadness. So stop feeling so “emo” :)], anger, acedia (or spiritual sloth), vainglory, and pride. Eventually, during the late sixth century, a Roman Catholic Pope in the person of Pope Gregory I (better known as Pope Gregory the Great) would revise and reduce the list from eight to its present-day seven sins (which would, later, also play a major theme in Dante Alighieri‘s epic poem The Divine Comedy). The sins, listed from least serious to most serious, are as follows: lust, gluttony, avarice or greed, sadness, anger or wrath, envy and pride. The sin of “sadness” would later be changed during the seventeenth century to “sloth.” Interestingly, during these times, each of the seven deadly sins even had a corresponding punishment in hell (according to the research done by writers Ernst and Johanna Lehner in their book The Picture Book of Devils, Demons and Witchcraft). For those guilty of the sin of Pride, the equivalent punishment was to be “broken on the wheel”; for Envy, it was to be “put in freezing water”; for Anger or Wrath, it was to be “dismembered alive”; for Sloth, it was to be “thrown in snake pits”; for Avarice or Greed, it was to be “put in cauldrons of boiling oil”; for Gluttony, it was to be “forced to eat rats, toads, and snakes”; and for Lust, it was to be “smothered in fire and brimstone.” Moreover, a sixteenth-century engraver by the name of George Pencz even attributed a specific animal to a specific sin. They were as follows: for Pride, it was the horse; for Envy, it was the dog; for Anger or Wrath, it was the bear; for Sloth, it was the goat; for Avarice or Greed, it was the frog; for Gluttony, it was the pig; and for Lust, it was the cow. As if those weren’t enough, there was also a respective color associated with each deadly sin. They were as follows: violet for Pride, green for Envy, red for Anger or Wrath, light blue for Sloth, yellow for Avarice or Greed, orange for Gluttony, and blue for Lust. Conversely, the seven sins also have their corresponding opposites. And according to the Roman Catholic Church, these opposites are known as the Seven Virtues. They are as follows: Chastity for Lust; Temperance for Gluttony; Charity for Avarice or Greed; Diligence for Sloth; Patience for Anger or Wrath; Kindness for Envy, and Humility for Pride.
And then, a little over a year ago on March 9, 2008, the Catholic Church through its Vatican newspaper mentioned a list of the “seven modern social sins” (which differ from the original, more personal seven deadly sins). They are as follows: environmental pollution, genetic manipulation, obscene wealth, infliction of poverty, drug trafficking, morally debatable experiments, and violation of the fundamental rights of human nature.
Personally, I have no doubt that any sin is “deadly” and that no one is free from sin, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” (Romans 3:23, New International Version)…”For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23, New International Version). And for all Christians, the last verse clearly states the only truth that supersedes and overrules the reality of death from sin: the true faith that Christ is the Savior and Son of the Living God! Dying physically is part of being human and our sinful nature. In the eleventh chapter of the Gospel of John, we find the death of Jesus’ friend, Lazarus. And comforting Martha (Lazarus’ sister), “Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26, New International Version)



4 Responses

  1. I voted in your poll (that’s pride). It’s great to be reminded by these references that you wrote. I remember I also blogged about the ‘new 7 deadly sins’ more than a year ago.

    Have a great weekend!

    • Thanks a lot, wits, for visiting and for voting! I checked your link right away from your “new 7 deadly sins” post March 11 of last year. I agree with you on your questions regarding Vatican’s right to update the (older, so-called seven deadly sins) list. I remember when I first learned about their new list last year, I was talking to myself and asking, “Why??! What for??!” But the Catholic Church (of which I also belong to) is known to make sweeping and shocking statement at times. But, heck, who am I to argue with them? In fairness to them, their new list is not that much different from the old seven deadly sins. I think they are just a more specific description of the acts attributed to the more generalized seven deadly sins list of old.
      I actually voted also on my own poll. And yes, I also picked “Pride” as my easiest sin to commit.
      Thanks so much, wits, for visiting my blog! Have a great weekend, too, yourself!
      Take care always!!!

  2. How’ve you been, Pards? My apologies for the rather long absence.

    Anyway, I voted on your poll. Like WitsandNuts, I voted for Pride too because I think it’s the easiest sin to commit. It’s an almost instinctive reaction to things that people view as falling short of their moral standards or expectations.

    Take care. 🙂

    • Thanks so much for visiting my blog, Pards! No apologies are needed, Pards.
      Yes, very true. Personally, I feel that Pride is so much wired to my personal beliefs that anything short of my expectations or out of my comfort zone is deemed “wrong.” Pride is a very dangerous sin in that it is so casual to one’s everyday existence that it can actually shut people out of one’s life by making him/her feel and think that he/she is right all the time (even when he’s/she’s not!). It alienates that person from true, caring people; worse, it prevents that person from reaching out and offering advice to people who are otherwise in more need of help than him/her.
      Thanks so much, Pards, for dropping by and for voting in my poll!
      Take care!

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