7 Deadly Sins of Christendom

“Gluttony * Pride * Greed * Lust * Envy * Anger * Sloth

The Seven Deadly Sins could collectively be represented by the biblical Leviathan, whose origin looks back to the Canaanite terror of the deep–the seven-headed serpent Lotan destroyed by the great god Baal. In medieval imagery, Lust was represented by an ape, though this animal could also express idolatry and, when given an apple, the expulsion from paradise. An ass playing a lyre was used by Romanesque sculptors to represent Pride. A bear could be used to represent either Gluttony, Lust, or Anger, while by reverse logic a bee could represent Sloth. The boar could also symbolize Lust.

List-making is an ancient art and scholars have traced the seven deadly sins as moral manifestations of the seven evil spirits, first codified by King Solomon in his proverbs, then reworked by Saint Paul in his rather stern letter to the Galatians. A hermit monk, one Evagrius Ponticus, turned them into eight spiritual temptations that might beset an ascetic (a bit like the demonst that tormented Saint Anthony). But it was Pope Gregory the Great in the sixth century who must be credited with the edition that survives today, as well as the seven positive virtues–Faith, Hope, Charity, Fortitude, Justice, Prudence, Temperance–and the seven defenses:

Abstinence against Gluttony * Humility against Pride * Liberality against Greed * Chastity against Lust * Kindness against Envy * Patience against Anger * Diligence against Sloth”

Excerpted from: Rogerson, Barnaby. Rogerson’s Book of Numbers: The Culture of Numbers–from 1,001 Nights to the Seven Wonders of the World. New York: Picador, 2013.

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