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Dear Matt:

We were wondering, just what is the EXACT origin of the Seven Deadly Sins? Are they specifically biblical in origin? Is seven a significant number? Don't some of them seem redundant?

-- Pondering in downtown

Personkind has always been a tireless listmaker. With a little more scholarship, we could probably trace the modern shopping list back to the Lascaux cave paintings. What we think are hunters chasing deer is really Mrs. Caveperson's note to Mr. Caveperson, "On your way home from work, honey, please pick up a loaf of bread and a moose." We've been listing sins since the days of the ancient Babylonians, who picked seven to match the seven dominant heavenly bodies (sun, moon, five planets). But our famous seven deadly ones were written down by Pope Gregory I around 1600 as a teaching tool for the slovenly masses. They do not appear in list form in the Bible, but they are biblical concepts. Are they redundant sins? Not really, but I do notice that all but one of them (sloth) seem to have become modern virtues and the theme for most "reality" TV shows: pride, envy, gluttony, lust, greed, and anger.

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