Seven in the Church
It's interesting that Christians revere the Cross and consider Fingers Crossed to be superstitious nonsense (even though it has Christian origins), yet the number seven plays an important part of their religion (even though the number is deeply associated with ancient Paganism).
So why do Christians use the number seven so much?
The earliest recorded ordination in the Church of Antioch was of seven deacons, each of whom had seven subdeacons. (Acts 6:1–7).
The Christian Church adopted the Jewish practice of reciting prayers at set times of the day, called zmanim. (See Psalm 119:164). These are known as the Seven Cononical Hours:
- matins / lauds
Seven has been a significant part of the Church since its inception, and continues today, especially in Roman Catholicism and Orthodox Churches.
Seven Deadly Sins
(also known as the Seven Cardinal Sins)
- Pride- leading to a conceited opinion of oneself
- Envy- a desire for the status, abilities or possessions of others, leading to resentment of others
- Gluttony- a desire to eat or consume more than is needed, thereby wasting food or drink, ergo denying sustenance to others
- Lust- a craving for sex, power or riches
- Anger- a loss of rational self-control, leading to hatred and a desire to harm others
- Greed- a desire for material wealth or gain
- Sloth- a laziness and the avoidance of work
Seven Heavenly Virtues
The pope instructed the best way to avoid these sins was to adopt seven positive attributes to counter the seven negative attributes. The three Theological Virtues defined by St. Paul (faith, hope and love) added to the four Cardinal Virtues (prudence, temperance, courage and justice) give us the Seven Heavenly Virtues:
- Faith- a belief in the right things
- Hope- taking a positive view that good will prevail
- Charity- love and concern for others and actively helping others
- Fortitude- never giving up
- Justice- being fair and equitable with others
- Prudence- care of and moderation with money
- Temperance- moderation of things needed and abstinence from things not needed (smoking, for example)
Seven Contrary Virtues
For the Seven Deadly Sins (see list above), there are Seven Contrary Virtues:
- Pride ⇒ Humility
- Envy ⇒ Kindness
- Gluttony ⇒ Abstinence
- Lust ⇒ Chastity
- Anger ⇒ Patience
- Greed ⇒ Liberality
- Sloth ⇒ Diligence
Seven Corporal Works of Mercy
The medieval instructions for helping others, give us the Seven Corporal Works of Mercy:
- Feed the hungry
- Give drink to the thirsty
- Give shelter to strangers
- Clothe the naked
- Visit the sick
- Minister to prisoners
- Bury the dead
Originally there were seven Stations of the Cross and there are Seven Sacraments:
- Anointing the Sick
- Holy Orders
Seven signs attesting the Divinity of Jesus
- Changing water into wine (John 2:1-11)
- Healing the official's son in Capernaum (John 4:46-54)
- Healing the paralytic at Bethesda (John 5:1-18)
- Feeding the 5,000 with five loaves and two fishes (John 6:5-14)
- Walking on water (John 6:16-24)
- Healing the man born blind (John 9:1-7)
- Raising of Lazarus (John 11:1-45)
Seven I Am's
Many times people asked Jesus who He was, and in reply, Jesus compared Himself to different things to help us understand. The Gospel of John records seven of these:
- I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never be hungry (John 6:35)
- I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness (John 8:12)
- I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved (John 10:9)
- I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep (John 10:10)
- I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies (John 11:25)
- I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me (John 14:6)
- I am the true vine and my Father is the gardener (John 15:1)
Other Sevens in the Bible
Seven appears in the Bible significantly more frequently than adjacent numbers.
Let's look at a few examples:
Prov. 6:17-19 lists seven things that are an abomination to God, the first being 'Pride'. Pride might be acceptable in today's society, but God never changes; He still hates it. Pride was, as Isa. 14:12-15 tells us, the reason Lucifer fell from grace.
God hates not only these seven sins; God hates all sin.
The Menorah was used with the tabernacle and its seven-branch design was dictated by God to Moses (Exod. 25:31-40). There are lots of sevens in the story of the Fall of Jericho (Josh. 6) and seven is particularly popular in these chapters of the final book of the Bible.
In Revelation we read of seven:
|angels||8 10 11 15 16 17 21||mountains||17|
|candlesticks||1 2||sardius||21 (a precious stone)|
|crowns||12||spirits||1 3 4 5|
|eyes||5||stars||1 2 3|
|heads||12 13 17||thunders||10|
|lamps||4||vials||15 15 21|
Remember the Sabbath-day to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy man-servant, nor thy maid-servant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath-day, and hallowed it.
The seventh day is the Sabbath and the premise is given in Gen. 2:1-3. In total the seventh day is mentioned 50 times, including: Exod. 16, 31, 35, Isa. 58, Mark 2, Luke 4, Acts 13, 17, 18, & Num. 15.
But why seven? Why not six? Or eight?
See our main seven page for the simple answer.
These included gluttony and greed; two quite similar vices which could easily be lumped together.
But then there would only be six deadly sins.
See further references to Sabbath and Sunday