Where Do the Seven Sins Come From?

A cheat sheet to the deadlies—which turn out not to be so deadly after all.

By Jean Tang, Thursday, Nov 20, 2008, 9:13 AM

The seven sins are a handy guide to life. Commit them, and you might never enter the kingdom of God. Avoid 'em, and while you may not be guaranteed admission, you have a clearer path.

The list of seven sins comes from a 6th-century pope, Gregory the Great—not from the Bible. The pope wanted to call attention to the handful of sins that most often lead people to commit other sins. He didn't call the sins "deadly," and neither should you. Like all sins, the seven sins are pardonable, depending on the circumstances, says William Mattison, assistant professor of moral theology of at the Catholic University of America.