Seven gifts of the Holy Spirit

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Stained glass representation of the Holy Spirit as a dove, c. 1660.

The seven gifts of the Holy Spirit is an enumeration of seven spiritual gifts originating with patristic authors,[1] later elaborated by five intellectual virtues[2] and four other groups of ethical characteristics.[3][4] They are: wisdom, understanding, wonder and awe, right judgement, knowledge, courage, and reverence. While many Roman Catholics and some other Christians accept these as a definitive list of specific attributes, others understand them merely as examples of the Holy Spirit's work through the faithful, or consider that there is no such thing as seven gifts of the Spirit in the Bible.


Hebrew Bible and New Testament

The source of the enumeration of "seven" gifts is often given as Isaiah 11:2-3.[5] The term "Holy Spirit" does not appear, but the "Spirit of the LORD." In the Hebrew St. Petersburg Codex text only three spirits with two characteristics each, totalling six, are mentioned, and fear is mentioned twice in a concluding comment.[6]

A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit. The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him — the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of power, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord — and he will delight in the fear of the Lord.


Later Christian usage conforms to the Latin Vulgate, which takes the list from the Septuagint. In the Septuagint the first "spirit of.. fear of the Lord" is "spirit of... godliness" (πνεῦμα ..εὐσεβείας) the second "fear of the Lord" is fear of the Lord (πνεῦμα φόβου θεοῦ).[7]

1 Et egredietur virga de radice Jesse, et flos de radice ejus ascendet. 2 Et requiescet super eum spiritus Domini: spiritus sapientiæ et intellectus, spiritus consilii et fortitudinis, spiritus scientiæ et pietatis; 3 et replebit eum spiritus timoris Domini.

The seven Latin terms are then:

  1. sapientia
  2. intellectus
  3. consilium
  4. fortitudo
  5. scientia
  6. pietas
  7. timor Domini.

In Medieval Christianity

The Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit is one of several works in medieval Christian devotional literature which follow a scheme of seven.[8] Others include the seven petitions of the Lord's Prayer, the seven Beatitudes, the seven last words from the cross.[9] Related are the seven deadly sins.

The seven gifts were often represented as doves in medieval texts and especially figure in depictions of the Tree of Jesse which shows the Genealogy of Jesus. In many such depictions the doves encircle a bust of Christ.

Roman Catholicism

Roman Catholicism teaches that initiates receive these seven gifts at Baptism, and that they are strengthened at Confirmation, so that one can proclaim the truths of the faith:

"The reception of the sacrament of Confirmation is necessary for the completion of baptismal grace."[88] For "by the sacrament of Confirmation, [the baptized] are more perfectly bound to the Church and are enriched with a special strength of the Holy Spirit. Hence they are, as true witnesses of Christ, more strictly obliged to spread and defend the faith by word and deed."[89] (Catechism of the Catholic Church #1285)

The seven gifts of the Holy Spirit

St. Josaphat's Cathedral in Edmonton, Canada is shaped as a cross with seven copper domes representing the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit.

According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church[10] and descriptions outlined by St. Thomas Aquinas in the Summa Theologica,[11] the seven gifts are as follows:

Relation to the Virtues

St. Thomas Aquinas says that four of these gifts (wisdom, understanding, knowledge, and counsel) direct the intellect, while the other three gifts (fortitude, piety, and fear of the Lord) direct the will toward God.

In some respects, the gifts are similar to the virtues, but a key distinction is that the virtues operate under the impetus of human reason (prompted by grace), whereas the gifts operate under the impetus of the Holy Spirit; the former can be used when one wishes, but the latter operate only when the Holy Spirit wishes. In the case of Fortitude, the gift has, in Latin and English, the same name as a virtue, which it is related to but from which it must be distinguished.

In Summa Theologica II.II, Thomas Aquinas asserts the following correspondences between the seven Capital Virtues and the seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit:[11]

  • The gift of wisdom corresponds to the virtue of charity.
  • The gifts of understanding and knowledge correspond to the virtue of faith.
  • The gift of counsel (right judgment) corresponds to the virtue of prudence.
  • The gift of fortitude corresponds to the virtue of courage.
  • The gift of fear of the Lord corresponds to the virtue of hope.
  • The gift of Reverence corresponds to the virtue of justice.

To the virtue of temperance, no Gift is directly assigned; but the gift of fear can be taken as such, since fear drives somebody to restrict himself from forbidden pleasures.

The Rev. Brian Shanley contrasts the gifts to the virtues this way: "What the gifts do over and above the theological virtues (which they presuppose) is dispose the agent to the special promptings of the Holy Spirit in actively exercising the life of the virtues; the gifts are necessary for the perfect operations of the virtues, especially in the face of our human weakness and in difficult situations."[13]

See also


  1. ^ For example, see Victorinus, Commentarii in Apocalypsim Iohannis 1: "Septiformi spiritu: in Esaia legimus: Spiritus sapientiae et intellectus, consilii et fortitudinis, scientiae et pietatis, spiritus timoris Domini." Authors such Augustine, Hilary of Poitiers, and John Cassian all speak of the gifts with familiarity.
  2. ^ Bruce Macfarlane Researching with integrity: the ethics of academic enquiry 2008-p36 "The theoretical, intellectual virtues consist of philosophical wisdom (sophia), scientific or empirical knowledge (episteme), and intuitive understanding (nous). In addition to these three is the virtue of practical wisdom or prudence (phronesis) and the productive virtues of art, skill, , and craft knowledge (techne)."
  3. ^ Aquinas's Moral Theory: Essays in Honor of Norman Kretzmann - Page 49 Scott MacDonald, Eleonore Stump - 2007 "Wisdom in Its Context Besides the five intellectual virtues and the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, Aquinas recognizes four other groups of ethical characteristics which are important for his discussion of wisdom.
  4. ^ The Feast of Corpus Christi - Page 451 Barbara R. Walters, Vincent Justus Corrigan, Peter T. Ricketts - 2006 10. set grasces: these are the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, which, in the Middle Ages, were probably codified by Thomas ... Isaias 11: 2–3: “spiritus sapientiae et intellectus, spiritus consilii et fortitudinis, s
  5. ^ Isaiah 11:2-3
  6. ^ Raniero Cantalamessa Come, Creator Spirit: meditations on the Veni Creator 2003 Page 175 "The text from which it takes its rise is Isaiah 1 1:1,3. In the Hebrew six gifts are listed, and the last, fear, is mentioned twice; wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, and fear of the Lord."
  7. ^ [1]
  8. ^ Anglo-Saxon England Martin Biddle, Julian Brown, Peter Clemoes, René Derolez, Helmut Gneuss, Stanley Greenfield p110
  9. ^ David Lyle Jeffrey English Spirituality in the Age of Wyclif 1988 Page 174 "The Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit This is one of numerous works in medieval devotional literature which follow a septenary schema. Others include the petitions of the Lord's Prayer, the Beatitudes, the seven last words from the cross,"
  10. ^ Catechism of the Catholic Church, Part 3 Section 1 Chapter 1 Article 7
  11. ^ a b "Summa Theologia: Secunda Secundae Partis",, 2010, webpage: NA3.
  12. ^ Summa Theologica, s.3008, webpage: S3008.
  13. ^ Shanley, Brian. Review of Knowledge and Faith in Thomas Aquinas by John I. Jenkins. The Thomist 63 (1999), p. 318.