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, counsel, knowledge, fortitude, piety, and fear of the Lord (wonder).

Book of Isaiah

File:Dirc van Delft - Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit - Walters W17153R - Full Page.jpg
Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit. Folio from Walters manuscript W.171 (15th century)

The source of the enumeration of "seven" gifts is often given as Book of Isaiah 11:1-2, where the Biblical passage refers to the characteristics of the awaited Messiah, genealogical descendant of the "David" identified by Christianity as Jesus Christ. The passage uses the term "Spirit of the Lord".

In the Hebrew Masoretic text the "Spirit of the Lord" is described with six characteristics (wisdom, understanding, counsel, might, knowledge, fear of the Lord), and then the last characteristic (fear of the Lord) is mentioned a second time.[5]

In the Greek Septuagint the first mention of the fear of the Lord is translated as "spirit of [...] godliness" (πνεῦμα [...] εὐσεβείας).[6]

Verse Hebrew
New International Version
11.1 א וְיָצָא חֹטֶר, מִגֵּזַע יִשָׁי; וְנֵצֶר, מִשָּׁרָשָׁיו יִפְרֶה. A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse;
from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.
και εξελευσεται ραβδος εκ της ριζης ιεσσαι
και ανθος εκ της ριζης αναβησεται
et egredietur virga de radice Iesse
et flos de radice eius ascendet
11.2 ב וְנָחָה עָלָיו, רוּחַ יְהוָה--רוּחַ חָכְמָה וּבִינָה,
רוּחַ עֵצָה וּגְבוּרָה, רוּחַ דַּעַת, וְיִרְאַת יְהוָה.
The Spirit of the LORD will rest on him—
the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding,
the Spirit of counsel and of might,
the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the LORD—
και αναπαυσεται επ' αυτον πνευμα του θεου
πνευμα σοφιας και συνεσεως
πνευμα βουλης και ισχυος
πνευμα γνωσεως και ευσεβειας
et requiescet super eum spiritus Domini
spiritus sapientiae et intellectus
spiritus consilii et fortitudinis
spiritus scientiae et pietatis
11.3 ג וַהֲרִיחוֹ, בְּיִרְאַת יְהוָה; and he will delight in the fear of the LORD. εμπλησει αυτον πνευμα φοβου θεου 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 Christianity

The Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit is one of several works in Christian devotional literature which follow a scheme of seven.[10] Others include the seven petitions of the Lord's Prayer, the beatitudes, the seven last words from the cross, the seven deadly sins, and the seven virtues.[11]

The seven gifts were often represented as doves[12] in medieval texts and especially figure in depictions of the Tree of Jesse which shows the Genealogy of Jesus.

Roman Catholicism

Although the New Testament does not refer to Isaiah 11:1-2 regarding these gifts,[13][14] Roman Catholicism teaches that initiates receive them 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][15]

The seven gifts of Holy Spirit

The Catechism of the Catholic Church Lists the seven gifts as follows:[16]

  • Wisdom: It is the capacity to love spiritual things more than material ones;
  • Understanding: In understanding, we comprehend how we need to live as followers of Christ. A person with understanding is not confused by the conflicting messages in our culture about the right way to live. The gift of understanding perfects a person's speculative reason in the apprehension of truth. It is the gift whereby self-evident principles are known;
  • Counsel (right judgement): With the gift of counsel/right judgment, we know the difference between right and wrong, and we choose to do what is right. A person with right judgment avoids sin and lives out the values taught by Jesus;
  • Fortitude (courage): With the gift of fortitude/courage, we overcome our fear and are willing to take risks as a follower of Jesus Christ. A person with courage is willing to stand up for what is right in the sight of God, even if it means accepting rejection, verbal abuse, or physical harm. The gift of courage allows people the firmness of mind that is required both in doing good and in enduring evil;
  • Knowledge: With the gift of knowledge, we understand the meaning of God. The gift of knowledge is more than an accumulation of facts, it also helps us to choose the right path through life;
  • Piety (reverence): With the gift of piety/reverence, we have a deep sense of respect for God and the Church. A person with reverence recognizes our total reliance on God and comes before God with humility, trust, and love. Piety is the gift whereby, at the Holy Spirit's instigation, we pay worship and duty to God as our Father, Aquinas writes;
  • Fear of the Lord (wonder and awe): With the gift of fear of the Lord/wonder and awe, we are aware of the glory and majesty of God. A person with wonder and awe knows that God is the perfection of all we desire: perfect knowledge, perfect goodness, perfect power, and perfect love. This gift is described by Aquinas as a fear of separating oneself from God. He describes the gift as a "filial fear," like a child's fear of offending his father, rather than a "servile fear," that is, a fear of punishment. Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.

Confirmation- The sacrament by which Catholics receive a special outpouring of the Holy Spirit, giving them access to the above gifts.

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:[17]

  • 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."[18]

See also


  1. For example, see Victorinus, Commentarii in Apocalypsim Iohannis 1, 4: Septiformem spiritum in Esaia legimus '(Esa., XI, 2), spiritum' videlicet 'sapientiae et intellectus, consilii et fortitudinis, scientiae et pietatis, spiritum timoris Domini.' Authors such Augustine, Hilary of Poitiers, and John Cassian all speak of the gifts with familiarity.
  2. Macfarlane, Bruce (2008). Researching with Integrity. The Ethics of Academic Enquiry. London: Routledge. p. 36. ISBN 0-203-88696-8; ISBN 978-02-0388-696-0. 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).<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. Stump, Eleonore (1998). Kretzmann, Norman; MacDonald, Scott Charles; Stump, Eleonore, eds. Aquinas's Moral Theory. Essays in Honor of Norman Kretzmann. Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press. p. 49. ISBN 0-801-43436-X; ISBN 978-08-0143-436-5. 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.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. Walters, Barbara R.; Corrigan, Vincent Justus; Ricketts, Peter T., eds. (2006). The Feast of Corpus Christi. University Park, Pennsylvania: Penn State Press. p. 451. ISBN 0-271-04831-X; ISBN 978-02-7104-831-4. 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 spiritus scientiae et pietatis.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. Cantalamessa, Raniero (2003). Come, Creator Spirit. Meditations on the Veni Creator. Collegeville, Minnesota: Liturgical Press. p. 175. ISBN 0-814-62871-0; ISBN 978-08-1462-871-3. In the extant Hebrew text (Isaiah 11:1-3) six gifts are listed, and the last, fear, is mentioned twice; wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, and fear of the Lord.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. "katapi New Study Bible: Parallel Greek English Old Testament". Septuagint Compiled from the Translation by Sir Lancelot C. L. Brenton, 1851. Retrieved 14 June 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. "Hebrew - English Bible / Mechon-Mamre". 17 October 2012. Retrieved 13 June 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. "Online Greek OT (Septuagint/LXX) UTF8". Retrieved 17 February 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. "Biblia Sacra Vulgata". Retrieved 17 February 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. Anlezark, Daniel (2010). Godden, Malcolm; Keynes, Simon; Blackburn, Mark, eds. Anglo-Saxon England (Volume 38). Cambridge University Press. p. 142. ISBN 0-521-19406-7; ISBN 978-05-2119-406-8.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. Rolle, Richard (1988). Jeffrey, David Lyle, ed. English Spirituality in the Age of Wyclif. Vancouver: Regent College Publishing. p. 174. ISBN 1-573-83185-9; ISBN 978-15-7383-185-7.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  12. sources?
  13. Erickson, Millard J. (1992). Introducing Christian Doctrine. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Publishing Group. ISBN 0-801-03215-6; ISBN 978-08-0103-215-8.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles> 2nd ed. 2001. Chapter Thirty - "The work of the Holy Spirit" (pp. 275ff.). ISBN 0-801-02250-9; ISBN 978-08-0102-250-0.
  14. Shaw, Russell; Stravinskas, Peter M. J. (1998). Our Sunday Visitor's Catholic Encyclopedia. Huntington, Indiana: Our Sunday Visitor Publishing. p. 457. ISBN 0-879-73669-0; ISBN 978-08-7973-669-9.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  15. CCC no. 1285.
  16. CCC no. 1831.
  17. "Summa Theologia: Secunda Secundae Partis",, 2010, webpage: NA3.
  18. Shanley, Brian. Review of Knowledge and Faith in Thomas Aquinas by John I. Jenkins. The Thomist 63 (1999), p. 318.

External links