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The number seven is often used symbolically, denoting completion or perfection, especially in echoes of biblical phraseology.

Seven against Thebes in Greek legend, the name given to the expedition against Thebes led by Polynices, son of Oedipus, against his brother Eteocles. When both young men were killed, their uncle Creon decreed that Polynices was not to be buried because he had attacked his own city; his niece Antigone defied the order.

Seven Churches of Asia the seven churches addressed by John in Revelation, the Churches of Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamos, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea.

seven corporal works of mercy, as enumerated in medieval theology, are taken from Matthew 25:35–37 and Tobit 12:12; they are feeding the hungry, giving the thirsty to drink, sheltering the stranger, clothing the naked, visiting the sick, comforting the prisoner, and (from Tobit) burying the dead.

seven deadly sins in Christian tradition, the sins of pride, covetousness, lust, anger, gluttony, envy, and sloth. They are listed (with minor variation) by the monk John Cassian (d.435), St Gregory the Great, and St Thomas Aquinas.

Seven Dwarfs in the story of Snow White, the seven dwarfs living in a hut in the forest who shelter the fugitive princess from her stepmother; in the Walt Disney cartoon film (1937), they are named Happy, Sleepy, Doc, Bashful, Sneezy, Grumpy, and Dopey.

seven gifts of the Holy Spirit wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord. The list is taken from Isaiah 11:2; six as in the AV ‘And the spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord,’ with piety (pietas) added from the Vulgate text.

seven heavens recognized in later Jewish and in Muslim belief; the highest is the abode of God and the most exalted angels. The division may have been of Babylonian origin, and founded on astronomical theories.

Seven Hills of Rome the seven hills on which the ancient city of Rome was built: Aventine, Caelian, Capitoline, Esquiline, Quirinal, Viminal, and Palatine. Rome is informally known as the City of the Seven Hills.

Seven Joys of Mary special occasions for joy on the part of the Virgin Mary, as traditionally enumerated; the Annunciation, Visitation, Nativity, Epiphany, Finding in the Temple, Resurrection, and Ascension. The medieval church reckoned five (although lists differ); an early 14th century poem gives the Annunciation, Nativity, Epiphany, Resurrection, and the Assumption of the Virgin, with later Roman Catholic writers adding the Visitation and the Finding as the second and fifth respectively, and making the seventh the Ascension.

Seven Last Words the last seven utterances of Christ on the Cross: ‘Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do’ (Luke 23:34); ‘Woman, behold thy son!’ (John 19:26); ‘Behold thy mother!’ (John 19:27); ‘Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? [My God, my God, why has thou forsaken me?]’ (Matthew 27:46); ‘I thirst’ (John 19:28); ‘It is finished’ (John 19:30); ‘Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit’ (Luke 23:46, a quotation from Psalm 31:5). Also known as the Seven Words.


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