Seven Gifts of the Spirit and The Prophet Isaiah

Today’s second reading is from I Corinthians 12.  Paul tells us that the gifts of the Holy Spirit take various forms. Of course, we know from Genesis 1:31 that all good things have their origin in God: God looked at everything he had made, and he found it very good.   The Epistles of James says, all good giving and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no alteration or shadow caused by change.

Paul felt the Church at Corinth was getting carried away with charismatic activity, and he reminedd his brothers and sisters that the gifts of the Holy Spirit are many.  As Paul famously says,

There are different kinds of spiritual gifts but the same Spirit; there are different forms of service but the same Lord; there are different workings but the same God who produces all of them in everyone.

Paul enumerates nine gifts of the Spirit.  To a contemporary Christian, these gifts are unusual: healing and prophecy, for example.  The other gifts are faith, mighty deeds, discernment of spirits, tongues, etc.

Pope St. Gregory the Great was a serious bible scholar.  In a biblical commentary he wrote on Job, Gregory popularizes the idea of seven moral virtues, which are associated with the seven sons of Job (Job 1:2). According to his commentary, these moral virtues (which he borrows from the Book of Isaiah) are ‘wisdom, understanding, counsel, might, knowledge, piety, and the fear of the Lord.’   Ambrose, Bishop of Milan, accepted Gregory’s version of the seven virtues, calling them gifts.  St. Thomas Aquinas spoke of the similarity between the seven moral virtues and seven gifts of the Spirit in the Summa Theologiae, here.

So, where does Isaiah speak of the gifts of the spirit?  In verses 11:1-3, which is not coincidentally a Messianic passage, he speaks explictly of six:

But a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse, and from his roots a bud shall blossom.  The spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him: a spirit of wisdom and understanding, a spirit of counsel and strength, a spirit of knowledge and fear of the Lord.

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