Loading. Please wait...

Ethical Lists in the New Testament

Read: key texts

A common device in the classical virtue education literature are so-called “ethical lists”. These are catalogues of specific virtues that are listed, recommended or exemplified.

These were very popular in ancient literature, and it is notable that the New Testament contains 14 lists of virtues and 8 lists of vices.

In Romans, for example, the four chapters that follow the exhortation to offer ourselves as a “holy sacrifice” (Rom 12.:1) feature a list of virtues that includes humility, civility, service, teaching, encouragement, generosity, diligence, mercy, love, zeal, hope, patience, faith, solidarity, magnanimity, compassion, civility, equity, justice and patience.

Here are seven ethical lists of virtues.  Read each text and write down the virtues that are listed.

  • Matthew 5-7 (can the Beatitudes be considered virtues?)
  • Gal 5:22–23 (notice that the ‘fruit of the Spirit’ is a list of virtues)
  • Col 3:12, 18–25 (the heading of this text is ‘excellence’ which is the translation of arete, virtue)
  • 1 Tim 3; Titus 1 (here we find the qualifications of leaders framed as virtues)
  • Mark 7 (notice that the ‘evils that come from inside’ are vices)
  • Rom 1:29–30 (the wickedness that brings judgment is again a list of vices)
  • 2 Cor 12 (here you will find the vices that tear the church apart)

In addition to these ethical lists, there are innumerable references to single virtues and vices. All this contributes to making the New Testament a true treasury of moral education.


A prayer:  As I present myself as a ‘holy sacrifice’ to you, grant me your power to fulfil my commitment to humility, civility, service, teaching, encouragement, generosity, diligence, mercy, love, zeal, hope, patience, faith, solidarity, magnanimity, compassion, civility, equity, justice and patience.

Story Show Sidebar Hide Sidebar

Share it on your social network:

Or you can just copy and share this url