Origin of Patience is a Virtue
We have all heard the maxim “patience is a virtue” throughout our lives, and when we’re frustrated that something is taking too long, someone always seems to blurt it out. We live in the age of microwave ovens and the Internet where we can have nearly anything we want instantly. So while the world around us is moving ever faster, and we see that patience is in short supply, we should also recognize that possessing the virtue of patience is a necessity for the followers of God. But does the quote patience is a virtue come from the Bible?
“Patience is a Virtue” – Origin : William Langland, The Vision of Piers Plowman, c 1370
The origin of the quote patience is a virtue comes from a classic work by William Langland written during the middle ages. Yet, if you are looking for the orginal text of this quote from The Vision of Piers Plowman you’re not going to find it unless you are looking for the original Middle English language “suffraunce is a soverayn vertue”.
Translation: Suffraunce is a soverayn vertue : Patience is a sovereign (supreme) virtue
Although you will not find the quote in the Bible, one can easily argue that it was inspired by the Bible. The Vision of Piers Plowman is a poem that is a theological allegory of what it means to be a true Christian. In his poem, Langland refers to the four cardinal virtues: Prudence, Justice, Fortitude, and Temperance. Patience is one of the characteristics of fortitude, i.e., the ability to endure pain or hardship.
The Biblical reference to patience (longsuffering, sufferance) as a virtue can be found in the book of Galations where it is listed among the fruits of the Spirit: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law”. Galations 5:22-23 KJV.
Since the time of its first appearing, other writers have used the quote patience is a virtue in their writings. The most notable was a more popular contemporary of Langland, namely, Geoffrey Chaucer who said that “patience is a great virtue of perfection” in The Canterbury Tales. Here are a few very early places where you can find today’s Bible or Not quote.
Pacience is a greet vertu of perfeccioun. – Chaucer Tale of Melibee, c 1386
Patience is a vertue, but pinching is worse than any vice! – Lyly Mother Bombie, 1594
Patience is a virtue. – The Works of Thomas Chalkley, 1724
Aunt Prue in Yorkshire… will be able to instruct you, that patience is a virtue; and that you ought not to be in haste to take a first offer. – Richardson Grandison, 1754
Patience is and always was a virtue. – 1858 Trollope Dr. Thorne, 1858
My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. James 1:2-4 NKJV
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