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Seven Spirits of God

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In Revelation 1:4, Revelation 3:1, Revelation 4:5, and Revelation 5:6, the Bible refers to Seven Spirits of God. As a consequence, people have been trying to figure out what these spirits are. The following is an analysis of the the various arguments put forth and the theological implications for believers.

What Revelation says[edit]

  • John of Patmos to the seven churches which are in Asia: Grace be unto you, and peace, from him which is, and which was, and which is to come; and from the seven Spirits which are before his throne — Revelation 1:4
  • And unto the angel of the church in Sardis write; These things saith he that hath the seven Spirits of God, and the seven stars; I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead. — Revelation 3:1
  • And out of the throne proceeded lightnings and thunderings and voices: and there were seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God. — Revelation 4:5
  • And I beheld, and, lo, in the midst of the throne and of the four beasts, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent forth into all the earth. — Revelation 5:6

Hypothesis 1 (the traditional view) — The Seven Spirits are the ones described in Isaiah 11:2[edit]

Isaiah 11:2 says the following:

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

The traditional theory holds that the seven spirits are the 'spirit of the Lord', of wisdom, of understanding, of counsel, of might, of knowledge, and of fear of the Lord.

One argument for such a theory has been made by Wayne Jackson.[1]

Counterargument[edit]

'Spirit of the Lord' is not an aspect of the spirit and thus cannot be one of the seven spirits. Moreover translations like Net Bible reduce the 6 remaining aspects of the spirit into 3 aspects which prevents one from reaching the number 7.[2]

Counter-counterargument[edit]

The temple menorah Jews plan to use for their Third Temple. The problem? Mosques are standing where the Second Temple used to reside.

What we are talking about is a temple menorahWikipedia's W.svg. Revelation 4:5 says "the seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God." This imagery appears to be similar to that found in Zechariah 4:1-6.

And the angel that talked with me came again, and waked me, as a man that is wakened out of his sleep. And said unto me, What seest thou? And I said, I have looked, and behold a candlestick all of gold, with a bowl upon the top of it, and his seven lamps thereon, and seven pipes to the seven lamps, which are upon the top thereof: And two olive trees by it, one upon the right side of the bowl, and the other upon the left side thereof. So I answered and spake to the angel that talked with me, saying, What are these, my lord? Then the angel that talked with me answered and said unto me, Knowest thou not what these be? And I said, No, my lord. Then he answered and spake unto me, saying, This is the word of the LORD unto Zerubbabel, saying, Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the LORD of hosts.

In this passage, the Spirit of the Lord of hosts was divided among seven lamps which is the arrangement of a temple menorah.[note 1] The menorah has other symbolic meanings. Jews believed that the 6 lamps outside of the central lamp alluded to the branches of human knowledge. Another interpretation was that it alluded to the creation of days with the central candle representative of the sabbath. The early Christian fathers Clement of Alexandria and Philo Judaeus thought that the menorah represented the Moon, Mercury, Venus, the Sun, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn. Regardless, Revelation 4:5 and Zechariah 4:1-6 appear to indicate that another symbolic meaning of the menorah was the division of the Lord of Host's spirit.

In a temple menorah,Wikipedia's W.svg the central lamp was the one that remained lit whereas the others were allowed to die out. This central lamp was thought to show that the divine presence of God continued to reside over Israel, thus it was of central importance just as 'Spirit of the Lord' was of central importance when compared to the other aspects of his spirit. The fact that each lamp had a corresponding lamp on the opposite side of the menorah except for the central lamp could explain why all of the spirits except "Spirit of the Lord' in Isaiah 11:2 come in pairs.

Hypothesis 2 — The Seven Spirits are the Seven Archangels mentioned in 1 Enoch[edit]

The Seven Archangels

In 1 Enoch, God was referred to as the Lord of the Spirits and the seven archangels the Lord of Spirits would have lorded over was mentioned 1 Enoch 20:1-8.

And these are the names of the holy angels who watch. 2. Uriel, one of the holy angels, who is over the world and over Tartarus. 3. Raphael, one of the holy angels, who is over the spirits of men. 4. Raguel, one of the holy angels who takes vengeance on the world of the luminaries. 5. Michael, one of the holy angels, to wit, he that is set over the best part of mankind and over chaos. 6. Saraqâêl, one of the holy angels, who is set over the spirits, who sin in the spirit. 7. Gabriel, one of the holy angels, who is over Paradise and the serpents and the Cherubim. 8. Remiel, one of the holy angels, whom God set over those who rise.[3]

Revelation is filled with imagery taken from 1 Enoch which shows that the author was familiar with this work. Based on 1 Enoch 20:1-8, the seven spirits were Uriel, Raphael, Raguel, Michael, Saraqâêl, Gabriel, and Ramiel.

One such argument has been made by Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg.[4]

Counterargument[edit]

Revelation 1:20 explained some of the imagery and said that "the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches" and Revelation 3:1 separated the seven Spirits of God from the seven stars. Thus the seven archangels couldn't have been both the seven stars and the seven spirits.

Counter-counterargument[edit]

Origen explained that the seven stars of the seven churchesWikipedia's W.svg were guardian angels which meant that the seven archangels were free to be the seven spirits. Moreover, in Revelation 1:4 the seven Spirits were described as being before his throne. It wouldn't have made much sense to say God's might, his understanding, or his wisdom were before his throne as these things were seen as a part of God, not something that was external to him. It would have made more sense to have said that his seven archangels were before him and they were ready to do battle when the day of judgment arrives. In Daniel 7, another prophetic passage within the Bible, the Son of Man fought alongside the saints of the most high and these saints are commonly understood to be the angels. Thus the seven archangels would have been expected to be a part of the apocalyptic battle by followers of Judaeo-Christianity during the time when Revelations was written.

Hypothesis 3 — The Seven Spirits are found scattered among the New Testament[edit]

It is doubtful that any scholar takes the following argument seriously, but it is one that has found a place on the Web and thus should be addressed. One such argument is as follows. Jesus has the spirit of justification (1 Corinthians 6:11), sanctification (2 Thessalonians 2:13), life (Romans 8:2), truth (John 14:17), wisdom (Ephesians 1:17), deliverance (Matthew 12:28), and prayer (Romans 8:26).

Two examples of these types of arguments have been made by Bill Burns and by the Institute for Creation Research.[5][6]

Counterargument[edit]

First of all, the New Testament didn't exist when Revelations was written, so John of PatmosWikipedia's W.svg wouldn't have gone searching through it until he came up with seven spirits. Secondly, passages such as Ephesians 1:17 don't say 'spirit of wisdom'. Rather it says 'spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him.' This can easily be divided into two or three different spirits (spirit of wisdom, spirit of revelation, spirit of knowledge in him). Reducing this passage to one aspect of the spirit is therefore arbitrary. Thirdly, by this logic, other passages of the New Testament are relevant. For example, the 'seven spirits' would also be the spirit of making babies (Matthew 1:18, Luke 1:15, John 3:8), of baptism (Matthew 3:11, Acts 1:5), of visions/divine communication (Matthew 3:16, Acts 1:2), of temptation/testing (Matthew 4:1), of judgement (Matthew 12:18), of speaking in tongues (Acts 2:4), among others. Given these other passages, the 'seven spirits' chosen by the arguers are also arbitrary as there are a number of other aspects of the spirit mentioned in the New Testament. In fact, the two examples mentioned above differ in the spirits that were chosen. Moreover, the only reason the arguers come to conclude that there were seven spirits as opposed to something like 12 or 15 was because Revelations said that there were seven spirits. Selecting for seven spirits in the Bible and seeing only seven is therefore both an example of confirmation bias and an example of the fallacy of exclusion.

Counter-counterargument[edit]

But Jesus is mentioned in Revelation 5:6 so he must have seven spirits and the New Testament is where the spirits of Jesus must be found. Given that Ephesians 1:17 says I am filled with I am filled with the Holy Spirit's knowledge of him, then I must have the wisdom to understand what these seven spirits are.

Counter-counter-counterargument[edit]

This line of reasoning is an example of the begging the question fallacy, also known by its Latin name petitio principia.

Other hypotheses[edit]

There are a couple of other argumentsWikipedia's W.svg put forth such as the seven spirits were the seven gifts mentioned in Romans 12:6-8 (and ignoring the nine gifts mentioned 1 Corinthians 12:8-10), that the seven spirits were angelic beings other than the seven archangels, or that the 'Seven Fold Spirit of God' was simply a symbol of perfection (whatever that means). But the first two arguments have the most textual evidence supporting them and therefore are the most probable ones. The first argument is supported by Isaiah 11:2 and Zechariah 4:1-6 and the second argument is supported by Daniel 7 and 1 Enoch 20. The author was likely to have been familiar with Daniel 7 and 1 Enoch given that a lot of the imagery found in Revelation have parallels in those works. He may have been familiar with Isaiah and Zechariah as well.

Theological implications[edit]

Seven?

In the case of theories like the Seven Spirits found in Isaiah 11:2, Romans 12:6-8, or throughout the New Testament, these views lead to a theological conflict with passages such as Ephesians 4:4 which says "There is one body, and one Spirit", not 7 spirits. It also makes the wonky math of the Trinity even wonkier as now not only is 1=3, 3=1, 1≠3 and 3≠1, but one of the three is equal to 7 and not equal to 7.

Even hypotheses like the seven fold spirit of God was simply a symbol of perfection have this wonky math problem as the Holy Spirit is still being divided into seven parts.

In the case of saying that the 7 spirits are heavenly beings like archangels that God is a lord over, then the bizarre 1=3, 3=1, 1≠3 and 3≠1 math of the Trinity remains unaltered as archangels are not a part of the trinity. It does, however, mean some level of acceptance of the non-canonical 1 Enoch as the number of archangels are not mentioned in the canonical texts of most Christian denominations.

Notes[edit]

  1. A Hanukkah menorah has nine lamps. The Talmud prohibited the use a seven-lamp menorah outside of the Temple. The ancient temple menorah did not use candles as candles were unknown in the Middle East until about 400 CE. Instead they were lamps that used olive oil.

References[edit]

  1. Who Are the Seven Spirits? by Wayne Jackson (August 10, 2005) Christian Courier.
  2. Who are the seven spirits before God? by Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg
  3. https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/The_Book_of_Enoch_(Charles)/Chapter_20
  4. Who are the seven spirits before God? by Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg (Oct 16, 2016) Kehila News Israel.
  5. The Seven Spirits of God by Bill Burns (June 29, 2000) Faith Tabernacle of Kremmling
  6. Seven Spirits of God Institute for Creation Research