Revelation 5:6

"... a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, having seven horns, and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God, sent out into all the earth"

This verse as well as 3:1 and 4:5 speaks about "seven spirits of God".

This is commonly interpreted as "seven" to mean numerological completeness or perfectness rather than literal seven, because (accordingly this interpretation) "spirit of God" refers to an entity which exists singularly. I seek alternate interpretations of this.

I interpret this as "seven angels (or other spiritual entities) belonging to God, who serve as Christ's eyes to look after the Earth", but this conflicts with understanding "the spirit of God" to denote the Holy Spirit (understood by Christians as the third person of God). However, in the New Testament this is usually phrased as the "Holy Spirit" not "Spirit of God".

Can we establish (from both linguistic, historical and theological views) that in the New Testament "Holy Spirit" and "Spirit of God" are (or are not) synonyms?

In considering this, is the phrase "Spirit of God" ever used in the New Testament instead of "Holy Spirit" (excluding the above mentioned verses)?

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    – Steve can help
    Commented Apr 18, 2017 at 12:37
  • How the phrase 'spirit of God' is used in Revelation 5.6 may not necessarily be how the phrase is used elsewhere in the new testament. Your overall question is bordering on 'too broad' or 'searching for a text', since your primary goal appears to be a survey of the new testament rather than an exegesis of Revelation 5.6 specifically.
    – user2910
    Commented Apr 18, 2017 at 15:53

1 Answer 1


The Seven Spirits of God

Ancient commentaries (e.g. Oikomenos, Andrew of Caesarea) relate the seven spirits of God here to the seven spiritual gifts prophesied by Isaiah:1

Isaiah 11:1–5 LXX

And there shall come forth a rod out of the root of Jesse, and a blossom shall come up from his root: and the Spirit of God shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and strength, the spirit of knowledge and godliness shall fill him; the spirit of the fear of God. He shall not judge according to appearance, nor reprove according to report: but he shall judge the cause of the lowly, and shall reprove the lowly of the earth: and he shall smite the earth with the word of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips shall he destroy the ungodly one. And he shall have his loins girt with righteousness, and his sides clothed with truth.2

The Spirit of God

The phrase Spirit of God (Πνεῦμα Θεοῦ) occurs in 12 verses in the New Testament, aside from Revelation: twice in Matthew (3:16;12:28); thrice in Romans (8:9,14;15:19); 5 times in 1 Corinthians (2:11,14;3:16;7:40;12:3); once in Ephesians (4:30); and in 1 John 4:2. Where the phrase appears in Revelation, it is in the context of the seven Spirits of God, but it seems from the Septuagint version of Isaiah that this is just an adjectival expression: Isaiah reads (see above) the Spirit of God shall rest upon him, [that is:] the spirit of wisdom ... understanding ... counsel ..., etc. I think that in all of the other verses one would understand the Spirit of God to mean the Holy Spirit itself. For example:

Matthew 3:16 (KJV 1900)

And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him:

Romans 8:9

But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.

1 Corinthians 2:11

For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God.

Ephesians 4:30

And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.

1 John 4:2

Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God

1 See,e.g., Constantinou, "Andrew of Caesarea and the Apocalypse in the Ancient Church of the East: Studies and Translation" (Ph.D. thesis, University of Laval, 2008)
2 Brenton translation

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