See this question on Christianity.SE for some background.

I am trying to understand how the bible uses the word spirit in a few locations as it relates to God and angels.

John 4:24 (KJV)
God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.

John 4:24 (NIV)
God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.

John 4:24 (NASB)
God is [e]spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.
e. Or Spirit

Psalms 104:4 (KJV)
Who maketh his angels spirits

Psalms 104:4 (NASB)
He makes [e]the winds His messengers
e. Or His angels, spirits
[same in NIV]

All Passages from Bible Gateway.

For John 4:24 the KJV confuses me because it says "a spirit" instead of only "spirit". These definitions of "spirit" show why I might be confused.

The Free Dictionary
     a. The vital principle or animating force within living beings.
     b. Incorporeal consciousness.
4 A supernatural being, as:
     a. An angel or a demon.
     b. A being inhabiting or embodying a particular place, object, or natural phenomenon.
     c. A fairy or sprite.

I would assume definition 1 when a text says only "spirit" and I would assume definition 4 when the text says "a spirit".

Then the Psalms 104:4 says that God makes the Angels spirits (winds in KJV). So now I am fully confused when the text is translated "spirit".

What are these verses saying or implying by using the words that are translated "spirit" to describe both God and His Angels? How is this/these word/s used in other passages? Is it similarly or differently?

  • Does it help to know that spirit is also translated "wind/breath".
    – user2027
    Dec 9, 2013 at 5:44
  • @Sarah No, it complicates things further, because in English, those words are never interchangeable, except when trying to be poetic about death (ie "his breath left his body").
    – user2055
    Dec 9, 2013 at 8:07

3 Answers 3


Manuscripts p66 and p75, and codices Vaticanus, Sinaiticus, and Alexandrianus at John 4:24a show the Greek wording ΠΝΕΥΜΑΟΘΕΟΣ (πνευμα ο θεος / spirit the supreme deity) in full or abbreviated form. And since there's no indefinite article ("a") in biblical Greek (and of the English language renderings you cited), the NASB and NIV renderings in English are more correct. And while the "a" might have been added by the KJV translators to make the reading more understandable (as they sometimes did), it might give some KJV readers the impression that spirits do exist, and that the spirit Judeo-Christians call "God" is the holiest of them all.

As to Psalms 104:4, the Greek OT (Septuagint, or LXX) reading is ΟΠΟΙΩΝΤΟΥΣΑΓΓΕΛΟΥΣΑΥΤΟΥΡΝΕΥΜΑΤΑ (ὁ ποιῶν τοὺς ἀγγέλους αὐτοῦ πνεύματα). Accordingly, both of the renderings you cited are acceptable translations of ΡΝΕΥΜΑΤΑ (πνεύματα / spirit, wind).

● References:

  1. "the one making his angels winds" (Psalms 104:4 ABP).
  2. "Who makes his angels spirits" (idem. in Brenton's English Translation of the Septuagint).

In context, Jesus' words to the Samaritan woman at the well come after the woman brought up in conversation with Jesus the subject of where is the "better" place to worship God, on Mt. Gerazim in Samaria or in Jerusalem. Clearly, her comments in this regard were a sort of "dodge" or "red herring," but they also indicate she was truly interested in what Jesus had to say. To get her "back on track," Jesus was, in effect, saying to her:

"Where you worship God is not nearly as important as how you worship God."

Since God cannot be contained by a material structure, no matter how magnificent it may be (see Solomon's prayer in 1 Kings 8:27; 2 Chronicles 2:6; and 6:18). God is most "at home" in the hearts of people who earnestly desire to worship Him. In fact, God seeks people who ignore the outward trappings of organized religion and focus on the invisible God, who is more interested in truth than He is in the "where" and "when" of worship.

Worship must flow from hearts of people who worship God as He is, not as they want Him to be. It has been said,

"God created man in His image, and we have been returning the favor ever since!"

We do not create God in the image of what we think He ought to be, or in an image that appeals to us or that suits our lifestyle. On the contrary, our worship of God must be informed by how He revealed Himself to us in the Word of God, the Bible.

While not everyone will ever agree all the time on who God is--nor can we, given our inability to fathom fully the greatness of His being, we nevertheless derive a fairly accurate "picture" of who God is through the holy Scripture. Most significant, I suggest, is that God is holy and that His thoughts and ways transcend our finite, human thoughts and ways. The good news, however, is that we can get to know Him as He is, and the more we get to know Him as He is, the more we will be moved to worship Him for who He is.

Like the beautiful facets of an exquisitely carved gemstone which sparkle in uniquely beautiful ways as the sun hits them from various angles, so it is with God, with the qualification that the facets of His being and character are infinite and ultimately unfathomable and blindingly beautiful.

For this reason, worshipers must use the written Word of God as a springboard, so to speak, for worshiping God, taking what Scripture says about Him and allowing those truth-inspired insights to spark and stimulate our worship of God as He is, not as we wish Him to be. You see, the written Word is spiritual in nature, because the Holy Spirit was ultimately its author, though He was pleased to use fallible and finite men to be His emanuenses.

The Spirit of God originally inspired (literally "breathed out") God's Word; then men wrote it down and disseminated it reverently and meticulously; those indwelt by the Holy Spirit, and thus enabled by the same Spirit to understand and apply that Word to their lives, in turn read and/or listened to the Word; finally, they in turn spoke the Word both to other believers for their edification and to unbelievers for their salvation. As Paul said,

"Now we [believers] have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God, which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words. But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised. But he who is spiritual appraises all things, yet he himself in appraised by no one. For WHO HAS KNOWN THE MIND OF THE LORD, THAT HE WILL INSTRUCT HIM? But we have the mind of Christ" (1 Corinthians 2:12-16).

If I have not made things sufficiently clear at this point, please forgive me. My point is simply this: God inhabits the realm of the spirit. This realm is invisible to the naked eye but is in many ways more real than the physical and material realm of elements, chemical and biological processes, and flesh-and-blood bodies, both animal and human.

The Holy Spirit of God, as Jesus described Him, is like the wind in that we can see the effect of the wind as it blows here and there, sometimes with the wafting of a gentle breeze and other times with the ferocity of a hurricane. The fact remains: we cannot see the wind. So it is with God's Spirit; He is invisible, but He does His best work in the hearts, souls, minds, and spirits of human beings.

One of the many effects of the Spirit's work in people's hearts is the Spirit-inspired worship of God by the people of God. The Spirit takes the things of Christ, reveals them to us, and we in turn respond to these revelations with worship, praise, and thanksgiving (see John 3:8; 16:13-15).

As for the lesser invisible creatures, the angels of God--God's "spirits," "messengers," and "worshipers" (see Isaiah 6:1-7), they too are invisible to the naked eye, but on occasion, at God's behest, they are enabled to appear as flesh-and-blood human beings (see Genesis 18 and Hebrews 13:2).

In order of "greatest" to "least," so to speak, we have

  • the Holy Spirit of God, the second person of the Trinity, the person of the Godhead who ministers in the hearts of God's children to transform them into the image of the Lord Jesus, and who convicts unbelievers of sin, righteousness, and judgment (John 16:8-11)
  • the spirit of man, that invisible, incorporeal aspect of our being that is aware of God and His moral standards but which in its natural state is dead and remains so unless it is made alive through the baptism of God's Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:13,14).

  • the ministering spirits of God, the angels, who though sentient beings created by God, do not inhabit flesh-and-blood bodies as do God's children, nor are they the recipients of God's loving gift of salvation (though they are curious about it! See 1 Peter 1:12).

  • the spirit of the age in which we live, which in a word is the spirit of antichrist (1 John 2:18; 2:22; 4:3; and 2 John 1:7). This spirit is energized by Satan and the fallen angels under his direction and control (within limits set by God), and it will play an even more prominent role in the yet-future events described for us in the Revelation of Jesus Christ.

If there is anything unclear in my answer, feel free to ask for clarification, and I will be happy to revise my answer to make it clearer, if possible.


I checked it up in its Greek texts and the word is pneumati πνεύματι (dative singular noun).


and those who worship him must worship in spirituality and truth.

The translated spirituality here is not the market variety of "spirituality", but the direct dative derivative of being a spirit.

For example, the dative derivatives

  • Man = manly => manliness
  • Woman = womanly => womanliness
  • child = childish => childishness
  • pneuma => ... => pneumati
  • spirit => spiritlike => in the state of being a spirit


... those who worship him must worship him in truth and while in the state of being a spirit.

  • Does that mean we need to be transformed to spirits in order to worship God?
    – Mawia
    Sep 2, 2013 at 8:14
  • I am not a christian, so I cannot tell you how to be a christian. Only that I have been to christian theological studies and have been a persistent student of christian scriptures and literature. Being Jewish, I don't quite agree with the concept in this verse, because it reduces Deut 6:5.
    – Cynthia
    Sep 2, 2013 at 13:55
  • How do you think it reduces Deut 6:5?
    – Walter S
    May 12, 2020 at 23:25