This dissertation explores the identity and function of the seven spirits in the Book of Revelation. Chapter 1 surveys the history of Revelation studies in the particular context of pneumatological pursuits and the seven spirits (Rev 1:4; 3:1; 4:5; 5:6), noting a research gap in regards to pneumatological studies as well as hermeneutical shortcomings in the state of academia.
Chapter 2 traces the semantic domain of the term πνευμα, leading to a six-fold division of usage: (1) modus operandi, (2) plural phenomena, (3) πνευμα as speaker, (4) prophetic associations, (5) unclean/evil phenomena, (6) naturalistic-inanimate phenomena. The scope of this semantic spectrum permits a proportionally large vesting of theological meaning for the term πνευμα, including that of divinity (esp. with Rev 1:4)—a possibility justifying capitalization for divine entities in Bible translations.
Chapter 3 summarizes models of heptadic-pneumatological interpretation, distilling the most common four interpretative approaches (as distinct from OT intertextuality): (1) Babylonian Astral-Cosmology, (2) Approaches in Second Temple Literature (including Qumran and the Pseudepigrapha), (3) Heptadic Fullness, and (4) Dogmatic Trinitarianism. The lack of a hermeneutical process in most studies that would furnish a verifiable trajectory between theorem and primary data becomes evident. In other words, data congruencies are insufficient by themselves to provide a definitive interpretation of the data at hand; only links based on discernable intentionality qualify as directly applicable sources. Thus extra-biblical explanations of the seven spirits are refuted, while a biblical-theological model is upheld with Chapter 4.
Chapter 4 proposes that such a linguistically and contextually verifiable trajectory of intentionality exists between Zechariah's fifth night vision (Zech 4) and the particulars of the seven spirit occurrences in Revelation. This intertextual congruence combines elements of covenantal fulfillment (building the temple as a programmatic building of the people of God), judgment (as exemplified in Rev 3:1), and Pentecostal specificity in the sense of mission (Acts 2; cf. Rev 4:5; 5:6). The number seven symbolically expresses the spirits' specific functionality, rather than locking them into an ontology foreign to the intent of their apocalyptic presentation.
Chapter 5 provides a contributive summary of the conclusions drawn from this project, as well as suggestions for further research. The study could be mined for two core veins: first, the history of interpretation invites further tracking of its lack of exegetical controls, thereby establishing interpretive accountability. Second, arising out of a focused ecclesiology of Revelation, missiological aspects of this study's conclusions could yield valuable insights into God's operative schemes in the world, especially from an eschatological perspective. Without compromising relevance or appeal, Revelation's churches were not to define themselves by contemporary culture but by God's eschatological agenda, already programmatically rooted in OT conceptualizations.
The tenor of this study calls on scholarship to acknowledge with Hengel that “the derivation of individual themes is often difficult to elucidate, and it is also often difficult to decide whether we have chance analogies to alien conceptions or real instances of dependence” (Hengel, Judaism and Hellenism, 1.251), echoed by Bauckham's caution that a “chain of literary dependence is very difficult to reconstruct” (Bauckham, Climax, 39). The core of this work thus centers on the rejection of unsubstantiated suggestions in regards to the identity and function of the seven spirits, and constructively proposes an intertextual model of interpretation based in particular on parallels with Zechariah's fifth night vision (Zech 4) as the seven spirits' identity and function. The model unfolds in the Pentecost event (Acts 2) and culminates as global catalyst in an eschatological motif of both appeal and judgment.