Appendix 8. The Paraclete

Louis Tiffany, Holy Spirit or Dove Window (1895-1900), First Presbyterian Church of Springfield, Illinois.
Louis Tiffany, Holy Spirit or Dove Window (1895-1900), First Presbyterian Church of Springfield, Illinois.

In Jesus' clearest teaching on the coming Holy Spirit, he refers four times specifically, to the Paraclete -- 14:15-17; 25-26; 15:26; 16:5-15 -- and several other times to the Holy Spirit in related contexts.

Translating Paraklētos

 Paraklētos is variously translated as the "Comforter" (KJV), "Counselor" (NIV, RSV), "Advocate" (NRSV), "Helper" (ESV). It can't be easy translated into English with a word that adequately covers its breadth of meaning.

Paraklētos is an adjective formed from the verb parakaleō, that has the basic meaning, "call to one's side" for help. But the verb parakaleō has a variety of extended meanings that complicate our understanding of the exact force of the noun in our passage -- "to urge strongly, appeal to, urge, exhort, encourage," and "to make a strong request for something, request, implore, entreat," then "comfort, encourage, cheer up," and perhaps "be friendly to, speak to in a friendly manner."[987]

Commentators seem to be agreed that paraklētos is passive in form, "called to the side of" for the purpose of helping, "called to one's aid," in a court of justice. As a substantive it means, "legal assistant, advocate."[988]

The translation "Comforter" comes from Wycliffe's translation into English (1392), which drew perhaps upon "comfort's" etymological sense (Latin, con, "with" + fortis, "strong"). In this sense it might denote "Strengthener," "Helper"  (ESV). In Greek, the word can have the idea of one who provides help as a legal advocate, but more an advocate for the defense. Another approach might be "Friend," as in a Friend at court.

In the New Testament, the word is found only in the Johannine literature and is used twice of Christ, who pleads his people's cause before the Father (1 John 2:1), and, by implication, of the Holy Spirit as "another paraklētos" (besides Jesus). Elsewhere, paraklētos is used of the Holy Spirit (14:16), "the Spirit of truth" (15:26).[989]

Another Paraclete in Addition to Jesus (14:16-17)

Jesus says that the Father will send "another[990] Counselor (paraklētos)." This implies that the disciples already have a Paraclete to help them, and that the Holy Spirit is another Paraclete in addition. Jesus is saying that at present he is their Paraclete -- the one the Father has sent to help them. Jesus tells his disciples that they, unlike the world, are already familiar with this Paraclete:

"... For he lives with you and will be in you." (14:17b)

Jesus seems to be saying that in his own Person, they have experienced the Paraclete living or abiding[991] "with them"[992] or at their side. But, when the Father sends the Holy Spirit, this Paraclete will be (future tense[993]) within them.[994]

Jesus has been their Paraclete, Helper, Friend thus far, but the Holy Spirit will replace Jesus as an interior presence, always with them, to guide and instruct them.

The role of the Paraclete in relation to the disciples mirrors Jesus' role with them when he was on earth.[995]

Paraclete Jesus
Spirit of truth (14:17; 16:13)

The Truth (14:6)
Holy Spirit (14:16) Holy One of God (6:69)

Known by disciples (14:17)

14:7, 9
Guide into way of truth (16:13)

The Way, the Truth (14:6)

Teaches (14:26) 6:59; 7:14, 18; 8:20
Declares what is to come (16:14)

Bears witness (15:26-27)

Glorifies Jesus (16:14)

Glorifies the Father (8:28; 12:27-28; 14:13; 17:4)
World cannot accept (14:17)

Evil men do not accept (5:43; 12:48)
World does not see (14:17)

Men soon lose sight of (16:16)

World does not know or recognize (14:17) Men do not know Jesus (16:3; cf. 7:28; 8:14, 19; 14:7)
Bears witness to the world's hate (15:26; cf. 15:18-25) Bears witness against the world (7:7)

The Paraclete as a Person (14:26; 15:16, 26)

In many languages (Spanish, French, German, etc. -- including Greek), words have masculine, feminine, or neuter genders or inflections that have no real counterpart in English.[996] While the "Spirit" is often referred to by a neuter Greek pronoun, since the pneuma has a neuter gender in Greek (such as in 14:17, 26; 15:26), on several occasions Jesus uses the masculine pronoun, apparently to emphasize the Spirit's personhood. Observe these verses.

"But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit (neuter noun), whom (neuter pronoun) the Father will send in my name, he (masculine pronoun) will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you." (14:26)

"When the Counselor comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit (neuter noun) of truth who (neuter pronoun)  goes out from the Father, he (masculine pronoun) will testify about me. (15:26)

"When he (masculine pronoun), the Spirit (neuter noun) of truth, comes, he (no pronoun in Greek) will guide you into all truth." (16:13a)

C.K. Barrett observes, "The Spirit is thought of in personal terms."[997]

There is solid biblical evidence that points to a conclusion that the Holy Spirit is a distinct person in his own right and performs functions we attribute to personhood. The Holy Spirit appoints missionaries (Acts 13:2; 20:28), he leads and directs them in their ministry (Acts 8:29; 10:19-20; 16:6-7; 1 Corinthians 2:13), he speaks through the prophets (Acts 1:16; 1 Peter 1:11-12; 2 Peter 1:21), he corrects (John 16:8), comforts (Acts 9:31), helps us in our infirmities (Romans 8:26), teaches (John 14:26; 1 Corinthians 12:3), guides (John 16:13), sanctifies (Romans 15:16; 1 Corinthians 6:11), testifies of Christ (John 15:26), glorifies Christ (John 16:14), has a power of his own (Romans 15:13), searches all things (Romans 11:33-34; 1 Corinthians 2:10-11), works according to his own will (1 Corinthians 12:11), dwells with saints (John 14:17), can be grieved (Ephesians 4:30), can be resisted (Acts 7:51), and can be tempted (Acts 5:9). These are functions we attribute to persons, not to impersonal forces. John sees the Holy Spirit as a Person, sent by the Father to replace Jesus' physical presence as the Paraclete with them.

The personal nature of the Spirit is confirmed in the foundational creeds of the Church. The Nicene Creed uses personal terms to explain our belief in the Spirit.

"And [we believe] in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of life, who proceeds from the Father, who with the Father and the Son together is worshiped and glorified, who spoke by the prophets."[998]

The Paraclete as Teacher, Reminder, Witness, and Guide to Truth

One of the important roles of the Paraclete is to guide Jesus' disciples as they remember and then begin to understand what Jesus' taught them while on earth. Various Paraclete passages describe these roles of Teacher, Reminder, Witness, and Guide to truth.

The Paraclete will teach (didaskō) the disciples all things (14:25-26). He will also remind[999] the disciples of what Jesus taught. We probably shouldn't divide reminding and teaching as two separate functions. Reminding is part of the teaching function.

The Paraclete also testifies about Jesus (15:26). Since the word paraklētos has a legal flavor, it is particularly appropriate alongside another word from the legal realm, martyreō, "to confirm or attest something on the basis of personal knowledge or belief, bear witness, be a witness, offer testimony."[1000] The Spirit presents Christ's case for him before the believers and the world.[1001]

Elsewhere, Jesus told his disciples not to worry about what to say when they are brought into court (Luke 12:11b-12). The Paraclete serves as the believers' legal advisor as needed when they are persecuted.

In verse 16:13a, Jesus promises his disciples that the "Spirit of truth" will guide them into all truth. "Guide" is hodēgeō. Literally, it means, "to assist in reaching a desired destination, lead, guide." Here it is used figuratively, "to assist someone in acquiring information or knowledge, lead, guide, conduct."[1002] The Paraclete isn't said here to bring a new revelation (16:13). Rather he represents Jesus and makes Jesus' teaching clear.

Jesus has been the disciples' rabbi and teacher. Now the Holy Spirit will take over that function. The disciples often misunderstood what Jesus had said and done. When the Holy Spirit comes, he will help them remember so they can understand and interpret correctly for the church what Jesus had taught them. Now they'll be assessing Jesus' words in the light of his crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension. Evangelicals believe that the Holy Spirit superintended the development of apostolic doctrine so that it properly interpreted Jesus' own teaching (2:17, 22; 12:16).

In our day, we must seek the Spirit's guidance with great humility and desire to learn. Spiritual truths must be spiritually discerned through the action of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 2:12-14).

The Holy Spirit as Empowerer (14:12 and 16:7)

The Holy Spirit would not only guide, encourage, teach, and remind them, as Jesus had done, but he will also empower them.

"I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father." (14:12)

After the resurrection, Jesus tells his disciples:

"I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high." (Luke 24:49)

"You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." (Acts 1:8)

This is part of the meaning of 16:17 where Jesus says, "It is for your good that I am going away." The Spirit is the power behind the various kinds of spiritual gifts given to the Church (1 Corinthians 12, etc.),

The Paraclete as Convictor of the World (16:8-11)

So far, Jesus had told his disciples how the Paraclete, the Holy Spirit, will benefit them. Now he explains how the Holy Spirit will affect the world.

"When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment." (16:8)

The role of the Holy Spirit convicting sinners is clear. "Convict of guilt" (NIV), "convict" (ESV, NKJV), "prove wrong" (NRSV), "convince" (RSV), "reprove" (KJV) is the verb elenchō, "to bring a person to the point of recognizing wrongdoing, convict, convince someone of something, point something out to someone."[1003] The word occurs 18 times in the New Testament, in each instance having to do with showing someone his sin, usually as a summons to repentance.[1004]

The Spirit As Christ's Voice to Us (16:13b-15)

The Spirit, Jesus explains to us, will listen to Jesus and relay this to us, just as Jesus listened to the Father and relayed that to his disciples (5:30), and only spoke what the Father told him to say (12:49).

"13b He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell[1005] you what is yet to come. 14  He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you. 15  All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will take from what is mine and make it known to you." (16:13b-15)

John's Gospel: A Discipleship Journey with Jesus, by Dr. Ralph F. Wilson
Entire study is available in paperback, Kindle, and PDF formats.

Both Jesus and the Spirit will speak the Father's words to us. We don't have the task of the first apostles who helped lay the doctrinal foundation of the Church, but we still seek to understand the Word of God accurately.  We also need the Spirit's guidance as we seek him on how to minister and what to say to people. The Spirit serves as our conduit into the very mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:10-16). With the Spirit living within us we are truly blessed.

[987] Parakaleō, BDAG 764-765.

[988] Liddell-Scott, Greek-English Lexicon.

[989] This appendix draws upon Leon Morris, "Additional Note F: The Paraclete," John, pp. 662-666; M.M.B. Turner, "Holy Spirit," DJG, pp. 349-351.

[990] "Another" is allos, "other, another" (BDAG 46-47).

[991] "Lives" (NIV), "abides" (NRSV), "dwells" (ESV, KJV) is menō in the present tense, "remain, stay," in transferred sense, "of someone who does not leave a certain realm or sphere: remain, continue, abide" (BDAG 631, 1aβ). It is possible that menei, present tense, could be accented as meneĩ making it future tense (which wouldn't show up in the manuscripts), but the present tense is more likely (Morris, John, p. 650, fn. 49).

[992] "With" is the preposition para with the dative, "marker of nearness in space, at/by (the side of), beside, near, with" (BDAG 757, 1).

[993] "Will/shall be" is eimi, "to be," in the future tense. Most ancient manuscripts show this as the future tense estai, except a few as present tense, estin -- p75 B D* W it. The future is likely here.

[994] "In" is the preposition en, "in," here, a "marker of close association within a limit, in" (BDAG 328, 4c).

[995] This chart draws upon Brown, John 2:1135-36, Appendix V: The Paraclete.

[996] Though in English we sometimes refer to ships with a feminine gender as "her sails."

[997] Barrett,  John, p. 482, commenting on John 15:26. See also George Eldon Ladd, A Theology of the New Testament (Eerdmans, 1974), p. 295.

[998] This is the revised version of the original Nicene Creed (325 AD), which was adopted at the First Council of Constantinople (381 AD).

[999] "Remind" (NIV, NRSV), "bring to your remembrance" (RSV, ESV, KJV) is the verb hypomimnēskō, "to put another in mind of something, remind," from mimnēskomai, "to recall information from memory, remember, recollect, remind oneself." I don't see much influence on the meaning of the word from the prefix hypo-. In classical Greek, hypomimnēskō denoted, "put one in mind or remind one of" as well as, "bring to one's mind, mention, suggest" (Liddell-Scott, Greek-English Lexicon). The word is also used at Luke 22:61; 2 Timothy 2:14; Titus 3:1; 2 Peter 1:12; 3 John 10; and Jude 5. The noun form hypomnēsis is used at 2 Peter 1:13; 3:1; 2 Timothy 1:5.

[1000] Martyreō, from the legal sphere (BDAG 612, 1aα). "In John, witness is especially the witness that is given, not specifically to the facts of Jesus' history, but to the person of Jesus." H. Strathmann, martyr, ktl., TDNT 4:474-514.

[1001] Morris, John, p. 684.

[1002] Hodge, BDAG 690, 2. It is an old verb, from the noun hoods, "way" and hēgeomai, "to lead."

[1003] Elenchō, BDAG 315, 2. The focus in classical Greek is on "putting to shame, treating with contempt, cross-examining, accusing, bringing to the test, proving, refuting" (Carson, John, p. 534).

[1004] Carson, John, p. 534, citing Friedrich Büschel, elenchō, ktl., TDNT 2:473-474.

[1005] "Tell" (NIV) in verse 13b and "make known" (NIV) in verse 14 and 15, "declare" (NRSV, ESV), "shew" (KJV), is anangellō, literally, "to carry back information, report," then, generally, "to provide information, disclose, announce, proclaim, teach" (BDAG 59, 2), from ana-, "back, again" + angellō, "announce," angelia, "message." Our word "evangel" and "evangelism," tell good news, come from the same root.


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