PARACLETE păr’ ə klēt (παράκλητος, G4156, advocate). John is the only author in the NT to use the term parákletos (tr. counselor in RSV; comforter in KJV). In
The meaning “advocate” is another equivalent for Paraclete (
Analyzing the meaning of the term “paraclete” as applied to the Spirit is a more difficult task. When Jesus spoke of “another Counselor” (
Assuming, then, that Jesus is a Paraclete and that, when He departed, He sent “another Paraclete,” i.e., the Spirit, the determination of the sense in which Jesus is Himself a Paraclete would seem to enable one to ascertain the meaning of the term as applied to the Holy Spirit. However, matters are not quite that simple. The chief difficulty in following the analogy of
If an effort is made to solve this problem by the history of religions approach, one must choose between two possible sources of John’s usage. There is, on the one hand, the figure of the “celestial Helper” found in Gnosticism (particularly in the Mandean lit.) and, on the other, the tradition of an “advocate” for man before God, found in the OT and late Jewish writings. When one makes a close comparison between the Mandean figure of the Helper, and the Johannine description of the Paraclete, the analogy is not sufficiently great to suggest that the latter concept derived from the former.
If the key to the meaning of “Paraclete” is sought in the OT idea of an advocate who speaks for man before God (although scholars are no doubt nearer a solution), questions still remain. The puzzling fact is that the description of the Paraclete’s work as delineated in John’s gospel does not fit well with the idea of the Advocate. In John He is described as the One who teaches the disciples and brings to their memory what Jesus had said (
It is true that in
Although the traditional word “Comforter” is not to be altogether excluded from the broader connotation of Paraclete—its illustrious pedigree appears from time to time in the Gr. and Lat. Fathers, and was used by Luther and Wycliffe before the King James—it is not sufficient to establish it as the best term to use. Whereas it is true that Jesus spoke of the Paraclete in a discourse aimed at comforting His disciples (who were saddened by the thought of His leaving them) when He described the Spirit’s ministry, it is not primarily in these terms that He spoke. See nodetitle.
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)
1. Where Used:
This word occurs 5 times in the
2. General Meaning:
In general the word signifies:
(1) a legal advocate, or counsel for defense,
(2) an intercessor,
(3) a helper, generally.
The first, or technical, judicial meaning is that which predominates in classical usage, corresponding to our word "advocate," "counsel," or "attorney." The corresponding Latin word is advocatus, "advocate," the word applied to Christ in English Versions of the Bible in the translation of the Greek word parakletos, in 1
3. In the Talmud and Targums:
Among Jewish writers the word "Paraclete" came to have a number of meanings. A good deed was called a paraclete or advocate, and a transgression was an accuser. Repentance and good works were called paracletes: "The works of benevolence and mercy done by the people of Israel in this world become agents of peace and intercessors (paracletes) between them and their Father in heaven." The sin offering is a paraclete; the paraclete created by each good deed is called an angel (Jewish Encyclopedia, IX, 514-15, article "Paraclete").
4. As Employed by Philo:
Philo employs the word in several instances. Usually he does not use it in the legal, technical sense. Joseph is represented as bestowing forgiveness on his brethren who had wronged him and declaring that they needed "no one else as paraclete," or intercessor (De Joseph c. 40). In his Life of Moses, iii.14, is a remarkable passage which indicates Philo’s spiritualizing methods of interpreting Scripture as well as reflects his philosophic tendency. At the close of a somewhat elaborate account of the emblematic significance of the vestments of the high priest and their jeweled decorations, his words are: "The twelve stones arranged on the breast in four rows of three stones each, namely, the logeum, being also an emblem of that reason which holds together and regulates the universe. For it was indispensable (anagkaion) that the man who was consecrated to the Father of the world should have, as a paraclete, his son, the being most perfect in all virtue, to procure the forgiveness of sins, and a supply of unlimited blessings." This is rather a striking verbal or formal parallel to the statement in 1
5. The Best Translation:
If now we raise the question what is the best translation of the term "Paraclete" in the New Testament, we have a choice of several words. Let us glance at them in order. The translation "Comforter" contains an element of the meaning of the word as employed in the Gospels, and harmonizes with the usage in connection with its cognates, but it is too narrow in meaning to be an adequate translation. Dr. J. Hastings in an otherwise excellent article on the Paraclete in HDB says the Paraclete was not sent to comfort the disciples, since prior to His actual coming and after Christ’s promise the disciples’ sorrow was turned into joy. Dr. Hastings thinks the Paraclete was sent to cure the unbelief or half-belief of the disciples. But this conceives the idea of comfort in too limited a way. No doubt in the mind of Jesus the comforting aspect, of the Spirit’s work applied to all their future sorrows and trials, and not merely to comfort for their personal loss in the going of Christ to the Father. Nevertheless there was more in the work of the Paraclete than comfort in sorrow. "Intercessor" comes nearer the root idea of the term and contains an essential part of the meaning. "Advocate" is a closely related word, and is also suggestive of the work of the Spirit. Perhaps there is no English word broad enough to cover all the significance of the word "Paraclete" except the word "Helper." The Spirit helps the disciples in all the above-indicated ways. Of course the objection to this translation is that it is too indefinite. The specific Christian conception is lost in the comprehensiveness of the term. Our conclusion, therefore, is that the term "Paraclete" itself would perhaps be the best designation of the Spirit in the passage in John’s Gospel. It would thus become a proper name for the Spirit and the various elements of meaning would come to be associated with the words which are found in the context of the Gospel.
Christianity introduced many new ideas into the world for which current terms were inadequate media of expression. In some cases it is best to adopt the Christian term itself, in our translations, and let the word slowly acquire its own proper significance in our thought and life. If, however, instead of translating we simply transfer the word "Paraclete" as a designation of thein the Gospel passages, we would need then to translate it in the passage in the Epistle where it refers to Christ. But this would offer no serious difficulty. For fortunately in the Epistle the word may very clearly be translated "Advocate" or "Intercessor."
6. Christ’s Use of the Word:
We look next at the contents of the word as employed by Jesus in reference to the Holy Spirit. In
(1) to show them the things of Christ,
(2) to teach them things to come,
(3) to teach them all things,
(4) to quicken their memories for past teaching,
(5) to bear witness to Christ,
(6) to dwell in believers,
(7) other things shown in the context such as "greater works" than those of Christ (see
(8) to convict of sin, of righteousness and judgment.
It is possible to range the shades of meaning outlined above under these various forms of the Spirit’s activity. As Comforter His work would come under (1), (2), (3) and (6); as Advocate and Intercessor under (6), (7), (8); as Helper and Teacher under (1), (2), (3), (4), (5), (6), (7), (8).
The manner of the sending of the Paraclete is of interest. In
7. As Applied to Christ:
It remains to notice the passage in 1
Grimm-Thayer, Gr-Eng. Lexicon of the New Testament; Cremer, Biblico-Theol. Lexicon; HDB, article "Paraclete"; DCG, article "Paraclete"; EB, article "Paraclete"; Jew Encyclopedia, article "Paraclete"; Hare, Mission of the Comforter; Pearson, On the Creed; Taylor, Sayings of the Jewish Fathers; various comms., Westcott, Godet and others.
See list of books appended to article on HOLY SPIRIT.
E. Y. Mulhns