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Yeshua in Context » Applying the Gospels, Ascension of Yeshua, Community in Yeshua, Discipleship - Formation, Preachable Points » Explaining the Paraclete Passages

Explaining the Paraclete Passages

The Paraclete. The Counselor. The Advocate. The Comforter. “If I do not go away,” said Yeshua, “the Counselor will not come to you.”

Who is the Paraclete? You think it’s as easy as saying, “The Spirit.” Not so fast. There is more to it. Raymond Brown, in Appendix V in Volume II of his exceptional commentary (The Gospel According to John (XII-XXI), The Anchor Yale Bible, original edition 1970) discusses the five Paraclete passages in the larger context of the fourth gospel and the themes of Yeshua going away (being lifted up — on a cross, from the tomb, to the throne).

The Paraclete theme in John has bearing on our view of the Spirit, the Presence of Yeshua (as Brown says it, “the presence of the absent Jesus”), and the communities in which we find the power of the Paraclete at work (no individualists among the apostles and no Paraclete Presence apart from the congregation). In what follows, I will list some important consideration about the Paraclete and then unite the whole thing into a simple explanation.

The References in John

John 14:16 And I will pray the Father, and he will give you another Counselor, to be with you for ever,

John 14:26 But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.

John 15:26 But when the Counselor comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness to me;

John 16:7 Nevertheless I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.

The Paraclete, Point by Point

First, and not many people know this or at least I had not considered it: Yeshua was a Paraclete (Counselor) and the Paraclete he promised to send after he went away was to be “another Paraclete” (14:16).

Second, Yeshua sends the Paraclete and he proceeds from the Father and Yeshua can also describe this as the Father sending in Yeshua’s name. There were major disagreements starting in the early centuries over whether the Spirit proceeded from the Son or the Father (but with Jewish both-and thinking instead of philosophical either-or thinking, the whole fight could have been avoided!).

Third, the Paraclete will come but only if Yeshua goes away. Why must Yeshua go away? See below: “Identity of the Paraclete.”

Fourth, the Paraclete is called the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of truth, and “another Paraclete.”

Fifth, the Paraclete does a host of things for the disciples: they recognize him (14:17), he dwells with them (14:17), he teaches them everything (14:26), he guides them in truth (16:13), he imparts what is Yeshua’s to the disciples (16:14), he bears witness through the disciples to the world (15:26-27), he reminds the disciples of Yeshua’s words (14:26), he speaks only what the Son and Father impart (16:13). See below: “Not an Interpreter of Scripture!” and “Thoughts on Paraclete as Revealer.”

Sixth, the “world” does not know and cannot receive the Paraclete (14:17), the Paraclete will reach out to those in the “world” who witness those who bear the Paraclete (15:26), and he shows the “world” the truth of brokenness and evil (16:8-11). See below: “The Witness of the Paraclete.”

Seventh, Paraclete has a variety of origins as a Greek word: a defense attorney, a spokesman who intercedes, a consoler or comforter in sorrow, and exhortation or declaration in speaking. No wonder people have trouble translating Paraclete, because all of these ideas exist in the verses about the Paraclete: Advocate/Intercessor/Consoler/Proclaimer. I rather like RSV’s “Counselor.” Brown suggests we leave it as Paraclete.

Eighth, the Paraclete continues the work of Yeshua (like the spirit of Elijah which came on Elisha).

Not an Interpreter of Scripture!

I learned in my early days that the Spirit of truth is how we know what the Bible means. Another way to say it is that the “illumination” of the Spirit is supposed to teach all of Jesus’ followers the truth, the meaning of the Bible, theology, the gospel, best methods for doing the work, and etc.

It was, from the beginning, an idea I rejected.

If the Spirit teaches Jesus-followers the truth, then why don’t we all agree?

Thoughts on Paraclete as Revealer

The Paraclete teaches the disciples to remember what Yeshua said.

My teen daughters right now are memorizing Matthew 5. They wish the Paraclete just gave them the knowledge without effort!

I think it is crucial to understand the Paraclete promises are specifically to the disciples who were with Yeshua. I do think there is carry-over from the disciples to modern followers in some things. But I believe many of the promises about the Paraclete’s revelation and teaching refer to the work the apostles did, including passing the New Testament scriptures to us.

The Witness of the Paraclete

The passage about the Paraclete bearing witness (15:26) comes right after and also right before some statements that clarify what “bearing witness” means.

In 15:18-25, the disciples of Yeshua are hated and persecuted as they live in imitation of Yeshua. This is followed immediately by the “witness” of the Paraclete.

In 15:27, the disciples who were with Yeshua “from the beginning” (John’s baptism is what is meant as “the beginning”), will bear witness. This means the record of the apostles’ witness (the New Testament) is how the Paraclete bears witness.

Putting both of these together, I do think that the witness is alive today in two respects: we can show Yeshua to people in the New Testament and we can imitate the disciples who imitated Yeshua and thereby the Paraclete bears witness through us (communally, not individually).

Identity of the Paraclete

The Paraclete is not simply the Spirit (Holy Spirit, Spirit of God, Spirit of Truth). The Paraclete does not speak in his own name. He speaks only what he receives from the Son and Father.

The Paraclete is, in Brown’s phrasing, the Presence of the absent Jesus. That is, the Paraclete is the Spirit, but what the Spirit communicates is the living Presence of Yeshua in and through Yeshua’s followers. The Paraclete is how Yeshua is with us now and we are in union with him. The Spirit is a separate person from the Son, but the Son and Spirit share a union so that the Spirit’s presence can be also the presence of the Son.

There are three important realizations here: (1) the Paraclete is Yeshua-continued in mystical Presence, (2) the Paraclete is communicated through the apostolic words of the New Testament, and (3) the Paraclete is seen in the community of Yeshua-followers.

If you want the “world” to know Yeshua, show them the New Testament (only understood via the Hebrew Bible) and the community of Yeshua-followers.

The ultimate meaning of Yeshua’s instructions is simple: he is still with us, we reveal him through the words shown to the apostles, and we reveal him by being together a community enacting the way Yeshua taught us.

My Final Comment

You could look on the positive side and say, “Look what great things Christianity (and Messianic Judaism) has done!” That is a legitimate perspective in spite of what I will say in the next paragraph.

On the other hand, no wonder the followers of Jesus today have so little success and are making so little difference (here in the West, but much good is happening elsewhere on the globe). Ignorance of the New Testament (and Hebrew Bible) is rampant among so-called followers of Jesus and we have traded the idea of community for a lesser idea of a weekly event! The way back is simple and joyful.

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Filed under: Applying the Gospels, Ascension of Yeshua, Community in Yeshua, Discipleship - Formation, Preachable Points

2 Responses to "Explaining the Paraclete Passages"

  1. Gary says:

    Why do you say the witness of the Paraklete is done communally not individually. Isn’t this like where the Paraklete proceeds form, a case of both/and rather than either/or ?

  2. yeshuain says:

    Well, for example there is Yeshua’s saying about where 2 or 3 are gathered.

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