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Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible

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ADVOCATE (Gr. paraklçtos ). The word occurs only in the writings of St. John: four times in his Gospel ( John 14:16; John 14:26; John 15:26; John 16:7 ) of the Holy Spirit, and once in his 1st Epistle ( 1 John 2:1 ) of Jesus. It is unfortunate that our English Versions have rendered it in the former ‘Comforter’ (RVm [Note: Revised Version margin.] ‘or Advocate , or Helper , Gr. Paraclete ’) and in the latter ‘Advocate’ (RVm [Note: Revised Version margin.] ‘or Comforter , or Helper , Gr. Paraclete ’).

Comforter ,’ though a true and beautiful designation of the Holy Spirit, is an impossible rendering. It is true that parakalein means either ‘comfort’ ( Mat 5:4 , 2 Corinthians 1:4; 2 Corinthians 7:6 ) or ‘call to one’s side’ ( Acts 28:20 ), but paraklçtos must be associated with the latter signification. It is a passive form, and denotes not ‘one who comforts ( parakalei )’ but ‘one who is called in to aid ( parakaleitai ).’ It was a forensic term, signifying the counsel for the defence and corresponding exactly to our ‘advocate’ (Lat. advocatus ). Singularly enough, the Greek-speaking Fathers mostly took the word in the impossible sense of ‘Comforter,’ influenced perhaps by the false analogy of Menahem ( Consolator ), a Jewish name for the Messiah. Cf. Cyril of Jerusalem, Cat . xvi. 20: ‘He is called Parakletos because He comforts ( parakalei ) and consoles and helps our infirmity.’ Were it understood in its literal sense of ‘Strengthener’ ( Confortator ), ‘Comforter’ would be a fair rendering; but as a matter of fact it originated in an error; nor does it suggest the true idea to the English reader. It should be observed that ‘comfortless’ in John 14:18 lends it no support. RV [Note: Revised Version.] gives ‘desolate’; literally, as in the margin of both Versions, ‘orphans.’

The substitution of ‘Advocate’ for ‘Comforter’ reveals a wealth of meaning in our Lord’s address to the Eleven on that night in which He was betrayed. During His earthly ministry He had been God’s Advocate with men, pleading God’s cause with them and seeking to win them for Him. He was going away, but God would not be left without an Advocate on the earth. ‘I will pray the Father, and another Advocate he will give you, that he may be with yon for ever the Spirit of Truth.’ Not received, because unrecognized, by the unspiritual world, the Advocate would be recognized and welcomed by believers (John 14:16-17; John 14:25-26 ). And He would testify to them about Jesus, the unseen Lord, and they would repeat His testimony to the world ( John 15:26-27 ). And He would make their testimony effective, ‘convicting the, world regarding sin, righteousness, and judgment’ ( John 16:8-11 ).

Jesus told the Eleven that it was ‘expedient for them that he should go away,’ since His departure was the condition of the advent of the Advocate (John 16:7 ); and 1 John 2:1 furnishes a profound commentary on this declaration. Jesus in the days of His flesh was God’s Advocate on the earth, pleading with men for God. The Holy Spirit has taken His place, and performs this office. But Jesus is still an Advocate. He is the Advocate of sinners up in heaven, pleading their cause with God, and, in the language of St. Paul ( Romans 8:34 ), ‘making intercession for them.’

And thus it was expedient for us that He should go away, that we might enjoy a double advocacy the Holy Spirit’s here, pleading with us for God; and that of Jesus in the court of heaven, pleading with God for us. There are three dispensations in the history of redemption, each richer and fuller than the last: (1) The OT dispensation, under which men knew only of God in high heaven; (2) that of the Incarnation, under which the Father came near to men in Jesus Christ and by His gracious advocacy appealed to their hearts; (3) that of the Holy Spirit, under which the Holy Spirit is the Father’s Advocate here, and Jesus ‘our Advocate above, our Friend before the throne of love.’

David Smith.

Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Advocate'. Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/​dictionaries/​eng/​hdb/​a/advocate.html. 1909.
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