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Bible Dictionaries

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament

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1. The term.-One result of the authoritative place held by the Law among the Jews was that figures of speech borrowed from the sphere of judicial procedure came to play an important part in religious life. This cycle of figurative speech included the term ‘paraclete.’ In Greek usage a paraclete was one who accompanied an accused person to the judge’s tribunal, and supported him by testifying and interceding on his behalf. The frequent use of the term ‘paraclete’ in the religious phraseology of the Jews is confirmed by the fact that when the term, as a Greek loanword, at length found a place in the Hebrew writings of the Synagogue, it was employed not in a literal but in a figurative sense, as, e.g., for the sacrifice by which the Divine forgiveness was secured for Israel.

2. Jesus Himself as the Paraclete (of Christians who fall into sin).-The idea that man requires a paraclete was associated first of all with the thought of the Divine decree by which the status and destiny of human beings are fixed, and it is in this reference that St. John, in his First Epistle (1 John 2:1), applies the term to Jesus Christ. As the vocation to a divine life puts an end to walking in darkness, believers separate themselves from sin by sincere and penitent confession. Still, this does not do away with the possibility of their choosing falsely and again doing evil; hence there arises the need of a fresh judicial act on God’s part to decide what portion such a sinner retains in Him. Even when the Christian sins, however, Christ maintains fellowship with him, and brings him within the scope of the Divine grape. In that passage, accordingly, Christ is called a Paraclete because He obtains Divine pardon for those who have trespassed. His ability to shield the sinning one is based upon the fact of His own righteousness, for only the righteous, whose mind is at one with the will of God, can ask God to forgive others. This power, moreover, rests also upon the fact that Jesus has by His Cross purchased the world’s forgiveness from God.

3. The Holy Spirit as the Paraclete (of the apostles in their work).-In the last discourse of Jesus, as found in the Fourth Gospel, the name ‘Paraclete’ is given to the power that secures for the disciples the presence of the Holy Spirit (John 14:16; John 14:26; John 15:26; John 16:7). Abstractly, it is not impossible that the Spirit Himself is here called the Paraclete because He too keeps the disciples within the Divine grape through which they are forgiven; here, in point of fact, the term applies to Jesus no less than to the Spirit, for the latter is called ‘another Paraclete’; and thus the intercessory function of the Spirit on behalf of the disciples is conjoined with that exercised by Jesus until His departure. The leading thought underlying the passages in question, however, is in conflict with this interpretation, as Jesus is there speaking of how His disciples shall be enabled to complete their task and, as His messengers, to gather His community together. His words serve here to define the authority of the apostolic office, and therefore also of the Church. The relation of the disciples to God is regulated and assured by their union with Jesus, and no account is taken of the possibility that they may rupture that relation by fresh transgression. The parting utterances of Jesus speak of His fellowship with His disciples as indestructible; as perfected, not impeded by His death. He remains in them, and they remain in Him, and they are thus encompassed by the Divine love. This relationship, however, lays upon them their special task-that of living and witnessing for Him, of pleading His claims, and of calling upon men to have faith in Him. As branches in the true Vine they have now the power, as they have also the duty, of bringing forth fruit. This brings them, however, to take part in a dire struggle, and the last discourse of Jesus affirms in words of deep impressiveness that He has made every provision for their warfare with the world and their victory over it. Even now, indeed, their standing is being contested-not, certainly, their standing before God, sinners though they are, for that matter is settled by their fellowship with Jesus, but the sanction of that profession of faith in Him by virtue of which they glorify Him as the Christ.

Now the question whether, and how, the apostles are able to fulfill their mission, and how they may convince the world that their message is true, is solved for them by the fact that the Spirit is with them. The Spirit is their Paraclete because He is the evidence of their standing, the efficacy of their words, the source of their authority, and the guarantee of their success. The reason why they now require another Advocate-a new Paraclete, distinct from Jesus Himself-is that while hitherto Jesus, by His word and His works, vindicated the rights of their faith, and by His presence protected them against all assailants, He can no longer, now that He has passed into the unseen, be their Advocate in His own Person. They require an evidential force which will still be recognizable, a power that will constantly be with them, and become manifest to all to whom they proclaim the word. The historical ground of their authority-the fact, namely, that they had companied with Jesus-is not thereby invalidated (John 15:27), but it is not in itself sufficient. Their utterances regarding Jesus are free from every limitation. Thus they describe Him as the Eternal Son, through whom the whole work of God is effected; as the ever-present One, who is in perfect unity with His people; as the One who now worketh, bestowing light and life upon the world. To the historical foundation of the apostolate and the Church, therefore, there must necessarily be added the pneumatic foundation; and the deep significance that attaches to the term ‘Paraclete’ lies in the distinct expression which it gives to the fact that the historical sanction of the apostles and the community finds its requisite supplement and confirmation in their inward experience and the spiritual possessions they now enjoy.

4. The Deity of the Spirit.-One result of this process of thought was the fresh emphasis laid upon the idea that the Spirit shares fully in the nature of God. It is true that even in the earliest stages of Christianity, as elsewhere, the Spirit was spoken of as possessing the quality of Deity; in knowledge, in will, in work, He has part in the creative glory of the Divine power. But the fact that the Spirit now came to be conceived as the Paraclete of the disciples provided a peculiarly cogent reason why He should be thought of, not as a mere property of man’s inner life, or as a force that enters into man, but as fully possessed of the Divine power which, coming from above, encompasses man, and so animates all things from within. For the prerogative of Jesus and His disciples was made manifest only when it was proved to be Divine. The disciples cannot demonstrate the Divine status of Jesus by appealing to what they are in themselves. Such demonstration could be given only if it were made manifest that the cause of Jesus was the cause of God. The Spirit is the Advocate of Christians simply because in His work it becomes clear to all that He comes from above and is no merely human possession. Nevertheless He could not be the Advocate of the disciples unless His presence and action were unmistakably related to Jesus; and this relation is made manifest by the fact that the Spirit is possessed by the disciples only, and not by the world (John 14:17, John 16:7), and that He speaks as the witness of Jesus, and creates faith in His mission (John 15:26, John 16:14). He causes the word of Jesus to become effective in the disciples, so that it becomes the basis of the teaching which reveals to them the will of God in their present situation (John 14:26). Hence the granting of the Spirit causes no separation between the disciples and Jesus, nor does it cut the Church apart from its historical roots; on the contrary, that which had been perfectly wrought by Jesus is brought to its full realization by being renewed in the inner life of the disciples, in their knowledge and in their work. In this connection, too, we note the emergence of Trinitarian formulae, as, e.g., ‘the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name’ (John 14:26). Since Christ and the Spirit both carry out the one purpose of God, and combine their operations in a perfect unity, the work accomplished by Jesus remains permanently effective, and is in reality completed, not superseded, by the work of His disciples.

5. The truth as the medium of the Spirit’s manifestation.-A thesis that at this point acquired immense importance was that which defines the conditions and phenomena in which the Spirit manifests Himself, and the means by which His self-revelation is secured. The thesis is simply that He becomes manifest by the truth-by the truth alone, though with triumphant power. It is the truth alone which can demonstrate the Divine right of Jesus, of His disciples, and of His Church. Special operations of the Spirit are in themselves insufficient to supply this confirmation, although reference is made likewise to the Spirit as the source of prophecy (John 16:13). The latter statement involves the endowing of the apostles with the teaching office, so that in the amplitude of their knowledge and the clearness of their intuition they find the weapons with which they overcome the world; for in the Johannine writings the truth is set in opposition to both falsehood and error, and with constant thanksgiving John declares that Jesus has redeemed His disciples from lies and made them truthful, and that He has freed them from the dominion of error and brought them to the certainty that comprehends God. Similarly, they have received moral succour, for in John falsehood and hatred, darkness and sin, are closely allied, and the one dies away with the other. That nevertheless John speaks of the truth alone as the distinguishing feature of Jesus and His disciples is intimately connected with the fact that the Evangelist’s whole characterization of Jesus is directed to the one end of establishing faith. Only in the truth can a genuine faith have its birth.

6. The source of this thesis.-In view of the momentous results that flowed from the doctrine of the Paraclete-a doctrine that supplied the norms and motives of the whole subsequent development of the Church-the question regarding the origin of this thesis becomes peculiarly important.

(a) Its connection with Jesus.-The powerful links which connect the statements regarding the Spirit with Jesus Himself are clearly recognizable. Jesus had earnestly considered the gravity of the struggle in which the disciples would have to engage after His death (Matthew 10:16-23), and had given them the assurance that in that struggle the Spirit would guide them. In Matthew 10:20, etc., the peculiar situation arising out of persecution unto death is met by a reference, not indeed to the name, but doubtless to the thought, of the Paraclete. Similarly, that confidence in the truth which makes absolute devotion to it the distinctive characteristic of the Christian community has its source in Jesus; it is an outcome of the warfare which Jesus waged against all untruthfulness; and the like holds good also of that purely religious conception of the apostolic vocation which proscribes all self-interested ends and lays upon the apostles the obligation of making the power of God manifest to the world.

(b) Its relation to the Johannine theology.-At the same time the statements regarding the Paraclete are connected at all points with the peculiar content of the Johannine theology: with its absolute rejection of the world, as being the realm of darkness, its bringing the gospel under the single aim of evoking faith in Jesus, its subordination of all external results to the spiritual process of generating the knowledge of God, its synthesis of historical recollection with the mystic vision that looks within and there becomes assured of communion with God. What had come down from Jesus Himself, and what had emerged in the historical development in which the writer had shared, are inextricably combined in these statements; nor is it possible for us to dissociate them any more than John himself would do.

Literature.-Besides the Commentaries (esp. Meyer on John 14:16 and Düsterdieck on 1 John 2:1), J. Buxtorf, Lex. Chald. Talmud. et Rabbin., ed. B. Fischer, Leipzig, 1866-74, s.v.; Grimm-Thayer_, Gr.-Eng. Lexicon of the NT2, Edinburgh, 1890, s.v.; H. Cremer, Bibl.-Theol. Lexicon of NT Greek3, do., 1880, s.v.; G. C. Knapp, Scripta Varii Argumenti, 2 vols., Halle, 1805; J. Pearson, An Exposition of the Creed, new ed., London, 1872, p. 499 ff.; J. C. Hare, The Mission of the Comforter3, do., 1876; R. C. Trench, On the Authorized Version of the NT2, do., 1859; J. B. Lightfoot, On a Fresh Revision of the English NT, do., 1891, p. 55 ff.; E. Hatch, Essays in Biblical Greek, Oxford, 1889, p. 82; J. Robson, The Holy Spirit the Paraclete, Edinburgh and London, 1894, p. 3 ff., ExpT_ v. [1893-94] 320 ff.; G. G Findlay, ExpT_ xii. [1900-01] 445; M. Jastrow, Dictionary of the Targumim, etc., 2 vols., London and New York, 1903, s.v. ôøiéè; J. Worthington-Atkin, The Paraklete, London, 1906; T. D. Bernard, The Central Teaching of Jesus Christ, do., 1892, p. 157 ff.; H. B. Swete, The Holy Spirit in the New Testament, London, 1909, The Holy Spirit in the Ancient Church, do., 1912.

A. Schlatter.

Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Paraclete'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/​dictionaries/​eng/​hdn/​p/paraclete.html. 1906-1918.
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