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Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Why, in John 16:7, is the holy spirit spoken of as a "helper"?

Why, in John 16:7, is the holy spirit spoken of as a "helper"?

"Nevertheless, I am telling YOU the truth, It is for YOUR benefit I am going away. For if I do not go away, the helper will by no means come to YOU; but if I do go my way, I will send him to YOU." -NWT

Does this mean that this verse shows that the holy spirit is really a person?

Paraclete ('Comforter,' 'Advocate,' 'Helper')

"We find this word in the NT used only in the Gospel of John (1 John also uses it once but for Jesus).

Noted trinitarian scholar and NT translator, Dr. William Barclay, in his "The Daily Study Bible Series" shows how this word was often used by the Jews [and the Gospel of John, NT scholars agree, was written to Hellenic [Greek-speaking] Jews]:

First Dr. Barclay tells that the world-famed Jewish scholar Philo wrote in his works (in the early first century - before John's writings): "…when Joseph forgave them for the wrong that they had done him, he said, `I offer you an amnesty for all that you did to me; you need no other parakletos' (Life of Joseph 40)." [emphasis added].

This is especially significant since much of John's terminology echoes that of Philo, showing his familiarity with that noted Hellenic Jewish scholar.

Dr. Barclay continued:

"The Jews especially adopted the word [parakletos] .... the Rabbis had this saying about what would happen in the day of God's judgment: 'The man who keeps one commandment of the Law has gotten to himself one parakletos; the man who breaks one commandment of the Law has gotten to himself one accuser.' They said, 'If a man is summoned to court on a capital charge, he needs powerful parakletoi (the plural of the word) to save him; repentance and good works are his parakletoi in the judgment of God.' 'All righteousness and mercy which an Israelite does in this world are great peace and great parakletoi between him and his father in heaven.' They said that the sin-offering is a man's parakletos before God." - p. 37, The Letters of John and Jude, The Westminster Press, 1976.

The word 'paraclete' (parakletos) - or 'comforter,' 'helper,' 'advocate' in English translations - is in the masculine gender in the Greek, but may be figuratively applied to things. This usage is also seen where Jesus is figuratively called 'Wisdom' (fem.) or 'lamb' (neut.).

The uses of paraclete for the holy spirit are the only places where the masculine pronoun is used for the holy spirit in the NT text (because the antecedent, paraclete, is masculine)! This is a figurative use and is in contrast with the many other places where the literal holy spirit is the true antecedent and always takes neuter pronouns and articles."

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