Paraclete (/ˈpærəklt/; Greek: παράκλητος, romanizedParáklētos) is a Christian biblical term occurring five times in the Johannine texts of the New Testament. In Christian theology, the word commonly refers to the Holy Spirit and is translated as 'advocate', 'counsellor' or 'helper'.


The English term Paraclete comes from the Koine Greek word παράκλητος (paráklētos). A combination of para ('beside/alongside') and kalein ('to call'),[1] the word first appears in the Bible in John 14:16.[2] René Kieffer further explains the development of the meaning of this term:

The word parakletos is a verbal adjective, often used of one called to help in a lawcourt. In the Jewish tradition the word was transcribed with Hebrew letters and used for angels, prophets, and the just as advocates before God's court. The word also acquired the meaning of 'one who consoles' (cf. Job 16:2, Theodotion's and Aquila's translations; the LXX has the correct word parakletores). It is probably wrong to explain the Johannine parakletos on the basis of only one religious background. The word is filled with a complex meaning: the Spirit replaces Jesus, is an advocate and a witness, but also consoles the disciples.[2]

Latin etymological precedent

Lochlan Shelfer suggests that the Greek term paraclete is a translation of the preceding Latin term advocatus:

"παράκλητος [does not have] any independent meaning of its own, it is in fact a calque for the Latin term advocatus meaning a person of high social standing who speaks on behalf of a defendant in a court of law before a judge. When Greeks came into contact with the Roman Empire [...] the word παράκλητοs was developed as a precise equivalent to the Latin legal term advocatus. Thus, its significance must be found not only in its very few extant appearances, but also in the specific use of the Latin legal term."[3]

In Classical Greek

The term is not common in non-Jewish texts.[4] The best-known use is by Demosthenes:

Citizens of Athens, I do not doubt that you are all pretty well aware that this trial has been the center of keen partisanship and active canvassing, for you saw the people who were accosting and annoying you just now at the casting of lots. But I have to make a request which ought to be granted without asking, that you will all give less weight to private entreaty or personal influence than to the spirit of justice and to the oath which you severally swore when you entered that box. You will reflect that justice and the oath concern yourselves and the commonwealth, whereas the importunity and party spirit of advocates serve the end of those private ambitions which you are convened by the laws to thwart, not to encourage for the advantage of evil-doers.

— Demosthenes, On the False Embassy 19:1

A Greek–English Lexicon, apart from Demosthenes (above) cites also the example of a slave summoned as a help.

παρά-κλητος, ον,

A. called to one's aid, in a court of justice : as Subst., legal assistant, advocate, D.19.1, Lycurg. Fr.102, etc. 2. summoned, "δοῦλοι" D.C.46.20, cf. BGU601.12 (ii A.D.).

II. intercessor, Ph.2.520 : hence in NT, Παράκλητος, of the Holy Spirit, Ev.Jo.14.16, cf. 1 Ep.Jo.2.1.

In Judaism

Philo speaks several times of "paraclete" advocates primarily in the sense of human intercessors.

The word later went from Hellenistic Jewish writing into rabbinic literature.[5]

Other words are used to translate the Hebrew word מְנַחֵם mənaḥḥēm 'comforter' and מליץ יושר mliṣ yosher.[6]

In Christianity

In the Christian New Testament, paraclete appears only in the Johannine texts, and it is used only on five occasions: Gospel of John 14:16, 14:26, 15:26, 16:7, and First Epistle of John chapter 2, verse 1.

And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.

1 My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.

In John 14:16-17, 'paraclete' is Παράκλητον and 'spirit' is Πνεῦμα (pneuma), meaning 'breath'. Pneuma appears over 250 times in the Christian New Testament, and is the word used to refer to the Holy Spirit, i.e., the Spirit of God. As a result of the immediate explanation in John 14:17, the Paraclete in John 14:16 is considered to be the Holy Spirit.

Depiction of the Holy Spirit as a Dove, from the Throne of Saint Peter, Saint Peter's Basilica

M. E. Boring, writing in the Cambridge University journal New Testament Studies, describes a "striking similarity" between the defined attributes of what the Paraclete is, and is to do, and what the outcome of Christian prophecy has spoken to, explaining the Paraclete as the post-Passover gift of the Holy Spirit. "The Paraclete represents the Spirit as manifested in a particular way, as a pneumatic Christian speech charisma. Every verb describing the ministry of the Paraclete is directly related to his speech function."[7]

The early church identified the Paraclete as the Holy Spirit.[8] In first-century Jewish and Christian understanding, the presence of the Holy Spirit is to claim the rebirth of prophecy.[7]

During his period as a hermit in the mid-12th century, Peter Abelard dedicated his chapel to the Paraclete because "I had come there as a fugitive and, in the depths of my despair, was granted some comfort by the grace of God."[9]

Today, the Holy Spirit continues to be referred to as the Paraclete in a prayer known as the Divine Praises, recited during Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament.

Scholarly interpretations

John 14:16 quotes Jesus as saying "another Paraclete" will come to help his disciples, implying, according to Lawrence Lutkemeyer, that Jesus is the first and primary Paraclete.[10] In 1 John 2:1 Jesus himself is called "paraclete".

Raymond Brown (1970),[11][12] supported by George Johnston (2005),[13] also says that the "another Paraclete" of John 14:16 is in many ways another Jesus, the presence of Jesus after Jesus ascends to his Father.[10][14]

The Gospel of Matthew twice uses the passive form of the corresponding verb παρακαλῶ, in 2:18 and 5:4. In both instances, the context is of mourning, and the meaning of the verb is 'to be comforted'.[15]

Paraclete first appearing in gospel

Here is the context of the passage in John 14:15-27[16] with the translation of Paraclete as Advocate shown in bold:

15 “If you love me, keep my commands. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to help you and be with you forever— 17 the Spirit of truth.[7] The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.[7] 18 I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.[10] 19 Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. 20 On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you.[7][10] 21 Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.”

22 Then Judas (not Judas Iscariot) said, “But, Lord, why do you intend to show yourself to us and not to the world?”

23 Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.[7][10] 24 Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.

25 “All this I have spoken while still with you. 26 But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit,[7] whom the Father will send in my name,[10] will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.[7][10]

In Islam

Main article: Ahmad § Interpretations and meanings of Ahmad

Many Muslim writers have argued that "another Paraclete" (John 14:16)—the first being Jesus—refers to Muhammad. This claim is based on Quran 61:6.

"And [mention] when Jesus, the son of Mary, said, "O children of Israel, indeed I am the messenger of God to you confirming what came before me of the Torah and bringing good tidings of a messenger to come after me, whose name is Ahmad." But when he came to them with clear evidences, they said, "This is obvious magic."

— Sahih International

A few Muslim commentators, such as David Benjamin Keldani (1928), have argued the theory that the original Koine Greek used was periklytos, meaning 'famed, illustrious, or praiseworthy', rendered in Arabic as Aḥmad (another name of Muhammad), and that this was substituted by Christians with parakletos.[17][18] There are currently no known Greek manuscripts with this reading (all extant Greek manuscripts read παράκλητος parakletos), although the earliest manuscript evidence available is from the 3rd century.[19]

Regarding what the original Greek term was, according to A. Guthrie and E. F. F. Bishop:

"Early translators knew nothing about the surmised reading of periklutos for parakletos, and its possible rendering as Ahmad …. Periklutos does not come into the picture as far as Ibn Ishaq and Ibn Hisham are concerned. The deception is not theirs. The opportunity to introduce Ahmad was not accepted—though it is highly improbable that they were aware of it being a possible rendering of Periklutos. It would have clinched the argument to have followed the Johannine references with a Quranic quotation.”[20][21]

"Once more, if we omit the phrase, ‘bearing the name Ahmad,’ and regard Muhammad as still drawing lessons from previous history, the dubious passage might refer to what happened at Pentecost, and other incidents recorded in the earlier chapters of the Acts. With the absence of any claim on this passage either by Ibn Ishaq or Ibn Hisham, may we go further and suggest that the two Arabic words rendered by Dr. Bell, ‘bearing the name Ahmad,’ are an interpolation to be dated after the death of Muhammad.[21][22] (emphasis in original)

Sean Anthony agrees that the connection of Ahmad to the Paraclete in the Gospel of John may have been a later tradition that is not found in the work of Ibn Ishaq and that the earliest extant attempts by Muslims to connect these two figures that inspire later discussion on the subject goes back to Ibn Hisham and Ibn Qutaybah.[23]

A later interpolation of this passage to the Quran has been rejected in modern Islamic studies.[24] This has been supported by the fact that the earliest as well as the later manuscripts of the Quran contain the same passage and wording in chapter 61.[25][26][27]

Historical development

In Łewond's version of the correspondence between the Byzantine emperor Leo III (r. 717–741) and the Umayyad caliph Umar II (r. 717–720), a letter is attributed to Leo:[28]

We recognize Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John as the authors of the Gospel, and yet I know that this truth, recognized by us Christians wounds you, so that you seek to find accomplices for your lie. In brief, you admit that we say that it was written by God, and brought down from the heavens, as you pretend for your Furqan, although we know that it was `Umar, Abu Turab and Salman the Persian, who composed that, even though the rumor has got round among you that God sent it down from heavens…. [God] has chosen the way of sending [the human race] Prophets, and it is for this reason that the Lord, having finished all those things that He had decided on beforehand, and having fore-announced His incarnation by way of His prophets, yet knowing that men still had need of assistance from God, promised to send the Holy Spirit, under the name of Paraclete, (Consoler), to console them in the distress and sorrow they felt at the departure of their Lord and Master. I reiterate, that it was for this cause alone that Jesus called the Holy Spirit the Paraclete, since He sought to console His disciples for His departure, and recall to them all that he had said, all that He had done before their eyes, all that they were called to propagate throughout the world by their witness. Paraclete thus signifies "consoler", while Muhammad means "to give thanks", or "to give grace", a meaning which has a connection with the word Paraclete.[29]

By the 8th-century, the identification of the Paraclete with Muhammad was already a known concept.[30] Evidence shows that the Abbasid caliph al-Mahdi (r. 775–785) debated the concept with the influential Christian patriarch Timothy I (d. 823).[30] The Persian theologian Ali al-Tabari (d. 870) believed that only Muhammad could have been the Paraclete since he taught people what they previously didn't knew.[30] The Syrian scholar Ibn Abi Talib al-Dimashqi (d. 1327) asserts that the verses were generally believed to be about the coming of a prophet, until the reign of Constantine I (r. 306–337) when the Christian priests altered the verses to refer to the Holy Spirit, fearing that Constantine would recognize the true faith.[30]

See also


  1. ^ "Paraclete | Origin and meaning of paraclete by Online Etymology Dictionary".
  2. ^ a b Kieffer, René, "John," in John Barton and John Muddiman, eds., The Oxford Bible Commentary. Oxford University Press, 2007, 987.
  3. ^ Shelfer, Lochlan (2009). "The Legal Precision of the Term 'πάράkλητος'". Journal for the Study of the New Testament. 32 (2). SAGE: 131–150. doi:10.1177/0142064x09350961. ISSN 0142-064X. S2CID 170306987.
  4. ^ According to Bauer's Lexicon: "the technical meaning 'lawyer', 'attorney' is rare."
  5. ^ For a summary of rabbinical usage see Jewish Encyclopedia 1914 "Paraclete"
  6. ^ The Orthodox Jewish Brit Chadasha Bible Translation
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h Boring, M. E. (October 1978). "The Influence of Christian Prophecy on the Johannine Portrayal of the Paraclete and Jesus". New Testament Studies. 25 (1): 113–123. doi:10.1017/S0028688500001235. S2CID 170790351.
  8. ^ Allison, Gregg (2011). Historical Theology: An Introduction to Christian Doctrine. Zondervan. p. 431. ISBN 9780310410416. Retrieved 25 September 2014.
  9. ^ "The Letters of Abelard and Heloise", Betty Radice, Trans. London: Penguin, 1973. P. 30
  10. ^ a b c d e f g Lutkemeyer, Lawrence J. (1946). "THE ROLE OF THE PARACLETE (Jn. 16:7-15)". The Catholic Biblical Quarterly. 8 (2): 220–229. JSTOR 43719890.
  11. ^ Brown, Raymond Edward, ed. The gospel according to John. Vol. 29. Cambridge University Press, 1970, 1141. Brown writes; "Thus, the one whom John calls "another Paraclete" is another Jesus. Since the Paraclete can come only when Jesus departs, the Paraclete is the presence of Jesus when Jesus is absent. Jesus' promises to dwell within his disciples are"
  12. ^ Kinn, James W. The Spirit of Jesus in Scripture and prayer. Rowman & Littlefield, 2004, 60. Winn writes; "Second, the whole complex of parallels above leads Raymond Brown to a more profound conclusion: the Holy Spirit continues the presence of Jesus. Thus the one whom Jesus calls "another Paraclete" is in many ways another Jesus, ."
  13. ^ Johnston, George. The spirit-paraclete in the gospel of John. Vol. 12. Cambridge University Press, 2005, 94. Johnston writes; "Brown cannot regard such parallelism as coincidental, and he is perfectly correct. His conclusion is that 'as "another Paraclete" the Paraclete is, as it were, another Jesus ... and the Paraclete is the presence of Jesus when Jesus is "
  14. ^ Marthaler, Berard L. The creed: The apostolic faith in contemporary theology. Twenty-Third Publications, 1993, 275. Marthaler writes; "Thus," writes Brown, "the one whom John calls 'another Paraclete' is another Jesus."17 The Paraclete is the presence of God in the world when Jesus ascends to the Father."
  15. ^ Greek Word Study Tool ( παρακαλέω, A, III, 2
  16. ^ John 14:15–14:27
  17. ^ Donzel, E. Van and B. Lewis, Ch. Pellat. "Isa" in Encyclopedia of Islam Volume 4, 1997, 83.
  18. ^ Watt (1991) pp. 33–34
  19. ^ Reuben J. Swanson, ed., New Testament Greek Manuscripts: John. William Carey International University Press, 1998. Variant Readings Arranged in Horizontal Lines Against Codex Vaticanus – see John 14:16, 26; 15:26; 16:7. Also see Nestle-Aland, eds., Novum Testamentum Graece, 28th ed. Stuttgart: Deutsche Biblegesellschaft, 2012. Early manuscripts, Papyrus 66 and Papyrus 75, are generally placed in the 3rd century; Papyrus 66 is even dated to around 200 CE. "Papyrus 66". & "Papyrus 75". Institut für Neutestamentliche Textforschung. Retrieved March 4, 2022. See also Elliott, James Keith (2010). New Testament Textual Criticism: The Application of Thoroughgoing Principles. Novum Testamentum, Supplements. Vol. 137. Brill. p. 95. doi:10.1163/ej.9789004189522.i-664. ISBN 978-90-04-19436-6.
  20. ^ A. Guthrie and E. F. F. Bishop, p.253–254.
  21. ^ a b Watt, W. Montgomery (April 1953). "His Name is Ahmad". The Muslim World. 43 (2): 110–117. doi:10.1111/j.1478-1913.1953.tb02180.x.
  22. ^ A. Guthrie and E. F. F. Bishop, The Paraclete, Almunhamanna and Ahmad, Muslim World XLI (October, 1951), p.254–255; italics: emphasis in original.
  23. ^ Anthony, Sean (2016). "Muḥammad, Menaḥem, and the Paraclete: new light on Ibn Isḥāq's (d. 150/767) Arabic version of John 15: 23–16: 1". Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies. 79 (2): 255–278. doi:10.1017/S0041977X16000458. S2CID 163407787.
  24. ^ Ibid. p. 274. The scenario is so convoluted as to be absurd.
  25. ^ Déroche, Catalogue Des Manuscrits Arabes: Deuxième Partie: Manuscrits Musulmans - Tome I, 1: Les Manuscrits Du Coran: Aux Origines De La Calligraphie Coranique, 1983.
  26. ^ Sahin et al., The 1400th Anniversary Of The Qur'an, 2010, Museum of Turkish and Islamic Art Collection, Antik A.S. Cultural Publications.
  27. ^ A. George, The Rise Of Islamic Calligraphy, 2010, Saqi Books: London (UK), pp. 75-80 & p. 148; F. B. Flood, The Qur'an, in H. C. Evans & B. Ratliff (Eds.), Byzantium And Islam: Age Of Transition 7th - 9th Century, 2012, Metropolitan Museum of Art: New York (USA).
  28. ^ Hoyland 1998, p. 499.
  29. ^ Jeffery, Arthur (1944). "Ghevond's Text of the Correspondence between 'Umar II and Leo III". The Harvard Theological Review. 37 (4): 269–332. doi:10.1017/S0017816000019258. ISSN 0017-8160. JSTOR 1508294. S2CID 162279840.
  30. ^ a b c d Fitzpatrick & Walker 2014, p. 436.