Sunday, January 10, 2010

Paraclete


    But through the water pale and thin
    Still shine the unoffending feet
    And there above the painter set
    The Father and the Paraclete.

    Mr. Eliot's Sunday Morning Service
    TS Eliot

The word Paraclete is a translation of the Greek word parakletos. The Douai-Rheims translation, which comes from the Catholic tradition, didn't translate the Greek. Instead the word was Latinzed during the 16th century because the majority of the literate people could read and write Latin. It appears as Paraclete in only five passages of the Gospel of John. 1 2 3 4 One passage reads: "But the Paraclete, the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things, and bring all things to your mind, whatsoever I shall have said to you" (John 16:26 Rheims). In fact the first edition of the OED cites the 1582 Rheims translation as the first work which used the spelling "Paraclete."

The American Heritage Dictionary traces the etymology from para meaning 'to the side of' and kalein denoting 'to call.' The Greeks wrote this as parakletos. From this the Latin version emerged as paracletos. Old French shortened it to paraclet and Middle English changed the spelling once again to paraclit which brings it to the modern spelling of today. Sometimes it's used to describe "one called alongside." So if a youth pastor is called on to minister to the young people of a church then they could be described as "Paraclete." He must have carried out a lot of important roles in his work.

The Tyndale, KJV, RV, ASV, RSV, and NRSV of the Holy Bible don't use the term Paraclete in their translations. Most of these translations use the word advocate or counselor. Used in this manner it's derivative of the terminology of the courts of law and describes a defending counselor or attorney as opposed to the accuser or the Greek term diabolos. 5

So why all of the variations upon one word that attempts to describe a person? There is no individual expression for spirit in the languages of the Bible. The idea was used symbolically with words that are interpreted to mean literally wind and breath. In fact the English word spirit is simply an Anglicized version of the Latin word spiritus for breath. None of the prophets of Israel before the exile attribute their vocation to the action of the spirit or even have much to say about the spirit at all. It wasn't until Ezekiel and the climax of his prophecy during his vision of the valley of dry bones over which he was commanded to invoke the life giving breath, or wind, or spirit of God. 6. Ezekiel's hope is so radically visualized that it becomes a key premise in later biblical prophesies. Realizing that the renewal of God's people could only come from God, the prophets began to seek a broad outpouring of his spirit. 7 While Ezekiel doesn't mention an anticipated messianic king the rendering of this figure in the prophecy of Isaiah discloses that he is to be the everlasting bearer of the spirit. 8 9

This prophetic hope passed down through the ages was clearly claimed by Jesus in his sermon at Nazareth. 10 He is not only the everlasting bearer of the Holy Spirit but also the one who will dispense the gift of the Holy Spirit to others. The Holy Spirit or Holy Ghost is the third member of the Christian trinity, along with God the Father and God the Son. There is a clear interval between the epiphany of Jesus and the general distribution of the Holy Spirit. John relates early on in his gospel that the gift of the spirit could not be bestowed before Jesus was glorified or in other words, not before he had completed his work. 11 John utilizes the Paraclete sayings to stress that the departure of Jesus, after his resurrection, must take place first no matter how much it saddens the disciples. 12

There's little doubt that the word was used well before the Bible and Qur'an were written. Before the author John collected them into his Gospel the five sayings about the Paraclete were in all probability a separate set of ideas. In the New Testament John applies it directly to Jesus himself 13 and implies a likeness between the Paraclete and Jesus when he writes that the coming of the Paraclete will be the same as the coming of Jesus himself. 14 In addition to the chronological relationships, there are other significant distinctions. The instructions of the Paraclete will be focused on Jesus and his teaching. The Paraclete will enlarge the range of Jesus' teaching to the world, as well as, press forward the disciple's understanding of "the truth" which is equaled with Jesus. The presence of the Paraclete will be permanent, in contrast to that of Jesus, which had to be withdrawn and lastly the existence of the Paraclete will be invisible and inward. Christian theologians surmise that John was personifying the Holy Spirit on a level that the people of his times would understand. Some scholars also interpret this passage as an allusion to the return of Jesus to the disciples after the Resurrection.

No matter what the essence is of the Paraclete or its exact etymological orthography, there still remains the legacy of truth that Jesus left behind him as an unfinished religion to be completed and perfected by what Isaiah and John described, as well as, Lou whose life was a living model of a true Paraclete.

Sources:

Paraclete. The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English

Paraclete

Picture Source

The Holy Spirit in the Church - Scripture From Scratch

Metzger, Bruce M., and Coogan, Michael D. The Oxford Companion To The Bible. Oxford University Press, New York, 1993.p.288.

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