The Paraclete, "the one who is to come," is mentioned in the Bible in the Gospel of John. The term is used in two ways: First, the author of the book uses it in reference to Christ's ministry on Earth (both before and after his death) and second, Christ himself uses the term to describe a mysterious figure that will be sent to the disciples after his death to "be with them always." In the Catholic tradition this was taken to be the Holy Ghost, the third member of the Trinity, who came to the disciples at the feast of Pentecost and gave them all the ability to speak in tongues and preach the gospel.

My daughter’s youth minister’s father (known to all as Lou or Dad) died last week. At his memorial service his brother described him as a true paraclete; he explained he did not mean an angel, but rather a helper of the angels. He was a man known for quietly contributing to the youth ministry from behind the scenes. The teens loved him; many described this middle-aged man as their friend and the first person to befriend them in the group. This intrigued me. I didn’t know the word and I didn't know Lou. Certainly he must have been quite special to be an adult so treasured by teens. Paralegal was called to mind, a helper of a lawyer but what is a “clete”. Maybe in Lou's case it is a teen but I knew that wasn’t really true so off to the web….

Christian (most especially Catholic) doctrine and Muslim doctrine have different interpretations. While Christians believe “the comforter” of the Gospel of John is the Holy Ghost of the Trinity (Father, Son and the Holy Ghost), Muslims believe “the comforter” is the Prophet Muhammad (Pbuh). In the “Islamic Voice” it is explained that the language used in the time of Christ was Syriac for which no ancient manuscripts are available today. Early translations were into Greek, Hebrew and Arabic and later to English and other modern languages. As with so many terms in the Bible, the meaning of the phrase "the comforter" and the word "paraclete" is truly open to many opinions.

“Paraclete” seems to have come into use as an adjective for organizations that help others in some way, many quite far from the Bible’s or the Qur’an’s use of the word. I found examples such as the Paraclete Center, a (“new organization responding specifically and exclusively to the educational needs of South Boston's youth and families”) and the Paraclete Charter Service which (“provides "limousine" and charter service to the San Juan Islands from Skyline Marina”) and The Paraclete Group (who state “Our Mission is to help you do business better.”). There are also numerous commercial ventures connected to religious media who use the word Paraclete in their name.

In The Paraclete Group's web page they give the following definition: "paraclete (par' a klet) n. {from the Latin Paracletus or from the Greek Parakletos; to call to one, to exhort, encourage; come along beside.}. An advocate; one called upon to aid or support."

In Lou’s case I think his brother meant a helper, one who was always ready to lend a hand and heart to another, especially to the teens who so adored him.

My original w/u sources were comparative religion essays. In an attempt to go to the original sources I came up with nothing in the Bible or the Quran searching for "comforter" or "paraclete" in the searchable web versions I made use of. However, using the term "counselor" which one of the essays named as an interpretation of "comforter" I found in the Gospel of John the following:

"And I will pray the Father, and he will give you another Counselor, to be with you for ever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him; you know him, for he dwells with you, and will be in you."

"I will not leave you desolate; I will come to you."

"But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you." <

Bible: Revised Standard Version

I was unable to find any reference to comforter, paraclete or counselor in a searchable Quran. I did find 6 references to Muhammad. See below:

The Family of Imran
3.144 And Muhammad is no more than an apostle; the apostles have already passed away before him; if then he dies or is killed will you turn back upon your heels? And whoever turns back upon his heels!s, he will by no means do harm to Allah in the least and Allah will reward the grateful.

The Clans
33.40 Muhammad is not the father of any of your men, but he is the Apostle of Allah and the Last of the prophets; and Allah is cognizant of all things. Muhammad

47.2 And (as for) those who believe and do good, and believe in what has been revealed to Muhammad, and it is the very truth from their Lord, He will remove their evil from them and improve their condition. The Victory

48.29 Muhammad is the Apostle of Allah, and those with him are firm of heart against the unbelievers, compassionate among themselves; you will see them bowing down, prostrating themselves, seeking grace from Allah and pleasure; their marks are in their faces because of the effect of prostration; that is their description in the Taurat and their description in the Injeel; like as seed-produce that puts forth its sprout, then strengthens it, so it becomes stout and stands firmly on its stem, delighting the sowers that He may enrage the unbelievers on account of them; Allah has promised those among them who believe and do good, forgiveness and a great reward. Qaf

50.1 Qaf. I swear by the glorious Quran (that Muhammad is the Apostle of Allah.)

The Koran

This is obviously a case of node what you don't know. The deeper I dig, the more confused I become. Obviously scholars of religion and languages work for lifetimes on these issues.

What an awesome way to describe a youth minister. 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.


Paraclete. The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English:

Paraclete: b-greek/1999-November/008316.html

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.

Par"a*clete (?), n. [L. paracletus, Gr. , from to call to one, to exhort, encourage; beside + to call.]

An advocate; one called to aid or support; hence, the Consoler, Comforter, or Intercessor; -- a term applied to the Holy Spirit.

From which intercession especially I conceive he hath the name of the Paraclete given him by Christ. Bp. Pearson.


© Webster 1913.

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