Free from desire, you realize the mystery.
Caught in desire, you see only the manifestations. —LaoTzu, Tao Te Ching
Everyone knows the term “Holy Spirit,” but few attempt to define it. Those who
do usually produce a mix of personal opinion and ambiguous, though doctrinally
sanctioned, apologetics. In the minds of most, this “oil and water” theology fails to gel
into a homogeneous reality. The Islamic understanding, on the other hand, is remarkably
concrete, teaching that the “Holy Spirit” is Gabriel, the angel of revelation. When we
come to RûhulQudus in the Holy Qur’an (see ayah 2:87), some (like Yusuf Ali)
translate “holy spirit,” others (like Muhammad AlHilali and Muhammad Khan) translate
“Gabriel” and still others (like Saheeh International) offer both “holy spirit” and
“Gabriel”—reflecting that, in the creed of the Muslim, the two terms are synonymous. While Islam teaches that the Bible is to one degree or another corrupted, many
Muslims contend that the truth of Islam can nonetheless be found in the Bible.
Undeniably, there is ample room for interpretation of scripture. There are those
who read the Bible and understand “Holy Spirit” to be a somewhat indefinable third
element of divinity, akin to the pneúma of Stoicism or the unauthentic meaning
developed following the period of revelation. Others understand God to be One, without
partner or subdivision, and search for what is rational and justified according to logic. For
this latter group, “Holy Spirit” cannot be understood except in reference to a tangible
entity separate and distinct from God.
An example of how the Bible suffers in translation, and why conclusions vary as
consequence, is the fact that paraclete (from the Greek parakletos) can mean “helper,
defender, mediator, consoler.”
166 Elsewhere it is translated “advocate, helper.”167
Harper’s concurs with “advocate.”
168 Why is this important? Because “the word Paraclete
occurs only five times in the Bible, and all five occurrences are in the purported writings
of St. John: 1 st Epistle of John 2:1; and the Gospel according to John 14:16, 14:26, 15:26,
Should we assume this word slipped the minds of the other gospel authors? If so,
we would suspect it must not have been very important. On the contrary, these five
passages are critical. In fact, Trinitarian emphasis on the need to accept the Holy Spirit
hinges on these few quotes. A person can appreciate the peculiarity of this incongruity,
for if the concept of the Paraclete is so crucial to the creed that God wants man to gain
from revelation, we have to wonder why it didn’t make enough of an impression on the
other three gospel authors to be worthy of mention. Even once.
Whatever the reasons, paraclete is one more word which is frequently
mistranslated “Holy Spirit” or “Holy Ghost.” Even as modern translation of the Bible
tends toward greater academic integrity, paraclete is still often mistranslated “counselor”
or “comforter”. The correct translation as “helper,” “defender,” “mediator,” “consoler,”
“advocate,” or “helper” would imply an actual physical entity, which would be consistent
with the fact that “some trace the origin of the use of parakletos in the Johannine works
back to the concept of heavenly helpers.”170 And who could be a greater “heavenly
helper” than Gabriel, the angel of revelation himself?
Similarly, in its firstcentury Greek usage, “Parakletos was a legal term used
mainly of advocate, defender, or intercessor. True to its basic meaning one ‘called out to
stand beside, defend, advise or intercede,’ it was used of legal counsel and witnesses
These quotes help us to understand what paraclete meant in the period of
revelation. But somewhere in the passage of time, select theologians claimed to know
better, and developed a radically different understanding of the word. Association of
parakletos with a physical entity proved inconvenient to those who sought to bolster the
Trinitarian argument, and appears to have been avoided at all costs.
And so, to review:
1. The definition of “holy spirit” is elusive in Christianity, but concrete
in Islam, being synonymous with Gabriel, the angel of revelation.
2. There are many definitions of pneúma, but nowhere is it “holy spirit”
in its original Greek meaning.
3. Only according to the derived and unauthentic, “nonGreek
development of meaning” is pneúma translated to “holy spirit.”
4. Christian theology regarding the Holy Spirit depends almost
exclusively on the Gospel and First Epistle of “John.”
5. The Paraclete is not mentioned in any of the other books of the New
6. Correct translation of paraclete appears to imply a material entity,
which could be human or angelic.
With these points firmly in mind, what remains is to trace the meaning of
Paraclete in the five NT verses in which it appears. Taken in order:
1. The First Epistle of John, 2:1 (I Jn 2:1) identifies Jesus Christ as a “paraclete”
(herein translated “advocate”: “And if anyone sins, we have an advocate [i.e., paraclete] with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” So whatever a “paraclete” is—advocate,
helper, comforter, whatever—Jesus was one, according to this verse.
2. John 14:1617 reads, “And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another
helper [i.e., paraclete], that he may abide with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom
the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him; but you know him,
for he dwells with you and will be in you.”
Note the qualifying adjective “another” in the phrase “another helper.” The Greek
word used in this verse is allos, the meaning of which is “‘the other,’ strictly where there are many, as distinct from heteros, where there are only two …”172 The wording is
specific and leaves no room for interpretation. In this verse, Jesus advised his disciples—
and, by extension, all mankind—to anticipate another paraclete (i.e., helper) following his
ministry. Not just another helper, but one characterized by honesty (i.e., “the spirit of
truth”) and bearing an eternal (i.e., that he may abide with you forever) message.
Can we conclude that this “other” (i.e., “‘the other,’ strictly where there are
many”) is the final prophet in the long line of prophets, bearing a final revelation? Is this
not a more comfortable conclusion than the strained claim that Jesus describes some
mystical “holy spirit,” as derived from an unauthentic, “nonGreek development of
meaning?” On the other hand, the conclusion that Jesus is unique in a “begotten, not
made, son of God” sense if there is another, “strictly where there are many…,” all of
whom bear the exact same description as Jesus (i.e., the description of “paraclete”) is not
just unfounded, it is contrary to scripture.
Lest there be any confusion over this point, the New Testament confirms that the
Greek pneúma (translated below as “spirit”) is not restricted to mystical beings but can
refer to flesh and blood humans, both good and bad. For example, the First Epistle of
John 4:13 states: