The following is taken from my commentaries on the Gospel of John, which are appended to my restoration of the original text (before it was heavily edited by early Christian leaders to conform it to their dogma that turned Jesus into a Roman-style godling) and translation of that text from the original Greek. This is a work in progress; feedback is most welcome, and people are encouraged to get the book when it comes available, by the end of this year.
At the Last Supper as recounted in the Gospel of John, after saying he and the disciples will part ways, Jesus promises “another helper” will come. The word in Greek is παρακλητος (“parakletos”, often spelled “paraclete” in English), and from its roots it means “to make a judgement call from close beside”. It is basically a legal term that in the first century was often used in reference to a lawyer, a wise person who could offer convincing testimony in court. (Note that lawyers in those days were no more “professionals” in the modern sense than rabbis. Rather, someone slowly gained the reputation over the years of being a good lawyer [or rabbi, etc.] after consistently demonstrating sagacity and ability; that reputation could be lost at a stroke, should the individual do poorly in but one instance, and so individuals worked hard to preserve their long-cultivated reputations.) More generally, the word referred to someone close enough to the situation at hand (in observation and good judgement) to make a good call as regards what should be done.
The word has been variously rendered in translations of this gospel as “comforter”, “helper”, and “advocate”, among others. In this translation I have chosen the latter, since it comes closest to the nuances of the first-century Greek word.
The early principals of the Christian religion followed the lead of Paul in establishing their movement as a new religion separate from Judaism, and imposing on its followers a certain dogma. As a part of this effort, they also imposed on the New Testament (which had largely been written, of course, before their dogma had been invented) interpretations that forced it anachronistically to conform to their dogma. Their success is measured in the fact that to this day the vast preponderance of Christians believe the Paraclete that Jesus promised to send came in the form of the Holy Spirit – an invented entity as part of the dogmatic trinity, none of which has any real foundation in the New Testament (let alone the Jewish scriptures).
Scholars have offered many guesses as to the actual identity of the Paraclete. It is my contention that the Paraclete is this very gospel itself. The gospel’s very last sentence (i.e., 20:31, barring the epilogue of chapter 21) says that the gospel was written so its readers will “come to believe that Jesus is Messiah, son of God, and that through believing [they] might have life in his name.” In short, the gospel was written to testify persuasively about Jesus, his teachings and his nature.
And this is the work of the Paraclete, as described in the verses following. Jesus begins by saying “another advocate”; he is saying that he himself has been an advocate, someone who speaks with wise judgement, and that this Paraclete will function exactly the same as Jesus in this regard; since this gospel is an eyewitness record of Jesus’s teachings and a testament to his nature, it is indeed therefore equivalent to Jesus, another advocate like him.
Verse 17 vividly recalls Jesus’s words to Nicodemus about the Spirit/Breath/Wind (3:8), the breath that speaks the word of God. He added to that religious leader, “We speak of what we perceive, and we bear witness to what we have seen, and you do not grasp our witness” (3:11) with the Greek verb λαμβανω carrying the same double meaning as the English verb “to grasp”: Nicodemus and his fellow religious leaders did not grasp (understand) this witness, nor could they grasp (take hold of) it in order to stamp it out. The same verb is found at 1:5, where it says the darkness is unable to grasp the light. Likewise in 14:17, “the world is not able to grasp” this truth, again, in both senses of the verb. However, Jesus goes on, the disciples know this truth since it will be near them and in them – in my view, he refers to their memories of his words and example as in them and, when this gospel is written, also “near them”, near at hand to be read as often as needed.
In 16:13 Jesus will amplify this analogy, saying that the Paraclete “will not speak on its own” but rather “what it hears”, what is written into it, which will be Jesus’s words and example: “it is from me that it will receive what it will make known to you.”
The only other New Testament reference to the Paraclete is found at I John 2:1, written by John the Presbyter, whom this work argues was the amanuensis for this gospel. There we are told that we have a Paraclete with the Father; this passage then identifies the Paraclete as Jesus (2:1-2) and as his commandments (2:3-4), his word (2:5ab), and his example (2:5c-6) – all, in my view, to make clear that this gospel is the Paraclete.
A royal messenger always bears some kind of credentials to certify that he and his message are legitimate. In ancient times, they might have been a signet ring or a document sealed in wax. The gospel as Paraclete, a royal messenger from God, bears several assertions of its eyewitness nature which serve as credentials of this kind, including those at 1:14, 3:33-34, 19:35, 20:30-31, and 21:24-25.
It is a truism that most people over two millennia, when they have written about Jesus, say more about themselves in their interpretations than they do about Jesus himself. This has been true from the first. Paul, who loved the spotlight on himself, who loved being a big man in the Roman world, presented Jesus as a Roman-style godling. Barnabas, as a Levite, portrays Jesus in the Letter to the Hebrews as High Priest. And Lazarus and John the Presbyter, whose own work was as communicators, present Jesus as Messenger (αγγελος, angel), and as a vessel (temple) containing the Word of God – and this gospel is exactly that as well: a messenger, and a vessel (book) containing the Word of God as given by the Messenger Jesus. This is how Jesus says in the gospel that he will still be present with them/us: this gospel, the Paraclete, is his continuing presence in the world.
This gospel is, of course, a story, a recollection in words. The modern Western civilization has reduced storytelling to mere entertainment, to a commodity, and disregards its power to inspire and teach. But classical cultures worldwide, in all periods of time including the present (Native American, Native African, Taoist, Aborigine, and others), know stories not only inspire and teach, but actually evoke the sacred presence of “those who have gone before”. As it is put in The Circle of Life:
Stories are powerful ceremonies that, told properly and well, evoke powerful sacred presences; they can be healing. … As the storyteller is telling it, the story is vivid in the minds of both teller and hearers; the hearers enter into the story themselves, becoming a part of it. … In the way of the traditional peoples, names and stories are everpresent, just as visions are everpresent, if only we have the eyes to see them – and, more than the names, the spirits are everpresent. As Jesus promised his disciples before leaving them, “Lo, I am with you always.” … Through stories we transcend the contours of linear time, moving into the past and future and coming back enriching the present moment with meaning. Through stories we experience the deeds, the very lives, of our ancestors, and gain perspective on our own lives. Every time we tell or hear a particular story we recharge it, making it come alive again in the here and now. … Storytelling is central to traditional cultures worldwide. It is stories – and the visions and dreams behind them – that gather the people of a nation together and give them a common identity. More than that: stories – and the visions and dreams behind them – are a nation’s treasure: the common heritage, the common wisdom, and the source of its sacred power. Stories are sacred ceremonies: when told properly and well, they evoke powerful presences. … The past, to the traditional way of thinking, is the stories that have been told and can still be told; the future is the stories that have not yet been told. Thus, this present moment is ceremony in progress, stories in the making. This moment now, with you holding this book in your hands as you read it, is your story-in-the-making. Some day to come you will remember reading this book. You won’t have this book in your hands, but you will remember reading something in it that really struck you, and what it made you think about, and what you did that you wouldn’t have done otherwise. This remembering will be for you a story, part of the greater story of your life. … Stories, and their kin – songs, dances, art works – are examples of gateways, as I call them: gateways between worlds and dimensions. Stories, you see, are ceremonies of shared experience: when we tell stories of the First Persons, the apparent distance in time and space is bridged by these gateways, and they are present with us; even more, we become one with them. Therefore we tell stories with care, since telling the stories activates those gateways and brings closer the beings of other worlds and dimensions, or even the incomprehensible beings deep in the Spirit World. When we tell the classic stories that have been told for generations, we are indeed drawing close some powerful spirits indeed….