Sunday, 18 July 2010

Who is the “Comforter”? Part I

by Silas



The Greek word for Comforter is “parakletos”. The most familiar translation of this Greek word is “Comforter,” but a better translation is Counselor or Advocate, as in a legal sense. However, I will use Comforter since it is the most familiar translation. Below are the New Testament texts concerning the Comforter.

JOHN 14:15-17: "
If you love me you will obey what I command. And I will ask the Father and He will give you another Comforter to be with you forever - the Spirit of Truth. 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."

JOHN 14:25, 26: "All this I have spoken while still with you. But the Comforter, the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you."

JOHN 15:26: "
When the Comforter comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father, he will testify about me."

JOHN 16:7,8: "
But I tell you the truth: It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Comforter will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. When he comes he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment...."

JOHN 16:13-15: "
But when he, the Spirit of Truth comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own, he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it know to you. All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will take from what is mine and make it known to you.".

Jesus spoke to his disciples about the Comforter and said that the Comforter was the Holy Spirit. However, some 600 years later, Muhammad claimed that the Scriptures of the Jews and Christians predicted that another prophet would arise and that he (Muhammad) was that prophet. To support Muhammad’s claim early Islamic writings state that Muhammad was the “Comforter.” Today, despite the evidence, many Muslims obstinately insist that Muhammad was the Comforter and labor to find material in the Scriptures to make Muhammad's words ring true – otherwise Muhammad would be revealed to be both a liar and false prophet. This article reviews and discusses the evidence that the Holy Spirit, not Muhammad, is the Comforter. It addresses some good questions poised by Muslims regarding the Comforter, and it critiques Muslim writings asserting that Muhammad is the Comforter".

Muhammad’s claim that the Bible foretold him is stated in the Qur’an, sura (chapter) 7:157:

to those that shall follow the apostle - the unlettered prophet, whom they shall find described in theTorah and the Gospel ..."

Thus, the Qur’an states that both the writings of the O.T. and N.T. foretell Muhammad.Additionally the Qur’an 61:6 states that Jesus foretold another apostle to come:

"And of Jesus the son of Mary, who said to the Israelites: 'I am sent forth to you from God to confirm the Torah already revealed, and to give news of an apostle that will come after me whose name is Ahmad'. Yet when he brought them clear signs, they said: 'This is plain sorcery.'"

In the Hadith collection of “Sahih Muslim,” vol 4, #5810, Muhammad is reported to have said that his name was also Ahmad. [3] Guillaume notes that, “The passage quoted is John 15:23ff. It is interesting to note that the citation comes from the Palestinian Syriac Lectionary and not from the ordinary Bible of the Syriac-speaking Churches. The most interesting word is that rendered “Comforter” which we find in the Palestinian Lectionary, but all other Syriac versions render “paraclete”, following the Greek. This word was well established in the Hebrew and Aramaic speaking world. The menahhemana in Syriac means the lifegiver and especially one who raises from the dead. Obviously such a meaning is out of place here and what is meant is one who consoles and comforts people for the loss of one dear to them. This is the meaning in the Talmud and Targum. It ought to be pointed out that by the omission of the words “that is written” before “in the law” quite another meaning is given to the prophecy. The natural rendering would be “the word that concerns the Namus must be fulfilled”.Guillaume is stating that the Ibn Ishaq quote is corrupted, i.e. inaccurate or tampered with. Ibn Ishaq recorded versions of history that he heard from sources he assumed to have some degree of reliability. However, they could have been mistaken or Ibn Ishaq could have altered the material to fit his understanding. Additionally, Ibn Ishaq often records conflicting versions of historical events. He would record historical information that he himself disagreed with, or doubted, in order to record plausible historic options. These claims, and a few others, lead Muslims to believe that Muhammad is the Comforter.


First, let the New Testament texts speak for themselves. They clearly state that the Comforter is the Holy Spirit. There is no ambiguity about this. Consequently Muhammad is not the Comforter based upon what the Bible explicitly states. Second let us take the context of the texts into account. If you are going to understand any passage of Scripture you must understand its context. When Jesus spoke these words in John it was His last ministerial time with His disciples prior to His death, crucifixion, and resurrection. Jesus is being very intimate with them. Understand then, when he speaks to them He is including them – these very disciples, specifically. These are the men He knew best and loved; they were His friends. These were His final words to them, and He wanted them to know what was in store. Therefore, knowing that these passages of John are being spoken intimately between Jesus and His disciples there are several key points we can discover concerning the Comforter and His relationship with Jesus’ disciples.

John 14:16 —
And I will ask the Father and He will give you another Comforter to be with you forever - the Spirit of Truth. The Comforter will be with these disciples forever. Jesus promised the Comforter would be with these disciples forever. Muhammad could not be the Comforter because he wasn't born until over 500 years later - following the deaths of these disciples. He was born around 570 and died around 632 AD.

John 14:17
But you know him for he lives with you and will be in you. The Comforter lives with the disciples already now and will later be 'in' them. The Holy Spirit came to the disciples and indwelt them. Muhammad could not be the Comforter because first he wasn't around at the time when Jesus was speaking to his disciples nor second could he ever be in any of the disciples. The Greek word is 'en', and it means 'right inside'. Jesus is saying that the Comforter will be 'right inside' of the disciples.

John 14:26 — The Comforter is specifically described as the Holy Spirit. The Comforter is not a man. Muhammad could not be the Comforter because he was never the Holy Spirit.

John 14:26 — The Comforter will be sent in Jesus' name. The Holy Spirit represented the Lord on earth. No Muslim believes that Muhammad was sent by God in Jesus name.Muhammad did not come in Jesus' name, as the apostle of Jesus, rather he came in his own name with his own questionable “revelations”.

John 14:26 — But the Comforter, the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you." The Comforter will teach these disciples and remind them of what Christ said to them. As the early Christians grew the Holy Spirit taught them. Muhammad is not the Comforter because he never knew the disciples and he didn't teach these disciples, and Muhammad never reminded the disciples of what Christ said.

John 15:26 — When the Comforter comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father, he will testify about me. The Comforter would be sent to these disciples. These disciples received the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost. Muhammad was never sent to these disciples.

John 16:13 — But when he, the Spirit of Truth comes, he will guide you into all truth. The Comforter will guide these disciples into all truth. These disciples (and others) grew in the knowledge of God through the revelations from the Holy Spirit. Muhammad never guided these disciples into any truth.

John 16:13 — He will not speak on his own, he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. The Comforter will speak to these disciples. These disciples grew to know the leading of the Holy Spirit, i.e. they knew His voice. Muhammad never spoke to these disciples.

John 16:14 — He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you. All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will take from what is mine and make it known to you. The Comforter will take from Jesus and make it known to the disciples.Muhammad never knew Jesus and never took from Jesus and made it known to anyone.

The context of these passages shows clearly that Muhammad could not be the Comforter. Jesus was not speaking of another person to come at a later date. Jesus’ precious final words to His disciples were meant for them. Jesus was not merely preaching a sermon to be analyzed and intellectually talked about through the centuries, rather, He was giving His the disciples with Him there His final commands, love, and encouragement. Here's a question for you to consider: In Islamic theology, Muhammad rendered Jesus’ message fulfilled or ended because Muhammad brought God’s latest message to the people. Muhammad expected that true believers in God would accept Islam. Therefore, if Jesus was foretelling Muhammad, wouldn’t Jesus be prophesying that his ministry will be rendered void by the Paraclete? Read the context of the passages and decide. Further, to fulfill exactly what Jesus foretold concerning the Comforter and His relationship with the disciples, the New Testament records the fulfillment of the coming of the Holy Spirit and the disciples receiving Him. The disciples received the Comforter - the Holy Spirit, on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2:3, 4. The Comforter was now “in” the disciples and He remained “in” them from then on and taught them — just as Jesus had said He would.

The writings of the early Church Fathers also mention the Comforter, or Paraclete. Below are some of their statements on His identity. These early Church Fathers lived during the first 3 centuries of Christianity.

Note: Quotes are taken from “The Ante-Nicene Fathers” edited by Rev. Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson, AGES Software, Albany, Oregon© 1996, 1997 [5]

Page 224 “What is His name, or what His Son’s name, that we may know?” And there is also one Paraclete. For “there is also,” saith [the Scripture], “one Spirit,” since “we have been called in one hope of our calling.” And again, “We have drunk of one Spirit,” with what follows. And it is manifest that all these gifts [possessed by believers] “worketh one and the self-same Spirit.” There are not then either three Fathers, or three Sons, or three Paracletes, but one Father, and one Son, and one Paraclete.

Page 1155 The old things which were done by the prophets and escape the observation of most, are now revealed to you by the evangelists. “For to you,” he says, “they are manifested by the Holy Ghost, who was sent;” that is the Paraclete, of whom the Lord said, “If I go not away, He will not come.


Page 1083
He will come to judge the quick and the dead; who sent also from heaven from the Father, according to His own promise, the Holy Ghost, the Paraclete, the sanctifier of the faith of those who believe in the Father, and in the Son, and in the Holy Ghost.

Page 1094
Happily the Lord Himself employs this expression of the person of the Paraclete, so as to signify not a division or severance, but a disposition (of mutual relations in the Godhead); for He says, “I will pray the Father, and He shall send you another Comforter ... even the Spirit of truth,”

It is time, then, that we say a few words to the best of our ability regarding the Holy Spirit, whom our Lord and Savior in the Gospel according to John has named the Paraclete.
We must therefore know that the Paraclete is the Holy Spirit, who teaches truths ...
But the Paraclete, who is called the Holy Spirit, ...
In the case of the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete ...

Above are the statements of 4 of the Ante-Nicene Church Fathers. They state that the Comforter is the Holy Spirit. From the time of Jesus through the history of the early church the early Christians believed that the Comforter was the Holy Spirit. There was no confusion or uncertainty on their part regarding the identity of the Comforter.

There exist some very good questions concerning the Comforter and these need to be answered. Also, there are some Muslim assertions that bear a closer examination. I will try to answer the questions, and assess the assertions.

Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad used to say 'you' to their followers but really it was a general expression for those who follow their teachings. For example, Jesus told his followers that they would see him coming back to the earth and all of them have since died. Couldn't Jesus have meant the disciples in general, specifically the future ones, when speaking about the Comforter?

ANSWER: Examine John chapters 13 through 17. This was the time when Christ was alone with His disciples. His actions and dialog with them were very personal. He washed their feet, predicted His betrayal, comforted them, foretold the coming of the "Comforter", taught them about 'abiding' in Him, foretold tribulation for them, and said a most intimate prayer (chapter 17) for them and Himself. If you review all of this, you will see that Jesus was not speaking in a general term of 'you', to the possible exclusion of these men, but at the very least He was speaking to those with Him His disciples. And later on they experienced what Jesus foretold — they “received” the Comforter. I encourage all Muslims to read John chapters 13 through 17. Be sincere in your reading, ask God to guide you. You will see that Jesus was speaking very dearly to His disciples.


QUESTION: The Greek word for spirit is 'pneuma'. It is of neutral gender and uses the pronoun "it". Whereas, in almost all the verses referring to Paraclete the pronoun used is "he". Does this imply that the Comforter be a human male?

ANSWER: The Greek word 'pneuma' is of neuter gender, but, the Greek pronoun for "it", "he" and "she" is the same word used for the 3rd person singular. The pronoun's gender is determined by the context. In most texts the pronoun used with the word “pneuma” is translated "HE" because the Holy Spirit is a personage not an 'it'. Simply because the Greek language uses a neuter noun for a word does not mean the word should translate into English using neuter pronouns. For example, the Greek word for "heaven" is masculine, but you would not translate a phrase into English "I am looking forward to heaven, he will be beautiful."


QUESTION: In 1 John 4:6, the terms "the spirit of truth" and "the spirit of error" are used for human beings. Does this imply that the Comforter, the Spirit of Truth, be a human?

ANSWER: This verse is not referring to human beings. Humans are humans, spirits are spirits. For example, refer to 1 Tim. 4:1 "The Spirit clearly says that in the later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons." There is a difference between spirits and humans. Note also, in this verse, the Spirit is speaking and teaching the disciples.


QUESTION: Since Jesus was a Comforter, shouldn't the foretold “another” Comforter also be a man? Wouldn’t Muhammad be a better fit because he also was a man, like Jesus?

ANSWER: The Holy Spirit is like Jesus. Not as in a physical body, but as in Nature. a) II Cor 3:17 states "Now the Lord is the Spirit... There is a relationship between the Spirit and the Lord, and both are said to dwell in the believer (see Romans 8:9-11). Galatians 2:20 says "...Christ lives in me...". Galatians 4:6,7 states "God has sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts.." Acts 16:6,7 states the Holy Spirit and the Spirit of Jesus are the same. Finally Jesus and Muhammad didn't have much in common, outside of physical characteristics. When it comes to character and actions, the two men were worlds apart. Muhammad murdered people, massacred people, tortured people, allowed female slaves to be raped, sent his men out to kill, steal, and enslave. Muhammad changed his laws when the situation changed As a result of Muhammad’s lack of moral integrity, the Islamic world today bears his fruit. Take a look at the world’s Islamic nations today. Most of them are near the bottom of the scale. They are plagued by poverty, oppression of women, denial of basic civil rights and freedoms, rent by civil war, killings in Islam’s name, and war with their neighbors. Don’t blame the people or “culture”, blame the religion that has shaped the culture. The world would have probably been a much better place had not Muhammad come along.


QUESTION: Could the term “Holy” in John in today's text have come from a later addition made quite deliberately.

ANSWER: There are hundreds of Greek manuscripts that pre-date Islam, and all of the earliest, most important Greek texts with this passage have “Holy” in them.


QUESTION: The Spirit was present on earth before Christ’s birth and people were filled with the Spirit (Elizabeth in Luke 1:41 and Zechariah in Luke 1:67), so, if the Holy Spirit were already present on Earth, even during Jesus time, then how could the Comforter be the Holy Spirit? Remember, Jesus said that He needed to depart before the Comforter could come.

ANSWER: The receiving of the Comforter by the disciples eclipsed the previous “filling” or “moving” others before them had experienced. The ministry of the Holy Spirit, i.e. the Comforter within and without these disciples would be taking on a deeper, more intimate function, and the disciples would continue to know their Lord Jesus through the Holy Spirit. The disciples were going to have the Holy Spirit bond with them: He was going to “dwell” with them, be “in” them, “live” in them. This was more than what previous people had experienced. Their experience would be a greater revealing to man of the Holy Spirit’s role, and they would continue to know and experience Jesus. The Expositor’s Bible Commentary states:

[6] 14:16-17
The Spirit’s function is to represent God to the believer as Jesus did in his incarnate state. “Another” (allon) means another of the same kind, not of a different kind. The concept of the Holy Spirit was not new, for the Spirit of God was the active agent in creation (Gen 1:2) and in remonstrating with men who were sinning against God (Gen 6:3). He called and empowered men to do unusual deeds Judges3:10; 13:24-25; 14:6, 19; 15:14) and to prophesy (Zech 7:12). John the Baptist had predicted that Jesus would baptize with the Holy Spirit (Matt 3:11; Mark 1:8; Luke 3:16; John 1:33). In his discussion of the new birth, Jesus had already spoken to Nicodemus of the work of the Holy Spirit (John 3:5). The ministry of the Spirit, however, would be directed primarily to the disciples. He would direct their decisions, counsel them continually, and remain with them forever. He would be invisible to all and un-apprehended by the world at large since the world would not recognize him. To use a modern metaphor, he would not operate on the world’s wavelength. His presence was already with the disciples insofar as they were under his influence. Later, he would indwell them, when Jesus himself had departed. This distinction marks the difference between the Old Testament experience of the Holy Spirit and the post-Pentecostal experience of the church. The individual indwelling of the Spirit is the specific privilege of the Christian believer (see John 7:39).

16:7 Jesus told the disciples that his separation from them was in their best interest. As long as he was with them in person, his work was localized; and it would be impossible to communicate with them equally at all times and in all places. The coming of the “Counselor” would equip them for a wider and more potent ministry.




He can come only when Jesus goes away (16:7). This appears to mean that the work of the Spirit in the believer is a consequence of the saving work of Christ and not something separate from it. The same truth may be implied in the statement that the Spirit is sent in the name of Jesus (14:26). It is only because Christ has died for us and put away our sin that the Holy Spirit can be found at work within our hearts. Because the receiving of the Comforter is really about the new birth, i.e. being born of the Spirit, then it was necessary for Christ to fulfill His mission, (His death and resurrection for the forgiveness of sins) in order for men to be cleansed from their sinful nature and become a new creation by receiving the Comforter.


Let us examine some Islamic writings from Muslim spokesmen found on their webpages or books concerning the Comforter. Let us test the logic, honesty, and soundness of their work.


Frequently various Muslims quote from Appendix 5 of the Anchor Bible, [8] written by Dr. Ray Brown, because they find a quote or two that seems to support their contention that the Comforter is a man. Because of the detailed nature of Brown’s work, most Muslims will not put forth the effort to actually comprehend what they read. For example, take a look at this webpage from Akbarally Meherally: [9]


Here are some quotes from the beginning of his article.

“This presentation should revolutionize the present day Christian concept for the coming of "PARACLETE" that was foretold by JESUS

Presentation is based upon exhaustive studies carried out by the reputable biblical scholars of our era and published in the famous ANCHOR BIBLE.” (see Meherally's INDEX page)

“Please read the following exhaustive study done by the biblical scholars of international and interfaith scope to know the real truth about this misunderstood personality of "The Paraclete" who was to come after Jesus. Was this Paraclete once regarded as an independent salvific male figure like Jesus and later confused with the Holy Spirit?” (near the beginning of the article)

His lead-in sounds exciting for a Muslim claim doesn’t it? Meherally implies that he has found some Christian scholarship that is going to “revolutionize” Christian thinking on the Holy Spirit, and point us toward the Comforter being a man, namely Muhammad.

If you examine Meherally’s presentation you find a number of the Anchor Bible pages scanned and posted. It is a very busy post, filled with underlining and shading. It certainly looks like Meherally was finding juicy bits of information to support his claim that Muhammad was the real Paraclete. Let us examine the Anchor Bible in detail and find out its true position on the identity of the Comforter.

In the beginning of Appendix 5 in the Anchor Bible, Vol 29A, Brown states exactly what he intends to do. Here is his opening paragraph.

The word Parakletos is peculiar in the NT to the Johannine literature (the writings of John in the New Testament). In 1 John ii 1 Jesus is a parakletos (not a title), serving as a heavenly intercessor with the Father. In five passages in John (xiv 15-17, 26; xv 26-27; xvi 7 – 11, 12-14) the title parakletos is given to someone who is not Jesus, nor an intercessor, nor in heaven. Christian tradition has identified this figure as the Holy Spirit, but scholars like Spitta, Delafosse, Windisch, Bultmann, and Betz have doubted whether this identification is true to the original picture and have suggested that the Paraclete was once an independent salvific figure, later confused with the Holy Spirit. To test this claim we shall begin by isolating under four headings the information that John gives in the Paraclete passages, keeping the resultant picture distinct from what is said in the NT about the Holy Spirit.”

Brown clear states that he is going to examine the Scriptures and background material and determine whether the liberal scholar’s claim of the “Paraclete” being a male person is valid. He is going to analyze the Comforter passages on their own merit and not fold in other Scriptures on the Holy Spirit from the New Testament. It is a long examination by Dr. Brown, and needs to be read slowly. If you try to read it too quickly, as we all do from time to time, you will miss important details.

Here are some of the key points that are established by Dr. Brown:

1) On page 1136: “Thus the basic functions of the Paraclete are twofold: he comes to the disciples and dwells within them, guiding and teaching them about Jesus; but he is hostile to the world and puts the world on trial.”
2) On page 1137: “The Paraclete is a witness in defense of Jesus and a spokesman for him in the context of his trial by his enemies; the Paraclete is a consoler of the disciples for he takes Jesus’ place among them; the Paraclete is a teacher and guide of the disciples and thus their helper.

3) On page 1139: “It is our contention that John presents the Paraclete as the Holy Spirit in a special role..

Appendix 5 of the Anchor Bible discusses the characteristics of the Comforter. It notes that several liberal 'scholars' thought that the Comforter could have been a man, not the Holy Spirit. Note that these scholars, like Bultmann, denied the miracles of Jesus. Even the Qur’an acknowledges Christ's miracles.

The Anchor Bible details who the Comforter is (the Holy Spirit), and what His ministry, or function is going to be (dwelling in the disciples and teaching them). In spite of Meherally’s efforts to show that the Anchor Bible supports the contention that the Comforter is a man, it is clear by reading the Anchor Bible that the Comforter is the Holy Spirit. Here are some quotes below.

1) Page 644 of vol 29A - "The OT theme of "God with us" (the Immanuel of Isa 7:14) is now to be realized in the Paraclete/Spirit who remains with the disciples forever.

2) Page 1136 - "Thus the basic functions of the Paraclete are twofold: he comes to the disciples and dwells within them, guiding and teaching them about Jesus; but he is hostile to the world and puts the world on trial."

3) Page 1137 - [this is where the Anchor Bible discredits Bultmann's theory that the Comforter is a man] "Earlier in this century the attempt of the History of Religious School, especially W. Bauer, Windisch, and Bultmann, to find the origins of the Paraclete in proto-Mandean Gnosticism enjoyed a certain vogue. Bultmann’s thesis is that the Paraclete is an adaptation of the Mandean Yawar.......Michaelis and Behm have subjected this theory to penetrating criticism, and it has few followers today.

4) Page 1139 - "It is our contention that John presents the Paraclete as the Holy Spirit in a special role, namely, as the personal presence of Jesus in the Christian while Jesus is with the Father."

5) Page 1140 - "Nevertheless, we would stress that the identification of the Paraclete as the Holy Spirit in 14:26 is not an editorial mistake, for the similarities between the Paraclete and the Spirit are found in all the Paraclete passages."

6) Page 1141 - "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 fulfilled in the Paraclete."

Goes on on Part II



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