Oct 26, 2009, 3:06 PM
It takes place at the end of the last Supper and before Jesus arrest. It ends in a very long speech: four chapters in John’s Gospels (14 to 17) are devoted to this narration which is not mentioned anywhere in the other Gospels. These chapters of John nevertheless deal with questions of prime importance and fundamental significance to the future outlook. They are set out with all the grandeur and solemnity that characterizes the farewell scene between the Master and His disciples. “This very touching farewell scene which contains Jesus’s spiritual testament is entirely absent from Mathew, Mark and Luke. How can the absence of this description be explained? One might ask the following: did the text initially exist in the first three Gospels? Was it subsequently suppressed? Why? It must be state immediately that no answer can be found; the mystery surrounding this huge gap in the narrations of the first three evangelists remains as obscure as ever.
“The dominating feature of this narration seen in the crowning speech is the view of man’s future that Jesus describes, His care in addressing His disciples and through them the whole of humanity, His recommendations and commandments and His concern to specify the guide whom man must follow after His departure. The text of John’s Gospel is the only one to designate him as parakletos in Greek which in English has become Paraclete. The following are the essential passages:
“If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will pray the father, and he will give you another Paraclete.” (14,15-16)
“What does Paraclete mean? The present text of John’s Gospel explains its meaning as follow: “But the Paraclete, 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.” (14,26). “……he will bear witness to me…..” (15,26). “It is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Paraclete will not come to you; but if I go I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will convince the world of sin and of righteousness and of judgment….” (16, 7-8). “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me…” (16, 13-14).“(It must be noted that the passages in John, chapters 14-17, which have not been cited here, in no way alter the general meaning of these quotations). On a cursory reading the text which identifies the Greek work ‘Paraclete’ with the Holy Spirit is unlikely to attract much attention. This is especially true when the subtitles of the text are generally used for translations and the terminology commentators employ in works for mass publication direct the reader towards the meaning in these passages that an exemplary orthodoxy would like them to have. Should one have the slightest difficulty in comprehension, there are many explanations available such as those given by A. Tricot in his Little Dictionary of the New Testament (petit Dictionnaire du Nouveau Testament) to enlighten one on this subject. In his entry on the Paraclete this commentator writes the following:
“This name or title translated from the Greek is only used in the New Testament by John: he uses it four times in his account of Jesus’s speech after the Last Supper (14,16 and 26; 15,26; 16,7 ) and once in his First Letter (2, 1). In John’s Gospel the word is applied to the Holy Spirit; in the Letter it refers to Christ. “Paraclete” was a term in current usage among the Hellenist Jews, First century A.D, meaning “intercessor,” “defender” (…..) Jesus predicts that the Spirit will be sent by the Father and Son. Its mission will be to take the place of the Son in the role he played during his mortal life as a helper for the benefit of his disciples. The Spirit will intervene and act as a substitute for Christ, adopting the role of Paraclete or omnipotent intercessor. “This commentary therefore makes the Holy Spirit into the ultimate guide of man after Jesus’s departure. How does it square with John‘s text? “It is a necessary question because a priori it seems strange to ascribe the last paragraph quoted above to the Holy Spirit: ‘for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.’
It seems inconceivable that one could ascribe to the Holy Spirit the ability to speak and declare whatever he hears. Logic demands that this question be raised, but to my knowledge, it is not usually the subject of commentaries. “To gain an exact idea of the problem, one has to go back to the basic Greek text. This is especially important because John is universally recognized to have written in Greek instead of another language. The Greek text consulted was the Novum Testamentum Graece. “Any serious textual criticism begins with a search for variations. Here it would seem that in all the known manuscripts of John’s Gospel, the only variation likely to change the meaning of the sentence is in passage 14, 26 of the famous Palimpsest version written in Syriac. Here it is not the Holy Spirit that is mentioned, but quite simply the Spirit. Did the scribe merely miss out a word or, knowing full well that the text he was to copy claimed to make the Holy Spirit hear and speak, did he perhaps lack the audacity to write something that seemed absurd to him? Apart from this observation there is little need to labour the other variations, they are grammatical and do not change the general meaning. The important thing is that what has been demonstrated here with regard to the exact meaning of the verbs ‘to hear’ and ‘to speak’ should apply to all the other manuscripts of John’s Gospel, as is indeed the case.
The verb ‘to speak’ in the translation is the Greek verb ‘laleo’ which has the general meaning of ‘to emit sounds’ and the specific meaning of ‘to speak’. This verb occurs very frequently in the Greek text of the Gospels. It designates a solemn declaration made by Jesus during His preaching. It therefore becomes clear that the communication to man which He here proclaims does not in any way consist of a statement inspired by the agency of the Holy Spirit. It has a very obvious material character moreover, which comes from the idea of the emission of sounds conveyed by the Greek word that defines it. “The two Greek verbs ‘akouo’ and ‘laleo’ therefore define concrete actions which can only be applied to a being with hearing and speech organs. It is consequently impossible to apply them to the Holy Spirit.
To be continued