The Spirit/Paraclete in the Johannine Literature by Felix Just, S.J., Ph.D.
The ancient Greek word πνεῦμα (pneuma) has a variety of meanings: air, wind, breath, spirit. The English adjective "pneumatic" and other words derived from πνεῦμα all have something do with "air" or "spirit" or "lungs": pneumatic drills/pumps/tools (operated by air pressure); pneumatic tires (filled with air); pneumonia (a disease of the lungs); pneumatology (the study of spiritual beings or phenomena).
spirit, breath, wind
πνεῦμα τῆς ἀληθείας
Spirit of Truth
to call to one's side;
to comfort, console
A) In the New Testament, pneuma can refer to many different things:
Something divine: the Spirit of (our) God, Spirit of the Living God,
Spirit of the Lord, Spirit of your Father, Spirit of Him who raised Jesus
from the dead; the Spirit of His Son, Spirit of Jesus, Spirit of Christ, Spirit
of Jesus Christ; the Holy Spirit, Holy Spirit of God, Spirit that is from
God, Spirit of Truth, eternal Spirit; seven spirits of God (Rev).
Something demonic: evil spirit, unclean spirit, demonic spirit, foul
spirit, spirit of an unclean demon, spirit of cowardice, spirit of divination,
spirit of error, spirit of slavery, spirit of the antichrist, spirit of the
world, sluggish spirit.
Something human, but coming from God: spirit of adoption, spirit
of faith, spirit of gentleness, spirit of glory, spirit of grace, spirit of
holiness, spirit of life, spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline,
spirit of prophecy, spirit of wisdom and revelation, spirit of your minds,
spirits of the prophets, spirits of the righteous, spirit of Elijah.
Something in nature: air, wind, breath.
B) The Gospel and Letters of John have some interesting and significant
usages of the Greek word pneuma:
Pneuma can refer to "wind" (3:8), the animating force of
human life (3:6); Jesus' own life force (11:33; 13:21; 19:30), something Jesus
gives the disciples (20:22), and/or something that comes from God (1:32-33;
The phrase "Holy Spirit" is rarely used in John (only 3x), in
contrast to its frequent use in Luke and Acts.
Yet the phrase "Spirit of Truth" appears only in John (14:17;
15:26; 16:13) and 1 John (4:6), nowhere else in the NT.
In the Fourth Gospel, the "Holy Spirit" is present near the beginning
(Jesus' baptism; 1:32-33), the middle (the Last Supper discourse; 14:26),
and the end (the first appearance of the resurrected Jesus; 20:22).
It might seem curious that the Spirit is not mentioned already in the Prologue;
yet the "Logos" in John 1:1-5 has much the same role as the "Spirit"
in the creation accounts of Gen 1–2.
C) John gives the Holy Spirit an unusual but highly significant title, namely
The Greek verb παρακαλέω (parakaleo -
"to call to one's side") occurs often in the NT, esp. the letters
But the derived noun παράκλητος (parakletos) occurs only in the Gospel and First Epistle of John.
Outside of the NT, parakaleo and parakletos are used mostly
in juridical/courtroom contexts.
The Holy Spirit is "another Advocate" (14:16), implying that Jesus
himself was the first "Advocate " (cf. 1 John 2:1).
Thus, the Paraclete does many of the same things that Jesus said and did.
D) The Spirit/Paraclete has several different roles or functions according
to John's Gospel:
As a companion, to be with the disciples "forever," after Jesus
is gone (14:16-18; cf. 1 John 3:24; 4:13)
As a teacher, who will "remind" the disciples of Jesus' own words
and teachings (14:26)
As a legal witness, who will give "testimony" to the disciples
and the world about Jesus (15:26)
As a judge, who will "convict" (or "convince"?) the
world "about sin and righteousness and judgment" (16:8-11)
As a revealer, who will "guide" the disciples to the "truth"
about God and Jesus (16:13-15; cf. 1 John 5:6-8)
E) Yet the relation of the Spirit/Paraclete to God and to Jesus is complex.
One could ask:
Is the Paraclete sent by the Father (14:16, 26) or by Jesus himself (15:26;
Why can the world not "receive" the Spirit/Paraclete (14:17)?
Why can the Spirit/Paraclete not be sent until after Jesus' departure (16:7)?
What is the relationship between the Holy Spirit and the forgiveness of
F) Texts with "Spirit" and/or "Paraclete/Advocate"
in the GOSPEL of John (NRSV translation)
1:32-34 – And John (the Baptizer) testified, "I saw the Spirit
descending from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. / I myself did
not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water said to me, 'He
on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain is the one who baptizes
with the Holy Spirit.' / And I myself have seen and have testified
that this is the Son of God."
3:5-8 – Jesus answered (Nicodemus), "Very truly, I tell you, no one can
enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. /
What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit
is spirit. / Do not be astonished that I said to you, 'You must be
born from above.' / The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the
sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So
it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit."
3:31-34 – "The one who comes from above is above all; the one who is of the
earth belongs to the earth and speaks about earthly things. The one who comes
from heaven is above all. / He testifies to what he has seen and heard, yet
no one accepts his testimony. / Whoever has accepted his testimony has certified
this, that God is true. / He whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for
he gives the Spirit without measure."
4:21-24 – Jesus said to her (the Samaritan), "Woman, believe me, the
hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor
in Jerusalem. / You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know,
for salvation is from the Jews. / But the hour is coming, and is now here,
when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth,
for the Father seeks such as these to worship him. / God is spirit, and those
who worship him must worship in spirit and truth."
6:61-63 (at the end of the Bread of Life discourse) – But Jesus, being aware that his
disciples were complaining about it, said to them, "Does this offend
you? / Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was
before? / It is the spirit that gives life; the flesh is useless. The
words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life."
7:37-39 (in Jerusalem) – On the last day of the festival, the great day, while
Jesus was standing there, he cried out, "Let anyone who is thirsty come
to me, / and let the one who believes in me drink. As the scripture has said,
'Out of the believer's heart shall flow rivers of living water.'" / Now
he said this about the Spirit, which believers in him were to receive;
for as yet there was no Spirit, because Jesus was not yet glorified.
11:33 – When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping,
he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved.
13:21 (after the foot washing) – After saying this Jesus was troubled in spirit,
and declared, "Very truly, I tell you, one of you will betray me."
14:14-17 – "If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it.
/ If you love me, you will keep my commandments. / And I will ask the Father,
and he will give youanother ADVOCATE, to be with you forever.
/ This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because
it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you,
and he will be in you."
14:25-26 – "I have said these things to you while I am still with
you. / But the ADVOCATE, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will
send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have
said to you."
15:26-27 – "When the ADVOCATE comes, whom I will send to
you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who comes from the Father,
he will testify on my behalf. / You also are to testify because you have been
with me from the beginning."
16:7 – "Nevertheless I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the ADVOCATE will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you."
16:12-15 – "I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear
them now. / When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into
all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he
hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. / He will glorify
me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you. / All that the
Father has is mine. For this reason I said that he will take what is mine
and declare it to you.
19:30 – When Jesus had received the wine, he said, "It is finished."
Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
20:21-23 – Jesus said to them again, "Peace be with you. As the Father
has sent me, so I send you." / When he had said this, he breathed on
them and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit. / If you forgive
the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain [the sins of] any, they
G) Texts with "Spirit" and/or "Paraclete/Advocate"
in the FIRST EPISTLE of John (NRSV translation):
2:1-2 – My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may
not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an ADVOCATE with the Father,
Jesus Christ the righteous; / and he is the atoning sacrifice for our
sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.
3:24 – All who obey his commandments abide in him, and he abides in them.
And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit that he has
4:1-3 – Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits
to see whether they are from God; for many false prophets have gone out into
the world. / By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit
that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, /
and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God.
And this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that
it is coming; and now it is already in the world.
4:6 – We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us, and whoever is not
from God does not listen to us. From this we know the spirit of truth
and the spirit of error.
4:12-13 – No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us,
and his love is perfected in us. / By this we know that we abide in him and
he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit.
5:6-8 – This is the one who came by water and blood, Jesus Christ, not with
the water only but with the water and the blood. And the Spirit is
the one that testifies, for the Spirit is the truth. / There are three
that testify: / the Spirit and the water and the blood, and these three