The Spirit-Paraclete in the testament of Jesus according to Saint John's Gospel

Revi John Mathews, Fordham University


A unique feature of the Fourth Gospel is its designation of the Holy Spirit as the Paraclete in the farewell discourses (14:1-31; 15:1-16a; 16:4b-33). The need for a fresh investigation into the derivation of this title and his functions is necessitated by the shortcomings of the previous studies; they have either espoused a single source approach (such as History of Religions, Judaism, Hellenism and Dead Sea Scrolls) or failed to interpret the Paraclete from a literary-critical point of view. To this must be added the insights of sociological analysis of the Johannine community's evolution which have established the community's sectarian consciousness as a necessary factor in interpreting the Spirit-Paraclete. As established in these sociological studies the Johannine evolved through three main stages: (a) the initial period where the community developed its own identity based on its christology, (b) the second phase when it separated from Judaism and established itself as a separate community, and (c) relocation to the Diaspora and eventual disintegration. A comparison of these phases with a theoretical paradigm of a sect's development indicates that the Johannine community bears all the distinguishing marks of a sect. This point can be well documented by an analysis of the farewell discourses, and especially their evolving presentation of the Paraclete (14:16-17; 26;15:26-27; 16:7-15). Thus, the first discourse focuses on the community's insecurity engendered by the impending departure of their Master and how the Paraclete would be with them as a guarantee of Jesus' continued presence and guidance in the future, a fact realized in the community's reinterpretation of his revelatory word through Spirit-inspired prophets. The second discourse presents the community in an embattled situation with Judaism, with the functions of the Paraclete devoted to the witness of the community to Jesus and to maintaining the group's unity in the face of a decided downgrading of the salvific importance of the historical Jesus. The final discourse reveals the community faced with its missionary mandate to continue Jesus' revelation and the Paraclete's participation in bringing the world to acknowledge Jesus as the Father's chosen emissary. It also reveals that the community is on the verge of disintegration as a result of the intransigence of the Christian prophets. Despite the community's sectarian approach, the Paraclete's tempering of its perspective is what accounts for the universal and enduring appeal of the Fourth Gospel.

Subject Area


Recommended Citation

Mathews, Revi John, "The Spirit-Paraclete in the testament of Jesus according to Saint John's Gospel" (1993). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI9313766.