A hymn by Mrs Emma C. Holmes entitled "The Comforter Has Come"
was composed for the American Bahā'ī Convention of 1911. Mountfort Mills
(d. 1949, later the first chairman of the National Spiritual Assembly
of the Bahā'īs of America and Canada) sang it to the assembled
congregation (SW III/4:3). 1 It is a hymn celebrating the realization of
promises contained in the Gospel of John about the coming of Bahā’-Allāh
as the Paraclete (Greek, paraclētos) or "Comforter" according to the
Authorized (King James; 1611) and Revised (1885) Versions of the Bible.
Having said this it should not be thought that my purpose is to initiate
nostalgic hymn singing -- noble though this might be! Rather, I wish to
introduce my theme; namely, some aspects of the exegetical history of
those sayings ascribed to Jesus which make mention of the advent of the
Paraclete. I intend to set forth a few Christian, Muslim, Bābī and
Bahā'ī interpretations relating (directly or indirectly) to promises
found in the Johannine `Farewell Discourse' (of Jesus; Jn 13:31ff) where
mention is made of the coming Paraclete. It will, I hope, be
illustrated, that variants of the abovementioned hymn could have been
"sung" in various "keys" by mainstream or heterodox members of major
Abrahamic and related religions (i.e. Christianity and Islam, cf.
Manichaeism). Interpretations of the paraclete sayings are central to
Bahā’-Allāh's claims. They have an important place in the Bahā'ī
interpretation of the New Testament.
The Johannine Paraclete
(paraclētos): translation and Christian interpretation
The Gospel of John records that Jesus referred to the Paraclete four
times. Without citing the paraclete passages in full here (see Appendix
One), it will be relevant to note the following words,
"And I [Jesus] will pray the Father, and he will give you
another Paraclete, to be with you for ever, even the Spirit of truth (Jn
14:16f) . . . But the Paraclete, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will
send in my name, he will teach you all things (Jn 14:26). . But when the
Paraclete comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, even the
Spirit of Truth ( Jn 15:26) . . . it is to your advantage that I [Jesus]
go away, for if I do not go away, the Paraclete will not come unto
you.." ( 2 =Jn 16:7) (trans. Revised Standard Version [adapted] see Appendix
The paraclete sayings of Jesus have, in one way or another,
generated a wide range of interpretations which cannot all be registered
here. Only a few points of translation and interpretation, largely
relating to their personalized, messianic significance within various
post-Christian religions, will be set forth. It will be clear that to
some religious groups the coming of the Paraclete figure was a messianic
event which fulfilled an aspect of the paraclete promises about Jesus'
successor. Such, in varying ways, was the case within certain early
streams of Christianity, Islam and the Bābī and Bahā'ī religions.
The English loan-word Paraclete is a transliteration, via the Latin (Paracletus,
so the Vulgate of Jerome d. 420 CE) of the Greek paraclētos. 3
extended active sense of this Greek word is most likely present in the Johannine paraclete texts (cf. 1 Jn 2:1). 4 As depicted in the Fourth
Gospel the multi-faceted Paraclete has a range of functions; including
(directly or indirectly) `instructing/ teaching', `reminding',
`witnessing', `exhorting', `strengthening', `helping' and `comforting/
consoling'. It has become clear that no single translation could
adequately sum up all dimensions of the role of the Johannine Paraclete.
There is no single, wholly adequate English translation of paraclētos.
Searches for the historical background and origin of the title Paraclete
have been largely unsuccessful. They have not served to settle the
translation problems (cf. Smith, `Paraclete' IDBS; EDNT 3:29; Casurella,
Finding the active sense of "consoling / comforting" (Greek
parakalein/ parakaleo, "to console / comfort") reflected in the Fourth
Gospel's use of paraclētos, many Greek Church Fathers presuppose that
the Johannine Paraclete is basically a "Comforter" or "Consoler". Cyril
of Jerusalem (c. 313-86 CE) for example, reckoned that, "He is called
Paraklātos because he comforts (parakalei) and consoles and helps our
infirmity" (Cat., Or. xvi. 20 cited DB2, 183; see also Bernard, John
II:497). This translation was also deemed appropriate inasmuch as the
general aim of Jesus in the `Farewell Discourse' was thought to be to
"comfort" the disciples as he leaves them (see Behm, TDNT V:805).
The English translation "Comforter" apparently goes back to the
Yorkshire born English reformer and Oxford scholar John Wycliffe
(1325-1384) who initiated a translation of the Bible into English. The
translation "Comforter", as noted, was used in the highly influential
Authorized Version (=KJV) of 1611 and the American Standard Version
of 1901. In modern English translations of the New Testament other
renderings usually replace "Comforter" (see though The Living Bible,
1971) for the comforting role is largely indirect or thought to be
relatively minor "in the Paraclete's activities" (Lindars, 1972:479; cf.
Behm TDNT V:804 where the translation "Comforter" is rejected). From
the early Christian centuries however, words synonymous with "Comforter"
in a variety of languages, have translated the Greek.
The Egyptian exegete Origen (185-254) understood paraclētos
in John's Gospel to mean "consoler" (= "comforter"). In his First
Principles he (+ ? the translator Tyrannius Rufinus d. 410) wrote, " .Ṭhe
Paraclete , who is also called the Holy Spirit, is so called from his
work of consolation (paraclesis being termed in Latin consolatio);
for anyone who has been deemed worthy to partake of the Holy Spirit,
when he has learned his unspeakable mysteries, undoubtedly obtains
consolation and gladness of heart." (De prin. II vii.4 trans.
Butterworth, 119). He understood Paraclete to have two basic senses in
Greek; "intercessor" when applied to Jesus (see 1 John 2:1) and
"comforter" when applied to the Holy Spirit (see further, Casurella,
3ff): "When used of the Holy Spirit.. the word `paraclete' must be
understood as `comforter', because he provides comfort for the souls to
whom he opens and reveals a consciousness of spiritual knowledge." (De
prin. II. vii.4; trans. Butterworth, 119).
The Revised Standard Version (1952) has "Counsellor" (where KJV +
Revised Versions has "Comforter") in the four paraclete sayings. It was
thought to be equally appropriate to all five New Testament occurrences.
Lindars reckoned that to translate paraclētos by "Counsellor" can be
defended on the basis of the equal applicability of this title to both
the Johannine Jesus and the Johannine Spirit; "..it was obviously
necessary to find a word which, while being capable of being applied to
both, was not exclusively associated with either." (ibid). "Counsellor"
is also four times used in the paraclete sayings as rendered in the New
International Version (1978). The use of this single translation is
quite widely considered too simplistic.
The Latin Fathers Tertullian (d.220 CE) and Cyprian of
Carthage (d. c. 258 CE) as well as Augustine of Hippo (d. 430 CE) and
others, often rendered paraclētos as Advocatus ("Advocate" ; cf. EDNMT
3:28). This rendering, indicating `one called in to give help and
advice', has been much favoured (see Bernard, II:496). The New English
Bible (New Testament, 1961; revised edition 1989) and the Catholic
Jerusalem Bible (Eng. trans, 1966) for example, consistently translate
paraclētos as "Advocate" as does the New Revised Standard Version
(1989; with the alternative "Helper" footnoted). Many however, have
also found this translation too limited (e.g. Lindars, 1972:478). The
revised New Jerusalem Bible (1986) straightforwardly uses the
transliteration Paraclete and this is undoubtedly the most
Another suggested translation of paraclētos has been "Helper" which
closely accords with Greek usage. Such was the favoured rendering of the
Scottish New Testament scholar James Moffatt (1870-1944) who produced a
colloquial translation of the New Testament in 1913. Partly on the basis
of Mandaean texts where the figure Yawar ("the Helper" ?? a debateable
rendering) is important, Rudolph Bultmann (1884-1976) gave weight to
this rendering of paraclētos. (Bultmann, 1971:570f). For reasons other
than those proposed by him, it is quite widely looked upon favourably by
modern Biblical scholars (i.e. Behm, TDNT V:814; Braumann, 1986:89; cf.
though R. Brown, 1971:1136). It is the translation of the Johannine
paraclētos found, for example, in the New American Standard Bible
(1960), the New King James Version (= Revised Authorized Version,
1980/82) and the New Century Bible (1987).
The Spirit, the Messiah, and the
personification of the Paraclete
The paraclete sayings in John's Gospel presuppose an intimate
relationship between the Paraclete and the Holy Spirit (see especially
Jn 14:26). The Paraclete is three times identified with "the Spirit of
Truth" (to pneuma tes alātheias; 14:17; 15:26; 16:13). From the early
Christian centuries through the Patristic era and beyond, many
Christians have reckoned the Paraclete figure a divine personification
of the Holy Spirit. This was standard among the Fathers (Casurella,
1983:43). Most Christian interpretations, whether ancient or modern, are
on these lines. Modern New Testament scholars sometimes conflate the
Paraclete and the Holy Spirit by speaking of the Spirit-Paraclete (e.g.
in Johnston, 1970).
As the messianic understanding of the Paraclete presupposes a more or
less complete personification, it will be convenient at this point to
register a few passages in which this is highlighted. G. W. H. Lampe in
his article `Paraclete' (IBD 3:634) writes,
"In the Fourth Gospel, Jesus promises that in an¬swer to his prayer
the Father will give his disciples "another paraclete".. This is the
Holy Spirit, whose function is thus said, by implication, to be
identical with that of Christ, but who is yet distinguished from him.
The use of masculine pronouns and adjectives (John 14: 16: "another";
14:26: "he"; 16:13: "he") shows that the Spirit is regarded as fully
personal; indeed, the "paraclete" passages of the Fourth Gospel mark the
most highly developed thought in the NT in respect of the personality of
the Spirit of God... He is the Spirit of truth (John 14: 16 17), who is
the guide to Christ, who is himself the truth (vs. 6). As the revealer
of Christ he takes the place of the physical presence of the incarnate
Word, and is in this sense "another paraclete" (vs. 16), be¬ing present
at the side of Christ's followers..."
On similar lines are the remarks of Quispel,
"... John clearly regards the Holy Spirit as a person or at least
as a hypostatic being with personal characteristics, distinct from
Christ (not his force or spirit or function in the world). The
author [of John 14f] is so convinced of this personal being that he
uses the Greek masculine pronoun ekeinos with the neuter
substantive to pneuma tās alātheias (14:26, 17). This is not always
the case in the New Testament, even in the Gospel of John: "He
breathed on them, saying: Receive the Holy Spirit" (20:22).."
Within orthodox Christendom the person of the "other Paraclete" (Gk.
allos paracleton, Jn 14:16) remained within the substance of the
Trinity. Various paraclete passages were read as evidence of the
distinction of persons within the Godhead. From the Patristic era
(despite John 20:22) the pentecostal effusion of the Holy Spirit
narrated in Acts 2 came to be widely viewed as the historical fulfilment
of the paraclete promises (see Casurella, 140). The expected Paraclete
was, for most Christians, the post-Easter gift of the Holy Spirit.
Neither the description of the Paraclete as "another Paraclete" (Jn
14:16) nor his strong personification and role of completing the
revelation begun by the historical Jesus (see esp. Jn 14:26; 16:12f),
have led the generality of Christians to expect another human or
messianic manifestation of the Paraclete. Such an understanding of the
Spirit-Paraclete was not however, wholly unknown in the early Christian
centuries. The possibility of Paracletehood was early on utilized by
Christian schismatics and later used to support the reality of
continuing prophethood. The sometimes masculine personification of the
Paraclete doubtless sometimes confirmed this perspective.
Simon Magus (1st cent.
CE), a contemporary of the apostles of Jesus, may have claimed to be the
Paraclete (Casurella, 16 fn.12). St. Paul was apparently reckoned the
"other Paraclete" of John 14:16 by certain followers of the
excommunicate heretical theologian Marcion of Pontus (d.180 CE; refer
Origen, `Homily on Luke' 25; Casurella, 16 fn2). In the late 150s CE
the Christian Montanus claimed to be a prophet in Phrygia; "claimed to
be the mouthpiece of the Holy Spirit and that the Paraclete promised in
John 14, 26; 16,7 was incarnate in him." (Aland, EEC 1: Montanus.. ; cf.
Christian trinitarian orthodoxy eventually outruled claims to
Paracletehood. In his The Johannine Paraclete in the Church Fathers..
Casurella notes the eventual absence of Christian claimants to
"Early heresies seem to have identified the Paraclete with
various human individuals ... After the work of Or[igen] in the
East and Tert[ullian] and Nov[atian, 3rd cent. CE] in the West
this does not appear ever to have been done by Christian writers
in any serious way again. The person and nature of the Spirit
were to come into question, but that he and the Paraclete are
one and the same seems to have been universally agreed." (p.23
While claims to Paracletehood faded out in Christendom, Mānī
(216-c. 277? CE), the son of a Parthian prince and founder of
Manichaeism (a gnostic type movement drawing upon Judaeo-Christian and
Indo-Iranian doctrines) proclaimed himself the Paraclete promised by
Christ (Widengren, 1965:77). According to his own testimony as reflected
in the Coptic `Kephalaia (`Chief Sections') of the Teacher', his Divine
Twin Self (Syzygos), the Living Paraclete "came down", spoke to him and
disclosed "all that has been and all that will be [cf. Jn 14:26 and
16:13]" (cited ibid, 27 cf. Rudolph, 1987:329). Viewed by his followers
as an Apostle of Light and Salvation with a universal mission as an
incarnation of the Paraclete, Mānā and his movement came to be attacked
by certain of the Church Fathers. A number of them attempted to
counter Montanist and Manichaean claims by asserting that manifestations
of the paraclete cannot post-date the apostolic period when the
paraclete promises were fulfilled at Pentecost (Casurella, 89+ fn
45f). It has been proposed by a number of western scholars and
missionaries that the belief that Muhammad was the Paraclete (see below)
has Manichaean roots. Others relate this to Qur'ān 61:6 which may even
presuppose a continuing (Syriac speaking Monophysite?) Christian
expectation of the Paraclete? (cf. Robinson, 1991:197 fn.27).
Aḥmad in Qur'ān 61:6 and the Paraclete
The Qur'ān is believed to be the record of revelations received
between c. 610 and 632 CE by the Arabian prophet Muhammad (c.570-632
CE). In the Qur'ānic sūra of `The Heights' (al-A`rāf), reference is
made to "The Prophet [Muhammad] of the common folk, whom they find
written down with them in the Torah and the Gospel.." (Q.7:157 tr.
Arberry 161). Many Muslims have rejected the existing Bible as a
corruption of the original divine revelations to Moses (the pristine
Torah) and Jesus (the true Gospel, injīl). On the basis of various
Qur'ānic texts however, some Muslims have singled out existing Biblical
texts -- viewed as pure remnants of the true, original and uncorrupted
Bible -- including versions of the paraclete sayings, as prophetic of
the rise of Muhammad and the coming of Islam. Important in this respect
is the following verse in the Meccan sāra of `The Rank[s]' (al-ṣaff)
where Jesus is said to have predicted the coming of his successor named
"And when Jesus son of Mary, said, `Children of Israel, I am
indeed the Messenger of God to you, confirming the Torah that is
before me, and giving good tidings of a Messenger who shall come
after me, whose name shall be Aḥmad (ismuhu Aḥmadu; or, `whose
name is more worthy of praise')". (Q. 61:6; trans. Arberry,
While the proper name Muhammad means "more worthy of praise" or
"often praised," the name Aḥmad, means "most praiseworthy". Though
there is no exact, clear or obvious canonical Gospel reference to a
messiah with this name (or equivalent; see Schacht, Aḥmad; Parrinder,
1982:98f), most Qur'ān commentators equate the `one with praiseworthy
name', the Aḥmad mentioned in Qur'ān 61:6, with the Prophet Muhammad.
Numerous traditions (aḥadīth) ascribed to the Prophet and Twelver
Imams, reckon Muhammad one "named" or entitled Aḥmad. The following are
a few select examples:
"My name in the Qur'ān is Muhammad and in the Gospel[s] (injīl)
Aḥmad. And in the Torah it is Aḥyad ["the Shunner"]; I am called
Aḥyad because I shun "hell fire" more than any of my people.." (Ibn
`Abbas, cited HDI:387, [translation adapted]).
"I heard the Messenger of God say: `Unto me are alotted
various names. I am Aḥmad and I am Muhammad. I am the
Obliterator (al Māḥi) through whom God wipes out infidelity. I
am the Gatherer (al-ḥashr) before whom the people will be
gathered. And I am the Finality (al-`āqib) after whom there
will be no prophet." (Bukhārī [& Muslim]; as cited Ṭabarsī,
Majma`, 5:280; cf. Parrinder, 1982:98).
"When He raised up the Messiaḥ.. he [Jesus] said, `A prophet
shall come after me whose name shall be Aḥmad [Q. 61:6] -- upon
him and his family be peace. Of the progeny of Ishmael shall he
come in confirmation of me and in confirmation of thee. And he
shall forgive me just as he shall forgive thee.'" (Imām Ja`far
al-Ṣādiq cited Kāshānī, Tafsīr al-ṣafī, 5:169; cf. Jn 16:7f;
Such traditions led, in the light of Qur'ān 61:6, to the widespread
belief, that Ahmad was the Prophet's name in the Torah and the Gospel.
This was expressed in many different ways. In, for example, the first
book of his poetical masterpiece, the Mathnawī, Jalāl al-Dīn Rūmī
(1207-73 CE) states that "some Christians of old used to kiss the name
Ahmad in the Gospel and were saved from persecution thanks to the
blessing power of that name." (Schimmel, 1985:108).
Neither the (transliterated) word nor the concept of the Paraclete
occur directly in the Arabic Qur'ān; though it is not impossible that
Qur'ān 61:6 itself reflects Muhammad's own claim to Paracletehood. The
application of the paraclete promises to Muhammad was largely borne out
of the Muslim exegesis of this verse for apologetic purposes. Muslim
apologists came to argue that one named Aḥmad (loosely = Muhammad) was
the fulfilment of (sometimes rewritten versions of) the paraclete
promises. As will be seen, Shī`ī messianic and other doctrines came to
be related to a continuing Paracletehood.
Various modern western Islamicists have proposed that
Qur'ān 61:6 did not originally allude to the paraclete promises or
indicate a messiah figure with the personal name Aḥmad. It appears to
have taken a century or more for Muslims -- probably Christian converts
to Islam -- to have linked paraclete promises to Muhammad (sometimes via
his "name" Aḥmad; see Montgomery Watt, 1990:46). Subsequently, the name
Aḥmad came to be widely viewed an Arabic translation of the Greek
paraclētos ("Paraclete"). In this way the Prophet Muhammad was, by
virtue of his name Aḥmad (loosely = Muhammad), believed to be mentioned
in the Bible -- primarily the Gospel of John but in some Islamic
sources the Torah and Psalms also.
The lack of perfect correspondence between the Arabic proper name
Aḥmad ("the most praiseworthy") and the Greek paraclētos (traditionally
"Comforter", etc) has led many modern Muslims to accept an ingenious
alternative reading based upon a revowelling of the six Greek consonants
of paraclētos i.e. PRKLTS -- note that Syriac and Arabic (and other
Semitic) texts are often written without vowels. The proposed novel
Gospel reading periklutos, ("Periklytos"), meaning "celebrated"
("illustrious", "highly-esteemed", "praised") has become widely
supported in the Muslim world. Many Muslims today regard it as the
`correct', the `original' reading despite the fact that it does not
occur in New Testament Greek and has no support in ancient manuscripts.
For pious Muslims periklutos ("celebrated" = Aḥmad = Muhammad) is the
`correct reading' because it more adequately corresponds to the Arabic
Aḥmad (= Muhammad) as indicated in Qur'ān 61:6 (cf. HDI:12, 124; Cragg,
1956:285; Montgomery Watt, 1990:46). On various grounds western
academics have generally rejected the proposed reading periklutos
("celebrated" = Muhammad) for paraclētos. As Schacht observes, "the
history of the text and of the translations of the Gospel, together
with the fact that periklutos was not common in con¬temporary Greek,
shows this to be impossible." (Aḥmad:EI2). Countless modern Islamic
writers however, argue that the Gospel reading paraclētos ("Paraclete")
is corrupt since it does not accurately correspond to Muhammad's name
Aḥmad as indicated in the Qur'ān. They argue that Muhammad is the true
Johannine promised one as a "celebrated" (= periklutos = Aḥmad) prophet
figure -- not merely the Paraclete as the Holy Spirit (e.g. `Abdu'l-Aḥad
Dawūd, 1979:198ff; Ḥijāzī Saqqā', 1989 1:36;2:259f; al-Faḍl, 1990:
In the entry `Aḥmad' in the recent Encyclopedia of the Shi`a (ESh.
1:515-6), it is mentioned that some reckon that the Prophet's name in
the Torah and the Qur'ān is Muhammad while it is Aḥmad in the Gospel (injīl).
The Johannine references to the Paraclete (Per. Pārāklātās) are
registered. Like the Prophet's name Aḥmad, the alternative reading
Pirāklytās ( = periklutos) is rendered as "Celebrated" (Per. sitūdih)
In a note, apparently rooted in an attempt to account for the absence
of the prophesied name Aḥmad (see Q. 61:6) in the New Testament record
of Jesus' utterances, it is recorded in the massive Shī`īte
encyclopedia, the "Ocean of Lights" (Biḥāru'l-anwār) of Muhammad Bāqir
Majlisī (d. 1111/1699-1700 CE), that the name Ahmad, as `the proper name
Alī, was transposed and altered in Syriac (surānī) to the proper name
of the Hebrew prophet Elijah (ilyā). The true Gospel text originally
referred to `Alī (not Elijah) the first of the Shī`ī Imāms (d. 40/661)
who, till the Day of Resurrection, most perfectly and in all respects
represents Muhammad (= Aḥmad; cf. the Paraclete as one representing
Jesus; Biḥār, 15:211; cf. Corbin, 1971:40).
It should also be noted that Muslims have given considerable
importance to alleged prophecies of Jesus regarding Muhammad contained
in the (largely?) inauthentic, Italian (originally Spanish?) Gospel of
Barnabas (c. 14th-15th century CE?). Most probably put together by a
Christian convert to Islam, the following passage is among the words
attributed to Jesus,
"... The disciples answered `O Master, who shall that man be of whom
thou speakest..? Jesus answered.. `He is Mohammad.." (Barnabas,
The prophesies of Muhammad ascribed to Jesus in the `Gospel of
Barnabas' are often related by Muslim apologists to Qur'ān 61:6 (the
qur'ānic mention of Aḥmad = Muhammad) and to the Johannine paraclete
sayings -- sometimes other Biblical `prophecies' of Islam also. The
French philosopher, Iranist and Islamicist Henri Corbin (d. 1978) has
proposed a relationship between early Judaeo-Christian prophetology and
certain aspects of the prophetology of the (proto-) Gospel of Barnabas
(Corbin, 1976; 1977).
Islamic paraclete sayings
Versions of the Johannine paraclete sayings are found in Islamic
sources. They are not infrequently in partially rewritten, conflated or
novel versions. Some examples contained in Shī`ī and a few Sunni sources
will be noted.
In his two volume compendium of universal history, the early Shī`īte
historian Ibn Wāḍiḥ al-Ya`qūbī (d. 292/905) has it that Jesus
communicated to his disciples after travelling to Jerusalem, a
distinctly messianic, novel rewrite and conflation of various paraclete
"The hour at which the Son of Man (ibn al-bashar = Jesus)
must withdraw unto His Father hath arrived. I am going unto a
place where it will not be possible for you to accompany me. So
uphold my final directive (testament, waṣiyatī) and there will
come unto you the Paraclete (al-fāraqlīṬ) who will be with you
as a prophet (nabī). So when the Paraclete comes unto you, with
the Spirit of Truth and Sincerity (Veracity, bi-rūḥ al-ḥaqq
wa'l-ṣidq) he it is who shall bear witness unto me. I have
communicated this unto you to the end that you recall it when
his time hath come. For my part I, verily, have told you this
and am now going unto Him Who sent me [the Father]. So when the
Spirit of Truth (rūḥ al-ḥaqq) comes he will guide you unto all
the truth. And he will announce unto you coming affairs (al-umūr
al-ba`īda). He shall extol me and in a while you shall not see
me." (Tārīkh, 1:72).
Important Islamic versions of paraclete sayings are cited from the Kitāb
al-kharā'ij.. of Quṭb al-Dīn Rāwandī (d. Qumm, 573/1177-8), in the
"Ocean of Lights" of Majlisī (Biḥār
"..in the Gospel (injīl) it is recorded that Jesus said unto
his disciples, "I go away and the Paraclete (al-fāraqlīṭ) will
come unto you, even the Spirit of Truth (bi-rūḥ al-ḥaqq) who
shall not speak on the part of his own self (min qabl nafsihi)
but according to that which He saith unto him. He will bear
witness unto me [Jesus] and you also shall bear witness because
you were with me before the [mass of the] people; and everything
which God hath prepared for you will he [the Paraclete] declare
unto you..." (a loose paraphrase of Jn 16:7, 13-14; 15:26-7 and
`And in the narrative of John (ḥikāya yuḥanna) it is
related that the Messiah said, "The Paraclete (al-fāraqlīt)
will not come unto you unless I go away. And when he comes he
shall reprove the world for sin (khaṭiy'ā). He shall not speak
on the part of his own self but shall speak unto you that which
he heareth. He will bring you the Truth (al-ḥaqq) and announce
hidden events (al-ḥawādith wa'l-ghuyūb) unto you.."' (Jn
`And he [Jesus] says in the final narrative, "The Paraclete
(al-fāraqlīṭ), the Spirit of Truth (rūḥ al-ḥaqq) whom He will
send in my name shall teach you all things (kull shay')." (Jn
He said, "I am asking my Lord that he send another Paraclete
(fāraqlīṭ ākhar) who will be with you unto the end... And he
will teach you all things (kullu shay')." (Jn 14:16+26b).
And he [Jesus] says in another narrative, "The Son of Man (ibn
bashar) is going and the Paraclete (al-fāraqlīṬ) will come
after him [Jesus]. He will communicate the secrets (asrār) unto
you and will expound all things (kull shay'). He will bear
witness unto me just as I have borne witness unto him. I,
verily, have come unto you with parables (bi'l-amthāl) and he
will come unto you with spiritual exegesis (bi'l-ta'wīl)."
(cf. Jn 16:7f).
A saying partially modelled upon John 14:26 is cited in the well
known bibliographic dictionary, Kashf al-ẓunūn ("The Clarification of
Speculations") of Kātib Chelebi or Ḥajjī Kalīfa
(d.1067/1657). As in the
above citation from Majlisī, the "spiritual exegesis" (ta'wīl) of
divine revelation is left to the future Paraclete:
"We the Prophets (al-anbiyā') bring ye the revelation; its
[spiritual] interpretation (al-ta'wīl) the Paraclete (al-Bāraqlīt)
who will come after me will bring ye." (cited Fahd, [EI2]:377).
An important version of this saying is also cited in the Qur'ān
commentary of the Persian Shī`īte Sufi `Abd al-Razzāq al-Kashānī (d.
730/1330). Commenting on the phrase "no doubt is there therein, a
guidance unto the godfearing" (Qur'ān 2:1a), Kāshīnī cites a saying of
Jesus rooted in Jn 14:26 in which the eschatological Maḥdī replaces the
"Jesus -- upon him be peace -- said `We have brought you the
letter of the revelation (al-tanzīl) but the inner exegesis
(al-ta`wīl) will be brought by the Maḥdī in the latter days (ākhir
al-zamān)." (Kāshānī [Ibn `Arabī] I:14).
Muhammad as the Paraclete
The earliest known Muslim reference to Muhammad as the Johannine
Paraclete is that of Ibn Isḥāq (704-767/8 CE), an epitome of whose lost
Sīra ("Sacred Biography") was produced by the Egyptian philologist Ibn
Hishām (d. 828/33 CE). The passage which dates prior to 151/767-8 is as
"Among the things which have reached me about what Jesus the Son of
Mary stated in the Gospel which he received from God for the followers
of the Gospel, in applying a term to describe the apostle of God, is the
following. It is extracted from what John the Apostle set down for them
when he wrote the Gospel for them from the Testament of Jesus Son of
Mary: `He that hateth me hath hated the Lord. And if I had not done in
their presence works which none other before me did, they had not had
sin: but from now they are puffed up with pride and think that they will
over¬come me and also the Lord. But the word that is in the law must be
ful¬filled, "They hated me without a cause" (i.e. without reason). But
when the Comforter has come whom God will send to you from the Lord's
presence, and the spirit of truth which will have gone forth from the
Lord's presence he (shall bear) witness of me and ye also, because ye
have been with me from the beginning. I have spoken unto you about this
that ye should not be in doubt.' [John 15:23-16:1]
The "Comforter" (Munaḥḥemana) -- God bless and preserve
him -- in Syriac is Muḥammad; in Greek he is the Paraclete (Ar.
For Ibn Isḥāq the coming of Muhammad as the Paraclete is reflected
in Jn 15:23ff. For him the advent of the Prophet was the appearance of
the "Comforter", the parousia of the Paraclete (Gk. paraklātos Ar.
In the eighth century CE
the Sunnī Caliph al-Maḥdī had a debate with the Nestorian Catholicos,
Timothy I. The so called Apology of Timothy (c. 165/781) is preserved
in Syriac and there exist a number of Arabic recensions. The Caliph
evidently asserted that Muhammad fulfilled the paraclete promises --
they are not linked with the name Aḥmad. Countering this and following
Patristic tradition, the Patriach denies that the Paraclete (al-FāraqlīṬ)
is anything other than the Holy Spirit (rūḥu'l-quds), the divine Spirit
of God (rūḥ Allāh) (Caspar, 1977:135,161).
The late 8th cent. CE
`Letter of Hārūn al-Rashīd to the Emperor Constantine VI' (r. 780-787
CE) -- actually written by Abū al-Rabī` Muhammad b. al-Laith -- is
another early text in which paraclete sayings are applied to Muhammad.
The Bible is frequently quoted in this work; including a conflation of
paraclete and related sayings (Jn 16:5 + 15:26-27 + 16:13; cf. 14:26) as
a prophey of Muhammad the Paraclete (al-Baraqlīṭ) (Dunlop, 1968:113-4).
`Alī ibn Rabbān al-Ṭabarī
(d. 241-2/855), a Christian convert to Islam, in chapter XXVIII of his
Kitāb al-dīn wa'l-dawla ("Book of Religion and Empire" c. 241/855)
discusses prophecies of Christ about Muhammad. A version of John 14:26
is cited and applied to the Founder of Islam. The "all things" to be
taught by the Paraclete (14:26b) is the revelation of the Qur'ān. As the
Paraclete, Muhammad, unlike the disciples or other Christians, taught
new truths to mankind. In the light of John 16:7, 8, 13 and 14:16 an
intimate relationship between Christ and Muhammad as his successor is
argued. Relative to 14:26, the numerical correspondence between the word
Paraclete (Ar. Fāraqlīṭ abjad = 430) and the phrases, "Muhammad, son of
`Abd Allāh, the Prophet who guideth aright" and "Muhammad, the Beloved,
Goodly, Messenger" is reckoned a unique proof.
Important references to
the Paraclete, styled the "Greatest Paraclete" (baraqlīṭ al-akbar) are
found from medieval times in Shī`ī, Ismā'īlī sources. He is mentioned
once in the fifty-two Epistles of the Brethren of Purity (Rasā'il Ikhwān
al-Safā') (I:40) and twice in the related Comprehensive Epistle (Risālat
al-Jāmi`a (2:354, 365). This "Paraclete" furthermore, is twice
associated with the eschatological Islamic Messiah, `the Expected Mahdī'
(al maḥdī al muntazar; R. 1:40; J. 2:365, see Netton, 1982:68).
Shī`ī imāmology, as Corbin puts it, "retains the idea of
the Paraclete as a vision to come" (Corbin:1993:73). Islamic paraclete
sayings linking the Paraclete figure with the fullness of the inner
exegesis of scripture (see above) are understood eschatologically.
Various Shī`ī writers regard the coming of the Johannine Paraclete as
the advent of the awaited twelfth Imām or Qā'im/ Maḥdī (Corbin, 1971:38,
The mystical philosopher and founder of the Illuminationist (Ishrāqī)
school, Shihāb al-Dīn Yaḥyā Suhrawardī (d. 587/1191) makes mention of
the Paraclete (al-Fāraqlītā) in the latter part of the VIIth section
of his (Arabic) "Temples of Light" (Hayākil al-nūr), after citing
Qur'ān 29:43 and a text rooted in Matt 13:13. This Islamic reference
was influential. Commenting upon it, Jalāl al-Dīn Dawwānī (d.
907/1501-2) for example, speaks of a maẓhar al-a`ẓam, a "Most
Great Manifestation" or `Supreme Epiphany' of Light and relates
this to the Spirit-Paraclete who is essentially the twelfth Imām, the
expected Maḥdī (Qā'im) (Corbin, 1971:47-50; 1971-2:257; cf. Suhrawardī,
1970:41f, 108 [Per.]).
In his influential and
important Jāmi` al-asrār wa manba` al-anwār ("Book of the Compendium of
Mysteries and the Source of Lights") Sayyid Ḥaydar Āmulī (d.787/1385)
cites and comments upon a saying of Jesus:
"`We bring unto you outer revelation (al-tanzīl); but, as
for the inner revelation (al-ta'wīl), this the Paraclete (al-fāraqlīṭ)
will bring in the latter days (fī ākhir al-zamān).' The term
Paraclete (al-fāraqlīṭ) in their [the Christians'] language
signifies the Mahdī [eschatological Messiah].. who will bring
the inner exegesis (al-ta'wīl) of the Qur'ān ... (Āmulī, Jāmi`
§205, III:5, pp. 103-4).
It was believed by Ḥaydar Āmulī and others that "the coming of the
Imām-Paraclete will inaugurate the reign of the purely spiritual meaning
of the divine Revelations -- that is to say, the true religion which is
the eternal walāyah." (Corbin, 1993:73)
A similar view is
expressed by Ibn Abī Jumhūr al-Ahsā'ī (fl. mid-late 15th century CE) who
was important for achieving a synthesis of Shī`ī scholastic theology,
Avicennan philosophy, Ishrāqī theosophy and the mysticism of Ibn al-`Arabī
(d. 638/1240). In his Kitāb al-mujlī (completed 894-5/1493-4) he
states that the Paraclete (al-fāraqlīṭ) of the Christians, whom he
clearly identifies with the occulted twelfth Imām (Muhammad ibn al-Ḥasan
[al-Askarī d. 260/874]) and the expected "Lord of the Age" (Ṣāḥib al-zamān),
will appear with the inner spiritual exegesis (ta'wīl) of sacred
scripture (Mujlī, 308 cited Corbin 1971:55).
Sayyid Aḥmad b. Zayn al-Dīn al-`Alawī (d. 1069/1658-9) was an important
philosopher-theologian of the School of Isfāhān. With his knowledge of
Hebrew and the Biblical texts, he wrote four important Persian works
dealing with Judaeo-Christian scripture and its interpretation. In these
works there is interesting reference to the prophetology of the
Paraclete. In his Miṣqal-i ṣafā'.. ("The Polisher of Purity.."
1032/1622) he related prophecies interpreted of Muhammad and Islam in
the book of Deuteronomy (18:15-18; 33:2) to the paraclete sayings.
Similar teachings are contained in his The Book of Lordly Glimmerings in
Refutation of Christian Misconceptions (Lawāmi`-i Rabbānī.. 1631 CE).
The titles of Muhammad, as prophesied in a wide range of pre-Islamic
sacred scriptures, are set down. Included is the Toraic "name" Meod
Meod (see Gen. 17:20b) -- interpreted as meaning "Great, Great" (Per.
buzurg, buzurg) -- and the title Paraclete (Fāriqlīṭ; Lawāmi`,
15a-b). Also found in Sayyid Aḥmad's works is a doctrine of the
"twofold manifestation of the Paraclete" in the persons of Muhammad and
the eschatological Twelfth Imām (Corbin, 1976:232f; 1985 [EIr.]
Quṭb al-Dīn Ashkivarī (d. c. 1075/1664-5) not only identified the
Paraclete with the twelfth Imām but also with Astvat Ereta (Av. "He who
embodies righteousness", see Yasna 43:3) who is the Saoshyant ("Future
Benefactor"), the ultimate eschatological saviour of Zoroastrianism
(Corbin, 1971:56f; 1976:232). Finally, but by no means exhaustively
in this connection, it may be noted that the founder of the Shaykhī
school of Shī`ī Islām, Shaykh Aḥmad al-Aḥsā'ī (d. 1241/1826) makes
mention of the Paraclete (al-FāriqlīṬā) in his Sharh al-ziyāra..
("Commentary on the .. Visiting Tablet.."). The words "Thy Apparentness
(shāhidikum) and Thy Hiddenness" (ghā'ibikum)" are interpreted
imāmologically. While the Divine "Hiddenness" is, in one sense, the
"Proof" (al-ḥujjat, primarily the hidden Twelfth Imām), His
"Apparentness" is, among other things, the "Pivot of the Age" (quṭb al-waqt).
This latter aspect of the Divine is, in Sufi terminology, the "One
Invoked" ("Succourer", al-ghawth) and the Paraclete who is "the
manifestation of sanctified Guardianship (`spiritual initiation',
wilāyah)" (III:150). What Shaykh Aḥmad says about the Paraclete here,
reflects Sufi-Shī`ī traditions -- as well as an Ishrāqī pneumatology of
Light -- which identify the eternal and eschatological reality of the
Imām (Qā'im) with the locus of Divine initiation, the theosophical
The advent of Aḥmad in the writings of
Sayyid `Alī Muhammad the
Bāb (1819-1850, the Founder of the Bābī religion) is regarded by Bahā'īs
as a Messenger or Manifestation of God (maẓhar-i ilāhī). His
voluminous Arabic and Persian writings contain quite a large number of
references to the Prophet Muhammad as the Aḥmad promised by Jesus
according to Qur'ān 61:6. As far as I am aware however, he neither
quotes the Gospel of John, nor refers to the Islamic expectation of the
messianic Qā'im-Paraclete (Fāraqlāt).
Like previous Messengers
of God, the young Shīrāzī Sayyid was rejected by most of his
contemporaries. One ultimately imprisoned in Ādhirbayjān, it is largely
in his later writings (post 1848) that the Bāb makes quite frequent
reference to the Christian rejection of Muhammad as the promised Aḥmad
and spiritual "return" of Christ.
In the IVth Unity of his
Persian Bayān (Bayān-i-farsī 1848) the Bāb cites some of the words
attributed to Jesus in Qur'ān 61:6b. Aḥmad he comments, was fervently
awaited by Christians but never identified with Muhammad (IV:14, 140).
In the VIth Unity of the same work reference is also made to the
Christian expectation of the promised Aḥmad. Christians are likened to
those Shī`ī Muslims who, despite the Bāb's manifestation, still await
the advent of the messianic twelfth Imām. Christian astronomers made
great progress in outwardly visioning celestial phenomena (e.g. the
moon). With their inner eyes ("eye of the hearts"; chashm-i qulūb),
however, they have failed to perceive the truth of Muhammad as the
"promised Aḥmad" (VI:13, 225-6; see also IX:3, 316).
In his Persian Dalā'il-i sab`a ("Seven Proofs") the Bāb states
that Christians had, in accordance with Jesus' covenant regarding the
one to come after him (see Qur'ān 61:6), prayed frequently for the
manifestation of the promised one. Yet, when Muhammad appeared they
rejected him. Christians have shown excess veneration for the "shoe of
the donkey" (samm-i kharī) which they suppose Jesus rode --
expecting thereby to draw near to God -- but have refused to acknowledge
the appearance of one to be truly venerated, the "promised Aḥmad" (Aḥmad-i
mav`ūd) (Dalā'il, 20-21).
Bahā'ī perspectives on the Paraclete
and Aḥmad: Bahā’-Allāh as the "Comforter" (Mu`azzī)
the Founder of the Bahā'ī Faith, radically modified the post-Qur'ānic
Muslim teaching of the "textual corruption" (taḥrīf) of the Bible. In
his writings which span a forty year period (c. 1852-1892) he quotes the
Qur'ān extensively and shows a direct knowledge of the Biblical text.
While he did not regard the New Testament as the direct revelation of
the Founder of Christianity, he did view it as containing an inspired
record of Jesus' life and teachings. Judging by the frequency of
citations, he had a high regard for the Gospel of John. In quite a large
number of his "Tablets" (alwāḥ) he expressed his claims by means of
terms specialized to the Paraclete in the Johannine `Farewell Discourse'
(Jn 13:31ff). Most importantly and frequently, he claimed to be an
eschatological manifestation of "the Comforter" (al-mu`azzī) (esp. Jn
16:7) and the "Spirit of Truth" (rūḥ al-ḥaqq) (esp. Jn 16:13). His
writings also contain occasional reference to Qur'ān 61:6.
Like the Bāb, Bahā’-Allāh quite frequently referred to Muhammad as
Aḥmad. In line with traditions ascribed to the Prophet and the [Shī`ī]
Imāms he sometimes presupposes that Aḥmad is the spiritual, celestial
and pre-existent name of the Muhammadan Reality, the Logos-like "Self"
or "Soul" (nafs) of Muhammad and all past Messengers of God. In the
prolegomenon to his Seven Valleys (Haft vadī c.1858) for example,
Bahā’-Allāh refers to Muhammad as "He who was Aḥmad in the Kingdom of
the exalted ones (al-malakūt al-`aliyyīn), and Muhammad amongst the
concourse of near ones (malā' al-muqarribīn), and Maḥmūd in the realm
of the sincere ones (jabarūt al-mukhliṣīn).." (SV:2).
In one of his scriptural
Tablets addressed to a Jewish convert to the Bahā'ī religion named Ḥakīm
Ḥayyīm, Bahā’-Allāh responded to his question about why, despite Qur'ān
61:6, the name Aḥmad is not found in the Gospels (Injīl). In his reply
the Bahā'ī Prophet confirms the veracity of the Qur'ānic verse referring
to Jesus' promise of the advent of Aḥmad (= Muhammad) but explains that
this prophecy is not recorded in the extant (canonical) New Testament.
The New Testament, he states, is only a partial, an incomplete
expository record of the divine revelation to Jesus (the Injīl; see
Tablet cited, Ishrāq Khāvarī, 1987, 2:365f).
Not always simply
transliterated by the loan-word Fāraqlīt, the Greek paraclētos ("Paraclete")
in John's Gospel is variously rendered in Christian produced Arabic and
Persian New Testament translations. In a number of Arabic New Testaments
it is translated by al Mu`azzī (= "the Comforter"); a translation
obviously dictated by long-standing Christian tradition (see above).
Such is the translation, for example, in the Arabic version of the
Gospel of John found in the fourth and last of the great Polyglott
Bibles; the Biblia Sacra Polyglotta.. edited by Bishop Brian Walton in
16(54-)57 (London: Thomas Roycroft, 6 vols; New Testament = vol. 5).
This Arabic text printed here -- a version of the Arabic "Alexandrian
Vulgate" (13th century CE) -- corresponds with most of the New
Testament quotations found in certain of Bahā’-Allāh's early works; most
notably, his Jawāhir al-asrār (1861) and Kitāb-i īqān (1862). Later,
from the West Galilean or loosely Acre = `Akkā period (1868-92), both
Bahā’-Allāh and `Abdu'l-Bahā usually cited the Arabic Bible translation
of Eli Smith and Cornelius Van Dyck (New Testament first printed in the
early 1860s then many later editions) which also has mu`azzī
("Comforter") for paraclētos ("Paraclete"). Today, for Bahā'īs
mu`azzī ("Comforter") refers primarily to Bahā’-Allāh as the return of
Christ though its past applicability to Muhammad is also affirmed.
Among the earliest New
Testament verses cited by Bahā’-Allāh are those contained in his
aforementioned Arabic treatise "The Essence of Mysteries" (Jawāhir al-asrār).
It was written for Sayyid Yūsuf-i-Sidihī in 1277 / 1860-61 in reply to
questions about the coming of the Maḥdī in the light of the mission of
the Bāb. It is here that the extreme Muslim view of the "corruption" (taḥrīf)
of the Bible is radically modified as it is in the slightly later
Kitāb-i Īqān. They are commented upon non-literally. It is indicated
that Muslim students of prophecy should not repeat the errors of Jewish
and Christian literalists in their interpretation of scriptural
In the course of his
argument Bahā’-Allāh quotes a succession of New Testament texts from
each of the four Gospels in illustration of Jesus' eschatological
prophecies -- included are Arabic versions of Matt. 24:19, 29-31a; Mk
13:19 and Lk 21:25-27+31. There follows three abbreviated conflations of
Johannine paraclete prophecies (reminiscent of rewritten Islamic
paraclete texts); versions, in other words, of  Jn 15:26-27a; 
Jn 14:26+16:5-6a and  16:7+13 according to an Arabic Christian text
type (see AQA III:11f = INBMC 46:4f). In all three of the clusters of
paraclete quotations from the "fourth book.. the Gospel of John" (sifr
al-rāb` injīl al-yūḥannā), the Paraclete figure, understood as the
"Comforter" (al-mu`azzī), is the centre of attention. In selecting (and
conflating) key texts from John's Gospel indicative of future events,
Bahā’-Allāh makes the advent of the Comforter (al-mu`azzī) a key
Johannine eschatological theme. It is presupposed that this is the
prophet Muhammad whom many Christians failed to accept.
A passage addressed to the
kings of Christendom in the Sūra of the Kings (Sūrat al-mulūk; written
in Edirne (= Adrianople) around 1867 is among the earliest texts
in which Bahā’-Allāh applies an epithet of the Paraclete, "Spirit of
Truth" (rāḥ al-ḥaqq), to himself. He indicates his being the return of
Christ and cites John 16:13a. Just as some Muslim apologists identified
the Qur'ān with the revelation of the "all truth" of the Paraclete
("Comforter", see above), so Bahā’-Allāh equates this with the "truth"
of his revelation:
"O Kings of Christendom! Heard ye not the saying of Jesus,
the Spirit of God, `I go away and come again unto you'?
Wherefore did ye fail when he did come unto you in the clouds of
heaven, to draw nigh unto Him, that ye may behold His face, and
be of them that have attained His Presence? In another passage
He saith, `When He, the Spirit of Truth, is come, He will guide
you into all truth.' And yet, behold how, when he did bring the
truth, ye refused to turn your faces towards Him, and persisted
in disporting yourselves with your pastimes and fancies..." (Alvāḥ-i
nāzilah.. 11; trans. PDC:27).
In an important Tablet of
Bahā’-Allāh addressed to the one time Haifa-resident leader of the
German Templar community (the Tempelgesellschaft), George David
Hardegg (1812 1879), the Lawḥ-i Ḥirtīk (late 1871 or early 1872 CE),
cryptic, qabbalistic reference is made to the expected "Comforter" (al-mu`azzī).
Bahā’-Allāh informs Hardegg that he has appeared as the promised
"Comforter" but laments over the fact that he has not been recognised.
Jesus seems to be referred to as the "Word" (kalimat cf. Qur'ān 3:40f,
52f; 4:169f) who now utters, who mystically discloses, a universally
meaningful "word" (kalima cf. Pentecost in Acts 2 and Qur'ān 14:4)
which is Bahā’-Allāh as the "Comforter" (al mu`azzī) with a global
"Then We saw the Word (kalima = Jesus ?) which uttered a Word
(kalimat = Bahā’-Allāh as al-mu`azzī, "Comforter" ?) which
every one of the factions found to be according to its own
tongue and language. When that word was uttered, a Sun shone
forth from the Horizon of its Announcement, the Lights of which
eclipsed the sun of the heavens. It said, `The head of the
seventy hath been adorned with the crown of the forty and been
united with the seven before the ten'.." (La'āli, 3:217; prov.
There exist several passages in Bahā’-Allāh's writings in which John
16:12 ("I have many things to say unto you but you cannot bear them
now..") is understood to mean that Jesus, during his ministry, held back
or refused to utter a "Word" (kalima) on account of the limited
capacity of his contemporaries. Bahā’-Allāh claims to be this "Word"
disclosed in eschatological times as the "Comforter" (al-mu`azzī).
Thus, in his Tablet to Pope Pius IX (1846-78) written in about 1869 CE,
"The Word (al kalima) which the Son [Jesus] concealed is
made manifest in the form of the human temple in this day [=
Bahā’-Allāh].. (trans. PDC:32)... This is the Word (al-kalima)
which was preserved behind the Veil of Grandeur. When the
promised time came, He shone forth from the horizon of the
Divine Will with manifest signs.." (Alvah, 80; prov. trans.
Similarly we read in the "Most Holy Tablet" (Lawḥ-i aqdas):
"This is the Word (al kalima) which the Son [Jesus]
concealed, when to those around Him He said: `Ye cannot bear it
now'. And when the appointed time was fulfilled and the Hour had
struck, the Word (al kalima) shone forth above the horizon of
the Will of God." (trans. TB:11)
Bahā’-Allāh associates the concealed pre-existent "Word" (kalima)
with his advent as the "Comforter", al mu`azzī, by referring to the
numerical (abjad) value of the consonants composing the title
"Comforter" (mu`azzī) . i.e. "m"= 40 + "`ayn" = 70 + "z" = 7 + "y" =
10. That the "head of the 70 hath been adorned with the crown of the 40"
signifies the conjunction of the letters "`ayn" (70) and "m" (40) -- the
"m" preceeding the "`ayn". These two letters are to be added to --
read consecutively with -- "the 7 before the 10" or the letter "z" (7)
preceeded by the letter "y" (10). The result is thus mu`azzī (=
In quite a large number of his writings of the `Akkā' period (1868
92) Bahā’-Allāh explicitly claims to be both the expected "Comforter"
(al mu`azzī) and the associated "Spirit of Truth" (rūḥ al-ḥaqq). The
following passage is an example,
"This is indeed the Father (al wālid), whereof Isaiah gave
you tidings [refer, Isa 9:6b] and the Comforter (al mu`azzī)
about whose advent the Spirit [Jesus] made a covenant (al-`ahd)."
In his The
Dispensation of Bahā’-Allāh (1934), the grandson of the Founder of
the Bahā'ī Faith, Shoghi Effendi (c. 1896-1957) cites a few passages
from Tablets of Bahā’-Allāh, in which their author expresses himself in
language which clearly underlines his claim to fulfill the paraclete
"This is the Word [al-kalimat] which the Son veiled when He
said to those around Him that at that time they could not hear
it [see Jn 14:16]... Verily the Spirit of Truth [rāḥ al-ḥaqq]
is come to guide you unto all truth [Jn 16:13a] ... He is the
One Who glorified the Son and exalted his Cause [Jn 16:14]..."
"The Comforter [Mu`azzī] Whose advent all the scriptures have
promised is now come that He may reveal unto you all knowledge
and wisdom (al-ḥikmah wa'l-bayān; Jn 16:13). Seek ye him over
the entire surface of the earth, haply ye may find him."
(Dispensation, 13-14 = Dawr, 15).
As in one of the above passages, Bahā’-Allāh quite frequently claims
to be the "Spirit of Truth" (Gk. to pneuma tās alātheias = Ar. Van
Dyck trans. rāḥ al-ḥaqq) three times mentioned in the paraclete sayings
(Jn 14:17, 15:26, [esp.] 16:13). In his "Most Holy Tablet" (Lawḥ-i aqdas)
written for Fāris the physician who was converted in Alexandria in 1868
by Nabīl-i Zarandī (d. 1892), he proclaims,
"Verily, He Who is the Spirit of Truth (rāḥ al-ḥaqq) is come
to guide you unto all truth. He speaketh not as prompted by his
own self, but as bidden by Him Who is the All-Knowing, the
All-Wise." (see Jn 16:13; TB:12).
Bahā’-Allāh's last major work, the Epistle to the Son of the Wolf (Lawḥ-i
ibn-i dhi'b c. 1891), was addressed to the anti-Bahā'ī cleric Shaykh
Muhammad Taqī Najāfī (d.1914). At one point in this lengthy Persian
work, Bahā’-Allāh states that "unnumbered significances lie concealed"
in the sayings of Jesus (ESW:148). Due to the limited capacity of his
contemporaries, Jesus "chose to conceal most of these things" -- just as
John 16:12b records, "But ye cannot bear them now". John 16:13b which
states that "Spirit of Truth" will "declare unto you the things that are
to come" is quoted in the Van Dyck Arabic translation. It is interpreted
as a prophecy that "the Promised One" (= Bahā’-Allāh), would reveal "the
things that are to come." Prophecies of future events are contained in
Bahā’-Allāh's "Most Holy Book" (Kitāb-i aqdas), various "Tablets to the
Kings" (late 1860s -> early 1870s) and other related writings. In them
the Founder of the Bahā'ī Faith states, "most of the things which have
come to pass on this earth have been announced and prophesied by the
Most Sublime Pen." (ESW:148)
Paraclete and "Comforter" in the
writings of `Abdu'l-Bahā and Shoghi Effendi
Interpretations of the
paraclete sayings are quite frequently found in the voluminous writings
("Tablets") and recorded talks of `Abdu'l-Bahā (1844-1921), the son of
Bahā’-Allāh who headed the Bahā'ī religion for almost thirty years. In
his numerous expository Tablets, whether addressed to Jews, Christians,
Muslims or others, he regarded certain of the paraclete sayings as
messianic prophecies. In line with Bahā’-Allāh's "Tablets", he referred
select Johannine paraclete (al-mu`azzī "Comforter") texts to both
Muhammad and to his Father.
Of particular importance
is an eloquent Persian Tablet in which the existence of Gospel
prophecies of Muhammad is affirmed (Makātib, 2:57-62f). John 16:7-15 is
quoted and interpreted in some detail of the Arabian Prophet, "His
Holiness the Aḥmadī beauty". This extended paraclete text, but one of
the "melodies of the Gospel", is partially cited in the Van Dyck Arabic
translation (paraclētos = mu`azzī) and followed by a summary,
interpretive Persian rendering -- reflecting certain Persian Christian
translations of the paraclete sayings, "Comforter" is paraphrased as
"comforting spirit" (rūḥ-i tasullī-yi dahanda) and "Pure Spirit" (rūh-i
pāk; ibid 1:58). `Abdul-Bahā then sets down some interpretive
guidelines. He states that Christians have universally restricted the
interpretation of these verses to the descent of the "Holy Spirit" (rūḥ
al-quds) upon the apostles after Jesus' ascension (see above). They
veiled themselves from the deeper, spiritual meanings (ta'wīlāt) of
these verses. Three arguments suggestive of a deeper, messianic meaning
of these verses are given by `Abdu'l-Bahā. In summary, they are-:
 When Jesus says that the "Comforter" will not come until
he departs (Jn 16:7) it is evident that this cannot merely be
the "Holy Spirit" which was always with him.
 Jesus said that he had "many things to say" which could
not in his day be received and predicted that the "Holy Spirit"
(rūh-i muqaddas = "the Spirit of Truth") would guide unto "all
truth" (Jn 16:12-13a). Jesus the Messiah and the Holy Spirit,
according to Christian belief, are the second and third
"persons" of the Trinity (aqnūm). They did not however,
completely eradicate human ignorance. Absolute guidance and
sanctity were not forthcoming.
Though after the ascension of Jesus the people were in receipt of the
bounties and "hidden mysteries" of the Holy Spirit, their receptivity to
spiritual instruction was limited by their own shortcomings. Many years
of the influence of the Holy Spirit would not alter this.
It is thus evident that another superlatively great appearance of the
"Honourable Spirit" (rūḥ-i mukarramī = Muhammad) is
 Jesus referred to the "Comforter" as one who will not
speak out or expound through his own powers but according to
whatever he hears (Jn 16:13b). This indicates divine inspiration
(waḥy). The "comforting spirit" (rūh-i tasullī-yi dahanda) is
none other than an "individual" or human "person" (shakhṣī).
The disembodied "Holy Spirit" does not have an ear through which
things can be heard. (see Makātib, 2:57ff)
In his response to a
question of Laura Barney about the meaning of the "Holy Spirit" recorded
in Some Answered Questions (c. 1904-5; SAQ sect. 25:108-9), `Abdu'l-Bahā
introduces his quotation of John 16:12-13a as words of Christ about the
Promised One to come after him. The words, "for He shall not speak of
Himself; but whatsoever He shall hear, that shall He speak" (16:13a) are
held to indicate that "the Spirit of Truth" (Per. rūh-i rastī) is
embodied in human form (insānī mujassam ast) having individuality (nafs),
"Who has ears to hear and a tongue to speak." The Qur'ānic and
Bābī-Bahā'ī title of Christ, "Spirit of God" (rūh Allāh), is compared
to the Johannine "Spirit of Truth" (rūḥ al-ḥaqq). It is of interest
that `Abdu'l-Bahā highlights the personification of "Spirit of Truth" (rūḥ
al-ḥaqq). Though the "Holy Spirit" or "Spirit of Truth" is an
immaterial, Transcendent Reality, as a prophetic reference to an
expected human Manifestation of God, it is accorded human
characteristics (see Mufawaḍāt 83, trans. SAQ:109).
In many of their writings
both the Bāb and Bahā’-Allāh stated that the great Messengers of God
each made a "covenant" (`ahd) regarding a succeeding Messenger of God
-- their followers were obliged to accept this promised messiah figure.
It was often in this light that `Abdu'l-Bahā interpreted Jesus'
paraclete promises of Muhammad. In a large number of Tablets he, in one
way of another writes,
"His Holiness Christ made a covenant concerning the Paraclete
(Fāraqlīṭ) and gave the tidings of His coming." (Tablet to C.M.
Remey, partially cited in Persian in UHJ: `Ahd.. 5, trans.
"His Holiness Christ covenanted with regard to His Holiness
"The Paraclete", which means His Holiness Muhammad." (SW
IV/14:238. cf. SW IX/1:7).
In one scriptural Tablet `Abdu'l-Bahā cites a paraphrased version of
Jn 16:12-13 and 15:26, as a proof of the necessity of continuing divine
guidance ("progressive revelation"):
"In the [religious] dispensations gone before, the feeble
body of the world could not wishstand a rigorous or powerful
cure. For this reason did Christ say: "I have yet many things to
say unto you, matters needing to be told, but ye cannot bear to
hear them now. Howbeit when that Comforting Spirit [Per. rūh-i
tasullī-i dahanda) whom the Father will send, shall come, He
will make plain unto you the truth." (SWAB:59)
Expounding the nature of the "truth" which Bahā’-Allāh as the
Comforter has brought he wrote,
"Therefore, in this age of splendours, teachings once limited
to a few are made available to all, that the mercy of the Lord
may embrace both east and west, that the oneness of the world of
humanity may appear in its full beauty, and that the dazzling
rays of reality may flood the realm of the mind with light."
Consonant with the increased spiritual capacity of humanity, the
"truth" disclosed in this age, by Bahā’-Allāh, the "Comforter", is
universally available. It embraces those Bahā'ī teachings which proclaim
and will ultimately lead to the mature establishment of the oneness of
humanity. In addition, this proclamation of "all truth" involves the
realization of luminous spiritual truths.
Summing up the beliefs of the Universalist Church and welcoming `Abdu'l-Bahā'
to Washington (USA) on April 21, 1912, Dr. John Van Schaick quoted Jn
16:12f, and stated,
"We believe that Revelation is progressive. We hold with
Jesus that when the Spirit of Truth is come, He will guide us
unto all Truth. We look for more Truth in each age and every
country... We stand today humbly seeking the Spirit of Truth.."
In the course of his speech `Abdu'l-Bahā responded to the minister's
words and also referred to Jn 16:12f. To a minister and a congregation
which he greatly admired, he proclaimed that the era of the "Spirit of
Truth" had dawned:
"And now that century has come when the Spirit of Truth can
reveal these verities to mankind and can proclaim that very Word
to man..Ṭhat the..foundations of love and amity may be
established. You must listen to the admonition of this Spirit of
Truth (ibid, 12).
In various of his many letters expository of Bahā'ī doctrine, `Abdu'l-Bahā's
grandson Shoghi Effendi (c. 1896-1957) affirmed the Islamo-Bahā'ī
understanding of the Prophet Muhammad as the Paraclete as well as
Bahā’-Allāh's fulfilling various paraclete promises:
".. references in the Bible to...`Paraclete' refer to
In his centennial God Passes By Shoghi Effendi, the Guardian
of the Bahā'ī Faith wrote that Bahā’-Allāh "identifies Himself" with
"the `Comforter' Whose Covenant He Who is the Spirit (Jesus) had himself
established." (GPB:210). Key passages addressed the "whole of
Christendom" and representative of Bahā’-Allāh's claim to be the
Johannine "Spirit of Truth" and "Comforter", are cited in Shoghi
Effendi's centrally important clarification of the status of the
central figures of the Bahā'ī Faith, The Dispensation of Bahā’-Allāh
(written 1934; see above p. 24).
The paraclete promises of
Jesus are especially meaningful to Christians, Muslims and Bahā'īs. For
most Christians the promised Paraclete is the Holy Spirit, one of the
"persons" of the Trinity intimately related to Christian spirituality
and to the evolution of Christendom. Muslim apologists viewed Muhammad
as the Paraclete who brought the "all things" (Jn 14:26) of the Qur'ān.
Bahā'īs affirm, according to the teachings of the central figures of
their Faith, the fulfillment of the paraclete promises in Muhammad. In
addition, they extend their messianic applicability to the Founder of
the Bahā'ī Faith. As the eschatological "Comforter", Bahā’-Allāh
brought "the all truth" (Jn 16:13) which is those teachings of the
Bahā'ī Faith which promote and result in that unity in diversity which
is the global realization of the oneness of mankind. As the "Spirit of
truth" he claimed to be in receipt of divine revelation -- did not
"speak of himself" (Jn 16:13) -- and bore witness to Jesus (Jn 16:14).
He "glorified" the founder of Christianity in his writings and
prophesied coming events (Jn 16:13-14) .
The so-called `paraclete
sayings' have sometimes been reckoned to be four groups of verses within
the Johannine Farewell Discourse (John 13:31ff). They have been studied
by modern Biblical scholars in relation to each other, to John's Gospel
as a whole, and to the rest of the Bible. The references are, 1) Jn
14:16-17; 2) Jn 14:26; 3) Jn 15:26-27 and 4) Jn 16:7-14. The English
translation quoted below is slightly adapted from the Revised Standard
Version with bracketed transliterations registering select Arabic
renderings of (Eli Smith and) Cornelius Van Dyck Arabic (1818-1895) --
whose Arabic translation of the Bible was, among others, quite
frequently cited by both Bahā’-Allāh and `Abdu'l-Bahā.
• Jn 14:16-17 = "And I will pray the Father, and he will
give you another Paraclete (mu`azzī), to be with you for ever,
17 even the Spirit of truth (rūḥ al-ḥaqq), whom the world
cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him; you
know him, for he dwells with you, and will be in you."
• 14:26, "But the Paraclete (al-mu`azzī), the Holy Spirit
(al-rūḥ al-quds), 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."
• 15:26-27, "But when the Paraclete (al-mu`azzī) comes; whom
I shall send to you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth (rūḥ
al-ḥaqq), who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness to
me; 27 and you also are witnesses, because you have been with me
from the beginning."
• 16:7f: "Nevertheless I tell you the truth: it is to your
ad¬vantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the
Paraclete (al-mu`azzī) will not come to you; but if I go, I
will send him to you. 8 And when he comes, he will convince the
world concerning sin and righteous¬ness and judgment: 9
concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; 10 concerning
righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me
no more; 11 concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world
is judged. 12 I have yet many things to say to you, but you
cannot bear them now. 13 When the Spirit of truth (rūḥ al-ḥaqq)
comes, he will guide you into all the truth (jamī`a al-ḥaqq);
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. 14 He will glorify me, for he will take what is
mine and declare it to you."
The American, Roman
Catholic Biblical scholar, Raymond E. Brown has, in his The Gospel
According to John XIII-XXI, (Appendix V, 1135-6) usefully tabulated the
implications of the paraclete passages. Though he does not always
highlight elements central to the Islamic and Bahā'ī "spiritual"
interpretation, the tabulation is worth citing here.
(a) The coming of the Paraclete and the Paraclete's relation to
• The Paraclete will come (but only if Jesus departs):
15:26; 16:7, 8, 13.
• The Paraclete comes forth from the Father: 15:26.
• The Father will give the Paraclete at Jesus' request:
• The Father will send the Paraclete in Jesus' name: 14:26.
• Jesus, when he goes away, will send the Paraclete from the
Father: 15:26; 16: 7.
(b) The identification of the Paraclete
• He is called "another Paraclete": 14:16
• He is the Spirit of Truth: 14:17; 15:26; 16:13
• He is the Holy Spirit: 14:26
(c) The role the Paraclete plays in relation to the disciples
• The disciples recognize him 14:17
• He will be within the disciples and remain with them: 14:17
• He will teach the disciples everything: 14:26
• He will guide the disciples along the way of all truth:
• He will take what belongs to Jesus to declare to the
• He will glorify Jesus: 16:14.
• He will bear witness on Jesus' behalf, and the disciples
too must bear witness: 15:26 27.
• He will remind the disciples of all that Jesus told them:
• He will speak only what he hears and nothing on his own:
(d) The role of the Paraclete in relation to the world
• The world cannot accept the Paraclete: 14:17.
• The world neither sees nor recognizes the Paraclete: 14:17.
• He will bear witness to Jesus against the background of the
world's hatred for and persecution of the disciple: 15:26 (cf.
15: 18 25).
• He will prove the world wrong about sin, justice, and
judgement: 16:8 11.
The three "clusters" of paraclete texts as cited by Bahā’-Allāh
in the "Essence of Mysteries" (Jawāhar al-asrār c.1861):
 "[But] When the Comforter (al-mu`azzī) is come, whom I
shall send unto you, the Spirit of Truth which cometh from the True
One (God, al-ḥaqq) he shall testify of me; and ye [also] shall bear
witness... (see Jn 15:26-27a).
 "[But] when the Holy Spirit cometh, the Comforter whom
my Lord will send in my name, he shall [assuredly] teach you all
things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said unto
you...But now I am going unto him that sent me; and not one among
you asketh me `Where are you going.' But because I have said these
things unto you [Jn 16:5, 6a] ....." (Jn 14:26 + 16:5-6a; Arabic
AQA. III:11-12 = INBMC 46:4).
 "[Nevertheless] I tell you the truth; it is best for you
that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Comforter (al-mu`azzī)
will not come unto you; but if I go I will send him unto you [Jn
16:7]. And when that Spirit of Truth (rūḥ al-ḥaqq) is come, he will
guide you unto all the truth: for he will not cry out of himself but
shall speak out whatsoever he shall hear; and he will declare unto
you the things that are to come [Jn 16:13]." (Jn 16:7+ 16:13; Ar.
INBMC 46:4-5 = AQA III:11).
Some of the original endnotes have been worked
into the above webpage and are therein indicated by the endnote number
followed by an = sign.
1. Star of the West
vol. 3/4 p.3 See Jackson Armstrong-Ingram, Music, 84-5.
2. [in text]
In its basic passive sense the verbal adjective / noun paraclētos
indicates `one called' by somebody to accomplish something (EDNT 3:28;
cf. IDB 3:654). On the history of this word outside the New Testament
see Behm, TDNT V:800ff; Smith, `Paraclete'; Grayston, 1984:58; idem.,
1981. Casurella sums matters up when he writes of paraclētos
"Its use in the ancient world outside the New Testament shows it to be a
forensic term designating one who is summoned as a legal advisor, an
intercessor, an advocate" (141).
In 1 John 2:1 Jesus is referred to as an "Intercessor" or "Advocate"
(Paraclētos), one who pleads or intercedes for others. Both
grammatically and conceptually, the four occurrences of paraclētos in
John's Gospel go beyond the sense of this word in the First Epistle of
John. It only occurs in these five texts and nowhere else in the Bible.
5. The word paraclētos
does not occur in the ancient Greek version of the Hebrew Bible, the
Septuagint (LXX) cf. though Job 16:2 where "comforters" (Hebrew,
menaḥamin) is translated paraklētores
(EDNT 3:28). In Hebrew and Aramaic paraclētos
occurs as the loan-word Peraqlît[a] (e.g. Aboth 4.1.; Targum to Job
16:20 and 33:23).
6. [in text]
7. [in text]
By this translation, however, he apparently meant "confortator"
or "strengthener" -- not "consoler" or "comforter" unless he was
following the general ecclesiastical tradition (ICC:497; Snaith,
In 1953 J. G. Davies wrote an article defending the
translation "Comforter" on the basis of the Septuagintal use of the
verb parakalein (not used in John; see Davies, 1953; cf.
Brown 1971:1137). It should be noted here that one of the titles of
the expected Messiah in Rabbinical literature is Menaḥem
("Comforter"). It is a "name" which has the same numerical value
(138) as the messianically significant Hebrew word for "branch" (ṣemah see Zech 3:8; 6:12; Lam. Rabb I.16; Mid. Rab. Gen. 86; B. San. 98b).
Driver reckoned that in both Talmud and Midrash "a Messianic aura
hangs about the person of Menahem" (Driver, 1965: 356f). The
Jewish messianic title Mehaḥem is not usually reckoned to be
directly related to the Johannine Paraclete (Behm, TDNT V:804
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QA = Qayyūm al-asmā. n.p. nḍ.
Bayān-i farsī. n.p. nḍ.
Dalā'il-i sab`ih. n.p. nḍ.
Bahā’-Allāh, Mīrzā Ḥusayn `Alī Nūrī (1817-1892).
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