Who is the True Comforter? Jesus, or the Holy Spirit?
by Peter Salemi
One of the scriptures Trinitarians often quote to support their doctrine is John 14:16-17, 26; 15:26; 16:7. Let’s examine the passages and see what it really says.
“And I will pray the Father” Jesus said to his disciples, “and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you forever…
“Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you...
“But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you...
“But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me:...”
Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the
Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you.” Here Trinitarians say that “he,” the Holy Spirit as the Comforter, is a third person of a Trinity. Is the Comforter a person? A quick examination of this shows Him to be A PERSON, but a NOT a third person of a trinity!
The Bible says that Jesus Christ is the Comforter of the Church of God! Is this a contradiction in scripture?
First the word translated “Comforter” in the King James Version is the Greek Parakletos. Vine has this to say about the word:
“...lit., called to one’s side, i.e., to one’s aid, is primarily a verbal adjective, and suggests the capability or adaptability for giving aid. It was used in a court of justice to denote a legal assistant, counsel for the defence, an advocate; then, generally, one who pleads another’s cause, an intercessor, advocate, as in I John 2:1, of the Lord Jesus. In the widest sense, it signifies a succourer, comforter. Christ was this to His disciples, by the implication of His word ‘another (altos, another of the same sort, NOT heteros, different) Comforter,’ when speaking of the Holy Spirit... He calls Him ‘the Comforter.’ ‘Comforter’ or ‘Consoler’ corresponds to the name ‘Menahem,’ given by the Hebrews to the Messiah” (W.E. Vine, An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, p. 200, emphasis added). Notice that the description of the comforter is applied more to Jesus Christ, than to the Holy Spirit.
The word “another” is not a different comforter, which the Holy Spirit would be if he were a person, but “allos” same sort of comforter which they always had, Jesus Christ. “Allos expresses a numerical difference and denotes ‘another of the same sort;’ heteros expresses a qualitative difference and denotes ‘another of a different sort.’ Christ promised to send ‘another Comforter’ (allos, ‘another like Himself,’ not heteros), John 14:16. Paul says ‘I see a different (AV, "another") law,’ heteros, a law different from that of the spirit of life (not allos, ‘a law of the same sort’), Rom. 7:23.” (Vine's Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, p.29, emphasis added).
Leon Morris explains it this way, “The the Greek there are two words for ‘other:’ allos means ‘another of the same kind,’ Thus if I ask for another book, using allos, I am seeking another copy of the volume in question. But if you bring me a copy of another book altogether I might complain that I did not say heteros…all Greek writers used the two words for ‘other’ strictly” (Spirit of the Living God p.36, emphasis added). The sense is it’s another copy of same book!
They had Jesus at the time in the flesh as their comforter, but, afterwards, after his resurrection they would have Jesus as Lord in the Spirit with power and glory, a resurrected Christ! Another copy of the same person. That’s why Jesus said, “Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you.” (John 16:7). And Jesus also said, “Ye have heard how I said unto you, I go away, and come again unto you” (John 14:28). Leon Morris is right when he says, “As Jesus is a person, the inference is that the spirit is also a person” (ibid, p.36). Of course he thinks it’s the Holy Spirit but examining the scriptures tell us something different.
Let’s look at the other scriptures that show Jesus as the Comforter of the Church of God, “My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we [the church and the disciples of Jesus] have an advocate [“comforter” Greek “Parakletos”] with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous:” (1 John 2:1). JESUS IS THE COMFORTER!
“For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour [boētheō or “help or “bring aid” Thayers] them that are tempted.” (Hebrews 2:18). Because Jesus has suffered being tempted, he comes to us in a different way than He ever did before, He can truly be called “another Comforter.”
Now why did Jesus called the Comforter “he”? was he not speaking of someone else? It was not uncommon in Christ’s day to speak of oneself in the third person. You find this style throughout the New Testament. Notice John 17:1-4, “These words spake Jesus, and lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, Father, the hour is come; glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee:
“As thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him.
“And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.
“I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do.” Is Jesus speaking of another person or himself? The answer is obvious. When Jesus was speaking of another Comforter he was speaking of himself in his glorified state. Most forget what Jesus said about the statement he made when it comes to the comforter, “And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you forever;
“Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.
“I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.” (John 14:16-18). Jesus himself said he will come to them and not leave them comfortless. The third person language is being applied here as in other places in the Bible. Also the italicized words around these scriptures make it sound more like the Holy Spirit is a person because the translators added these words for the simple fact that they were Trinitarians. One example, “But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you” (John 14:26).
Now the Comforter as it says above “dwelleth with you, and shall be in you” and “abide with you for ever;” It is “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” (Colossians 1:27). John said, “And this is his commandment, That we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as he gave us commandment.
“And he that keepeth his commandments dwelleth in him, and he in him. And hereby we know that he abideth in us, by the Spirit which he hath given us…God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us.
“Hereby know we that we dwell in him, and he in us, because he hath given us of his Spirit ” (1 John 3:23-24, 4:12-13). Christ the Comforter dwells in us BY THE SPIRIT! So if we keep in line with what the Bible says, the translators should of added the words this way, “But the Comforter, which is BY the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you” (John 14:26).
So let’s examine the scriptures about the comforter understanding with all the scriptures who is the true comforter.
“And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; [Jesus speaking in the third person like he always does]
“Even [“Even” is italicized added by the translators. Jesus dwells in us BY the Spirit so this word can read “BY”] the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him [The Comforter] not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you [as John says Jesus dwells with us by the spirit]." The world and his own did not know or receive Jesus, see John 1:9-10.
“I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.” (John 16:18). Jesus confirms he is the other Comforter that will come to them as the resurrected Lord of Glory and will dwell with his church forever see Matthew 28:20, and dwell in us by his Spirit!
“But the Comforter, which is [According to 1 John “BY”] the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.” (John 14:26). 1 John 2:20, 27, speaks of the “anointing” meaning the Holy Spirit, and it says that “it hath taught you,” John describes the Holy Spirit as “It” for the simple reason, the Holy Spirit is the mind of God, and God puts his words in our minds to reveal and teach us all things. The Comforter, Jesus Teaches us through, or by the Holy Spirit.
“But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even [“BY”] the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he [the Comforter] shall testify of me:” (John 15:26). Again, Jesus speaking in the third person as he always does, and he will come and dwell with us “BY the Spirit of Truth” which come from the Father.
"Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you.
“And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment:
“Of sin, because they believe not on me;
“Of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and ye see me no more;
“Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged.
“I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now.
“Howbeit when he [the Comforter], [BY] the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come.
“He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you.
“All things that the Father hath are mine: therefore said I, that he shall take of mine, and shall shew it unto you.
“A little while, and ye shall not see me: and again, a little while, and ye shall see me, because I go to the Father.” (John 16:7-16).
Verse 13 is explained when “He” the Comforter, Jesus comes, BY “the Spirit of Truth,” this is how he dwells with his church, “He” the Comforter will guide, speak and show us all things by the Holy Spirit.
Jesus made a statement toward the end of His discourse sheds significant light on His description of the Comforter, and is usually ignored or overlooked by Trinitarians. That statement is found in John 16:25: “These things have I spoken unto you in proverbs: but the time cometh, when I shall no more speak unto you in proverbs, but I shall shew you plainly of the Father.” The word “proverbs” is “paroimiais” This means “figurative language.” JFB Commentary says, “in obscure language; as opposed to speaking ‘plainly’ in the next clause” (emphasis added). The International Bible Commentary by F.F. Bruce says, “Figuratively…the wording might well mean that He speaks of the parabolic method which he employed as a whole” (p.1257, emphasis theirs and mine).
The Ferrar Fenton Version of the Bible renders the passage, "All these things I have told you infigures of speech. The time has come however, when I will no longer speak to you figuratively, but plainly…"
Throughout His discourse (John 14-16), Jesus used “proverbs,” or figurative language, in teaching the disciples about His Father, His work of redemption. His going away and coming again to His disciples and the work they were to perform in His bodily absence.
The disciples did not know what Jesus meant when He told them that He was going away and that he would send a “Comforter,” or “Counselor,” to them. He used figurative language throughout the discourse the disciples still did not fully understand His meaning.
Though the disciples failed to grasp the full meaning of Jesus’ words, we need not be confused. A careful examination of Jesus’ own explanations of the figurative language He used leaves us with a clear understanding of what He meant when He spoke of the Comforter.
Immediately after His first reference to the Comforter, Jesus explained His meaning. Notice carefully: “I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.
“Yet a little while, and the world seeth me no more; but ye see me: because I live, ye shall live also.
“At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you.
“He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him.
“Judas saith unto him, not Iscariot, Lord, how is it that thou wilt manifest thyself unto us, and not unto the world?
“Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.” (John 14:18-23).
Jesus’ promise to come to His disciples after His departure may be an allusion to His post-resurrection appearances, but the context-and especially the promise of Christ and His Father making their abode with the disciples-clearly indicates that He was also speaking of the fact that He and the Father would be with them in Spirit. Jesus’ description of the Comforter, then, was figurative language for the spiritual presence of God, both Father and Son as it is described in 1 John3:24 and1 John 4:13.
The use of such figurative language was not uncommon among the Jewish rabbis. In fact, in rabbinic writings after the time of Jesus, the Holy Spirit is described as Israel’s “defense counsel.” None of the rabbis thought of the Spirit as a distinct personality, but they spoke of it as if it were distinct from the One who sends it. While such descriptions appear after the time of Jesus, it is probable that they were derived from earlier sources. It is not surprising, then, that Jesus, whose methods of teaching were strikingly similar to those of other Jewish teachers, described the Holy Spirit in similar terms. Again our assessment is correct rendering it “the Comforter, which is BY the Holy Ghost.”