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In the construct of the two spirits, which pits two figures against one another in the heavenly court, the accuser (Satan) is opposed by a defending attorney who looks after the interest of the righteous by pleading their just cause before God and protecting them from evil in a variety of ways. In the Community Rule, 1QS 3:18that figure is called the prince of light, the angel of God’s truth, and the Spirit of holiness and is probably identified with the angel Michael.25 In any case, the minimalist definition may simply mean “an advocate, or provider of mediatorial help.” It seems that whatever else the term might mean, we can not dial out its forensic and legal frequencies. Though it is clear that John may have meant more than this, he likely did not mean less. As is consistent with other places in his Gospel, John does not have the habit of pulling his meanings out of thin air. Rather in typical Johannine fashion, he uses terminology that is familiar to his readers and exercises the prerogative to expand the term to encompass his own objectives (e.g. logos). The phrase “another Advocate” then, assumes they already have an Advocate and anticipates that the coming Spirit is a worthy successor.26 So far, John has told us that Jesus promised to send another Advocate-Helper to the disciples whose presence will abide with them in perpetuity.

ta pneuma tes aletheias: There are various conceptual parallels to the Holy Spirit found in extra-biblical literature. The Wisdom of Solomon (possibly contemporaneous to Philo and the NT and falsely attributed to Solomon) personifies Wisdom and calls “her”

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the spirit, which is holy.27 In addition to this, Philo portrays the Spirit as hovering over the waters as air, or an invisible force. Philo seems to fuse the idea of God’s Spirit to knowledge, wisdom, and power to create and understanding.28 Some argue that the Qumran texts provide us with another possible background for the “spirit of truth” phrase in particular.29 Here we have the most striking contrast between the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error.30 As noted above, Jesus may have drawn from the celestial courtroom imagery in the TANAK (Zech. 3), but that he borrowed his terms or concepts from Qumran is less clear.

In searching for a theological or conceptual backdrop for Jesus’ use of “Spirit of Truth,” or “Holy Spirit” in John 14-16, some potential candidates can immediately be screened out such as the impersonal view of Philo, or the exalted angelic view of certain strains of Judaism. In addition to thinning out various inaccurate concepts for the Spirit of Truth, we must also recognize that all of these possible backgrounds are at least inadequate. A far more useful framework to the disciples is the messianic passage of Is.

11:2 which states, “The Spirit of the LORD will rest on him— the Spirit of wisdom and 27 C. K. Barrett, ed. The New Testament Background: Writings from the Ancient Greece and the Roman Empire That Illuminate Christian Origins. Rev. ed. (London: Harper Collins, 1995), 300-302. Also, see Wis 9:17 28

Philo, The Works of Philo: Complete and Unabridged, trans. C.D. Yonge, (Peabody:

Hendrickson Publishers, 2006), 153. It is clear that Philo doesn’t have a personified view of the Spirit in the way that an advanced trinitarian theology would articulate. This is new meaning that the disciples will later come to realize.

29 Keener, The Gospel of John, 969-970.

30 Neusner, Dictionary of Judaism in the Biblical Period, 40, 600. Neusner sees a clear parallel with the Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs, or Jubilees 17:15ff, The Testament of Asher, and Testament of Judah. et al. However, it is doubtful that Jesus borrowed his imagery from a strain of Judaism that is not consistent with his theology of the Spirit as co-equal, personal, and the successor of his mission. Also, there is some debate as to the date of those sources; if they post date Christ, then they can be ruled out as possible background sources for Jesus’ use.

10 of understanding [emphasis added], the Spirit of counsel and of power, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD.” The disciples have already come to believe that Jesus is ministering in the power and the wisdom of God’s Spirit. Now Jesus is promising the same to them as an extension of his messianic vocation. The assurance of the coming Spirit is a comforting promise of permanency and equivalency. But what did Jesus mean by referring to him as the Spirit of Truth?

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In order to understand what Jesus meant by it, we need only to examine his usage of “truth” and John’s application of the term as it relates to Jesus. Twice in John’s prologue he refers to Jesus as “full” of truth (1:14, 17). He also repeatedly states that Jesus prefaced his teaching with “I tell you the truth.” (1:51; 3:3; 5, 11, 21, 33; 5:19, 24et al.).31 Moreover, Jesus only speaks what he hears the Father say, thereby showing himself to be a man of truth (7:18). And lastly, Jesus claims to be the truth (14:6). Arguably then, the disciples already understand Christ himself as the specific parallel here, and the messianic use of Spirit in Torah as the broader context.32 At this time it is not critical for them to comprehend all truth. For now, the truth must apprehend them. They must embrace it before fully understanding it, or like the unbelieving Jews they will risk never understanding it.

Already familiar with the Holy Spirit’s “resume” from the TANAK, the disciples are introduced to his new job description as it relates to Christ’s ongoing mission through

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them. The Paraclete will teach them all things and remind them of all Jesus previously taught them (14:26). The Spirit will teach them the significance of Christ’s words.

panta33, in Greek literally means “all things,” but here refers to all relevant things; i.e.

Christ’s spoken words.34 Through the mediation of the Spirit’s presence, Jesus would unlock their understanding of his plan and his person. This teaching will be “explanatory and applicational, like the exposition of the Jewish sages.”35 Yet there is a discontinuous aspect of the Spirit’s teaching of the disciples. Regarding the Spirit’s role in teaching and

reminding, Carson observes:

One of the Spirit’s principal tasks, after Jesus is glorified, is to remind the disciples of Jesus’ teaching and thus, in the new situation after the resurrection, to help them grasp its significance and to teach them what is meant…the promise of v. 26 has in view the Spirit’s role to the first generation of disciples, not to all subsequent Christians. John’s purpose in including this theme and this verse is not to explain how readers at the end of the first century may be taught by the Spirit, but to explain to readers at the end of the first century how the first witnesses, the first disciples, came to an accurate and full understanding.36 It is interesting that the Spirit will have to remind them of Christ’s words. Typically, Jewish disciples would meticulously memorize their rabbi’s teachings. Memorizing was critical to the educational system of both Jews and Greeks.37 It is unlikely that Jesus here means mere recollection, and most likely is referring to “recollection with application.”38

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The Spirit will enhance an already strong cultural ability to memorize, and will provide them with unparalleled retention and accuracy of interpretation. This interpretive recollection will be the basis for their later stories of Christ, and the future codification of that tradition.

The Paraclete will also “testify” (Gk. marturesei39) of Christ (15:26). This is not a tepid affirmation, but a “bold counter-offensive”40 against the world. Jesus’ application of marturesei in the immediate context is not in the sense of a friendly witness, reaching out to longing souls. Though this is certainly a function of the Spirit’s witness in other New Testament passages (1 Jn. 5:6-10; Rom. 8:16; Acts 9:1),41 the context that flanks v.

26 is that of the world “hating” Christ and the church. The “witness” aspect of the Paraclete, will be to turn the verdict of judgment back onto the world. His resurrection will vindicate his claim, and the Paraclete will authenticate this message through the ministry of the disciples as the Spirit convicts the world. The disciples will themselves be witnesses, but as yet are not spiritually fit for that vocation.

In 16:12, Jesus tells them that he has much more to divulge but at the time they can not “bear” it. Given the weighty nature of what Christ has already vocalized, this probably means that they are not spiritually fit to bear more. But when he sends them the Advocate-Helper, they will be able to carry a theologically weightier load. John’s text reveals clear trinitarian undercurrents, but the disciples may not be ready to go there just yet. Jesus completes his thought saying that the Spirit will guide them into all truth

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(v.13). Carson notes, “If there is a distinction between ‘in all truth’ and ‘into all truth,’ it is that the latter hints at truth the disciples have not yet in any sense penetrated, while ‘in all truth’ suggests an exploration of truth already principally disclosed.”42 There will be continuity between recalled truth, and newly revealed truth.43 When the Spirit reveals future revelation, he will take from what is Jesus’ and convey it to them. This future revelation is typically interpreted as a matter of eschatology. Yet this approach is not entirely aware of John’s view of eschatology, which is typically more realized than anticipatory.44 The spirit will reveal the significance of all that is to come likely referring to Christ’s death, resurrection and glorification, which they will later understand.45


After the farewell discourse, Jesus is arrested, crucified and resurrected. Mary Magdalene, Peter, and the disciple who outran Peter (probably John) fail to make a connection between Jesus’ empty tomb, Christ’s extensive discourse on it, and the scripture. After seeing the tomb empty, verse 9 states that “They still did not understand [emphasis added] from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.”46 The disciples returned to their homes, leaving Mary at the empty tomb sight. Mary, a close follower of Christ (though not one of the twelve), instantly misunderstands what has happened to

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Jesus’ body. She is confused, thinking that it has been simply moved to another more permanent grave sight. Jesus then appears to all the disciples except one (20:19-23) and Thomas still refuses to believe the disciples report until he sees Christ for himself.


We are lead to the defining moment of Christ’s mission among them. He has been their rabbi, friend, advocate, their shepherd and messiah. Now he appears to them as the risen Lord of the world, and imparts to them the Spirit of which he had promised (20:22). The disciples will still need to have Christ open the scriptures to them (Lk. 24:7), they will still need the Spirit to come and empower them for service and witness (Acts 2), and they will still need to experience the unfolding program of the messiah as they take the Gospel into the Gentile world (Acts). But as newly transformed believers by the Spirit of God, they can perceive the truth of Christ at a level that they could not have before. Jesus gives their inner renewal a missional context saying, “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” Then, reminiscent of Adam, in Genesis-like fashion the Son of God breathes into them new life and they experience new birth.47

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John’s Gospel itself is an implicit attestation that Jesus’ promise came true. The disciples did remember all of Jesus teachings and their significance, and they did testify to the world of Christ. At the time of the Gospel’s writing, John is able to reflect on previous ambiguities that later become crystal clear to him and the disciples (2:17, 22;

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12:16; 20:9).48 He is able to convey retrospectively, that apart from Jesus sending the Advocate-Helper to assist in their understanding and recollection of Christ’s teaching, they would still be lost in confusion. This does not mean that the disciples never misunderstood anything again. Before John lets us out of the book, he recounts two trivial misunderstandings the disciples still faced. First is Peter’s failure to follow Jesus’ line of thought regarding feeding his lambs (21:15-17), and second is the popular rumor that spread about John remaining alive until Christ’s return (21:22-23). Also, in other places we see the disciples’ view was sometimes murky with regard to a direct course of action (e.g. the choosing of a replacement apostle in Acts 1, or the timing of Christ’s “restoring the Kingdom to Israel” etc.). The disciples were not given complete infallibility in every respect. Their infallibility was fused with the Spirit’s witness of Christ in them, reminding, teaching, and revealing to them the significance of Christ’s teachings. This is why Paul states that the church is built on the foundation of the Apostles and the Prophets (Eph. 2:20).

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When the disciples began their journey with Christ, they couldn’t possibly have anticipated the spiritual transformation that would take place in them. In confronting the inadequate Messianic views of his countrymen, Jesus was bound to be challenged and misunderstood. As rabbi Jesus declared himself to be the fulfillment of their typological religious structures, it was inevitable that he would be met with resistance. When Jesus broke their oral traditions to heal people on the Sabbath, his aim was to re-introduce them

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to their God-given vocation of mercy over justice. To complicate things, Jesus is at times taken entirely too literally by both his opponents and his followers.

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