The Gospel of John uses a unique word to describe the Holy Spirit: the Advocate. For example: “But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything and remind you of all I have said to you” (John 14:26). We are used to thinking of the Holy Spirit as a comforter, providing guidance and consolation. The word “advocate”, which normally refers to an official spokesperson for a cause, does not seem like such a fitting title for the Spirit of God. How is our appreciation for this unique term strengthened by looking at the original Greek?
John uses the word παράκλητος (parakletos), a term borrowed from the legal realm, meaning a defense lawyer. John chooses this word not necessarily because he sees salvation as a courtroom drama, but because this word captures a shared sense of responsibility. When we break the word parakletos into two we get: “side” (para) “caller” (kletos). Rather than simply “advocating” and taking center stage, the Holy Spirit is “off to the side”, urging us on, holding our hand through difficult times. But we need to be present as well. Looking at the original Greek, we now understand why some newer English translations prefer the more accessible “helper” over the legalistic “advocate”. But for those who prefer the traditional term “advocate”, rest assured that this word means basically the same thing as paraklete in Latin: “one to whom we call” (ad + vocatus).