The Paraclete

John Chapters 14 to 16

We now come to, perhaps, the most frequently quoted of all the passages of the Bible, in which it is alleged by Muslims we have a reference to Muhammad. We refer to those verses in John 14, 15, 16 which have a reference to the Paraclete, (παράκλητος) variously translated ‘Comforter’, ‘Advocate’, and ‘Helper.’ The verses mostly relied upon by Muslims in urging that Muhammad is here foretold, are the following, ‘And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may be with you for ever, even the Spirit of truth: whom the world cannot receive; for it beholdeth him not, neither knoweth him: ye know him; for he abideth with you, and shall be in you’ (John 14:16-17). ‘But the Comforter, even the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said unto you’ (John 14:26). ‘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 bear witness of me’ (John 15:26). ‘Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he shall guide you into all the truth: for he shall not speak from himself; but what things soever he shall hear, these shall he speak: and he shall declare unto you the things that are to come’ (John 16:13).

The passages of the Injil quoted above, Muslim writers tell us, all refer to the coming of the last and greatest Prophet Muhammad, who by his intercession at the throne of God has become the true ‘Comforter’ or ‘Peacemaker’. He it is who alone fulfils the predictions made by Jesus, and his name it is which corresponds with the Greek word Parakletos.

This claim has been reiterated with such persistence that many uninstructed people have really come to believe that it has some basis in the words of Scripture. We propose, therefore, to deal with this question somewhat more in detail than has been thought necessary in the case of other passages quoted. The author of Baibele Muhammad argues at length that if the Christian interpretation of the passages quoted be correct, and if the Holy Spirit had really been given to teach the Christian Church, then warfare amongst Christians would not be known, and sectarianism would find no place in the Christian Church. At the same time he does not scruple to reiterate the claim that Muhammad was himself the promised Paraclete, though he does not stop to explain why, under such circumstances, Muslims still wage war with Muslims, and Shiah and Sunni still anathematize each other. If, according to him,the function of the promised Paraclete was to preserve from these, then why has Muhammad so signally failed, and why did he himself foretell the day when Islam should be divided into seventy-three sects, all of whom, but one, were destined for the fire. The answer is, of course, that the objector's reasoning is hopelessly wrong. God has not undertaken to force men to uniformity of belief, nor has He said that the presence of His spirit in the Christian Church should quell all the passions of nominal Christians. The real question at issue is whether the passages quoted above can, in a spirit of honest exegesis, be applied to Muhammad; and to an answer to that question we now apply ourselves.

(1) Our first point is one scarcely involving any exegesis at all. It resolves itself into a simple reading of the text as it stands. Thus we read that the promised Paraclete 31 was ‘the Spirit of truth’ (John 14:17), and ‘the Holy Spirit’ (John 14:26). If these terms mean anything, they surely mean that the promised one was to be, not a mere man at all, but a divine Spirit. This latter Muhammad never claimed to be. Rather he never tired of asserting his essential humanity, and in the Qur'an we repeatedly find such passages as, هَلْ كُنتُ إَلاَّ بَشَراً, ‘Am I ought but a man?’ 32

(2) That the one referred to was no mere man is further emphasized by the words, ‘He shall give you another Comforter, that he may be with you for ever’ (John 14:16). 33 How, we ask, can these words possibly apply to Muhammad, who lies buried in his grave at Madina? Did not Muhammad rebuke his followers upon the field of Uhud in these words, ‘Muhammad is no more than an Apostle; other Apostles have already passed away before him: if he die, therefore, or be slain, will ye turn upon your heels’ (Qur’an Al 'Imran 3:144).

(3) In the next place we remark that the promised Spirit was to be invisible to the eyes of men. Thus we read that he was a spirit, 34 ‘Whom the world cannot receive; for it beholdeth him not’ (John 14:17). Such language as this can never apply to Muhammad, or, indeed, to any mere man. It can only apply to a divine Spirit, such as the Bible teaches was sent in fulfilment of the promises of Jesus recorded above.

(4) Again we observe that the promised Paraclete would dwell spiritually in the hearts of men. Thus we read, ‘He abideth with you, and shall be in you’ (John 14:17). 35 It is almost an insult to the reader's intelligence to point out how impossible it is that such language can, in any sense, refer to Muhammad.

(5) Once more, in Acts 1:4-5, we read that the promised Paraclete should come, not to men living six hundred years later in the distant land of Arabia, but to the very disciples to to whom the promise was addressed, and in Jerusalem itself, ‘not many days hence.’ 36 It is there written, ‘And being assembled together with them, he charged them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, said he, ye heard from me: for John indeed baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence.’ This passage shows clearly that the disciples were to ‘wait’ for the fulfilment of the promise made to them by Christ; and only after its fulfilment were they to go forth to obey the great command to preach the Gospel to all the world. It is further recorded that, before leaving the earth, the Lord Jesus called His disciples together and said, ‘Behold, I send forth the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city, until ye be clothed with power from on high’ (Luke 24:49). These words of the Messiah make it clear that the Paraclete was to come during the life-time of those addressed, and first of all, in the city of Jerusalem. This is so obvious from the words of the Injil, that only people blinded with prejudice would dare to assert that they can refer to Muhammad.

(6) In the next place, in John 16:13, it is clearly stated that the Lord Jesus Christ, addressing his disciples, said that the promised spirit ‘shall declare unto you the things that are to come.’ 37 But every reader of the Qur'an knows that Muhammad was absolutely ignorant of future events. Thus in Qur’an Al-Ahqaf 46:9, he says,

وَمَا أَدْرِي مَا يُفْعَلُ بِي وَلاَ بِكُمْ

‘Neither know I what will be done with me, or with you.’ Whilst in Qur’an Al-An'am 6:50, he says,

لاَّ أَقُولُ لَكُمْ عِندِي خَزَآئِنُ اللّهِ وَلا أَعْلَمُ الْغَيْبَ

‘I say not to you, “In my possession are the treasures of God.” Neither say I, “I know things secret”.’ Muhammad once, upon a certain occasion, ventured a prediction, it is true, but as the people of his time were unable to verify it, his ignominious failure did him no harm. The occasion is recorded in the Mishkatu'l Masabih, in the Kitabu’l-Fitan in the section entitled ‘the signs of the resurrection’. It is there stated that

عَنْ أَبِي قَتَادَةَ قال قال رسول صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ قَالَ: الآيَاتُ بَعْدَ الْمِائَتَيْنِ

‘It is related from Abu Qatadah that he said, ‘The Apostle of God (upon whom be the peace and blessing of God) said, “The signs (of the resurrection) will be after two hundred (years)”.’ 38 Thirteen hundred years have passed since these words were uttered, but the ‘signs’ which, as every Muslim knows, include the rising of the sun in the west, are still in the distant future!! How different is the record of that Spirit who was given to guide and teach the infant Christian Church. Of that Spirit we read that the Apostle Paul, addressing the elders of the Ephesian Church said, ‘The Holy Ghost testifieth unto me in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions abide me’ (Acts 20:23). In another place we read that, ‘There came down from Judaea a certain prophet, named Agabus. And coming to us, and taking Paul's girdle, he bound his own feet and hands, and said, Thus saith the Holy Ghost, So shall the Jews at Jerusalem bind the man that owneth this girdle, and shall deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles’ (Acts 21:10-11). These predictions were literally fulfilled a few days later, thus clearly showing that the ‘spirit’ promised by the Lord Jesus Christ to His disciples came and showed them things to come, even as it had been promised.

(7) Yet once again let us notice that in Acts 2 the actual coming of the Holy Spirit, in accordance with the promise of Christ, is clearly recorded. We have already seen that he was to come during the lifetime of the immediate disciples of Christ. 39 In Acts 1 it is further stated that his coming was to be accompanied by a manifestation of great power. ‘Ye shall receive power’ said Christ, ‘after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you’ (Acts 1:8). In accordance with this prediction it is recorded that a few days later, when the disciples were gathered together in a certain place, ‘suddenly they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance’ (Acts 2:4). The great promise had been fulfilled, and the disciples went forth in the new-given power preaching everywhere the words of life, and, ‘fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the Apostles’ (Acts 2:43).

Such was the promise of the Holy Spirit, the Comforter as revealed by John, and such its fulfilment as recorded by Luke. The reader will now be in a position to judge how impossible it is for the prediction to apply, in any sense, to Muhammad, a man of flesh and blood, seen by thousands, and living in Arabia some six hundred years after the time announced for the appearance of the Paraclete.

31. The Paraclete was to be a divine Spirit.

32. See for example, Qur’an Al-Isra' 17:93.

33. The Paraclete was to abide for ever.

34. The Paraclete was, to be invisible

35. The Paraclete was to dwell in the hearts of men

36. The Paraelete was to come during the life–time of the apostles of Christ

37. The Paraclete was to reveal future events.

38. Al-Hadis, An English Translation and Commentary of Mishkat-Ul-Masabih With Arabic Text, Al-Haj Maulana Fazul Karim, Vol 4, Chapter 39, Sec 3, No 83, General Signs of the Hour, page 48.  See also, Sunan Ibn Majah, Book 36, Hadith 4057

39. The actual coming of the Paraclete is recorded in Acts 2.