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The Orientation of the Teaching of the Paraclete in the Gospel of John: Retrospective or Prospective?

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  03 December 2019

Thomas Tops*
Protestantse Theologische Universiteit Groningen, Oude Ebbingestraat 25, 9712 HAGroningen, Netherlands. Email:


Past scholarly literature has interpreted the orientation of the teaching of the Paraclete in the Fourth Gospel as either retrospective or prospective. First, I will argue that it is prospective, but that this does not imply that the Paraclete teaches things that have not yet been taught by Jesus. The Gospel text challenges us to conceive the teaching of the Paraclete as prospective, but also as repeating Jesus’ teaching. A synthesis of the retrospective and prospective interpretation is thus required. Second, I will argue that this paradoxical synthesis can be obtained on the basis of Kierkegaard's category of repetition.

Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2019

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1 See e.g. Lagrange, M.-J., Évangile selon Saint Jean (Études Bibliques; Paris: Gabalda, 1936 6) 391Google Scholar; Bultmann, R. K., Das Evangelium des Johannes (KEK 2; Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1950 11) 484–5Google Scholar; Porsch, F., Pneuma und Wort: Ein exegetischer Beitrag zur Pneumatologie des Johannesevangeliums (FThSt 16; Frankfurt a.M.: Knecht, 1974) 257Google Scholar; de la Potterie, I., La vérité dans Saint Jean (2 vols.; AnBib 73; Rome: Biblical Institute, 1977) i.367–9Google Scholar; Rahner, J., ‘Vergegenwärtigende Erinnerung: Die Abschiedsreden, der Geist-Paraklet und die Retrospektive des Johannesevangeliums’, ZNW 91 (2000) 7290, at 77CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Wehr, L., ‘“Er wird euch alles lehren und euch an alles erinnern, was ich euch gesagt habe” (Joh 14,26): Die hermeneutische Funktion des Geist-Parakleten und die Kriterien der Traditionsbildung im Johannesevangelium’, Pneuma und Gemeinde: Christsein in der Tradition des Paulus und Johannes. Festschrift für Josef Hainz zum 65. Geburtstag (ed. Eckert, J., Schmidl, M. and Steichele, H.; Düsseldorf: Patmos, 2001) 329 n. 15Google Scholar; Keener, C. S., The Gospel of John: A Commentary (2 vols.; Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2003) II.978Google Scholar; Thyen, H., Das Johannesevangelium (HNT 6; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2015 2) 635Google Scholar; Theobald, M., ‘“Erinnert euch der Worte, die ich euch gesagt habe…” (Joh 15,20): “Erinnerungsarbeit” im Johannesevangelium’, Jahrbuch für biblische Theologie 22 (2007) 105–30Google Scholar, at 126–7.

2 See Klein, H., ‘Der Paraklet als Subjekt prophetischer Rede im Johannesevangelium’, Sacra Scripta 9 (2011) 173–88Google Scholar, at 178.

3 See e.g. Brown, R. E., The Gospel according to John (xiii–xxi) (AB 29A; New York: Doubleday, 1970) 650–1Google Scholar; Schnackenburg, R., Das Johannesevangelium (4 vols.; HthK 4/3; Freiburg/Basle/Vienna: Herder, 1975) iii.94–5Google Scholar; Franck, E., Revelation Taught: The Paraclete in the Gospel of John (ConBNT 14; Lund: CWK Gleerup, 1985) 42Google Scholar; Dettwiler, A., Die Gegenwart des Erhöhten: Eine exegetische Studie zu den johanneischen Abschiedsreden (Joh 13,31–16,33) unter besonderer Berücksichtigung ihres Relecture-Charakters (FRLANT 169; Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1995) 203CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Bennema, C., The Power of Saving Wisdom: An Investigation of Spirit and Wisdom in Relation to the Soteriology of the Fourth Gospel (WUNT ii/148; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2002) 229Google Scholar; Gourgues, M., ‘Le paraclet, l'esprit de vérité: deux désignations, deux fonctions’, Theology and Christology in the Fourth Gospel: Essays by the Members of the SNTS Johannine Writings Seminar (ed. Belle, G. Van; BETL 184; Leuven: Leuven University Press/Peeters, 2005) 83108Google Scholar, at 97–8; Zumstein, J., L’évangile selon de Saint Jean (13–21) (CNT 4b; Geneva: Labor et fides, 2007) 82Google Scholar; Dettwiler, A., ‘La pneumatologie de l’Évangile de Jean: un essai de synthèse’, ETR 92 (2017) 353–77Google Scholar, at 365–6.

4 See e.g. Westcott, B. F., The Gospel according to St. John (London: Clarke, 1880) 208–9Google Scholar; Weiss, B., Das Johannes-Evangelium (KEK 2; Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1902 9) 414Google Scholar; Zahn, T., Das Evangelium des Johannes ausgelegt (Kommentar zum neuen Testament 4; Leipzig: Deichert, 1921 5) 572–3Google Scholar; Windisch, H., Die fünf johanneischen Parakletsprüche: Festgabe für Adolf Jülicher zum 70. Geburtstag 26. Januar 1927 (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 1927) 116Google Scholar; Bauer, W., Das Johannesevangelium (HNT 6; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 1933 3) 187Google Scholar; Bernard, J. H., A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Gospel according to St. John (2 vols.; ICC; Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1949 3) ii.553Google Scholar; Mußner, F., ‘Die johanneischen Parakletsprüche und die apostolische Tradition’, BZ N.F. 5 (1961) 5670Google Scholar, at 60; Feuillet, A., ‘De munere doctrinali a Paraclito in ecclesia expleto iuxta evangelium sancti Ioannis (Disquisitio biblica de relationibus inter scripturam et traditionem)’, De scriptura et traditione (Rome: Pontifica academia Mariana internationalis, 1963) 115–36Google Scholar, at 118; Hoegen-Rohls, C., Der nachösterliche Johannes: Die Abschiedsreden als hermeneutischer Schlüssel zum vierten Evangelium (WUNT ii/84; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 1996) 116–17Google Scholar; Bieringer, R., ‘The Spirit's Guidance Into All the Truth: The Text-Critical Problems of John 16,13’, New Testament Textual Criticism and Exegesis: Festschrift J. Delobel (ed. Denaux, A.; BETL 161; Leuven: Leuven University Press/Peeters, 2002) 198–9Google Scholar; Hahn, F., ‘Sehen und Glauben im Johannesevangelium’, Studien zum Neuen Testament, vol. i:Grundsatzfragen, Jesusforschung, Evangelien (ed. Frey, J. and Schlegel, J.; WUNT 191; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2006) 521–38Google Scholar, at 536.

5 See de la Potterie, La vérité, i.367–8; Porsch, Pneuma, 257. De la Potterie structures Jn 14,26aβ–e as follows:

6 See de la Potterie, La vérité, i.368; Porsch, Pneuma, 257 nn. 210, 213.

7 See de la Potterie, La vérité, i.368.

8 See Hoegen-Rohls, Der nachösterliche Johannes, 116–17.

9 See Zahn, Johannes, 572. According to de la Potterie (La vérité, I.368), the adjective πάντα in Jn 14,26aβ is, however, not omitted to: (i) give to it a “légère valeur emphatique”, see E. A. Abbott, Johannine Grammar (London: Black, 1906) no 2606 for John's use of superfluous words to draw attention; (ii) keep the rhythmic balance in the chiastic structure of (a) and (b), see n. 5.

10 See Wehr, ‘“Er wird”’, 329–30.

11 See Poythress, V. S., ‘The Use of the Intersentence Conjunctions de, oun, kai and Asyndeton in The Gospel of John’, NovT 26 (1984) 312–40Google Scholar.

12 The notation John 14.21(2) indicates the second use of καί in John 14.21.

13 The text of John 16.12–13 is taken from NA28.

14 Bieringer, ‘The Spirit’, 184–5, 190 distinguishes ten variants in the textual tradition of John 16.13c and three variants for 16.13e.

15 See Bieringer, ‘The Spirit’, 184–92.

16 See Bieringer, ‘The Spirit’, 183–4. Stefan, C., ‘The Paraclete and Prophecy in the Johannine Community’, The Journal of the Society for Pentecostal Studies 27 (2005) 273–96Google Scholar, at 286 correctly observes that, if the fourth evangelist really wanted to present the Paraclete as ‘only recalling and interpreting Jesus’ earthly words’, he would have ‘used the past tense of the verb ἀκούω, which would imply that the Paraclete “will declare what he heard”’. This past tense is, however, nowhere attested in the manuscripts.

17 BDR §205 speaks about the confusion of ἐν and εἰς in the NT in the sense that ἐν can be used for εἰς and εἰς for ἐν. For this confusion in the Gospel of John in particular, see the chart in Bieringer, ‘The Spirit’, 201.

18 See e.g. Lagrange, Jean, 420–3; Bultmann, Johannes, 441–3; Brown, John (xiii–xxi), 714–16; Schnackenburg, Johannes, iii.152–4; de la Potterie, La vérité, i.422–66; Dettwiler, Die Gegenwart, 231–6; Rahner, ‘Vergegenwärtigende Erinnerung’, 89; Wehr, ‘“Er wird”’, 330–2; Gourgues, ‘Le paraclet’, 96–9; Zumstein, Jean (13–21), 138–9; Thyen, Johannes, 665–7; Dettwiler, ‘La pneumatologie’, 370–1.

19 Both the readings ἀκούει and ἀκούσει in John 16.13e are legitimate in this interpretation of 16.13f. The indicative present ἀκούει can be explained as expressing eternal Trinitarian relations: see Lagrange, Jean, 422; de la Potterie, La vérité, i.441 n. 313.

20 See e.g. Westcott, John, 230–1; Weiss, Johannes, 443–4; Windisch, Die fünf johanneischen Parakletsprüche, 121; Zahn, Johannes, 593; Bauer, Johannes, 198; Bernard, John, 509–11; Mußner, ‘Die johanneischen Parakletsprüche’, 61–2; Feuillet, ‘De munere’, 119–21; Hoegen-Rohls, Der nachösterliche Johannes, 188–92; Bieringer, ‘The Spirit’; Stefan, ‘The Paraclet’; Hahn, ‘Sehen’, 536.

21 The verb ὁδηγέω occurs forty-four times in the LXX. According to my analysis, in twenty-one occurrences it is used in combination with ἐν + dative (Deut 1.3; Josh 24.3; Neh 9.19; Pss 5.9; 24(25).9; 26(27).11; 66(67).5; 72(73).24; 76(77).21; 77(78).14, 53, 72; 105(106).9; 118(119).35; 138(139).24; 142(143).10; Wis 9.11; 10.10, 17; 2 Esd 19.19; Ecclus 2.3). In three occurrences it is found in combination with εἰς (Exod 32.34; Pss 42(43).3; 106(107).7). For further semantical analysis of the combination ὁδηγέω + ἐν + dative in the LXX, see Bieringer, ‘The Spirit’, 195–6.

22 See also Mußner, ‘Die johanneischen Parakletsprüche’, 151 n. 16.

23 See Bauer, Johannes, 198; Barrett, C. K., The Gospel according to St John: An Introduction with Commentary and Notes on the Greek Text (London: SPCK, 1978 2) 407Google Scholar.

24 See Bieringer, ‘The Spirit’, 196–7.

25 Bieringer, ‘The Spirit’, 206. See also Lagrange, Jean, 421.

26 Bieringer, ‘The Spirit’, 196.

27 Bieringer, ‘The Spirit’, 202.

28 Bieringer, ‘The Spirit’, 183.

29 For these interpretations, see above, section 3.

30 That morphologically present tense verbs express posterior information is a phenomenon that is also attested in Dutch, German, English, Italian, Modern Greek, and beyond: see Broekhuis, H. and Verkuyl, H. J., ‘Binary Tense and Modality’, NLLT 32 (2014) 9731009Google Scholar; Giannakidou, A., ‘The Futurity of the Present and the Modality of the Future: A Commentary on Broekhuis and Verkuyl’, NLLT 32 (2014) 1011–32Google Scholar.

31 The future meaning of λαμβάνει in John 16.15 has been noticed by modern translators: see e.g. KJV (‘All things that the Father hath are mine: therefore said I, that he shall take (λαμβάνει) of mine, and shall shew it unto you’); NRSV (‘All that the Father has is mine. For this reason I said that he will take (λαμβάνει) what is mine and declare it to you’).

32 Bieringer, ‘The Spirit’, 200.

33 See e.g. Lagrange, Jean, 420; de la Potterie, La vérité, i.429.

34 de la Potterie, La vérité, i.429.

35 See de la Potterie, La vérité, i.429.

36 De la Potterie (La vérité, i.440) correctly observes that ἀναγγελεῖ in John 16.13f explains and specifies the double use of λαλήσει in 16.13de. The conjunction καί in 16.13f is, therefore, ‘épexégétique’.

37 Because of the indeterminate meaning of τὰ ἐρχόμενα in John 16.13f, this presentation of the interpretation possibilities of 16.13f does not include e.g. Barrett's suggestion (John, 490) that τὰ ἐρχόμενα might refer to ‘the events of the passion, which was about to take place, and include perhaps both the crucifixion and the resurrection’.

38 See Joüon, P., ‘Le verbe ἀναγγέλλω dans Saint Jean’, RSR 28 (1938) 234–5Google Scholar.

39 See esp. Rahner, ‘Vergegenwärtigende Erinnerung’, 89; I. Broer, ‘ἀγγέλλω’, Exegetisches Wörterbuch zum Neuen Testament i (2011) 29–32, at 31; Gourgues, ‘Le paraclet’, 99; de la Potterie, La vérité, i.448.

40 See esp. Stefan, ‘The Paraclete’, 273, 283, 286–7, 294–5.

41 See Stefan, ‘The Paraclete’, 281. Additionally, Brown (John (xiii–xxi), 708), a proponent of interpretation one of John 16.13f, doubts whether ἀναγγέλλω in 4.25 has the meaning of reannouncing or reproclaiming.

42 Young, F. W., ‘A Study of the Relation of Isaiah to the Fourth Gospel’, ZNW 46 (1955) 215–33CrossRefGoogle Scholar, at 224–6. See also Sirach's passage on Isaiah, Ecclus 48.25: ὑπέδειξεν τὰ ἐσόμενα καὶ τὰ ἀπόκρυφα πρὶν ἢ παραγενέσθαι αὐτά.

43 Carlisle, C., ‘Kierkegaard's Repetition: The Possibility of Motion’, British Journal for the History of Philosophy 13 (2005) 521–41CrossRefGoogle Scholar, at 525.

44 Bârliba, I.-A., ‘Søren Kierkegaard's Repetition: Existence in Motion’, Symposion 1 (2014) 2349CrossRefGoogle Scholar, at 27.

45 Carlisle, ‘Kierkegaard's Repetition: The Possibility of Motion’, 525.

46 See Carlisle, ‘Kierkegaard's Repetition: The Possibility of Motion’, 525–6; Bârliba, ‘Søren Kierkegaard's Repetition: Existence in Motion’, 27.

47 Eriksen, N. N., Kierkegaard's Category of Repetition: A Reconstruction (Kierkegaard Studies Monograph Series 5; Berlin: de Gruyter, 2000) 132–4CrossRefGoogle Scholar.