And remember, Jesus, the son of Mary, said: “O Children of Israel! I am the messenger of Allah (sent) to you, confirming the Law (which came) before me, and giving Glad Tidings of a Messenger to come after me, whose name shall be Ahmad.” But when he came to them with Clear Signs, they said, “this is evident sorcery!” (Qur’an 61:6, Yusuf Ali version)
(7) Nevertheless I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. (8) And when he comes, he will convince the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: (9) concerning sin because they do not believe in me; (10) concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no more; (11) concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged. (12) I have yet many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. (14) When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. (14) He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. (15) All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you (John 16:7-15, Revised Standard Version).
When Jesus (peace be with him) said in several places in John (chapters 14, 15, and 16) that a “Counselor” (or “Comforter”) would come after him to carry on and complete his mission, to whom was he referring? For those of us who were raised in orthodox Christianity – or who were “saved” from an ungodly life and attended orthodox Christian churches thereafter – the answer seems pretty obvious: he was referring to “the Holy Spirit” who “came” on the Day of Pentecost following Jesus’ resurrection and ascension, and who “abides forever” with the Church of God and His Son Jesus Christ. After all, didn’t Jesus specifically say in John 14:26 But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name…? And in John 14:17, as well as in 16:14 (quoted above), the Counselor is referred to as the Spirit of truth.
While that may sound very clear and plain to our ears, it has not always been so clear to Christrian leaders, teachers, and scholars. In this introduction to his book The Gift to the Intelligent for Refuting the Arguments of the Christians, Anselm Tormeeda (14th century A.D) tells how a discussion of the meaning of those passages about a coming “Counselor” led him to embrace Islam. He was a Christian priest and leader who was surprised when his own very elderly Christian teacher/priest explained to him that Muhammad (peace to him) was the fulfillment of this prophecy by Jesus Christ. Anselm had attended a conference of priests in which John’s account of the “Counselor” passages was discussed. It seems the meaning was unclear enough that a number of different interpretations were advanced. Anselm’s teacher had been unable to attend the meeting due to ill health, so Anselm told him later about the discussion. We are not told what the various interpretations advanced were – not even Anselm’s. But Anselm’s teacher explained that Anselm was close to the truth in his understanding – much closer than some of the others – but nevertheless they all failed to grasp the full truth of the matter. Muhammad was the Prophet of whom Jesus spoke.
During the lifetime of Muhammad, there were Christians who recognized in Muhammad the fulfillment of Jesus’ prophecy (and there were Jews as well as Christians who saw him as the fulfillment of some of the Hebrew prophets’ statements). How could this be if Jesus’ statements were as clear as they seem to be to today’s Christian orthodoxy?
Actually, there are a number of things within these statements which should cause a thinking person to question how they could possibly be referring to “the Holy Spirit” as Christians usually define that term (whether one thinks of it as a “person” within the “Godhead”, or simply views it as referring to the spiritual presence of God in His creation). (1) For one thing, the passage from John 16 quoted at the beginning of this article says that this “Counselor”, referred to by the masculine pronoun “he”, was not present yet with Jesus’ followers. He could only come if Jesus himself left them. (And in fact, Jesus said they would be better off when the “Counselor” would come than they were with his own presence with them). But “the Holy Spirit” (again, whether one interprets that to mean a “person” within the “Godhead”, or the spiritual presence of the One God) had certainly been present with and in God’s creation from the beginning of the world. From the time when the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the deep at the beginning of creation, to the ministry of Jesus Christ who did his mighty works by the power of the Holy Spirit, that “Holy Spirit” had been present with and in God’s people. It was the “Holy Spirit” which “came upon” Mary in order for Jesus to be conceived (Luke 1:35); and John the Baptist was filled with the Holy Spirit from his mother’s womb (Luke 1:15). Jesus required the presence of God’s Spirit to do his mighty works (Matthew 12:28); surely the Spirit’s presence with the disciples was at least equally necessary for those disciples to do the mighty works they did when Jesus sent them out to minister (while he was still living on earth).
It was said concerning the Hebrew King Saul that he prophesied by the Spirit of God (1 Samuel 10:10); and the Psalmist asked where he could go to flee from God’s Spirit (Psalm 139:7). The implied answer of course is “nowhere”, because whatever he did and wherever he went God (or God’s Spirit) would be there with him. I don’t know whether the Psalmist was encouraged or discouraged by that fact 🙂 but he certainly believed it to be a fact.
So if “the Holy Spirit” was present with God’s people (and indeed with all creation) throughout history, it should certainly make us question how Jesus could be saying that “the Holy Spirit” (meaning God’s Spirit) could not “come” unless Jesus departed from the earth.
(2) Another thing which should make a thinking person question the commonly accepted interpretation of Jesus’ statement is the fact that this “Counselor”, when he came, would not speak on his own authority, but would only speak whatever he heard from God (just as was the case with Jesus). This messenger would obviously, like Jesus, be subservient to God – not God’s equal or God Himself. Jesus had said that his Father was greater than he (John 14:28); so would it be with the messenger who would come after Jesus departed.
This coming messenger would also “hear” and “speak”, which certainly implies a human messenger just like Jesus. God’s Spirit would “know” the things of God just as a man’s spirit “knows” the things of a man (see 1 Corinthians 2:11). God’s Spirit would not have to wait to “hear” from God rather than speaking “on his own authority”.
(3) This humanness of the coming messenger is also implicit in what Jesus said in John 14:16 – I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Counselor… In the Greek language in which John’s Gospel narrative was originally written, there are 2 words for “another”: “allos” meaning “another of the same kind”; and “heteros” meaning “another of a different kind”. The word used here (John 14:16) is “allos” – another of the same kind. John is the only New Testament writer to use the word translated “Counselor” or “Comforter” here (parakletos). In his first letter (1 John 2:1) John referred to Jesus as a “parakletos” (translated “advocate”) with the Father. Jesus was a human messenger (the man Christ Jesus, 1 Timothy 2:5), and the coming “Counselor” would be “another of the same kind” – therefore a human messenger like Jesus.
(4) Another indication that the coming “Counselor” would be a human messenger, not God Himself, is the fact that he would be sent by Jesus after his departure from the disciples (John 16:7). This was expressed in various ways by Jesus: in 14:15 he said he would pray the Father, and the Father would send the messenger; in 14:25, he said the Father would send the Counselor in his name; and in 15:26 he said he would send the Counselor from the Father, and that this spirit of truth proceeds from the Father. This is the normal way that the Bible speaks of the coming of a human messenger. Of John the Baptist, it was said: There was a man sent from God, whose name was John ((John 1:7); and Jesus said in this 16th chapter of John (verse 5) that he was returning to the one who sent him. Now Jesus is saying that another messenger of the same kind as he was would be sent from God for the benefit of the followers of Jesus Christ and the world in general.
It should be obvious that the one who sends someone else is quite distinct from the one whom he sends. Now since it was the Father who was going to send the “Counselor” – and the Father is the only true God (John 17:3) – it is quite clear that this “Counselor/holy spirit/spirit of truth” cannot be “true God” or a “person” in the “Godhead”. And neither is Jesus Christ “true God”, since the only true God sent him.
Those would be at least some of the reasons that Christian leaders and scholars would wonder who this promised “Counselor” would be, despite what at first reading would seem to be a clear identification: the Holy Spirit, or Spirit of truth.
The “orthodox” interpretation of the “Counselor/Comforter” passages, of course, in a somewhat circular way both “proves” and depends upon the doctrine of “the Trinity”. But the “Trinity” is a demonstrably false teaching, and is nowhere to be found in the Hebrew and Christian Bible. It took several centuries for this self-contradictory doctrine to become developed in the Christian Church; and even after Church Councils had officially decreed the doctrine it still took quite a while to completely suppress the truth (labeled “Arianism” and called a “heresy”). Once it is grasped that there is no such thing as a “Trinity” of “Persons” in a “Godhead”, then it becomes impossible to suppose that Jesus was going to send God (or the Father was going to send Himself) as a “counselor/messenger” – who would not speak on His own authority but would only say what He heard from Himself 😆 – to believers and the world.
Why then would Jesus have called the promised messenger of God “the holy spirit” and “the spirit of truth” if he was not in fact to be “the Holy Spirit” and the “Spirit of truth” (meaning God Himself, or a “person” in the “Godhead”)? The answer to that is really quite easy to understand, although inconvenient for “Christian orthodoxy”.
The Hebrew and Greek words rendered as “spirit” in English can and do, of course, frequently refer to God Himself. For instance there is the famous statement of Jesus to the Samaritan woman in John 4:24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth. There are plenty of instances where phrases like “the spirit”, “the spirit of God”, and “the holy spirit” either clearly – or, in some cases at least, most probably – refer to God. However, it is also true that “spirit” is also used with reference to those created beings we usually refer to as “angels”, and with reference to men.
With regard to “angels”,for instance, there is the statement of the writer of the letter called “Hebrews” in the Christian “New Testament”: Hebrews 1:14 Are they not all ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation? And 4 places in the book called Revelation (1:4; 3:1; 4:5; and 5:6) in the New Testament (also attributed to John, as are the “Counselor/Comforter” passages which we are discussing) speak of the seven spirits and the seven spirits of God which are before His throne. I am aware that many Christian interpreters seek to make this refer to the one “Holy Spirit” by rephrasing John’s statements as: “the seven fold Spirit”. By this they mean that the one Holy Spirit has a seven fold ‘ministry’. To my mind, that is a very strained and forced interpretation. Now I am no where near to being a ‘literalist’ in Biblical interpretation – and particularly in the book called Revelation – so I don’t believe that John’s reference to “seven spirits” necessitates the idea that he believed there were only 7 angels who served the Sovereign One. However to attempt to make John’s statements concerning seven spirits of God mean “the seven fold Spirit of God” is really a stretch. He is plainly refering to “angels” as “spirits”.
The “spirits” of men are referred to in such places as Revelation 22:6 And he said to me, “These words are trustworthy and true. And the Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, has sent his angel to show his servants what must soon take place.” That comes, once again, from John who recorded Jesus’ statement about the counselor who is the holy spirit and the spirit of truth. The counselor was to be one of those spirits of the prophets, and he would be outstandingly a holy and truthful “spirit”.
Or again from John (1 John 4:6), John refers to men by the term the spirit of truth: We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us; whoever is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error. Here, John says that anyone who listens to God’s messengers is a spirit of truth, while whoever doesn’t listen to the messengers (and therefore obviously doesn’t know God) is a spirit of error.
Once again from John’s first “epistle” (4:1-3), John refers to prophetic spirits. Those spirits who confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh are from God, while those who don’t make that confession are not from God but are antichristian spirits.
The “counselor” whom Jesus spoke of was to be someone who listened to, obeyed, and proclaimed the words of God; and he would honor (or “glorify”) Jesus Christ. Therefore, he would be a spirit of truth, not a spirit of error.
An interesting example of what it meant for this “counselor” to be “the holy spirit” can be found in the apostle Paul’s letter called Romans: Rom 1:1 Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, Rom 1:2 which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures, Rom 1:3 concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh Rom 1:4 and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord. The phrase spirit of holiness is slightly different than “holy spirit”, and I believe it is unique to this passage in the New Testament. However most everyone will acknowledge that a “spirit of holiness” is a “holy spirit”. Here in Romans Paul is referring to Jesus Christ’s spirit as contrasted with his “flesh”. Physically he is said to be descended from David; but his holiness of spirit proclaimed him to be the powerful “son of God”, further proved by his resurrection from the dead. So Jesus Christ was the holy spirit whom God sent to proclaim his message; and he said that another holy spirit would be sent by God after he departed this world. This coming messenger would also be the holy spirit whom God would send.
Who is this prophetic spirit whom Jesus predicted? I agree with Anselm Tormeeda, the 14th century Christian priest who embraced the prophethood of Muhammad on the basis of Jesus’ prophecy, that this prophetic spirit is clearly Muhammad. Muhammad did not speak on his own authority, but spoke only what he heard from God or His angel Gabriel. Not one word in the Qur’an is ever attributed directly to Muhammad; it is always Gabriel who tells Muhammad, “Say…” The message brought through Muhammad honored and glorified his predecessor Jesus Christ. He came with the blessing and authority of Jesus Christ, who sent him from the Father (by praying the Father to send him).
But the verse from the Qur’an quoted at the beginning of this article says that Jesus announced the name of the coming prophet: Ahmad. This is another form of the name Muhammad; but where in Jesus’ prophecy does it say anything about that name? Well, Jesus almost certainly spoke in Aramaic, not Greek; so John’s Gospel only gives a translation of Jesus’ words, not the words themselves. Also, whoever wrote the Gospel of John was almost certainly an Aramaic speaking Jew for whom Greek was only a second language; and he wrote several decades after Jesus spoke the words.
The word “Ahmad” means “praised”, and “Muhammad” means “praised one”. The Aramaic equivalent of “Muhammad” would be “Mawhamana”; and both that and the Arabic “Ahmad” come from the Aramaic verb “hamida” (“he praised”) and the noun “hamd” (“praise”). What is interesting is that while John used the Greek word “parakletos” (“counselor” or “advocate”), there is another very similar Greek word “periklytos” which is the exact equivalent, in meaning, of the Arabic and Aramaic words I’ve just mentioned. It means “praised one”. Did Jesus use the Aramaic equivalent of Muhammad or Ahmad, and the writer of John mistranslated by using a word sounding very similar to the correct translation “periklytos”? Was Jesus’ actual statement something like “I will ask the Father, and He will send you another [prophet], the praised (or desired) one”? Well, that’s just speculation of course; but I believe it’s very likely. And for one who accepts that Muhammad is indeed the promised one of whom Jesus spoke, and that he spoke only what he heard from God and His angelic messenger Gabriel, there will be no doubt that Gabriel (and Muhammad) knew exactly what he was talking about when he said: And remember, Jesus, the son of Mary, said: “O Children of Israel! I am the messenger of Allah (sent) to you, confirming the Law (which came) before me, and giving Glad Tidings of a Messenger to come after me, whose name shall be Ahmad.