Monday, May 28, 2012

Holy Spirit - Courtesy: Dr. Lawrence Brown [Book: The First and Final Commandment]

Holy Spirit

Free from desire, you realize the mystery.
Caught in desire, you see only the manifestations.
-Lao-Tzu, Tao Te Ching

Everyone knows the term "Holy Spirit," but few attempt to define it. Those who do usually produce a mix of personal opinion and ambiguous, though doctrinally sanctioned, apologetics. In the minds of  most, this "oil and water" theology fails to gel into a homogeneous reality. The Islamic understanding, on the other hand, is remarkably concrete, teaching that the "Holy Spirit" is Gabriel, the angel of revelation. When we come to Ruh-ul-Qudus in the Holy Our'an (see ayah 2:87), some (like Yusuf Ali) translate "holy spirit," others (like Muhammad Al-Hilali and Muhammad Khan) translate "Gabriel" and still others (like Saheeh International) offer both "holy spirit" and "Gabriel"-reflecting that, in the creed of the Muslim, the two terms are synonymous.

While Islam teaches that the Bible is to one degree or anoth corrupted, many Muslims contend that the truth of Islam can nonetheless be found in the Bible. And since Muslims frequently argue Islamic ideology on the basis of biblical teachings, we might ask, "How does Islam explain the use of 'Holy Spirit' in the Bible?" For "Angel Gabriel cannot be substituted for "Holy Spirit" without rendering many Bible passages implausible or nonsensical.
The challenge, then, is for Muslims to either make sense of this discrepancy, from a biblical perspective, or to stop arguing Islam on the basis of the Bible. This would seem an ultimately fair challenge, for otherwise Muslims can be accused of the same disingenuousness with which they charge Christians-namely, picking and choosing only those Bible verses that suit their purpose, while dismissing without legitimately discrediting verses that prove ideologically uncomfortable.

However, at least two points need to be considered in order to understand the Islamic perspective. The first concerns the questionable reliability of the Bible, which will be addressed in later chapters devoted to that subject. The second point, which dovetails with the first, is that Muslims do not claim the Bible to be unadulterated revelation from God pointing the way to the Holy Qur'an and Islam. Rather, Muslims believe the Bible contains both divine truths and human corruptions. Indeed, biblical corruptions run the gamut from copying errors to doctrinally motivated additions, deletions, tailored translation and, in some cases, even forgery.196
The thrust of Unitarian Christian and Muslim argument, then, focuses not only upon faithful adherence to revealed truth, but also upon recognition and disavowal of scriptural corruptions.
Take, for example, the Greek word pneuma. In the Bible, pneuma is translated "spirit." However, Kittel and Friedrich's Theological Dictionary of the New Testament informs us pneuma can mean a great deal more (as well as a great deal less): wind, breath, life, soul, transferred (in a metaphorical sense) sense of spirit, mantic pneuma (the spirit that stirs and inspires-"mantic" pertaining to prophecy), divine pneuma (about which the authors comment, "But there is in Greek no sense of a personal holy spirit"), the pneuma of Stoicism (an ancient Greek philosophy to which few today subscribe), and non-Greek development of meaning (which is to say, unauthentic, for even Greek wasn't the language of Jesus).197
In reading the above, we find Bible translators assumed considerable literary license, for the correct translation of pneuma is nowhere "holy spirit." According to the above text (which is widely considered one of the most scholarly references on this subject worldwide), the word pneuma bears diverse possibilities in translation. Of course, "holy wind" or "holy breath" don't support Trinitarian doctrine as does "holy spirit," but what's a translator to do? Seek the truth of God's revelation or manipulate translation to support institutional decree?
Let's let Jason BeDuhn answer that question. In his landmark work, Truth in Translation, he wrote:

In our survey of the use of "spirit" in the New Testament, we have found no translation that heeds grammar, syntax, literary context, and cultural environment with complete consistency. The translators of all of the versions we are comparing allowed theological bias to interfere with their accuracy. At one point or another, they all imported the "Holy Spirit" into passages where "spirit" is being used in a different sense .... no translation emerged with a perfectly consistent and accurate handling of the many uses and nuances of "spirit" and "holy spirit."198
Then, there's the startling "coincidence" between the book "John" being dramatically more poetic than any of the other gospels and "John's" unique utilization of the mantic pneuma, as described above. So great is the disparity that expert theologians admit surprise at the infrequent mention of the Spirit in "Mark" and "Matthew" compared to "John."199 Couple this with the fact that the doctrines of the Trinity and the Incarnation stem primarily from strained interpretations of the poeticisms of "John" with little, if any, scriptural support from the other gospels, and the weight of these doctrines overstress their shoddy foundation.
Undeniably, there is ample room for interpretation of scripture. There are those who read the Bible and understand "Holy Spirit" to I a somewhat indefinable third element of divinity, akin to the pneuma of Stoicism or the unauthentic meaning developed following the period of revelation. Others understand God to be One, without partner subdivision, and search for what is rational and justified according to logic. For this latter group, "Holy Spirit" cannot be understood except in reference to a tangible entity separate and distinct from God.
An example of how the Bible suffers in translation, and why conclusions vary as consequence, is the fact that paraclete (from the Greek parakletos) can mean "helper, defender, mediator, consoler." Elsewhere it is translated "advocate, helper."201 Harper's concurs with "advocate.”202 Why is this important? Because "the word Paraclete occurs only five times in the Bible, and all five occurrences are in the purported writings of St. John: 1st Epistle of John 2:1; and the Gospel according to John 14:16, 14:26, 15:26, 16:7."203
Should we assume this word slipped the minds of the other gospel authors? If so, we would suspect it must not have been very important. On the contrary, these five passages are critical. In fact, Trinitarian emphasis on the need to accept the Holy Spirit hinges on these few quotes. A person can appreciate the peculiarity of this incongruity, for if the concept of the Paraclete is so crucial to the creed that God wants man to gain from revelation, we have to wonder why it didn't make enough of an impression on the other three gospel authors to be worthy of mention. Even once.
Whatever the reasons, paraclete is one more word frequently mistranslated "Holy Spirit" or "Holy Ghost." Even as modern translation of the Bible tends toward greater academic integrity, paraclete is still often mistranslated "counselor" or "comforter". The correct translation as "helper/' "defender," "mediator/' "consoler," "advocate," or "helper" would imply an actual physical entity, which would be consistent with the fact that "some trace the origin of the use of parakletos in the Johannine works back to the concept of heavenly helpers.''204 And who could be a greater "heavenly helper" than Gabriel, the angel of revelation himself?
Similarly, in its first-century Greek usage, "Parakletos was a legal term used mainly of advocate, defender, or intercessor. True to its basic meaning one 'called out to stand beside, defend, advise or intercede,' it was used of legal counsel and witnesses alike."205
These quotes help us to understand what paraclete meant in the period of revelation. But somewhere in the passage of time, select theologians claimed to know better, and developed a radically different understanding of the word. Association of parakletos with a physical entity proved inconvenient to those who sought to bolster the Trinitarian argument, and appears to have been avoided at all costs.
And so, to review:
1.    The definition of "holy spirit" is elusive in Christianity, but concrete in Islam, being synonymous with Gabriel, the angel of revelation.
2.    There are many definitions of pneuma, but nowhere is it "holy spirit" in its original Greek meaning.
3. Only according to the derived and unauthentic, "non-Greek development of meaning" is pneuma translated to "holy spirit." 
4. Christian theology regarding the Holy Spirit depends almost exclusively on the Gospel and First Epistle of "John.
5. The Paraclete is not mentioned in any of the other books the New Testament.
6. Correct translation of paraclete appears to imply a material entity, which could be human or angelic.

With these points firmly in mind, what remains is to trace the meaning of Paraclete in the five NT verses in which it appears. Taken in order:
1. The First Epistle of John, 2:1 (I Jn 2:1) identifies Jesus Christ as a "paraclete" (herein translated "advocate": "And if anyone sins, we have an advocate [i.e., paraclete] with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” So whatever a "paraclete" is-advocate, helper, comforter, whatever- Jesus was one, according to this verse.
2. John 14:16-17 reads, “And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another helper [i.e.. paraclete], that he may abide with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor know him; but you know him, for dwells with you and will be in you."
Note the qualifying adjective "another" in the phrase "another helper." The Greek word used in this verse is allos, the meaning which is '''the other,' strictly where there are many, as distinct from heteros, where there are only two ..."206 The wording is specific and leave no room for interpretation. In this verse, Jesus advised his disciples- and, by extension, all humankind-to anticipate another paraclete (i.e., helper) following his ministry. Not just another helper, but one characterized by honesty (i.e., "the spirit of truth") and bearing an eternal (i.e., that he may abide with you forever) message.
Can we conclude that this "other" (i.e., "'the other,' strictly wh. there are many") is the final prophet in the long line of prophets, bearing a final revelation? Is this not a more comfortable conclusion than the strained claim that Jesus describes some mystical "holy spirit," derived from an unauthentic, "non-Greek development of meaning?” On the other hand, the conclusion that Jesus is unique in a "begotten, not made, son of God" sense if there is another, "strictly where there are many ... ," all of whom bear the exact same description as Jesus (i.e., the description of "paraclete") is not just unfounded, it is contrary to scripture.
Lest there be any confusion over this point, the New Testament confirms that the Greek pneuma (translated below as "spirit") is not restricted to mystical beings but can refer to flesh and blood humans, both good and bad. For example, the First Epistle of John 4:1-3 states:

Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. And this is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you have heard was coming, and is now already in the world.

This verse not only clarifies the human nature of some "spirits" (i.e., pneuma), but Muslims claim that this verse admits Muhammad into the company of those who are "of God," for every spirit that "con- fesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God." Muhammad said it, all Muslims affirm it, the Holy Qur'an documents it, and in the minds of a billion Muslims, that settles it.
3. & 4. The third reference to "paraclete" is in John 14:26, which reads, "But the helper [i.e., Paraclete], the holy spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you."
The fourth reference, John 15:26, reads much the same. Once again, Trinitarians may justify their mysticisms with this verse. Others perceive reference to a prophet who will remind the world of Jesus' true message, as opposed to the misdirection which developed in the beliefs and doctrines of later generations. Once again, Muslims suggest Christians should consider Muhammad and the Holy Qur'an. The union of the comments, "He will bear witness to the truth of what Jesus did and said and was,"207 and "even though this divine Advocate is the very 'Spirit of truth' (John 14:16; 15:26; 16:13), the world will not listen to him (14:17)"208 would make perfect sense if the prophethood of Muhammad were assumed to be true. As discussed above, both Muhammad and the Holy Qur'an witnessed "to the truth of what Jesus did and said and was.” Furthermore, Muhammad bore the reputation of honesty (i.e., the "spirit of truth")-throughout his life he was known, even among his enemies as As-Saadiq Al-Ameen, which means "the truthful; the trustworthy." And, yet, the majority of humankind will neither "listen to him" nor entertain his message.
5. The final mention of paraclete is in John 16:7: "Nevertheles I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send hi
to you."
This last reference to the Paraclete, like a small but high-velocity projectile, lays waste to surrounding doctrines far in excess of the innocent entrance wound. Trinitarians may continue to assert that paraclete refers to the mystical Holy Spirit, but John 16:7 negates that possibility. How? Jesus reportedly stated that unless he goes away the "Paraclete will not come; even though multiple, multiple Bible passages speak the presence of the "holy spirit" in or before Jesus' time.209 Both cannot be true, and the most logical conclusion, if the Bible is to be trusted, is that "holy spirit" and "paraclete" are anything but synonymous.
To compound the confusion, Jesus seems to have contradicted himself. In John 14:17, the Paraclete is preexistent: "but you know him [i.e., the Paraclete], for he dwells with you and will be in you," and this makes sense considering that Jesus is himself identified as Paraclete 1 John 2:1. However, in John 16:7 the Paraclete is foretold: "If I do not go away, the helper [i.e., the Paraclete] will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send him to you." The church's conclusion? "The Paraclete is another Paraclete in whom Jesus comes but who is not Jesus (14: 16:7)."210 Some accept that explanation. Others believe Jesus spoke himself in one case and of a prophet to follow in the other. Billions Muslims have voted Muhammad as the fulfilment of this prophecy."-- just as a few million Mormons vote for John Smith, a smattering Ahmadi'ites for Mizra Ghulam Ahmad, the Baha'i for Mirza Ali Muha mad and Mirza Husain Ali, and small handfuls for David Koresh, Jim Jones, Luc Jouret, Marshall Applewhite and similar cultists (and look what happened to them). The critical issue, then, may not be whether Jesus predicted a prophet to follow, but over which of the many claimants to the title fulfilled the prophecy. 

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