Kostenberger gives a variety of possible translations for the term, “parakletos” in his text, and he makes clear that no clear English translation is possible with exactness of translation. (Kostenberger, 157) Kostenberger identifies that the term, “the Counselor” as used in the NIV reflects contemporary concepts that people may have about counseling, but he identifies that the legal term Counselor would instead be more appropriate. (Ibid) The term, “the Helper” (NASB, ISV) does not portray much satisfaction for Kostenberger because it does not provide the possible legal connotation of the term. (Ibid) The term is also translated as, “Comforter, Encourager, or Advocate,” but according to Kostenberger evidence exists that the term was used in a legal setting. (Ibid) The conclusion that Kostenberger arrives at is that, “helping Presence” is perhaps the best translation possible for the term, “parakletos.” (Kostenberger, 157)
Of the possible translations many positive points and negative points exist. Using the term parakletos itself in a Bible translation could be the best way to translate the word with complete accuracy, but most people would not know what the term actually means unless some footnotes to English equivalents would be provided. If the term, “the Counselor” would misguide a reader into believing that the Holy Ghost is like a mental health professional, then it would not benefit people if the original Greek term had no such meaning. Overall, the idea of presenting the Holy Ghost as a legal professional that could help secure protection of the believer against the accusations of the devil cannot be underestimated, and that particular message is perhaps the most important for readers to understand.
Translating the term parakletos as, “defense attorney” is perhaps the best way to approach translating the term parakletos. The problem however is that when Jesus uses the phrase, “…he will guide you into all truth…” (John 16:13 NIV) what stands to reason is that much confusion would occur because the defense attorney would also be like a teacher. Overall, what thus stands to reason is that the Holy Ghost would be not just a defense attorney but also would be a helper for the individual that would provide guidance in doing what is right.
One could reason that the parakletos is like an Old Testament prophet that would lead people into the truth of what God wants and would pray for the people and thus legally represent them against Satan’s accusations. The problem however in using the Old Testament prophet analogy is that the prophets had been sent to the people particularly when the people had gone astray, but the parakletos is not particularly imposed as a measure of last resort but instead is given as a gift to be always in place. Overall, Bible translations are best to thus describe the term parakletos as a good thing (or good Person) and that does not imply that a person is in trouble, but if the term was translated as defense attorney or prophet, then people may get the wrong impression of what God thinks about them by being sent such a person.
The parakletos translated as, “the Counselor” in the NIV portrays this author’s favorite known Bible rendering of the term as can be seen in John 16:7. Given the above explanation, this author can see that the NIV does not give the best translation possible because it does not portray the possible legal properties of the term. Overall, regardless of such a fact, the NIV provides great strength in readability and is still very good even if it misses capturing some of the meaning.
Kostenberger, Andreas. Encountering John: The Gospel in Historical, Literary, and theological perspective. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic, 2002.