Re: parakletos. . .

Carl W. Conrad (
Tue, 24 Sep 1996 23:06:37 -0500

At 6:19 PM -0500 9/24/96, Tom Launder wrote:
>Hello all,
>I have been studying John 14:16 which introduces the ALLON PARAKLeTON.
>There are many different translations of this word: Comforter, Paraclete,
>Counselor, Advocate, your Advocate, and Helper.
>My question is in regards to something that the articles and commentaries on
>this word have discussed. These articles refer to the noun as being either
>active or passive. Here is an example of one of the articles. "The noun
>parakletos is derived from the verb parakaleo. . . Such nouns formations are
>normally understood in a passive sense, i.e., 'one who is called for or
>So am I to understand that this is some kind of verbal noun and therefore
>can be taken either actively or passively? I really don't understand this
>at all. Are there some other examples of this? Do we do this in English?

I'm not sure how far this can be pushed, but in general the Indo-European
forms ending in -t- (usually -ed in English: taught, learned, seated,
watched) tend to be verbal adjectives and often participles; in Latin
-TUS,-A, -UM is the regular perfect passive participle; corresponding to
the English forms above are DOCTUS (both "taught" and "learned"), SESSUS

In Greek there are two very common types of verbal adjectives, neither of
which is a participle:

(1) adjectives based upon root + TOS (-H, -ON), generally passive in
perspective, and indicating possibility: Plato, in the "figure of the
divided line," uses two such adjectives to characterize his major
epistemological divisions: GENOS hORATON -- "visible category" and GENOS
NOHTON -- "thinkable category."

(2) adjectives based upon root + TEOS (-A, -ON), generally passive in
perspective, and indicating an obligatory aspect of the action's
performance; these are very much like Latin "gerundives" and, like Latin
gerundives, are the
basis of periphrastic formulae of obligation: e.g. TAUTA PRAKTEA ESTIN --
"These things are to be done." Distinguish GENOS NOHTON, "category of what
can be thought" from GENOS NOHTEON, "category of what should/must be

The form PARAKLHTOS is of the first type; this one does have the passive
perspective but does it have that _able to be x-ed_ quality? Maybe so: a
PARAKLHTOS is one who is able to be summoned to assist, generally in a
professional or helping capacity, as a lawyer or physician ("counselor").Of
course its possible senses branch out from practical usage: one who can be
summoned to one's side in time of need is one who gives advice, one who
gives comfort, one who assists--and this is the term John's Jesus uses to
describe the holy spirit.

Its derivation, at any rate, would seem to be from this common type of
verbal adjective--type (1) above.

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University
One Brookings Drive, St. Louis, MO, USA 63130
(314) 935-4018 OR