This “Another” is Just Like the Other

““I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever;” (John 14:16 NAS95)

We are off to the second half of John 14 and here we have an excellent example of why sometimes it is helpful to know a little Greek [or at least be able to look up how Greek words are used].  In Greek, Jesus’ words look like this:  John 14:16 (SBLGNT) κἀγὼ ἐρωτήσω τὸν πατέρα καὶ ἄλλον παράκλητον δώσει ὑμῖν ἵνα ᾖ μεθʼ ὑμῶν εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα.

ἄλλον is the word that the NASB translates “another.”  The Greek has two words to translate “another”: ἄλλος and ἕτερος.  There is a subtle difference between the two.  ἄλλος means “another of the same kind,” but ἕτερος means “another of a different kind.  We can see the difference really well in Gal 1.6-7: “I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you and want to distort the gospel of Christ.” (NASB)

The NASB helps us out here because here is the same verses in the KJV:

I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: 7 Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. Galatians 1:6–7 (KJV 1900).

The KJV has translated the verse correctly, but unfortunately there is no way to tell that the two “anothers” are two different words in the Greek.  The first “another” is ἕτερος [another of a different kind], the second “another” is ἄλλος [another of the same kind].  So what Paul is saying here is that the Galatians have left the grace of Christ for another gospel of a different kind, which is not another of the same kind of gospel that he is preaching!  What a foolish mistake.

When we come back to our verse we see that what Jesus promises is another of the same kind of helper, which is the Holy Spirit.  This is a powerful verse because the Holy Spirit will be the same kind of “another” as Jesus and His Father are.  We can see how carefully John chooses his words so that he will be theologically correct.  He is communicating something to us here concerning the nature of God the Holy Spirit.  He is just like God the Son and just like God the Father.  He is not “another of a different kind,” he is “another of the same kind.

We have to be careful resting the full weight of our theology on this interpretation because John doesn’t always observe this distinction between the two “anothers.”  Don Carson points out:”Some argue that allon here means ‘another Paraclete of the same type’, but John’s use of this term forbids us to rest so much weight on it.” Carson points out that John 5.43 does not contain this same difference between “another.”

““I have come in My Father’s name, and you do not receive Me; if another [ἄλλος] comes in his own name, you will receive him.” (John 5:43 NAS95)

Fortunately for us, the rest of the New Testament makes it abundantly clear that Jesus and the Holy Spirit are indeed “anothers” of the same kind.

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