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Bible Dictionaries

Holman Bible Dictionary


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Used in KJV to refer to testing, trying, and enticing to evil. When the KJV was translated in 1611, “temptation” meant all of these, but the word has narrowed in meaning in modern times. Modern translations use “testing,” “proving,” “trying,” and “tempting.” Four distinct uses of the Hebrew (nsh ) and Greek (peirazo ) words for trying or tempting are:

God tests the loyalty or disloyalty of persons. “God did tempt (nsh ) Araham” (Genesis 22:1 ). God “tested” Abraham's loyalty to God when He told Abraham to sacrifice Isaac. Hebrews 11:17 says: “By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac.” In Deuteronomy 8:2 Moses said: “God led thee these forty years in the wilderness, to humble thee, and to prove ( nsh ) thee, to know what was in thine heart, whether thou wouldest keep his commandments, or no.” (Compare Exodus 20:20; Judges 2:22 .) Christ also tested the loyalty of persons. Jesus asked Philip a question “to prove (peirazo ) him: for he himself knew what he would do (John 6:6 ).”

Jesus' enemies tried Him to get something to use against him. “The Pharisees also with the Sadducees came, and tempting (peirazo ) desired him that he would show them a sign from heaven” (Matthew 16:1 ). (Compare Matthew 19:3; Matthew 22:18 ,Matthew 22:18,22:35; Mark 8:11; Mark 10:2; Mark 12:15; Luke 11:16; Luke 20:23; John 8:6 .)

Persons are tempted or enticed to sin. James 1:13 says, “Let no man say when he is tempted ( peirazo ), I am tempted by God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man.” Both the Old Testament and New Testament make it clear that God does not entice persons to sin, but both indicate that God allows human beings to be tempted. (Compare 1 Chronicles 21:1; Matthew 4:1 ,Matthew 4:1,4:3; Mark 1:13; Luke 4:2 ,Luke 4:2,4:13; 1 Corinthians 7:5; 1 Thessalonians 3:5; Revelation 2:10 .) These passages refer to the temptation as coming from the “tempter,” “devil,” or “Satan.” In 1 Corinthians 10:13 Paul said: “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” James 1:14 says that “every man is tempted, when he drawn away of his own lust, and enticed.” Persons are thus tempted from without by the tempter or from within themselves. Jesus taught His disciples to pray: “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil” ( Matthew 6:13 ). Since God does not entice to sin, this is a cry of the soul for help in the midst of temptation.

Persons are not to test God. Jesus quoted Deuteronomy 6:16 when He said: “Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God” ( Matthew 4:7 ). People did put God to the test. (Compare Exodus 17:2 ,Exodus 17:2,17:7; Deuteronomy 6:16; Deuteronomy 9:22; Numbers 14:22; Acts 5:9; Acts 15:10; 1 Corinthians 10:9; Hebrews 3:8-9 .) When the apostles and elders from the Jerusalem church came to Antioch and questioned the admission of the Gentiles into the church, Peter said that the Holy Spirit had been given to the Gentiles: “Why tempt ye God?” (Acts 15:6-11 ). See Devil, Satan, Eve, Demonic; Temptation of Jesus .

H. Page Lee

Copyright Statement
These dictionary topics are from the Holman Bible Dictionary, published by Broadman & Holman, 1991. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman & Holman.

Bibliography Information
Butler, Trent C. Editor. Entry for 'Temptation'. Holman Bible Dictionary. 1991.

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