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Bible Dictionaries

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament

Temptation, Trial

‘Temptation’ is the Authorized Version translation of πειρασμός in every instance except one (1 Peter 4:12); and generally in Revised Version , but not in Acts 20:19, Revelation 3:10; 1 Peter 4:12, where we find ‘trials,’ ‘trial,’ and ‘prove.’ The cognate verb is usually translation ‘tempt,’ but we also find ‘assay,’ Acts 9:26; Acts 16:7 (Authorized Version and Revised Version ) Acts 24:6 (Revised Version ); ‘go about,’ Acts 24:6 (Authorized Version ); ‘examine,’ 2 Corinthians 13:5 (Authorized Version ), ‘try’ (Revised Version ). The compound verb ἐκπειράζω is translation ‘tempt’ by both Eng. versions (1 Corinthians 10:9). The tempter is ὁ πειράζων (1 Thessalonians 3:5, Authorized Version and Revised Version ). Ἀπείραστος is rendered ‘cannot be tempted’ (James 1:13, Authorized Version and Revised Version ).

‘Trial’ in Authorized Version represents δοκιμή (2 Corinthians 8:2; Revised Version ‘proof’); δοκίμιον (1 Peter 1:7; Revised Version ‘proof’); πεῖρα (Hebrews 11:38, Authorized Version and Revised Version ). ‘Try’ represents δοκιμάζω (1 Corinthians 3:13, 1 Thessalonians 2:4; 2 Peter 1:7, 1 John 4:1; Revised Version ‘prove’), which, however, in Revised Version is always and in Authorized Version is more frequently translation ‘prove’ or ‘approve’ (for ‘approve’ see G. L. Craik, The English of Shakespeare, London, 1869, p. 147f.); πειράζω (Hebrews 11:17, Revelation 2:2; Revelation 2:10; Revelation 3:10, Authorized Version and Revised Version ‘try’); πειρασμός (1 Peter 4:12; Revised Version ‘prove’). ‘Tried’ is δόκιμος (James 1:12; Revised Version ‘approved’), in every other instance translation ‘approve’ in both Authorized Version and Revised Version .

To ‘tempt’ does not always mean to ‘seduce to sin.’ The Gr. word usually so translation may mean merely ‘attempt.’ St. Paul ‘attempted’ to join himself to the disciples (Acts 9:26). He ‘attempted’ to go into Bithynia (Acts 16:7). He was accused of ‘attempting’ to profane the Temple (Acts 24:6). It may mean to ‘try,’ ‘examine,’ in order to ascertain the quality or nature of a thing or person. ‘The hour of trial or temptation … is to come … to try or tempt them that dwell upon the earth’ (Revelation 3:10). The angel of the church in Ephesus ‘tried’ or ‘tempted’ them which called themselves apostles and were not, and found them false (Revelation 2:2). ‘Temptations’ may be circumstances which give a man an opportunity of showing what is in him. Thus St. James exhorts his readers to count it all joy when they fall into manifold ‘temptations’ (Revelation 1:2). The ancient worthies were ‘tempted,’ and acquitted themselves like the heroes they were (Hebrews 11:37). St. Paul met with ‘trials’ which befell him by the plots of the Jews (Acts 20:19; cf. Hebrews 11:36). Sometimes it is clear that the hope is entertained that the person tempted will stand the test. Abraham was ‘tried,’ and offered up Isaac (Hebrews 11:17). St. Paul exhorts the Corinthians to ‘try’ themselves, to ‘prove’ themselves (2 Corinthians 13:5). The angel of the church in Smyrna is warned that some of them will be cast into prison that they may be ‘tried’ (Revelation 2:10). St. Peter tells his readers that the fiery trial (πύρωσις) among them cometh upon them to ‘tempt’ or to ‘prove’ them (1 Peter 4:12). St. Paul rejoices that the ‘temptation’ to the Galatians in his flesh was overcome by them (Galatians 4:14). ‘God cannot be tempted with evil’ (James 1:13), but there is a sense in which He may be ‘tempted’ or ‘tried.’ Men by their sinful and rebellious conduct may provoke Him to display His righteous indignation against sin, and when they act otherwise than in accordance with His will they may be said to be ‘tempting’ or ‘trying’ Him. Thus St. Peter says that Ananias and Sapphira are ‘tempting’ the Spirit of the Lord by their deceit with regard to their property (Acts 5:9). The same Apostle asserts that the brethren are ‘tempting’ God by wishing to subject the Gentile converts to circumcision (Acts 15:10). In the day of temptation in the wilderness the Israelites ‘tempted’ God (Hebrews 3:8 f., 1 Corinthians 10:9). There are not a few instances in which ‘temptation’ means seduction to sin or exposure to the danger of falling before it. ‘They that desire to be rich fall into a temptation and a snare’ (1 Timothy 6:9). The married amongst the Corinthians are warned to beware lest Satan ‘tempt’ them because of their incontinency (1 Corinthians 7:5). St. Paul is afraid lest the Thessalonians have yielded to the ‘temptation’ to apostasy (1 Thessalonians 3:5). He exhorts the Galatians to be considerate towards those who have been overtaken in any trespass, lest they also should be ‘tempted’ (Galatians 6:1). St. James describes the course which temptation when unresisted takes. ‘Each man is tempted, when be is drawn away by his own lust, and enticed. Then the lust, when it hath conceived, beareth sin’ (Galatians 1:14 f.). In the sense of enticing to evil it is Satan that tempts men. He is the tempter, St. Paul is anxious lest ‘the tempter’ had ‘tempted’ the Thessalonians, and his labour should be in vain (1 Thessalonians 3:5). Satan may ‘tempt’ the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 7:5). Men transgress by the suggestions of ‘the adversary’ (Clem. Rom. li. 1). In this sense of the word God tempts no man (James 1:13). He rather so regulates the temptation that men may be able to resist it. ‘God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation make also the way of escape, that ye may be able to endure it’ (1 Corinthians 10:13). He ‘knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptation’ (2 Peter 2:9); and this is true also when ‘temptation’ means ‘distress.’ The Mighty One hath not forgotten the house of Israel in ‘temptation’ (in tentatione, 4 Ezr 12:47). Christ, too, succours the ‘tempted.’ Having been tempted Himself in all points like as we are, yet without sin (Hebrews 4:15), having Himself suffered being tempted, He is able to succour them that are tempted (Hebrews 2:18).

Temptation, whether arising from trying circumstances or from incitement to sin, if successfully encountered, leads to progress in the moral life and to blessedness. Among the Agrapha is the saying, ‘A man is unproved (ἀδόκιμος) if he be untempted’ (ἀπείραστος, Didase. Syr. ii. 8). Tertullian reports one to the effect that ‘neminem intentatum regna cœlestia consecuturum’ (de Bapt. 20). Faith tested results in patience (James 1:2 f.). ‘Blessed is the man that endureth temptation; for when he hath been approved (δόκιμος), he shall receive the crown of life’ (James 1:12). Those whose faith withstands manifold temptations shall receive praise and glory and honour (1 Peter 1:6 f.).

We have seen that the Gr. words usually rendered ‘temptation’ and ‘tempt’ sometimes have the meaning of trying or testing. But words used more frequently with these meanings are δοκιμή and its cognates, and in the rest of this article it is with these words that we shall deal. Men and things are ‘tried’ in order to find out their true nature. Gold is ‘tried’ with fire (1 Peter 1:7). Before partaking of the Lord’s Supper a man must ‘try’ himself (1 Corinthians 11:28). Men must ‘try’ themselves whether they are in the faith (2 Corinthians 13:5). Each man must ‘try’ his own work (Galatians 6:4). ‘Test all things; hold fast that which is good’ (1 Thessalonians 5:21). Deacons must be ‘proved’ before they are allowed to serve (1 Timothy 3:10). Fire ‘tests’ the work of men (1 Corinthians 3:13). God ‘tests’ or ‘examines’ men’s hearts (1 Thessalonians 2:4). ‘Prove the spirits, whether they are of God’ (1 John 4:1). Sometimes it is evident that it is hoped that the testing will have a favourable result, and it may be pointed out that Satan is never said to ‘test’ men. St. Paul wrote to the Corinthians that he might know the ‘proof’ of them, whether they were obedient in all things (2 Corinthians 2:9). He ‘proves’ through the earnestness of others the sincerity of their love (2 Corinthians 8:8). Frequently it appears to be taken for granted that the object ‘tested’ will be or has been found worthy. The Jew ‘approveth’ the things that are excellent (? Romans 2:18). It is hoped that the Philippians will do the same (Romans 1:10). Men may ‘approve’ what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God (Romans 12:2). St. Paul has been ‘approved’ of God (1 Thessalonians 2:4). The Ephesians are exhorted to ‘approve’ what is well-pleasing unto the Lord (1 Thessalonians 5:10). Occasionally the word seems to mean ‘to pass a verdict of worthiness upon.’ ‘Whomsoever ye shall approve by letters, them will I send’ (1 Corinthians 16:3). ‘Happy is he that judgeth not himself in that which he approveth’ (Romans 14:22).

One who conducts himself nobly under trial has advanced a step beyond patience (Romans 5:4). He has attained a trustworthy character (Philippians 2:22; cf. 2 Corinthians 8:22). He is ‘approved’ (δόκιμος). If the result of the testing is unsatisfactory, he is ‘reprobate’ (ἀδόκιμος). He who serves Christ in the Kingdom of God is ‘approved’ of men (Romans 14:18). Apelles is ‘the approved in Christ’ (Romans 16:10). One who refused to countenance divisions (αἱρέσεις) in the Church is ‘approved’ (1 Corinthians 11:19). ‘Approval’ means not self-commendation, but the commendation of the Lord (2 Corinthians 10:18). A workman needing not to be ashamed is ‘approved’ unto God (2 Timothy 2:15). Doing that which is honourable brings a person real, as distinguished from seeming, ‘approval’ (2 Corinthians 13:7).

Literature.-Encyclopaedia Biblica , article ‘Trial, Trying,’ Hasting's Dictionary of the Bible (5 vols) , article ‘Tempt, Temptation,’ Dict. of Christ and the Gospels , article ‘Temptation’; Hastings’ Single-vol. Dictionary of the Bible , article ‘Temptation’; Handkommentar zum Neuen Testament2, Freiburg, 1892, s.v. ‘Versuchung’ in Indexes; H. Ewald, Old and New Testament Theology, Eng. translation , Edinburgh, 1888, p. 263 ff.; F. W. Robertson, Sermons, 1st ser., London, 1875, serm. vii.; John Foster, Lectures, do., 1853, i. 42ff.

William Watson.

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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Temptation, Trial'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/eng/hdn/t/temptation-trial.html. 1906-1918.

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