James 1:13

Jeffrey Gibson (jgibson@acfsysv.roosevelt.edu)
Tue, 8 Jul 1997 13:36:45 -0500 (CDT)

Lits Membres:

In our discussions of the meaning of the term PEIRASMOS in Matt.
6:13//Lk. 11:4, reference has frequently been made to how what is
said in James 1:13b with regard to God's engaging in PEIRASMOS may
or may not contribute to the question under review.

What strikes me in reviewing this aspect of the discussion is the
unanimity with which it has been assumed by virtually every one
participating in it (myself included) that what James says when he
is, as almost all English translations and modern commentators take
it, "for God cannot be tempted with evil and he himself tempts no
one" (a partial exception being Oesterly who, in his work on James
in the 1894 Expositors Commentary on the GNT, renders hO GAR QEOS
APEIRASTOS ESTIN KAKWS as "for God is inexperienced in evil").

The question I wish to raise now is, Is this really what James is
saying? In an often cited, but seemingly little used article
entitled "The Meaning of APEIRASTOS in James 1:13" (NTS [24], pp.
386-392) Peter Davids makes what I think is an ultimately
convincing case that hO GAR QEOS APEIRASTOS ESTIN should actually
be taken as saying not "for God cannot be tempted" but "for God is
not to be put to the test". This interpretation seems to work well
not only linguistically, thematically, and grammatically, but
contextually, since James seems to be intent here to give reasons
why the believer who experiences PEIRASMOS and fails the test
should place the blame for this failure on God who wishes us all
good gifts. THAT would be to do challenge God's faithfulness.

And yet it puzzels me because it does not seem to take into account
what function KAKOWN ("evils", genitive plural) has within the

To save Davids, I propose the following solution: That KAKWN goes
not with hO GAR QEOS APEIRASTOS ESTIN but with the following
phrase PEIRAZEI DE AUTOS OUDENA, and therefore allows James 1.13b
to say "for God himself puts no one to the test (by means) of
evils" or "with the intent of evil resulting"? The advantages of
taking KAKWN as linked with PEIRAZEI DE AUTOS OUDENA and with this
meaning are (1) that it allows PEIRAZW to retain the meaning it
characteristic of its usage elsewhere, namely, "test faithfulness
or integrity" not "tempt/solicit to evil", and (2) it relieves us
not only of having to say that here in James we find the first
known instance of PEIRAZW being used with the sense "tempt/solicit
to evil), but also of the conundrum of how much James 1:13 seems to
stand in contradiction with both the rest of James and the massive
biblical witness that God frequently "tests" people.

Against this, however, is the question of whether the genitive can
be used in this way or would even allow such an interpretation.

Any thoughts on this?

Jeffrey Gibson