Re: PEIRASMOS - the meaning of the word

From: Jeffrey B. Gibson (
Date: Thu Jun 17 1999 - 16:03:54 EDT

"Maurice A. O'Sullivan" wrote:

> At 12:57 17/06/99, "Dmitriy Reznik" <> wrote:
> >Dear friends,
> >
> >Could you please help me to understand the usage of PEIRASMOS (and
> >PEIRAZW)in James? In Ja 1:1-2 and 1:12 it seems to be a positive thing and
> >is usually translated as "trial". But in Ja 1:13-14 it becomes something
> >bad and is translated as "temptation". How can it be that the same word in
> >the same context has different meanings and is translated with different
> >words?
> Here are a few extracts from the entry for PEIRASMOS in :
> Turner, Nigel. Christian Words . Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1980.
> which may be of help:
> To some extent the meaning of PEIRASMOS, and PEIRAZW and EK- is
> foreshadowed in secular Greek, but in the Biblical language they carry much
> stronger moral connotations than the words, 'trial' and ttempt' can suggest.
> ..............
> 'persecution' is one very important meaning of peirasmos in Christian
> Greek, but the persecution should be understood to lclude temptation to sin.
> ............
> The verb PEIRAZW follows the same pattern as the noun: first, the putting
> of God or His Son to the test; then the testing of disciples,
> ............
> Like the noun, the verb includes the meaning of temptation to sln, whether
> of believers tempted both by Satan and their own lust ( Ga. 6:1; 1Co. 7:5;
> 1 Th. 3:5; Ja. 1:13f ) or of Jesus.
> Hope this is of some help.

Personally I find that Nigel Turner's exegesis of the meaning of PEIRASMOS as
"temptation to sin" begs the question. He sees that meaning there because he wants to
see that "temptation" in our sense of the word is part of the noun's semantic range.
And I note that my judgement on this matter is supported by C.F.D. Moule in his
seminal "An Unsolved Problem in the "Temptation" Clause of the Lord's Prayer". I
also draw attention to the fact, to be noted and documented in my article on the use
of PEIRASMOS in non Biblical literature in the forthcoming _Dictionary of Early
Christian Backgrounds_ (IVP) that there is not a single instance in the secular Greek
of the period in which the NT was written in which PEIRASMOS means "temptation",
i.e, seduction/enticement to evil.



Jeffrey B. Gibson
7423 N. Sheridan Road #2A
Chicago, Illinois 60626

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