[b-greek] Re: the intent of Mk. 14:38

From: Stephen C. Carlson (scarlson@mindspring.com)
Date: Thu May 31 2001 - 02:48:00 EDT

At 11:38 PM 5/30/01 -0700, dixonps@juno.com wrote:
>On Wed, 30 May 2001 19:22:49 -0400 "Stephen C. Carlson"
><scarlson@mindspring.com> writes:
>> This analysis assumes that PEIRAZEI DE AUTOS OUDENA is a
>> proposition that James is affirmatively asserting rather
>> than refuting as part of the same discourse as MHDEIS
>> in which case it is better to construe APO as a privative
>> rather than the rare agentive.
>No, APO normally denotes "origin or source from" (BAG). This usage is
>confirmed by every occurrence of APO QEOU in the NT (21 occurrences,
>besides Js 1:13).

If you are going to quote BAG, it is best to quote from the main
entry ("Basic mng. *separation from someone or someth.*"), not
from the fourth subheading, under which BAG does not even list
James 1:13 (it is found under the fifth subheading).

At any rate, the bulk of the occurrences of APO QEOU is due
to the phrase EIRHNH APO QEOU (peace from God) in the greetings
of Paul's letters and similar constructions with nouns (e.g.
faith from God), and the remainder are used with verbs of
motion. These contexts, however, are not pertinent to
James 1:13, if used in the sense you wish to give it, i.e.
to denote the agent of a passive verb, which is normally

On the other hand, one of the occurrences other than James
1:13 of APO QEOU is privative at Heb 3:12 EN TW APOSTHNAI
APO QEOU (falling away from God). There is also 2 Thess
1:9 APO PROSWPOU TOU KURIOU (away from the presence of the
Lord) and Rom 9:3 ANAQEMA EINAI APO TOU CRISTOU (separated
from Christ by a curse). Thus, a privative construction
of APO in James 1:13 is paralleled.

It is true that APO is sometimes used with passive verbs
to denote the agent, but one should recognize that this
usage was rare but beginning to become more frequent and
not without its problems.

>> Thus, James 1:12-14 would mean something like:
>> 12 Blessed is the man who withstands testing, because
>> he has become worthy to receive the crown of like that
>> was promised to those who love him. 13 Let no one
>> who is being tested say, "I am being tested without
>> God, since God is not to be tested by bad things,
>> and he himself tests no one." 14 But each is tested
>> by their own desires, being lured and enticed.
>You should not have stopped at verse 14. This section continues through
>to verse 15 which indicates that the end result of such PEIRASMOS, if
>carried out, is sin and death. But, the intended end of testing is
>faithfulness, not sin and death.

I disagree. In v 15, sin and death are the natural result of lust/desire:
"then, when desire is conceived, it gives birth to sin, and that sin,
when it is fully grown, gives birth to death." (NRSV) Thus, lust does two
things: it tests people (especially the rich) in verse 14, and in verse
15 it normally leads to sin and death (if one flunks the test). The
benefits of testing come through perseverence (verse 12).

>No, we have to look for a nuance of PEIRASMOS in these verses that is
>different from its meaning in verse 2 where it clearly refers to a
>testing to produce patience and faithfulness. Temptation to sin as the
>meaning of PEIRAZW in verses 13-15 is the only meaning that makes sense.

This is my problem with the standard interpretation: James unexpectantly
shifts the meaning of PEIRASMOS from testing to temptation, a meaning
that Jeffrey Gibson's research shows is rare or lacking in contemporary
usage. Furthermore, the standard interpretation requires construing
APO as agentive, which is incipient in the first century. The standard
interpretation does fit nicely in later Greek, when both the temptation
meaning of PEIRASMOS and the agentive meaning of APO are more common,
but it is anachronistic for a mid-first century dating of James, a dating
I presume you support.

Stephen Carlson

Stephen C. Carlson

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