[B-Greek] PEIRASMOS in James 1:13
Carl W. Conrad
cwconrad at artsci.wustl.edu
Sat Aug 16 07:52:18 EDT 2003
This is a preliminary reflection; I've reached no conclusions on these
matters as yet but I think it's worth getting some alternative notions into
Albeit reluctantly, I guess I'm going to have to enter into this fray.
Regardless of how one takes James 1:2, the phrasing of 1:12-15 seems so
clearly to describe the psychic weakness of the human spirit and its peril
in the face of factors that might lure it into sinful behavior that it
seems to me that more persuasive arguments are going to be needed before I
am fully satisfied that the verb PEIRAZW here is mistranslated if ever it
is translated as "tempt."
1:12-15 MAKARIOS ANHR hOS hUPOMENEI PEIRASMON, hOTI DOKIMOS GENOMENOS
LHMYETAI TON STEFANON THS ZWHS hON EPHGGEILATO TOIS AGAPWSIN AUTON. 13
MHDEIS PEIRAZOMENOS LEGETW hOTI APO QEOU PEIRAZETAI; hO GAR QEOS APEIRASTOS
ESTIN KAKWN, PEIRAZEI DE AUTOS OUDENA. 14 hEKASTOS DE PEIRAZETAI hUPO THS
IDIAS EPIQUMIAS EXELKOMENOS KAI DELEAZOMENOS. 15 EITA hH EPIQUMIA
SULLABOUSA TIKTEI hHAMARTIAN, hH DE hAMARTIA APOTELESQEISA APOKUEI QANATON.
I am more or less content to go with "ordeal" or "trial" as an English
equivalent of PEIRASMOS. I'm not really concerned with what's said about
God as subject to PEIRASMOS or engaging in it in verse 13; clearly the
author is insisting that the PEIRASMOS confronted by the human individual
derives from within him/herself and not from God. BUT verses 14 and 15 do
seem to me to describe the same primal experience as that portrayed in
Genesis 3 in the confrontation between the serpent and Even and as that
described in Romans 7:5-11: 5 hOTE GAR HMEN EN THi SARKI, TA PAQHMATA TWN
hAMARTIWN TA DIA TOU NOMOU ENHRGEITO EN TOIS MELESIN hHMWN, EIS TO
KARPOFORHSAI TWi QANATWi; .... 7 TI OUN EROUMEN? hO NOMOS hAMARTIA? MH
GENOITO; ALLA THN hAMARTIAN OUK EGNWN EI MH DIA NOMOU; THN TE GAR EPIQUMIAN
OUK HiDEIN EI MH hO NOMOS ELEGEN: OUK EPIQUMHSEIS. 8 AFORMHN DE LABOULSA hH
hAMARTIA DIA THS ENTOLHS KATEIRGASATO EN EMOI PASAN EPIQUMIAN; CWRIS GAR
NOMOU hAMARTIA NEKRA. 9 EGW DE EZWN CWRIS NOMOU POTE, ELQOUSHS DE THS
ENTOLHS hH hAMARTIA ANEZHSEN. 10 EGW DE APEQANON KAI hEUREQH MOI hH ENTOLH
hH EIS ZWHN, hAUTH EIS QANATON. 11 hH GAR hAMARTIA AFORMHN LABOUSA DIA THS
ENTOLHS EXHPATHSEN ME KAI DI' AUTHS APEKTEINEN.
I've downloaded Jeffrey string of PDF files on PEIRAZW and its cognates and
I shall work through them. But I must say that at this point I have a
strong feeling that the interpretation of what the author of James says of
PEIRASMOS in 1:12-15 is being skewed by assumptions about what the verb
PEIRAZW and the noun PEIRASMOS must mean, and that Jonathan's suspicions
about James bear further exploration in their own right:
At 2:57 PM -0400 8/14/03, Jonathan Robie wrote:
>Especially the close linkage to the phrase EXELKOMENOS KAI DELEAZOMENOS,
>drawing the person out and baiting them, seems to refer to enticing someone
>or tempting them. In verses 2-3, PEIRASMOS seems to refer to the ability to
>endure in the face of trials, in 13-15 it seems to refer to the ability to
>avoid being hooked like a fish by acting on our own appetites.
>To me, this indicates that the word PEIRASMOS refers to testing, which may
>include testing either by persecution or temptation.
I am bothered too by Ann Nyland's view that interpreters may give EPIQUMIA
a more negative denotation and connotation than is warranted:
At 9:18 AM +1000 8/16/03, Ann Nyland wrote:
>Don't forget, the word "sin" and "lusts" has been added to many English
>translations, confusing the issue. Also, the word "desires" is too strong
>for me as an English word - I prefer "wants and wishes" for EPIQUMIA. The
>word itself does not have a negative connotation, and is used of good desire
>in, for example, Luke 22:15 and Phil. 1:3. "Desires" can be ambiguous in the
>English language. Note that most translations don't have Paul having an evil
>lust of the flesh to visit the Romans in Romans 15:23.
I readily grant that EPIQUMIA may have a positive sense in many contexts,
but I can't quite see how it has a positve sense in James 1:15 EITA hH
EPIQUMIA SULLABOUSA TIKTEI hHAMARTIAN, hH DE hAMARTIA APOTELESQEISA APOKUEI
QANATON. Indeed it seems to me to have much the same sense as it does in
Rom 7:7 ALLA THN hAMARTIAN OUK EGNWN EI MH DIA NOMOU; THN TE GAR EPIQUMIAN
OUK HiDEIN EI MH hO NOMOS ELEGEN: OUK EPIQUMHSEIS. In that connection I'm
reminded of Martin Buber's comment on the tenth commandment, OUK
EPIQUMHSEIS, that EPIQUMEIN is the underlying motivation to all
interpersonal wrongdoing and that this is why God has expressly forbidden
it. And of course, EPIQUMIA there is not simply "lust" but something more
akin to "envy."
And if I may be allowed to reach out a bit further, I'm thinking of the way
Plato speaks of EPIQUMIAI in the Republic and in the Phaedrus as
undermining the self-governance of a person who should be SWFRWN. This is a
key them in earlier Greek poetry where cognates of PEIRAZW play no role
whatsoever, but there's a clearly-expressed notion of what one wants as a
Seductress luring one on to do what is wrong. Let me just cite some
Solon's "Hymn to the Muses" (1.7-13)
CRHMATA D' hIMEIRW MEN ECEIN, ADIKWS DE PEPASQAI
OUK EQELW; PANTWS hUSTERON HLQE DIKH.
PLOUTON D' hON MEN DWSI QEOI, PARAGINETAI ANDRI
EMPODOS EK NEATOU PUQMENOS ES KORUFHN;
hON D' ANDRES METIWSIN hUF' hUBRIIOS, OU KATA KOSMON
ERCETAI, ALL ADIKOIS ERGMAS PEIQOMENOS
OUK EQELWN hEPETAI, TACEWS D' ANAMISGETAI ATHi.
"I do yearn to possess wealth, but to get it wrongly I don't desire;
ultimately in the end comes retribution. Such wealth as the gods give comes
to a man firmly-established from nethermost root-stock to the top; but that
which men pursue by wrongdoing does not come in due order to a man but
rather it comes when won-over/seduced by unjust acts; it doesn't follow
voluntarily, and quickly does it intermingle with doom."
TIKTEI GAR KOROS hUBRIN, hOTAN POLUS OLBOS hEPHTAI
ANQRWPOIS hOSOIS MH NOOS ARTIOS Hi.
"For excess breeds wrongdoing/aggression, whenever great prosperity comes
the way of persons whose mind is not well-ordered."
Aeschylus, Agamemnon 385-6
BIATAI D' hA TALAINA PEIQW
PROBOULOU PAIS AFERTOS ATAS
"Shameless Seduction exercises compulsion, irresistible offspring of Doom
that decides in advance ..."
I don't mean at all to suggest that the author of our passage in James knew
or was influenced by these items from the older Greek tradition, but
"wisdom literature" in many cultures shares comparable notions, and it
seems to me that the book of James is not totally removed from the realm of
"wisdom literature." More anon after I've read through Jeffrey's materials.
Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University (Emeritus)
1989 Grindstaff Road/Burnsville, NC 28714/(828) 675-4243
cwconrad at artsci.wustl.edu
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