[B-Greek] Jam 1:13 APEIRASTOS 'unable to' or 'unable to be ~'

Iver Larsen iver_larsen at sil.org
Thu Jul 5 03:51:46 EDT 2007

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Oun Kwon" <kwonbbl at gmail.com>
To: "greek B-Greek" <b-greek at lists.ibiblio.org>
Sent: Thursday, July 05, 2007 2:05 AM
Subject: [B-Greek] Jam 1:13 APEIRASTOS 'unable to' or 'unable to be ~'

> Jam 1:13
> APEIRASTOS occurs in N.T only once here.  Why it should be understood
> as God 'being unable to be tempted/tested' (a passive  voice)?  With
> this rendering (strange concept to me) as in all the translations I
> know of, this makes the whole verse difficult to understand.
> Commentaries do not help for clear exegesis on this verse.

One problem is how to understand the genitive KAKWN. If APEIRASTOS is used in a 
passive sense, which I agree is demanded by the context, is KAKWN then the 
implied agent for such temptation? It would be easy to come to such a conclusion 
from the many English versions that translate the genitive by the word "by" as 
if the text had said hUPO KAKWN. NCV says: "Evil cannot tempt God." BAGD and 
BDAG take the genitive as the complement and translates "to do evil". This is 
clearly and correctly translated by NLT which says: "God is never tempted to do 

The other problem is the various senses of PEIRAZW. Apart from the sense 
"attempt to do (unsuccesfully)" it can mean "test, examine" in a positive sense 
or "tempt to do bad things" in a negative sense. Which sense is intended can 
only be determined in context. The two important determiners are (1) the motive 
and (2) the result.

Testing has a positive motive by the tester, because the hope is that whatever 
or whoever is being tested will be stregthened after having undergone the 
testing/trials. This positive motive expects a positive result. It or they will 
have been tested and then receive a stamp of approval. That is why James 1:2 
says that it is a joy to be tested. It produces endurance, which is a positive 
character trait. That is also why God can test people or at least allow testing 
to happen.

On the other hand, temptation has a negative motive, because the hope is that 
the one being tempted will fall for the temptation and do somethng bad. In that 
sense the Devil is the "Tempter". And in that sense God can never tempt anyone 
as the last part of v. 13 says.

Therefore, I think is it quite correct to translate all three occurrences of a 
passive PEIRAZW/PEIRASTOS in v. 13 by "tempt": No one who is being tempted [to 
do evil] should say: 'God is tempting me.' Remember (GAR) that God is never 
tempted to do evil, nor does he ever tempt anybody [to do evil].

The first part of the explanation introduced by the GAR indicates that God will 
never fall for the temptation to do evil, so neither should you as a Christian, 
since you are a "child of God". It relates to the first part of the verse (One 
who is being tempted to do evil). The second part of the explanation relates to 
the saying 'God is tempting me" and indicates that this would be a false 
statement, since God never tempts anybody.

Iver Larsen

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