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In Matt. 4:1, Jesus is tempted. Jesus is God and therefore God can be tempted.

Perhaps what James is saying here is that there is no chance that Jesus who is perfect would ever give into temptation. My three study Bibles go down this route I think. However if that were the case why would James not say what he meant?

Another route is to look at "ho theos". In "Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges. St John" with reference to John 1:1 it says: "Ton theon" having the article , means the Father". In James 1:13 if we take "ho theos" to mean the Father then James does mean what he says: the Father cannot be tempted. There are times when theos without the definite article means "Father" as when the overall meaning of the verse causes this e.g. John 1:18. But that should not distract us from what "ho theos" means in this verse. Does "ho theos" bear this interpretation of meaning "the Father" in this verse?

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“God is untempted by evil,”1 yet “they tempted Yahveh.”2 The solution to the conundrum exists in the recognition of there being two types of temptation: subjective and objective. Hallie wrote,3

...you will see that temptation has two major aspects: let us call them “objective temptation” and “subjective temptation.” Objective temptation is what it is that tempts—the object and the seductive arguments that draw you to turn away from the mitzvah. (Later we shall talk of the subjective temptation, the feeling that one should turn away from the command.)

Footnotes

        1 Jam. 1:13
        2 Exo. 17:7
        3 Hallie, p. 57

Objective temptation consists of the object/person that tempts [someone], as well as the temptation (the act of tempting) by that object/person. Subjective temptation occurs when someone succumbs to, or does not endure, the objective temptation. The reason the person does not endure the objective temptation, that is, the reason he is subjectively tempted, is attributed to “his own lust,”4 which lust is elsewhere said to be caused by indwelling Sin.5

Footnotes

        4 Jam. 1:14
        5 Rom. 6:12, 7:8, 7:17, 7:20

James 1:12 states, “Blessed is the man who endures temptation...” If the man endured temptation, then he was indeed tempted, for it would be nonsensical to state that a man endured something that he had not experienced. Yet, James says that the man is “blessed.” How can the man be both tempted and blessed? The man was objectively tempted, but he did not succumb to the objective temptation. Because he was not subjectively tempted, he is blessed.

Johann Eduard Huther commented,6

es ist der, der in der Anfechtung, die er zu erdulden hat, nicht erliegt.

He is the [man] who, during the temptation, does not succumb to the [temptations] he has to endure.

Footnotes

        6 Huther, p. 61

The Lord Jesus Christ was objectively tempted by Satan.7 However, the Lord Jesus Christ, although “tempted in every way,” was “without sin.”8 He was not subjectively tempted, because he did not yield or succumb to those objective temptations. He endured the objective temptation and was therefore “proven.”9 Likewise, men tempt God, objectively,10 but God does not yield or succumb to any objective temptation. Hence, God is not subjectively tempted; He is “untempted by evil.”11

Footnotes

        7 Mark 1:13
        8 Heb. 4:15
        9 δόκιμος, cf. Jam. 1:12
        10 cf. Exo. 17:7
        11 ἀπείραστός...κακῶν

On the phrase «ἀπείραστός...κακῶν» in James 1:13, George Benedikt Winer supports the translation “untempted by evil.”12 The Vulgate translated ἀπείραστός by the word intemptator, which translates into English as the active “not a tempter,” rather than the passive “not tempted.” Likewise, Luther13 translated Jam. 1:13 into German as „denn Gott ist nicht eyn versucher zum bosen“, that is, “for, God is not a tempter to evil.”

Footnotes

        12 Winer, pp. 242–243, as does Buttmann, §132, p. 170
        13 1530 ed. of the Lutherbibel


References

Buttmann, Alexander. A Grammar of the New Testament Greek. Trans. Thayer, Joseph Henry. Andover: Draper, 1873.

Hallie, Philip P. “Satan, Evil, and Good in History.” Reason and Violence: Philosophical Investigations. Ed. Stanage, Sherman Miller. Totowa: Rowman and Littlefield, 1975.

Huther, Johann Eduard. Kritisch exegetischer Kommentar über das Neue Testament, Fünfzehnte Abtheilung, Kritisch exegetisches Handbuch über den Brief des Jacobus. 3rd ed. Vol. 15. Göttingen: Vandenboeck and Ruprecht, 1870.

Winer, George Benedikt. A Treatise on the Grammar of New Testament Greek. 3rd ed. Trans. Moulton, William Fiddian. Edinburgh: Clark, 1882.

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  • Ubermensch I appreciate what you have to say about "The Lord Jesus Christ was objectively tempted by Satan". To me you don't appear to refer to my not mainstream idea when I ask if it is possible in James 1:13 that ho theos could refer to the Father. i.e. is it saying -the Father cannot be tempted. On what basis might one rule out that possibility? – C. Stroud Dec 5 '20 at 12:21
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Temptation

First let us deal with the first question of temptation: temptation is used in external vs internal sense. An external temptation is when someone or something suggests an action. An internal temptation is when one is inclined to accept the suggestion.

Let me illustrate by taking a simple example. I do not smoke and hate the smell of smoking. I have had numerous people offer me cigarettes and thus tempt me (externally) but because I hate the stuff, I am not internally tempted. Thus, I can honestly say they when someone offers me a smoke, that person is tempting me but I am not tempted.

I believe this explains the difference (only in part) between the statements of Matt 4:1 and James 1:13 - Jesus was tempted by the Devil (externally) but He was not tempted internally by being inclined to accept because He was (and is) perfect (unlike me). This distinction is seen in Heb 4:15.

Ho Theos vs Theos

That God the Father is regularly designated by the Greek phrase, "ho theos" is indisputable, eg, Matt 3:9, 5:8, Mark 2:12, 10:18, 13:19, etc. Further, this is most often the case, that is, the phrase "ho theos" (and its declined variants) most often refers to God the Father.

However, this not always the case. God the Father is sometimes referred to as simply "theos" without the article; eg, John 1:18, Matt 6:24, Luke 2:14, 20:38, etc. Further, Jesus Christ is also sometimes referred to as "ho theos", eg, John 20:28, Matt 1:23, Titus 2:13, Heb 1:8, 1 Peter 1:1, etc.

In James 1:13, the phrase "ho theos" does not occur but "ho gar theos" does occur and probably designates either God the Father or the Godhead generally.

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    You did not answer the question. The Bible says that Jesus was tempted. The Bible also says that God cannot be tempted. Since the temptation of Jesus was not a sham (he was actually tempted), it means that He is not the God that cannot be tempted. – Jesus Saves Jun 27 '20 at 4:29
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God, not ‘the Father’

First of all, ho theos means ‘God’. If James had meant ‘the Father’, he would have written tou Patros as in John 1:18. But the term τοῦ Πατρὸς only ever describes a relationship, incidentally, not a distinct being.

Secondly, the definite article (the) is regularly applied to proper names in Greek, including God. It does not mean that the subsequent translation into English requires ‘the’, and there continues to be debate on the ruling of article use among scholars. One source with one example would not be enough to argue that use of an article suggests James meant ‘the Father’ instead of God in this case, especially considering you’re talking about two different authors.

But does that mean James meant ‘Jesus’?

Again, if he had meant Jesus, he would have written Jesus. Because Jesus, although ‘one’ with God, is not interchangeable with God. ‘Jesus’ refers to a particular manifestation of God that is also undeniably human.

But before I explain why Jesus can be ‘tempted’ but God cannot, I suggest we clarify meaning of the Greek word πειράζω (peirazo), which is central to both James 1 and Matthew 4, and translated as to tempt, but more accurately to test or try.

Test or try, not ‘tempt’

The modern English verb to ‘tempt’ suggests an ability to sway someone particularly towards evil, but the Greek word πειράζω (peirazo) is used in both a positive and negative sense to mean try, attempt or test:

And when he had come to Jerusalem he attempted (ἐπείραζεν, epeirazon) to join the disciples; and they were all afraid of him, for they did not believe that he was a disciple. (Acts 9:26)

Likewise, the Hebrew word נָסָה (nassah), to which Jesus refers in his response in Matthew 4:7 (quoting Deuteronomy 6:16), also does not mean to tempt towards sin or evil, but instead to test or put to proof.

”You shall not put the Lord your God to the test, as you tested him at Massah.” (Deuteronomy 6:16)

Both the word for ‘trial’ and the verb translated as ‘tempted’ in five instances in James 1:13-14 all come from this same Greek word πειράζω (peirazo). In context, James argues that any trials we must endure come not from God but from our own desire:

Blessed is the man who endures trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life which God has promised to those who love him. Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted with evil and he himself tempts no one; but each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. (James 1: 13-14)

If we look at the word ‘tempted’ not as the modern English word, but as the ancient Greek word that means tested, tried or put to proof, then James’ argument seems to be that God actually cannot be put to the test by ‘evils’ (the plural adjective κακῶν translated here as ‘evil’, is more accurately ‘evils’, as in harm or adversity) - neither does He actively test us with these adversities. Despite what Moses suggests in the OT, James argues here that God plays no part in these trials. We are tested instead as humans by our own material desires - and so was Jesus.

Jesus is human

Jesus was still human, you see. As a physical body he naturally felt hunger and the lack of power and pride in having no home, no wife or offspring, no financial security, no occupation, etc. His ability to pass these ‘trials’ in the wilderness came not from any genetic kinship with God, but from a spiritual or conceptual father-son relationship - one available to all of us. Because ‘the devil’ here is just a literary device to illustrate a conflict between the physical relationship with these desires, that defines Jesus as human, and the spiritual relationship with God, that defines Jesus as ‘one’ with God.

So when Matthew states that Jesus was ‘tested by the devil’, he refers to the material desires that put him to the test in the wilderness (desire for food, as well as earthly kingdoms and glory) but had no effect on the spirit of God within him, and therefore on his actions. And when ‘the devil’ suggested that Jesus throw himself from the pinnacle of the temple to prove that God would protect him from harm, Jesus quoted Deuteronomy 6:16 against his natural, physical desire for protection from all harm - as well as the suggestion that Jesus should put God to the test.

To be tested is to be human

James does not instruct his readers to avoid being tested - humans will always be lured or enticed by our material desires, and so put to the test - but it is by giving in to them, by choosing to satisfy these desires of the flesh (like hunger, power and pride) as a priority that one creates ‘sin’, rather than enduring trial and withstanding adversity by focusing on a spiritual relationship with God and others, as Jesus did.

(Incidentally, I think the real question is whether Moses was correct in stating that God was put to the test at Massah - was God really compelled to prove himself if God cannot be put to the test?)

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In James 1:13, what does “God” mean in “for God cannot be tempted by evil”?

James 1:13 King James Version (KJV)

13 "Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man."

At Matthew 4:1 it is spoken that Jesus was led by the devil to be tempted. In other words, Satan was trying to induce Jesus to be disloyal to God.

Matthew 4:1,8,9 (KJV)

4 "Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil."8 Again, the devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them; 9 And saith unto him, All these things will I give thee if thou wilt fall down and worship me.

If Jesus were God, could God sin and be disloyal to himself? , the answer is obviously " NO". Since Jesus is not God, but a human being (John 1:14 flesh)) He could have been disloyal to God his Father, Jesus reply to Satan, made it clear that there is only one God that should be worshipped.

Matthew 4:10 (KJV)

10 Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.

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In the KJV, both occurrences of God in James 1:13 correlate to Strong’s number G2316 - see https://www.blueletterbible.org/search/search.cfm?Criteria=God&t=KJV&ss=1#s=s_primary_59_1 and https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/Lexicon/Lexicon.cfm?strongs=G2316&t=KJV.

In James 1:1 KJV we read: James, a servant of God and the Lord Jesus Christ...
In James 1:27 KJV we read: Pure religion and undefined before God and the Father is this....

So in all these references, God is the same number from Strong’s. Given that in James 1:1 we read God and the Lord Jesus Christ and in James 1:27 we read God and the Father we conclude James probably has in mind the triune God when he says “for God cannot be tempted by evil”. Here are my thoughts.

Let’s think of Jesus Christ (Son of God), the Father, and the Holy Spirit as a WHO, as a person. We say they are personages we associate with the trinity. But WHAT do we call the trinity? Let’s call the trinity - God. So in the trinity, in God - of which there are three personages, themselves all being God - we have all the attributes, virtues, spiritual life, etc. that mankind needs. Let me say that again. In EACH personage, in Jesus Christ, in the Father, and in the Holy Spirit, we have all the attributes, virtues, spiritual life, etc. that mankind needs. They are all God! Then, what might James have meant by “God cannot be tempted by evil?”

The triune God exists in relationship with each other. As we observe from Jesus Christ on the cross, when this relationship is in some way harmed or broken, it is devastating (my God, my God, why have you forsaken me?). Then what evil would not ALSO devastate this relationship? Why ANY would! So which personage of God would attempt any evil with another? They never would! It would harm their relationship. To keep the best possible relationship with each other, then never committed evil of any kind toward any other. It would be devastating to their relationship. This is the is the same type of relationship God desires to have, to build, with each of us who believe.

So if God is in the process of building a similar relationship with those that have been created, with us, what evil could we do that would somehow tempt God? Preposterous! It would be detrimental to the relationship! This is the love that I believe James understood and expressed in this verse.

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    Where specifically in the scriptures can the terms "trinity" and "the triune God" be found? – user35499 Jun 27 '20 at 6:26
  • At RZIM the question Is The Trinity Supported by Scripture has been asked and answered. This is a brief snippet from that article to provide your answer: So what I'm getting out here is to say that while the Trinity itself may not be a word we find in scripture, the doctrine of the Trinity is all over scripture. And that is the basis for why Christians believe in the Trinity. – Warren Jun 27 '20 at 14:30
  • If it's all over, can you cite one please. – user35499 Jun 27 '20 at 23:36
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    Is there a record in the bible that showed Jesus and the apostles perceived God as 3 in 1? Jesus himself worship God, John 17:3. 4:22 and there is no record of him worshiping a God that is claimed to be a "tri-unity" of "persons". Can you cite a verse where the trinity is presented as an object of sacred service? If the apostles worship God in 3 persons, it will so appear in their writings. Jews are strictly monotheistic, they could not have changed their practice in this particular without the change being most strikingly observable. There is no intimation of such a change. – user35499 Jun 28 '20 at 10:34
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    There's nothing there. It's all eisegesies. – user35499 Jun 29 '20 at 20:53
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There are many apparent paradoxes in the bible - esp. in the NT where Jesus is mentioned.

The bible has passages can seem to allude that he is God, but this must be 'read in’. The following references show that for Jesus to be tempted, he cannot be God.

If God cannot be tempted as we are told, yet Jesus can be and certainly was - as we are told, then he cannot be God!

If he is God, the following passages become nonsensical.

The bible teaches Jesus is a man

that's why he can be tempted - in all things Heb 4:15 (God cannot be tempted James 1:13)

that's why he can die - God sent His only son... John 3:16, God is immortal 1 Tim 6:16

that's why he will inherit everything (which is odd if he allegedly made everything) Hebrews 1:2

that's why we're 'told' he is a man - John 8:40 a man who has spoken the truth that I heard from God (in his own words) Rom 5:15, Acts 2:22, Acts 17:31, 1 Tim 2:5

that's why he was foreknown by God 1 Pet 1:20

that's why he is the last Adam (which makes him human) 1 Cor 15:45

that's why he had a God - the same God as everyone else Rom 15:6, John 20:17

that's why the NT tells us repeatedly that Jesus is not = to the Father - in anything!

that's why he had to grow in wisdom learning obedience through suffering Luke 2:52, Heb 5:8

that's why he could do nothing of himself - even his words were the Father's John 5:19

If we insist Jesus is God, all the above revelation must be rejected, or interpreted in a disharmonious manner.

What does 'God' mean in “for God cannot be tempted by evil”?

In James 1:13, God means God, the creator, Father of Jesus. The immortal, all-knowing, reliant on nothing for His existence God. Who is above evil and never tempted to stoop to a lesser way of being than His holy righteous self.

Jesus, on the other hand, had his own will and WAS tempted by evil to the point of his constant praying to the Father - the one able to save him from death. This is not referring to the death on the cross. (Heb 5:7)

The extensive scriptural report on Jesus’ temptation and his clearly evident mortality would make a mockery of God’s justice and righteousness if Jesus could not sin... if the temptation was just a charade that would never jeopardise Jesus’ life and future eternal existence.

We are forced to trust the word God has provided that tells of a man, born of Mary and God’s power, who began his life at the miraculous conception and died a human death as we all do. He was raised to new life of spirit - this he did not have before. 1 Pet 3:18

We will have the same life he now does as the firstborn of many brethren. Rom 8:29. He is not God - before or after accession, and neither will we be.

If Jesus IS supposed to be God, the whole NT is very poorly written, or very poorly read.

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