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Was Jesus tempted in the manner described in James 1:14?

"But one is tempted by one’s own desire (ἐπιθυμίας), being lured (ἐξελκόμενος) and enticed (δελεαζόμενος) by it; 15 then, when that desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin, and that sin, when it is fully grown, gives birth to death." James 1:14-15

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. (Hebrews 4:15)

According to James, temptation is characterised by three things prior to it becoming sin.

  1. ἐπιθυμίας - desire, lust. passion built on strong feelings (urges). These can be positive or negative, depending on whether the desire is inspired by faith (God's inbirthed persuasion).

  2. ἐξελκόμενος - James 1:14, where the metaphor is taken from hunting and fishing: as game is lured from its covert, so man by lust is allured from the safety of self-restraint to sin. (The language of hunting seems to be transferred here (so elsewhere, cf. Wetstein (1752) at the passage) to the seductions of a harlot, personated by ἐπιθυμία; see τίκτω.)

  3. δελεαζόμενος - (from delear, "bait") – properly, to bait a hook or set a trap with bait; (figuratively) entice a victim into a moral trap, luring them in through their own selfish impulses.

Source: https://biblehub.com/text/james/1-14.htm

Since Jesus was tempted as we are, yet without sin, it logically follows that Jesus only experienced temptation, but not its fruit (i.e. sin). However, the question is seeking for an answer about the nature of the tempatation of Jesus. Did he have an evil desire or lust (ἐπιθυμίας in the negative, since the word was in the context of temptation which brings forth sin)?

  • If he is without sin how is it possible for him to have an evil lust ? The Tempter had already proved there was no such thing within him, when, starved close to the point of death, there was found not an evil thing within him - only worship to the Father and obedience to his God. You are confusing the external temptation and the inward absence of sin. – Nigel J Jun 29 at 19:24
  • @Nijel, in other words, you do not see James 1:14's description of temptation applicable to the temptation of Jesus? How , then, did Jesus get tempted "as we are" based on Hebrews 4:15? – Radz Matthew C. Brown Jun 29 at 19:26
  • @Nigel, it was not obvious in the text of James because in the text επιθυμιας was explicitly not identified as sin but rather, as a thing that exists prior to sin. – Radz Matthew C. Brown Jun 29 at 19:33
  • No, the lustful desire is already there. That, itself, is sinful. Once the temptation has provoked the evil desire - then sin (the act of sinning) is conceived and born and death results. The mating of the temptation and the evil desire is a conception, as James says. If there is no evil lust, there can be no conception - it is a barren womb, void of evil intent. – Nigel J Jun 29 at 19:36
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    I will, when I have time to do it, put these comments together and enlarge on them and provide a proper answer. In the meantime +1 for an intelligent question. – Nigel J Jun 29 at 19:37
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This is essentially almost the same question as the OP's question in https://hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/questions/48780/does-ισα-το-θεου-refer-to-the-role-of-jesus-as-κυριos-in-philippians-26 My answer to that question should be viewed as background to this question.

I am going to suggest something that many find repugnant, not because it belittles Jesus but because it shows how sinful we are. Paul takes some time in the well-known Rom 3:10-18 to explain that our humanity, in its fallen state, is depraved. This is a common theme in the NT, eg, matt 9:4, 15:19, Mark 7:21, John 7:18, Acts 8:22, Rom 1:18, 12:17, 1 Cor 5:8, 14:20, 2 Cor 2:11, 12:20, 1 Tim 6:4, James 2:4, etc. Gen 6:5 says that "men's thoughts were evil all the time".

By contrast, Christ is described as "holy, innocent, undefiled, set apart from sinners, and exalted above the heavens" (Heb 7:26). This does not suggest that Jesus was less than human, far from it! Paul describes Jesus as the second Adam (Rom 5:12-19). The first Adam was also sinless and perfect, but failed. Jesus accepted human liabilities but succeeded.

Now Jesus was also God who is omnipotent and omniscient, etc. BUT, Jesus emptied Himself, ie, voluntarily, buy putting aside His divinity without ceasing to be divine. As the God-man he walked the earth and lived as a man. All his power was still available.

Look at the first temptation in the wilderness (Matt 4) where Jesus is tempted to make stones into bread to satisfy is craving hunger. This would not have been a temptation to me but it was to Jesus because He could have none this. But He lived as a man and depended on the Father, just as we need to do.

Look as Heb 4:15, "For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who was tempted in every way that we are, yet was without sin". This cannot be literally true in all details because, Jesus was never tempted to drive too fast, He was never tempted to take heroine, He was never tempted to watch pornographic movies, etc, etc. Therefore, Jesus was tempted in a greater and more general sense.

Precisely because Jesus was God and omnipotent, He could have come down from the cross because He had the power to do so; he could have escaped the tortures and retaliated those inflicting pain; in Gethsemane He begged the Father to release Him from what lay ahead; when thirsty on the cross, He could have miraculously provided drink, etc. But He did not. Jesus voluntarily accepted the limitations of humanity and provided as the perfect example to follow (1 John 2:6, John 15:13, 16:33, Eph 5:1, 2, Rom 8:29, 12:1, 2, matt 6:12, Eph 4:32, etc.

Thus, because we are very limited and Jesus was not, Jesus' temptations were far greater than any of our could ever be.

Final note: The Bible often talks about how sinful our thought are (see second paragraph above). Jesus was sinless, and thus, He did not sin even in thought. Sin was repugnant to Him in all its aspects. Therefore, sin via the mechanism found in James 1:14 was for Jesus, not the mechanism. (James 1:14 is not the only way we sin!!) Jesus was tempted on the basis of His omnipotence, divinity and natural appetite, as per Matt 4.

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  • +1 Interesting thoughts : that Jesus was tempted in a way unique to himself (only he was able to make stone into bread). Thank you for that. – Nigel J Jun 30 at 12:40
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Jesus has a higher standard or definition of sin.

Matthew 5:28 But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
Matthew 15:19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, and slander.

To him, the thinking of a sin in concrete details is sin. It is internal before exhibiting itself in action externally. He applies this definition on himself.

This is how I read James 1:14-15

But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin [action], and sin [nature] when it is fully grown brings forth death.

Was Jesus tempted in the procedure described in James 1:14? No.

But He was tempted just like us.

New American Standard 1977 Hebrews 4:15

For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.

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A question I was pondering and found this in the 'similar Q's' box.

What we know;

Jesus was human, the last Adam.

He had a differing will to the Father - although ALWAYS brought into subjection with the Father's will.

He had no sin.

He was conceived/born holy and righteous - born outside of the 'fallen state' from Adam, as God was his Father. Rom 5:12-21

As he was holy and didn't have 'carnal' desires, i.e. his 'natural' state was to do right and good.

Just b/c he was human, doesn't mean he had a proclivity to sin like everyone else.

As has been explained, we are tempted by our own carnal desires. James 1:14

None of the 'temptations' from the devil (ok, all of them) were based on sin per se - they were to draw Jesus into doing his will, not the Father's.

Making bread from stone isn't a sin, but it would be placing Jesus' will before the Father's. THAT would make it sin.

Pride is a good thing - EXCEPT when it comes before God. We can take pride in our work and that glorifies God.

Lucifer's sin resulted from pride (Ez 28:17) and usurping authority that was not his. And so he used the same tempts on Jesus. Jesus knew better '...humility comes before honour' Ps 18:12

Prov 16:18 Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before stumbling

The beginning of all sin may well be preceded by succumbing to pride - the devil knew it, So did Jesus.

Was Jesus tempted from his internal lusts? No

He WAS tempted on a grander scale centred on pride vs humility.

Adam knew no sin as there was no 'law'. Yet in pride he trusted in himself over God. His thoughts over God's instructions.

As the second/last Adam, Jesus faced the same test, over and over till he finally tasted death on the cross - remaining victorious to the end.

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