General Information

Temptation has two separate meanings. One is as any attempt to entice one into evil. The other represents a testing which aims at spiritual good (Gen. 3:5; 22:1,2).

BELIEVE Religious Information Source - By Alphabet Our List of 2,300 Religious Subjects


Advanced Information

Temptation is the act of tempting or the state of being tempted. In the OT the specific verb indicating the act of tempting is the Piel form nissa. In I Sam. 17:39 the word is used of proving or testing armor. In Gen. 22:1 nissa characterizes God's command to Abraham to offer Isaac as a burnt offering in the land of Moriah. A similar use of the term in application to God's testing of men is found in Exod. 16:4; 20:20; Deut. 8:2, 16; 13:3; II Chr. 32:31; Ps. 26:2; etc. Related to this sense of the term is that which is given to it when it is applied to the terrible and wonderful acts of God against Egypt (Deut. 4:34).

The same technical term is applied to those acts of men which challenge God to demonstrate his veracity and justice.

The term nissa is rarely, if ever, applied in the OT to Satan's act of enticing men to sin. Nevertheless, the essence of temptation in this sense is clearly revealed in the account of the fall and in the record of Satan's role in the affliction of Job (Gen. 3:1-13; Job 1:1-2:10). Eve tells God, "The serpent beguiled me (hissiani), and I did eat" (Gen. 3:13; cf. exapatao in II Cor. 11:3; I Tim. 2:14). Deception plays an important part in satanic temptation. Satan avoids making a frontal attack immediately on God's probationary command and its threatened penalities. Instead, he sows the seeds of doubt, unbelief, and rebellion. The temptation of Eve is typical. She is made to feel that God has unwisely and unfairly withheld a legitimate objective good from man. In Job's trials the strategy is different, but the end sought is the same, the rejection of God's will and way as just and good.

The NT reflects the translation of nissa with ekpeirazo, etc., in the LXX (Matt. 4:7; I Cor. 10:9; Heb. 3:8-9). In these passages the sinful tempting of God is referred to by way of the OT. However, the same sense is employed by Peter in connection with the sin of Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:9) and the prescriptions to be given to Gentile Christians (Acts 15:10).

The additional use of peirazo and related forms is complex. The words may refer to exterior circumstances which try the believer's faith and are designed to strengthen that faith (James 1:2; I Pet. 1:6). Although these circumstances are held to be under the absolute control of God, the explicit causal ascription of them to God is not prominent. Perhaps some reasoning by analogy is permissible here. Paul, e.g., recognizes that his "thorn in the flesh" is under God's sovereign control (II Cor. 12:8-9). But the "thorn" is "a messenger of Satan" (vs. 7). The same phenomenon may be viewed from two aspects. The peirasmon is a trial of one's faith controlled and, even in some sense, sent by God. But God is not the author of the prompting to sin that such trial seems to bring with it. The believer may rejoice in trial because he detects God's good purpose in it (James 1:2-4, 12). But the subjective use of trying situations, the internal incitement to sin in connection with trials and testings, is not and cannot be the work of God Enticement to sin and to impatient rebellion is the work of Satan (I Pet. 5:8-9; Rev. 2:9; cf. I Thess. 3:5). In this he is immensely aided by the deceptive power of epithymia, lust, in the old nature (James 1:14-15). While Satan's role in temptation is usually assumed rather than stated, in I Cor. 7:5 Paul explicitly warns Christians to observe his charge with respect to marital relationships, "that Satan tempt you not because of your incontiency" (cf. Matt. 4:1; Mark 1:13; Luke 4:2).

Jesus teaches the disciples to pray, "And bring us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one" (Matt. 6:13), and the Bible is replete with warnings to be watchful because of the ever-present danger of falling into temptation (Luke 22:40; Gal. 6:1; I Pet. 5:8-9). But the Bible assures the believer that God will make a way of escape from temptation (I Cor. 10:13), and that "the Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptation ..." (II Pet. 2:9a).

Jesus was repeatedly "tempted" by the Jewish leaders (Mark 8:11; etc.). But these temptations were designed either to force Jesus to prove his messiahship in terms of the preconceptions of his enemies or to compel him to show himself incapable of being a true rabbi (Luke 10:25) or to cause him to make self-incriminating statements (Mark 12:15; cf. Luke 23:2).

Very likely Jesus was subject to temptation throughout his ministry (cf. Luke 4:13; 22:28). But the great temptation is the crucial temptation in redemptive history (Matt. 4:1, and parallels). This temptation confronts one with the question, How could the sinless Son of God be really tempted? Granted that appeal could be made to legitimate desires in his human nature, what force could temptation have on a divine person who cannot be tempted? Efforts to solve the problem run the risk either of impairing the "without sin" of Heb. 4:15 or of making the temptation unreal. Our understanding of the matter is beclouded by the fact that our awareness of being tempted immediately involves us in at least a momentary inclination to yield to the temptation. This was not true of Jesus, and yet the temptation was real, so that he is able to "succor them that are tempted" (Heb. 2:18).

The necessity of the temptation in view of Adam's fall is evident. Jesus triumphed over Satan with his immediate and obedient use of the word of God. He thereby proved that he was qualified to be the "last Adam." "To this end was the Son of God manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil" (I John 3:8b).

C G Kromminga
(Elwell Evangelical Dictionary)

L. Berkhof, Systematic Theology, 219-26; H. Seesemann, TDNT, VI, 23ff.; W. Schneider, et al., NIDNTT, III, 798ff.; R. C. Trench, Synonyms of the NT; P. Dobble, "Temptations," ExpT 72:91ff.; E. Best, The Temptation and the Passion; W. J. Foxell, The Temptation of Jesus; C. Ullmmann, The Sinlessness of Jesus.


Advanced Information

(1.) Trial; a being put to the test. Thus God "tempted [Gen. 22:1; R.V., 'did prove'] Abraham;" and afflictions are said to tempt, i.e., to try, men (James 1:2, 12; comp. Deut. 8:2), putting their faith and patience to the test. (2.) Ordinarily, however, the word means solicitation to that which is evil, and hence Satan is called "the tempter" (Matt. 4:3).

Our Lord was in this way tempted in the wilderness. That temptation was not internal, but by a real, active, subtle being. It was not self-sought. It was submitted to as an act of obedience on his part. "Christ was led, driven. An unseen personal force bore him a certain violence is implied in the words" (Matt. 4:1-11). The scene of the temptation of our Lord is generally supposed to have been the mountain of Quarantania (q.v.), "a high and precipitous wall of rock, 1,200 or 1,500 feet above the plain west of Jordan, near Jericho."

Temptation is common to all (Dan. 12: 10; Zech. 13:9; Ps. 66:10; Luke 22:31, 40; Heb. 11:17; James 1:12; 1 Pet. 1:7; 4:12). We read of the temptation of Joseph (Gen. 39), of David (2 Sam. 24; 1 Chr. 21), of Hezekiah (2 Chr. 32:31), of Daniel (Dan. 6), etc. So long as we are in this world we are exposed to temptations, and need ever to be on our watch against them.

(Easton Illustrated Dictionary)

Temptation of Christ

Catholic Information

In the Catholic translation of the Bible, the word "temptation" is used in various senses, the principal of which are the following:

the act of testing or trying (Deuteronomy 4:34; Tobit 2:12; Luke 22:28; etc.);

enticement to evil (Matthew 26:41; 1 Corinthians 10:13; etc.); the state of being tempted (Matthew 6:13; Luke 4:13; etc.); that which tempts or entices to evil (James 1:12; 2 Peter 2:9; etc.); the name of a place (Exodus 17:7; Deuteronomy 6:16; etc.)

Taken in an unfavourable sense as denoting enticement to evil, temptation cannot be referred directly to God or to Christ, so that when we read in Gen., xxii, 1, for instance, "God tempted Abraham", and in John, vi, 6, "Hoc autem dicebat tentans eum", literally: "This He [Jesus] said tempting him [Philip]", the expressions must be taken in the sense of testing, trying. According to St. James (i, 12 sqq.), the natural source of man's temptations is concupiscence, or that proneness to evil which is the result of the fall of Adam, and which remains in human nature after baptismal regeneration, and even though the soul is in the state of sanctifying grace (cf. Romans 8:1). Concupiscence becomes sinful only when freely yielded to; when resisted with God's help it is an occasion of merit. Together with inward concupiscence, and outward creatures, which may be the occasion of sin (I John ii, 15 sqq.), the chief cause of temptation is Satan, "the tempter" (Matthew 4:3), bent on man's eternal ruin (Ephesians 6:10 sqq.). In the Lord's Prayer, the clause "Lead us not into temptation" is an humble and trusting petition for God's help to enable us to overcome temptation when His Fatherly Providence allows us to experience the allurements of evil. Prayer and watchfulness are the chief weapons against temptation (Mark 14:38; etc.). God does not allow man to be tempted beyond his strength (1 Corinthians 10:13).

Like Adam, Christ (the second Adam) endured temptation only from without, inasmuch as His human nature was free from all concupiscence; but unlike Adam, He withstood the assaults of the Tempter on all points, thereby affording His mystical members a perfect model of resistance to their spiritual enemy, and a permanent source of victorious help (Hebrews 4:15-16). In our first three Gospels (Matthew 4:1-11; Mark 1:12-13; Luke 4:1-13), the narrative of Christ's temptation is placed in immediate connexion with His baptism on the one hand, and with the beginning of His public ministry on the other. The reason of this is clear. The Synoptists naturally regard the baptism of Christ as the external designation of Jesus from above for His Messianic work to be pursued under the guidance of the Holy Spirit bestowed upon Him on this occasion; and they no less naturally regard Christ's sojourn in the desert where He was tempted, as His own immediate preparation for that great work under the guidance of the same Holy Spirit. As our first three Gospels agree concerning the time to which they assign the temptation of Christ, so they are at one in ascribing the same general place to its occurrence, viz. "the desert", whereby they no doubt mean the Wilderness of Judea, where Jesus would indeed be, as St. Mark says: "with beasts". From St. Mark (i, 13) -- with whom compare St. Luke iv, 2 -- we learn that Jesus Christ was tempted during the forty days which He spent in the desert (cf. St. Augustine, "Harmony of the Evangelists", II, xvi), so that the three onsets given in detail by St. Matthew and St. Luke are apparently the three final assaults of Satan against Christ. The first of these assaults is directly connected in both St. Matthew and St. Luke with the prolonged fast of Jesus in the wilderness. The Tempter suggested to Jesus that He should use His miraculous power to relieve His hunger, by changing into bread the loaf-like flints of the desert. The two other assaults are given in a different order, St. Matthew adhering probably to the order of time, and St. Luke to that of place. The spot pointed out by tradition as the summit from which Satan offered to Jesus dominion over all earthly kingdoms is the "Quarantania", a limestone peak on the road from Jerusalem to Jericho. As regards the Temple's pinnacle from which the Tempter bade Jesus cast Himself down, it was not the top of the House of Yahweh, but probably the roof of Solomon's portico from which, at a later date, St. James was actually hurled to the pavement below (Eusebius, "Hist. eccl.", IV, xiii).

According to St. Luke (4:13), after having subjected Christ to all kinds of temptations -- the Messianic import of which is undoubted -- Satan withdrew, awaiting a favourable opportunity like that which followed Christ's prolonged fast in the desert. The later conflict thus alluded to is no other than that of Christ's Passion (cf. Luke 22:53; John 14:30). The ministry of angels to Jesus, in connection with His temptation, is mentioned in Mark, i, 13. Satan's exact manner of appearance to Jesus is not stated by the Evangelists. Despite the difficulties urged, chiefly by non-Catholic scholars, against the historical character of the three temptations of Jesus, as recorded by St. Matthew and St. Luke, it is plain that these sacred writers intended to describe an actual and visible approach of Satan, to chronicle an actual shifting of places, etc., and that the traditional view, which maintains the objective nature of Christ's temptations, is the only one meeting all the requirements of the Gospel narrative.

Publication information Written by Francis E. Gigot. Transcribed by Douglas J. Potter. Dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus Christ The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume XIV. Published 1912. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Nihil Obstat, July 1, 1912. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York


(Catholic Authors are marked with an asterisk). Life of Christ: *CIGOI (Klagenfurt, 1896-1905); *DIDON (tr. New York, 1891); EDERSHEIM (New York, 1884); FARRAR (London, 1874); *FORNARI (Rome, 1901); *FOUARD (tr. New York, 1891); GEIKIE (New York, 1886); *GRIMM (Ratisbon, 1876); HOLTZMANN (tr. London, 1904); KEIM (tr. London, 1876-83) *LE CAMUS (tr. New York, 1906-08); NEANDER (tr. London, 1871); PRESSENSÉ (Paris, 1884); ROBINS0N (London, 1898); *SCHEGG (Freiburg, 1875); *SEPPAND *HANEBERG (Ratisbon, 1898-1902); WEISS (tr. Edinburgh, 1883-4). For Commentaries see bibliographies under MATTHEW, GOSPEL OF ST.; MARK, GOSPEL OF ST.; LUKE, GOSPEL OF ST. For the literary analysis of the Synoptical accounts of Christ's temptation, see New York Review, Oct.-Nov., 1905.

The individual articles presented here were generally first published in the early 1980s. This subject presentation was first placed on the Internet in May 1997.

This page - - - - is at
This subject presentation was last updated on - -

Copyright Information

Send an e-mail question or comment to us: E-mail

The main BELIEVE web-page (and the index to subjects) is at: BELIEVE Religious Information Source - By Alphabet ../indexaz.html