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What is a Word Study?

Updated on February 23, 2015

Word Study on James 1:2 – “Trial”

1.) In “The Strongest NIV Concordance” the number for “Trials” is:

G3985

2.) The Greek word for “Trials” in James 1:2 is:

“πειρασμός” or “Peirasmos.”

3.) The NIV also translates the word “Peirasmos:”

Tempt, Tempted, Temptation, Tempter, Trap, Tried, Tested and Test


4.) Usages and references:


  • Tempt: I Cor. 7:5,
  • Tempted: Matt. 4:1, Mark 1:13, Luke 4:2, I Cor. 10:13 (2), Gal. 6:1, I Th. 3:5, Heb. 2:18 (2), Heb. 4:15, James 1:13, James 1:14,
  • Temptation: I Cor. 10:13,
  • Tempter: Matt. 4:3, I Th. 3:5
  • Trap: Matt. 22:18, Mark 12:15, John 8:6
  • Tried: Acts 9:26, Acts 16:7, Acts 24:6, Heb. 3:9
  • Tested: Matt 16:1, Matt. 22:35, Mark 10:2, Luke 11:16, Heb. 11:17, Heb. 11:37 (in early manuscripts), Rev. 2:2,
  • Test: Matt. 19:3, Mark 8:11, John 6:6, Acts 5:9, Acts 15:10, I Cor. 10:9, II Cor. 13:5 (2), Rev. 2:10, Rev. 3:10

5.) In Context:

The word “Peirasmos” can mean temptation that is within God’s design (i.e. Jesus in the desert), or temptation that man brings upon himself (i.e. James 1). It can also be used as one who tempts (i.e. Matt. 4:3, I Th. 3:5). Temptation and Tempted carry the same context. Another way “Peirasmos” is used is in the case of a trap, though in all cases it is the Pharisees using a verbal trap to ensnare Jesus. Tried is another use of “Peirasmos,” and it is used in ways similar to “Tempted” though it can also be used as an attempt (i.e. The apostles trying to get somewhere, but the Spirit stopping them.), “Tested” is much like “Trap” and “Temptation,” as is “Test.”

6.) Semantic Range:

As found in the texts above the Semantic Range of “Trials” consists of seven possible usages that I can identify.

  1. To be tempted to do wrong either by the Devil or by man.
  2. Temptation itself or being in a place of temptation.
  3. The one who tempts.
  4. To test to see if something holds up under scrutiny or if it can be brought down by its own fallacies.
  5. To trap something or someone, or the trap by which this is accomplished.
  6. To try/attempt to accomplish something.
  7. To be in a state of trial, under the influence of trying circumstances or tried to have the less lasting removed and the substantial remain.

7.) The Semantic Range in James 1:2

“Trials” in an English understanding can mean several things. It can mean:

  • A trial in court
  • A test run
  • A difficult experience

In this case I believe the word “Peirasmos” in James 1:2 to mean trials in the sense of

“d. - To test to see if something holds up under scrutiny or if it can be brought down by its own fallacies or inadequacies.”

In this particular case the NIV translates “Peirasmos” as trials and is in the context of uncomfortable events being used to bring away that which is of no value from that which has value much like

“g. - To be in a state of trial, under the influence of trying circumstances or tried to have the less lasting removed and the substantial remain.”

The reason I believe this is because of verse 3:

“Knowing that the testing (Peirasmos) of your faith produces endurance.”

As an example, a runner can only attain endurance if that which will slow him down (excessive weight etc.) is removed. The “testing” involved for a runner is working out or dieting. The mental image of gold being refined by fire comes to mind.

8.) According to the New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology “Trial” can be defined as:

  1. “To make an attempt…”
  2. “Temptation, trial as it is used in the NT in the religious sense…”
  3. “To have to suffer as a Christian…”
  4. “Jesus was the subject of temptation throughout His life…”

Thus, I believe my interpretation of “Peirasmos” as it occurs in James 1:2-3 to be correct. From the further passage of James 1:12-13, it call also be argued that my interpretation is correct for James says:

“Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God;’ for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust.” (NASB)

A difficulty could be supposed here, because Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert where He was tempted for forty days (A number linked to trial and testing). However, the Holy Spirit Himself is not the one who is executing the temptation, but the Devil. The Spirit merely led Him to the place where that temptation for the purpose of refinement (see “d.” of my semantic range) could occur. Christ was not kept back from the scope of human temptation as the writer of Hebrews states in chapter 4 verse 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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