““Lead Us Not Into Temptation”” -- By: John V. Dahms

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 17:4 (Fall 1974)
Article: ““Lead Us Not Into Temptation””
Author: John V. Dahms


““Lead Us Not Into Temptation””

John V. Dahms*

Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada

These familiar words from the Lord’s Prayer invite certain questions: Is it true that God leads men into temptation? If God leads people into temptation, why should anyone pray not to be led into it? Why is it that the followers of Jesus are encouraged to pray that they may not be led into temptation when such a passage as James 1:2 encourages them to rejoice when they meet temptations?

First of all, it should be noted that “temptation” may not be a satisfactory translation of peirasmos, the respective Greek word in both the Matthaean and Lukan versions of the Lord’s Prayer. Modern readers understand “temptation” to mean “enticement to evil.” Now it is true that such a meaning for peirasmos seems to be supported by James 1:14, “Each person is peirazetai when he is lured and enticed by his own desire.”1 Moreover, quotation of the Epistle of James in this connection becomes especially significant when it is realized that this epistle seems to owe a great deal to the teachings of Jesus, particularly as they are represented in the Sermon on the Mount. Indeed, there are at least ten statements in James that are strongly reminiscent of the Sermon.2

On the other hand, it must be noted that James 1:14 does not attempt a definition of peirasmos but rather describes what takes place in peirasmos. Of course, in so doing it does assist in the definition of peirasmos, but the door is open to the possibility that an adequate definition is not to be deduced therefrom. That an adequate definition is not to be derived from James 1:14 is intimated by statements in the verses preceding. In James 1:2–4, Christians are exhorted to “count it all joy … when you meet various peirasmoi” because “the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.” In James 1:12 it is said that the man is “blessed” who endures peirasmos because, having victoriously met it, “he will receive the crown of life.” Surely there is more suggested here re peirasmos than mere enticement to evil. Moreover, is it not highly improbabl...

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