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Synonyms of the New Testament :: Richard C. Trench

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lxxiv. δοκιμάζω, πειράζω.

These words occur not seldom together, as at 2 Cor. 13:5; Ps. 94:10 (at Heb. 3:9 the better reading is ἐν δοκιμασίᾳ); but notwithstanding that they are both in our English Version rendered ‘prove’ (John 6:6; Luke 14:19), both ‘try’ (Rev. 2:2; 1 Cor. 3:13), both ‘examine’ (1 Cor. 11:28; 2 Cor. 13:5), they are not perfectly synonymous. In δοκιμάζειν, which has four other renderings in our Version,—namely, ‘discern’ (Luke 12:56); ‘like’ (Rom. 1:18); ‘approve’ (Rom. 2:18); ‘allow’ (Rom. 14:22),—lies ever the notion of proving a thing whether it be worthy to be received or not, being, as it is, nearly connected with δέχεσθαι. In classical Greek it is the technical word for putting money to the δοκιμή or proof, by aid of the δοκίμιον or test (Plato, Timoeus, 65 c; Plutarch, Def. Orac. 21); that which endures this proof being δόκιμος, that which fails ἀδόκιμος, which words it will be well to recollect are not, at least immediately, connected with δοκιμάζειν, but with δέχεσθαι. Resting on the fact that this proving is through fire (1 Cor. 3:13), δοκιμάζειν and πυροῦν are often found together (Ps. 95:9; Jer. 9:7). As employed in the N. T. δοκιμάζειν almost always implies that the proof is victoriously surmounted, the proved is also approved (2 Cor. 8:8; 1 Thess. 2:4; 1 Tim. 3:10), just as in English we speak of tried men (== δεδοκιμασμένοι), meaning not merely those who have been tested, but who have stood the test. It is then very nearly equivalent to ἀξιοῦν (1 Thess. 2:4; cf. Plutarch, Thes. 12). Sometimes the word will advance even a step further, and signify not merely to approve the proved, but to select or choose the approved (Xenophon, Anab. iii. 3. 12; cf. Rom. 1:28).

But on the δοκιμασία there follows for the most part not merely a victorious coming out of the trial, but it is further implied that the trial was itself made in the expectation and hope that the issue would be such; at all events, with no contrary hope or expectation. The ore is not thrown into the fining pot—and this is the image which continually underlies the use of the word in the O. T. (Zech. 13:9; Prov. 8:10; 17:3; 27:21; Ps. 65:10; Jer. 9:7; Ecclus. 2:5; Wisd. 3:6; cf. 1 Pet. 1:7)—except in the expectation and belief that, whatever of dross may be found mingled with it, yet it is not all dross, but that some good metal, and better now than before, will come forth from the fiery trial (Heb. 12:5-11; 2 Macc. 6:12-16). It is ever so with the proofs to which He who sits as a Refiner in his Church submits his own; his intention in these being ever, not indeed to find his saints pure gold (for that He knows they are not), but to make them such; to purge out their dross, never to make evident that they are all dross. As such, He is δοκιμαστὴς τῶν καρδιῶν (1 Thess. 2:4; Jer. 11:20; Ps. 16:4); as such, Job could say of Him, using another equivalent word, διέκρινέ με ὥσπερ τὸ χρυσίον (23:10). To Him, as such, his people pray, in words like those of Abelard, expounding the sixth petition of the Lord’s Prayer, ‘Da ut per tentationem probemur, non reprobemur.’ And here is the point of divergence between δοκιμάζειν and πειράζειν, as will be plain when the latter word has been a little considered.

This putting to the proof may have quite another intention, as it may have quite another issue and end, than such as have been just described; nay, it certainly will have such in the case of the false-hearted, and those who belong to God only in semblance and in show. Being ‘proved’ or tempted, they will appear to be what they have always been; and this fact, though not overruling all the uses of πειράζειν, does yet predominantly affect them. Nothing in the word itself required that it should oftenest signify a making trial with the intention and hope of entangling the person tried in sin. Πειράζειν, connected with ‘perior,’ ‘experior,’ πείρω, means properly no more than to make an experience of (πεῖραν λαμβάνειν, Heb. 11:29, 36); to pierce or search into (thus of the wicked it is said, πειράζουσι θάνατον, Wisd. 2:25; cf. 12:26; Ecclus. 39:4); or to attempt (Acts 16:7; 24:6). It came next to signify the trying intentionally, and with the purpose of discovering what of good or evil, of power or weakness, was in a person or thing (Matt. 16:1; 19:3; 22:18; 1 Kin. 10:1); or, where this was already known to the trier, revealing the same to the tried themselves; as when St. Paul addresses the Corinthians, ἑαυτοὺς πειράζετε, “try,” or, as we have it, “examine yourselves” (2 Cor. 13:5). It is thus that sinners are said to tempt God (Matt. 4:7 [ἐκπειράζειν]; Acts 5:9; 1 Cor. 10:9; Wisd. 1:2), putting Him to the proof, refusing to believe Him on his own word, or till He has manifested his power. At this stage, too, of the word’s history and successive usages we must arrest it, when we affirm of God that He ‘tempts’ men (Heb. 11:17; cf. Gen. 22:1; Exod. 15:25; Deut. 13:3); in no other sense or intention can He do this (Jam. 1:13); but because He does tempt in this sense (γυμνασίας χαρὶν καὶ ἀναῤῥήσεως, Oecumenius), and because of the self-knowledge which may be won through these temptations,—so that men may, and often do, come out of them holier, humbler, stronger than they were when they entered in,1—St. James is able to say, “Count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations” (1:2; cf. ver. 12). But the word itself enters on another stage of meaning. The melancholy fact that men so often break down under temptation gives to πειράζειν a predominant sense of putting to the proof with the intention and the hope that the ‘proved’ may not turn out ‘approved,’ but ‘reprobate’; may break down under the proof; and thus the word is constantly applied to the solicitations and suggestions of Satan (Matt. 4:1; 1 Cor. 7:5; Rev. 2:10), which are always made with such a malicious hope, he himself bearing the name of ‘The Tempter’ (Matt. 4:3; 1 Thess. 3:5), and evermore revealing himself as such (Gen. 3:1, 4, 5; 1 Chron. 21:1).

We may say then in conclusion, that while πειράζειν may be used, but exceptionally, of God, δοκιμάζειν could not be used of Satan, seeing that he never proves that he may approve, nor tests that he may accept.


1 Augustine (Serm. lxxi. c. 10): ‘In eo quod dictum est, Deus neminem tentat, non omni sed quodam tentationis modo Deus neminem tentare intelligendus est; ne falsum sit illud quod scriptum est, Tentat vos Dominus Deus vester [Deut. 13:3]; et ne Christum negemus Deum, vel dicamus falsum Evangelium, ubi legimus quia interrogabat discipulum, tentans eum [Joh. 6:6]. Est enim tentatio adducens peccatum, quâ Deus neminem tentat; et est tentatio probans fidem, quâ et Deus tentare dignatur.’ Cf. Serm. lvii. c. 9: Enarr. in Ps. lv. 1; Serm. ii. c. 3: ‘Deus tentat, ut doceat: diabolus tentat, ut decipiat.’

[The following Strong's numbers apply to this section:G1381,G3985.]

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