The Greek words poikilois peirasmos translate literally to “diverse temptation.” Poikilois includes the meaning “of many kinds” and is rendered equally well in KJV, NIV, and ESV. Peirasmos also has possible connotations of “trial” or “difficulty,” although it is used more often as what we traditionally think of as temptation—as from the devil. “Temptation” implies enticement. “Trial” or “test” implies proving. Some other places peirasmos is used include Mt 6:13, Mt 26:41, Lk 4:13, 1 Co 10:13, 1 Ti 6:9, to name a few.
The Greek word more commonly translated as “trial” is dokime. It literally means proving, trial, approved, tried character, or a proof – as in a specimen of tried worth. In Jas 1:2 it seems either trial or temptation is acceptable. Later in Jas 1 the subject of temptation is dealt with in more detail. “Temptation” makes more sense in a no-nonsense view of what James appears to want to tell us. “Trial,” however, is more all-inclusive to the overall message James is conveying in this paragraph. Since either word is arguably valid we shall discuss both [in upcoming posts]. We need to look for the good that comes from difficult challenges, whether presented by men, Satan, or God. Trials or temptations aren’t typically fun in and of themselves, but certainly when we persevere the gold we purchase is well worth the price (Rev 3:18).
This post is an excerpt from my book Ask James one.