[Milton-L] Re: Temptation and trial, with more questions than answers

Harold Skulsky hskulsky at smith.edu
Mon Sep 7 22:40:40 EDT 2009

For what it's worth, I agree entirely with Michael Gillum.

While I'm at it, a few random remarks on linguistic matters touched on in the email he quotes:

"Temptare can mean both to tempt and to try (prove)." 

The sense "incite" or "allure" of Lat. *tempto*  is entirely derivative from the usual (though not the archaic) Lat. sense "make trial of."  In the theological literature familiar to M's contemporaries on both sides of the Schism, this is a commonplace. The locus classicus is Summa theologica 1.14.2: "Temptare est proprie experimentum sumere de aliquo." ("Literally understood, to tempt is to make trial of someone.") God, of course, need not "tempt" someone to find out something about him, as M. notes. With Satan, on the other hand, "temptare est ignorantis" ("tempting is the act of one who does not know") (STh. ibid.).

A careful reading of the entry in Lewis and Short, with a study of the illlustrative  passages cited for the derivative sense, should make it clear that an idiomatic Latinist of any period would never take the derivative sense of *tempto* as primitive, or distinct from the usual sense. 

By the way, Gk. *dokimion* is not a verb. The relevant verb is *dokimazo*.

More information about the Milton-L mailing list