Troubling Verse in the Knox Bible


I was reading the Knox bible and I came across a verse which is really troubling me. It is James 1:13.

Nobody, when he finds himself tempted should say, I am being tempted by God. God may threaten us with evil, but he does not himself tempt anyone.

There is a footnote which says that rendering is based off the latin Vulgate and can not be translated any other way. It is the Greek which translates it " God does not tempt anyone with evil."

I am confused. If the Douay is translated from the Vulgate…why doesn’t it have the Knox translation? Or is the Knox just wrong. I am far from a biblical scholar so I was hoping someone could enlighten me.


That is an interesting verse. In other places Knox will translate the Greek sense in place of the Latin Vulgate, such as in Isaiah 7:14. It is also strange since the D/R does not use his sense either. Good find.


So do you agree that it is a correct translation from the latin? I don’t read latin or greek and it is instances like this when I wish I did.

What bothers me is “God threatening us with evil.” If God threatens, it is with just punishment…not with evil.

It is interesting though. Did Jerome have access to Greek Texts? As I said, I’m not a biblical scholar but I have heard that Jerome translated only from Latin texts. Usually I find little difference between the translations but this is a huge discrepancy. They are polar opposites.


St. Jerome translated the Greek into Latin (The Vulgate).


If you would like to see the greek, go here:

and for the Vulgate, go here:

John Martin


I wouldn’t blame Jerome. He did what he had to do to preserve scripture. At least Latin preserves the Greek inflection and some of its nuance. I’d blame the English for not having the tools necessary to have it translated to English properly. As an apologist mentioned translation is more of an art than science. If you don’t have the right colors, you can’t paint the right picture.

That said, Knox might have overdone it a little with the “threaten” part. That’s why it’s better to have the Greek and Latin handy and not rely strictly on the English.


In other places in scripture, God “repents”. These are cases of metaphorical analogy where the Sacred Writer attributes human imperfections to God for the purpose of describing in human terms something that can not be fully understood. We use metaphorical analogy all the time…for example when we say “He is a diamond in the rough”. We of course don’t mean a person is a diamond…or even that a person is “like a diamond”. We mean that as a rough diamond must be treated in order to be brought to a more perfect and beautiful state…so must a person’s attributes be developed and perfected over time.


there are times God needs to spank his children to bring them back into line onto the correct path of the race. I think the “evil” is simply difficult circumstances used to get our attention.


The Knox bible is more of a paraphrase than an translation–something equivalent to “The Message” today. If you enjoy reading it, fine; but don’t take it too literally.

Greek and Vulgate: “…for God is untemptable by evil and he does not tempt anyone.”


What bothers me is “God threatening us with evil.” If God threatens, it is with just punishment…not with evil.

The Hebrew term for “evil”, רעה / רע, which shows up in Ex 32:14 (“And the LORD repented of the evil which he thought to do unto his people”) referred not only to moral badness but also to calamity. In that sense, God’s threatening Israel with punishment was threatening them with “evil”. The Knox translator may have been thinking of that sort of idea, because, as Dave Noonan says, it just is not there in the LXX or the Vulgate.

Did Jerome have access to Greek Texts? As I said, I’m not a biblical scholar but I have heard that Jerome translated only from Latin texts.

He did have access to Greek texts: he comments upon some of them in his prefaces.


I think that is going too far. Knox is usually VERY faithful to the original Vulgate text, although not in a formal equivalence way. But I wouldn’t call his translation a dynamic equivalent either.

His translation was commissioned by the hierarchy of England for use in the Liturgy, so it was important to stay faithful to original Vulgate. However, as has been noted in this thread, there are some exceptions. Usually Knox is the best translation for the Pauline epistles because he tries to translate in the “sense” of the phrase or word. There are innumerable examples of his Pauline translations being especially clear and true, where the Vulgate (D/R) can be stilted or even unintelligible.


Another possibility for this verse, is that England was under the threat of War with Germany in the late 30’s about when Knox was translating. IOW, it could have been coloring his view of that verse.


Here is how St Thomas translates it:
according to James 1:13, “God is not a tempter of evils.”
and he used the Vulgate. And, I think, that as a Doctor of the Church, his understanding of the meaning of Scripture is much more weighty than that of a translator.

You can see the context of St Thomas’ quote here:

John Martin


Well, that is the English translation of what Thomas wrote, and I believe he wrote the Summa in Latin. So the translation issue remains. I have not (and cannot) read Summa in Latin, so I don’t know if he merely copied from the Vulgate or not.


There have been some past similar threads here on the Knox Bible where it seems like the translator took undue liberties and ended up with some pretty “loose” equivalents. But I haven’t done a detailed review.


Here is the transliteration:
nemo | cum | temptatur | dicat | quoniam | a | Deo | temptor | deus | enim | intemptator | malorum | est | ipse | autem | neminem | temptat
No one | when | he is tested | should plead (innocence) | because | by | God | he is tested | God | in fact | not tested | of evil | is. | Himself | however | no one | tests

and here is the transliteration of the Greek
Μηδεὶς | πειραζόμενος | λεγέτω, | ὅτι | Ἀπὸ | Θεοῦ | πειράζομαι. | ὁ | γὰρ | Θεὸς | ἀπείραστός | ἐστιν | κακῶν; | πειράζει | δὲ | αὐτὸς | οὐδένα.
No one | being tested | let him say, | “that | by | God | I am being tempted.” | (The) | indeed | God | not able to be tempted | is | by evils. | He tempts | moreover | Himself | no one.

You should see they are virtually identical in meaning, but nowhere near the Knox version.

John Martin


A text translated from another language can many times be translated in various ways depending on the meaning that the translator feels and understands when thinking in that other language, then putting that feeling into our language.
When there are multiple feelings or understandings evoked in thinking in the other language, the responsibility of a Catholic translator is not to be inventive, but to pick the translation that matches the teaching of the Church Tradition.

Nowhere in Tradition nor in the whole meaning of the book of James do we find “God may threaten us with evil” as a valid choice of the translation.
And, in fact, the latin does not even come close to such a translation, so Knox was “feeling something” that was not there and the footnote author defending him inappropriately:

| deus | enim | intemptator | malorum | est |
| God | in fact | not tested | of evil | is. |
| God | may | threaten | us | with evil | missing verb est |
| ok | ok | negative, not positive + passive, not active | not in latin | genitive, not dative | missing |

John Martin


The more I read it the more I’m convinced there should be an understood “dicat” to make the comparison between God and the “no man.” Both “temptator” and “intemptator” are in first person singular.


Actually, the Vulgate has a misunderstood word here.

temptor deus enim

For God [is] a tempter/tester.

intemptator malorum est

He is an un-tempter of evils.

Knox is taking “malorum” as modifying both “temptor” and “intemptator,” but as meaning “bad stuff that happens” in reference to God as testing us and refining us, and then meaning “evil deeds” in reference to God as not being the guy who’d tempt us to do evil. So that would be:

temptor [malorum] deus enim

intemptator malorum est

Which would be a rhetorical/poetical figure, but not unheard of. (Like “Call me anything, but don’t call me late for dinner.”)

So something like, “For God tests us through bad stuff, but He doesn’t tempt us to do bad stuff.”

Hope this helped.


Except that Jerome translated to the Vulgate from the Greek, so the indicator of which way his phrasing should be taken would be indicated in reading the Greek together with the Latin - if you can’t get a meaning out of the Greek, then Jerome did not mean that. If it is possible in both Latin AND Greek, then it is possible for English. We are not reading a Latin original.
Also, both temptator and intemptator are Passive - meaning “he is tested” and “he is not tested”, not meaning “he tests”.

John Martin

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