Prove - Trench's New Testament Synonyms
Provedokimazo (G1381) Prove
peirazo (G3985) Try
Dokimazo and peirazo often are used together, as in 2 Corinthians 13:5 and Psalm 94:10. Although our Authorized Version translates both words by "prove" (Luke 14:19; John 6:6), "try" (1 Cor. 3:13; Rev. 2:2), and "examine" (1 Cor. 11:28; 2 Cor. 13:5), they are not perfectly synonymous. Dokimazein is translated by four other words in the Authorized Version: "discern" (Luke 12:56), "like" (Rom. 2:18), "approve" (Rom. 2:18), and "allow" (Rom. 14:22). Dokimazein always includes the idea of proving whether a thing is worthy to be received and is closely related to dechesthai (G1209). In classical Greek dokimazein is the technical word used for putting money to the dokime (G1382, proof) by use of the dokimion (G1383, test). Whatever passes this test is dokimos (G1384), and whatever fails is adokimos(G96). These words are not, at least immediately, connected with dokimazein but with dechesthai. Because this proving is through fire (1 Cor. 3:13), dokimazein and pyroun (G4448) often are used together (Ps. 95:9; Jer. 9:7). In the New Testament dokimazein almost always implies that the test is victoriously surmounted and the proved is also approved (2 Cor. 8:8; 1 Thess. 2:4; 1 Tim. 3:10). Similarly, in English we speak of tried men, meaning not only those who have been tested but those who have stood the test. Sometimes dokimazein implies the further step of choosing the approved, not just approving the proved.
Not only does the dokimasia usually result in victory, but it implies that the trial itself was made in the expectation of such an outcome, or at least without a contrary anticipation. The ore is thrown into the refining pot in the expectation that though it may be mingled with dross, it is not all dross, and some good, purified metal will emerge from the fiery trial (Heb. 12:5-11; 2 Macc. 6:12-16). In the tests that God brings as the refiner of his church, his intention is not to find his saints pure gold but to make them pure by purging out their dross. He is the "God who tests [to dokimazontai] our hearts" (1 Thess. 2:4; cf. Ps. 17:3; Jer. 11:20). Job used an equivalent word: "When he has tested [diekrine] me, I shall come forth as gold" (Job 23:10). God's people pray to him in words like Abelard's (who expounded the sixth petition of the Lord's Prayer): "Grant that through trial we be approved, not disapproved." This is the point of divergence between dokimazein and peirazein, as we shall now see.
Testing may have a different intention and outcome, especially in the case of the false-hearted and those who only seem to belong to God. Testing will cause its recipients to appear as what they always have been. This is predominantly, though not exclusively, the sense of peirazein. Nothing in the word requires it to refer to a trial given with the intention of entangling the person in sin. Peirazein properly means "to make an experience of," "to pierce or search into," or "to attempt" (Acts 16:7; 24:6). Later peirazein signified testing whose intention was to discover whether a person or thing was good or evil, or strong or weak (Matt. 16:1; 19:3; 22:18; 1 Kings 10:1); or, if the outcome already was known to the tester, to reveal the same to the one being tested, as when Paul commanded the Corinthians, heautous peirazete,"try" or "examine yourselves" (2 Cor. 13:5). In this way sinners are said to tempt God, to put him to the test by refusing to believe his word until he manifests his power. We must stop at this stage of the word's history when we say that God "tempts" people. God tempts people only in the sense we have just discussedfor the purpose of self-knowledgeand so that they may (and often do) emerge from testing holier, humbler, and stronger than they were before. As Augustine wrote:
In the statement "God tempts no one" [James 1:13] God must be understood not as tempting in every manner but in a certain manner of temptation, in order that the statement in Deuteronomy 13:3 may not be false, "Your God is tempting you," and that we may not deny that Christ is God or say that the evangelist is untruthful when we read in John 6:6 that Jesus questioned his disciple testing him. There is a testing which leads to sin, in which respect God tempts no one; there is also a testing which proves faithfulness, in which respect God deigns to test.
Thus James was able to say, "Count it all joy when you fall into various trials [peirasmois]"(1:2; cf. v. 12) and to affirm that God tempts no man (1:13).
But peirazein developed another meaning. The sad fact is that people often do break down under temptation, and this gave peirazein the predominant sense of putting to the test with the intention and the desire that the "proved" may not turn out "approved" but "reprobate" and break down under the test. Consequently, peirazein is applied to the solicitations and suggestions of Satan (Matt. 4:1; 1 Cor. 7:5; Rev. 2:10) that always are made with a malicious hope. Satan is called the tempter (Matt. 4:3; 1 Thess. 3:5), and he reveals himself as such (Gen. 3:1, 4-5; 1 Chron. 21:1).
In conclusion we may say that though peirazein may rarely be used of God, dokimazein could not be used of Satan, since he never proves in order to approve, nor tests that he may accept.