P46 Tendencies in 2 Corinthians (Part 2)

This is Part 2 of a 6 Part series on the text critical paper that I presented at the 2013 SBL Annual Meeting in Baltimore, MD. Here is Part 1. I focused on the textual tendencies of the Ancient Greek manuscript called P46 which is the oldest extant manuscript that we have of Paul’s letters. For more information upon this manuscript see The University of Michigan’s Library andThe Chester Beatty Library.

SUMMARY OF P46 TENDENCIES IN 2 CORINTHIANS

            Now that I have examined all the singular readings, at this juncture, I will summarize the tendencies of P46 throughout 2 Corinthians noting (1) its propensity to preserve the original text according to the NU, (2) the types of variants it prefers, and (3) its tendencies to agree and disagree with other MSS.

I. Summary of Preserving the Original

            First, as regards P46 preserving the original reading of 2 Corinthians, the NU apparati deem P46 to be original among the variants 76 times out of the 139 variants observed here. This means that according to the NU 54.7% of the time P46 preserves the original reading of 2 Corinthians among the variants. Here is a chart demonstrating this:

Chapter

# of NU Original

# of Variants

Percentage

2 Cor 1

7

18

38.9%

2 Cor 2

3

5

60%

2 Cor 3

6

10

60%

2 Cor 4

8

12

75%

2 Cor 5

2

10

20%

2 Cor 6

6

8

75%

2 Cor 7

6

12

50%

2 Cor 8

6

10

60%

2 Cor 9

4

8

50%

2 Cor 10

2

6

33.3%

2 Cor 11

6

8

75%

2 Cor 12

14

22

63.6%

2 Cor 13

6

10

60%

Total

Total

Total

76

139

54.7%

II. Summary of Types of Variants

            Second, in regard to the types of variants, P46 changes the original text 63 times among the variants of 2 Corinthians according to the NU. Of these, it tends to have three significant types of recurring variants. First, it changes the grammar and inflection most frequently, 24 times to be exact. Next, it omits words 18 times. Lastly, it substitutes words 12 times. Furthermore, P46 has little propensity to omit phrases, make additions, and alter word order. Here is a chart summarizing the types of variants P46 makes in 2 Corinthians:

Type of Variant

Changes Original

Preserves Original

Grammar/Inflection

24

31

Omission: Word

18

4

Word Substitute

12

12

Omission: Phrase

4

4

Addition

3

13

Word Order

2

12

Total

Total

63

76

III. Summary of Agreement with Other Manuscripts

Thirdly, with regard to its agreements and disagreements with other MSS, on the one hand, there are 4 MSS that tend to agree with P46 more often than not, that is, they agree with it 50% of the time or more. On the other hand, there are 14 MSS that tend to disagree with P46 more often than not, that is, they agree with it less than 50% of the time. Those MSS which agree 50% of the time or higher are ranked in this order: Coptic, OL, B, and Ambrosiaster. The MSS which agree less than 50% of the time are ranked in this order: Vulgate, 33, C, 1739, G, A, a, P, Syriac, F, D, 1881, Y, and Majority. Overall, one point is clear: most of the 18 MSS recorded here (77.8%) in this study disagree with P46 far more often than they agree among the variants. Here is a chart that summarizes the agreements, disagreements, and the percentage of agreement that P46 has with other MSS in 2 Corinthians:[1]

Manuscript

Agrees with P46

Disagrees with P46

% of Agreement

a  01

65

87

42.8 %

A

21

28

42.9 %

B

70

65

51.9%

C

43

50

46.2 %

D

68

99

40.7 %

F

56

81

40.9 %

G

57

80

44.9 %

P

26

36

41.9 %

Y 044

38

85

30.9 %

33

59

68

46.5 %

1739

61

74

45.2 %

1881

46

85

35.1 %

Majority

36

94

27.7 %

Old Latin

67

58

53.6 %

Vulgate

41

43

48.8 %

Syriac

30

42

41.7 %

Coptic

36

28

56.3 %

Ambrosiaster

23

23

50 %

Here is another chart that orders this data from the highest percentage agreements to least from top to bottom:

Percentage of Agreement with P46

Manuscript

% with P46

Agrees More Than 50% of the Time

Coptic

56.30%

Old Latin

53.60%

B

51.90%

Ambrosiaster

50.00%

Agrees Less Than 50% of the Time

Vulgate

48.80%

33

46.50%

C

46.20%

1739

45.20%

G

44.90%

A

42.90%

O1

42.80%

P

41.90%

Syriac

41.70%

F

40.90%

D

40.70%

1881

35.10%

O44

30.90%

Majority

27.70%

Now as this relates to textual families, P46 is all over the map. Of the 4 MSS that agree with it most often, there are 2 from the Alexandrian witness, more specifically “proto-Alexandrian,” namely, the Copt. and B.[2] In contrast, there are 2 MSS from the Western type, namely, the OL and Ambrosiaster. So already with those MSS that agree 50% of the time or more, P46 does not consistently align with a certain textual family. Now among the 14 MSS that disagree with P46 most often, 1 is proto-Alexandrian, namely, 1739, and 5 are Alexandrian, namely, 33, C, A, a, and Y. In contrast, 7 are Western, namely, Vg., G, Syr., F, D, 1881, and Majority. While there is certainly more of a stronger dislike of the Western type among those MSS that disagree, all of this data indicates that P46 does not tend to prefer one textual family over the other, but rather would suggest that P46 is inconsistent concerning its agreement with the various textual families.



                [1] Note that for this chart I have arbitrarily selected a prerequisite limit of 45 variants or more. This means that only those MSS which have 45 variants or more are on the chart above. If it were any less, then the data would be skewed. As such, the following is a list of the MSS which I examined in this study having less than 45 variants and thus they are excluded from the chart: P34 (0% – 0agr/3dis), P99 (85.7% – 6agr/1dis), Clement (75% – 9agr/3dis), Cyprian (100% – 2agr/0dis), Didache (40% – 2agr/3dis), Eusebius (50% – 2agr/2dis), Irenaus (40% – 2agr/3dis), Marcion (25% – 1agr/3dis), Origen (54.5% – 6agr/5dis), Speculum (50% – 1agr/1dis), and Tertullian (50% – 5agr/5dis). I was not as confident in these due to the fact that they lack the sufficient amount of data for the purpose of this comparative table.

            [2] G. Zuntz, The Text of the Epistles (London: Oxford, 1953), 156. Zuntz believes this “proto-Alexandrian” group is composed of P46, B, 1739, Sahidic (Coptic), Bohairic (Coptic), Clement of Alexandria, and  Origen.

P46 Tendencies in 2 Corinthians (Part 1)

This is a 6 part series on the text critical paper that I presented at the 2013 SBL Annual Meeting in Baltimore, MD. I focused on the textual tendencies of the Ancient Greek manuscript called P46 which is the oldest extant manuscript that we have of Paul’s letters. For more information upon this manuscript see The University of Michigan’s Library and The Chester Beatty Library.

INTRODUCTION

             A brief review of the published literature on Chester Beatty Papyrus II – more commonly known to biblical scholars as P46 – reveals that little work has been written on this important witness to the Pauline Corpus. While some attention has been given to the text of Romans, Hebrews, 1 Corinthians, Galatians, the Pastorals, paleographical dating, and the manuscript as a whole, not a single iota has been written upon the textual tendencies of P46 in 2 Corinthians.[1] Thus, in this paper, I have done a thorough examination of P46 in 2 Corinthians including its singular readings and found that, contra Fredrick G. Kenyon who published its editio princeps, P46 does not tend to be in alignment with the Alexandrian witness, but rather is wholly inconsistent (1) in preferring a particular textual family and (2) in agreeing with other extant MSS of 2 Corinthians among the variants. Overall, I argue that the only lasting tendency of P46 is inconsistency.

SCOPE AND LIMITS

            Now before I begin, I must note the scope and limits of this study. With regard to scope, I will begin by assessing all 80 singular readings of P46 in 2 Corinthians. Next, I will summarize my examination of the textual variants I observed of P46 in 2 Corinthians. Finally, I will compare and contrast all this with Kenyon’s summary in the editio princeps. With regard to the limits, I will give little attention to secondary sources due to the fact that the purpose of this study is to provide primary research, though the other reason as already stated is that there is no secondary literature specifically on 2 Corinthians in P46. Also, I am limiting the textual foundation of this study to the latest and greatest Greek texts and critical apparati of the NA27 and UBS4 which I will call the NU text henceforth.[2] In addition, I will not be examining every variant within these apparati, but rather the majority of them and the most significant of them, 219 variants to be exact.[3] Lastly, I am adopting James Royse’s definition of “singular reading,” that is, when only one (or possibly two – this would be called “sub-singular”) Greek manuscript (not other versions such as those in Latin, Syriac, Coptic, etc.) has a particular reading or variant.

TENDENCIES IN THE SINGULAR READINGS OF P46

To begin, I will examine the 80 singular readings of P46 by first looking at the recurring types of variants and second by noting which MSS tend to agree with P46 in its singularity.

I. Types of Variants

With regard to the types of singular reading variants, almost half of them are omissions, 34 to be exact. Of these omissions, 23 are of single words, while 11 are of phrases. The next most recurring variant is changes in grammar and inflection which occur 21 times, over a quarter of the singular readings. Furthermore, there are 11 additions from the scribe, along with 8 changes in word order, and 6 word substitutions. Here is a chart summarizing these variants:

TYPE OF VARIANT

VERSES

#

Omission: Single Words 1:5a, 5b, 9, 11; 2:14; 3:1b, 7, 18; 4:4, 10, 18; 5:8; 6:18; 7:4; 8:2, 22; 9:13; 10:12, 18; 11:9; 12:6; 13:7, 13. 23
Omission: Phrases 1:6, 13; 4:7; 5:14; 8:19a, 19b; 11:6, 12, 25, 27; 12:19b.

11

Grammar/Inflection Change 1:1; 4:8; 5:8; 7:1a, 1b, 5, 7, 8a, 8b, 11; 8:1, 14; 9:1, 6, 12; 10:7a, 7b, 8; 12:6, 11; 13:4.

21

Additions 2:14; 3:11, 18; 4:11; 6:8, 16; 9:2; 12:5, 19a; 13:3, 11.

11

Word Order Change 1:2, 19; 5:1, 6; 7:3; 8:7; 10:14; 13:10.

8

Word Substitution 3:1a; 4:11; 5:19; 7:1; 8:21; 10:12.

6

II. Agreement with Other Manuscripts

            With regard to agreement with other MSS in its singular readings, the OL MSS align with P46 most frequently, 5 times to be exact. Next, the Vg. agrees with P46 4 times. Then, the church father Ambrosiaster aligns with it thrice, while the Syr. Peshitta and the miniscule 1900 agree with it twice. All of the other MSS that agree in the singular readings occur once and are as follows: B, Y, 049, 33, 1720, 1319, Copt., Eth., Augustine, Cyprian, Speculum, and Tertullian. Here is a chart summarizing these agreements with P46 in singularity:

AGREEMENT WITH MSS

VERSES

#

Old Latin 7:8a; 8:21; 9:12; 12:5, 19b

5

Vulgate 3:18a; 7:8a; 8:21; 12:5

4

Ambrosiaster 8:21; 9:12; 12:19b

3

1900 1:13; 5:14

2

Peshitta 7:5; 8:21

2

B03 1:13

1

Y044 5:14

1

049 5:14

1

33 8:19b

1

1319 8:19b

1

1720 8:19a

1

Coptic 7:8a

1

Ethiopic 9:12

1

Augustine 9:12

1

Cyprian 9:12

1

Speculum 3:18a

1

Tertullian 7:5

1

III. Conclusions from Singular Readings

            Overall, there are two possible conclusions that can be drawn from all this concerning the tendencies of P46 among the singular readings. First, with regard to the types of variants, P46 tends to omit the most, while also tending frequently to change the grammar and inflection of words in 2 Corinthians. Since scribes are more likely to add to their Vorlage rather than to omit, it is quite noteworthy that the scribe of P46 most often omits here. Seeing that P46 is the oldest extant MS of Paul’s epistles, perhaps its singular reading omissions indicate a preservation of an earlier reading of Paul, one that was later added to by scribes.

Secondly, with regard to its agreement with other MSS, P46 tends to be in alignment with the Latin type MSS in its singular readings; from the OL to the Vg., from Ambrosiaster to Tertullian and Cyprian, and from Augustine to Speculum. In light of all this, we can perhaps therefore infer that P46 maintains an older reading of Paul in the singular readings of 2 Corinthians, a reading that was contained mostly within the Latin Church which was later added to by scribes.



                [1] Much of discussion is centered around either the dating of P46 or whether or not the pastorals were included. For work on Romans see Michael W. Holmes, “The Text of P46: Evidence of the Earliest ‘Commentary’ on Romans?” et al. New Testament Manuscripts: Their Texts and Their World (Boston: Brill, 2006). For work on Hebrews see H. C. Hoskier, A Commentary on the Various Readings in the Text of the Epistle to the Hebrews in the Chester Beatty Papyrus P46 (circa 200 A.D.) (London: Bernard Quaritch, 1938) and G. Zuntz, The Text of the Epistles (London: Oxford, 1953). For work on 1 Corinthians see Zuntz. For work on Galatians see Howard Eshbaugh, “Textual Variants and Theology: A Study of the Galatians Text of Papyrus 46” JSNT 3 (1979): 60-72. For work concerning the inclusion of the Pastorals see Jeremy Duff, “P46 and the Pastorals: A Misleading Consensus?” NTS 44 (Cambridge: Cambridge University,1998), 578-590. For work concerning the dating of P46 see Young Kyu Kim, “Paleographical Dating of P46 to the Later First Century,” Bib 69:2 (1988): 248-257.

 

[2] I will henceforth refer to this base text as the “NU.”

 

[3] See Appendix II for a list of the variants examined in this study.

 

Was Paul a Cross-Cultural Missionary?

Via Sacra, Rome, Italy

For several years now, I have pondered the question, “Was Paul a cross-cultural missionary?” It seems that many today and in recent history have made it their assumption and presupposition regarding their theology of mission that Paul in fact was a cross-cultural missionary. Not only so, but that he was the founder of cross-cultural missions. Throughout my years of studying the New Testament, Pauline literature, and the Greco-Roman world of the first century, I have increasingly been leaning towards the opposite conclusion. Here are three reasons why I think that Paul was not a cross-cultural missionary.

1. Paul Lived in the Greco-Roman World

First, Paul was a product of his environment which was the Greco-Roman world. It is reported of him in Acts that he was from Tarsus and later was trained in Jerusalem, both of which are in the Roman Empire. He thus grew up in Roman Hellenism (Greek and Roman culture) which was so far spread in the Roman Empire that the lingua franca was Koine (or Common) Greek – that means that everyone in the Roman Empire spoke Greek. What displays this even more was Paul’s ability to speak to this Greco-Roman culture. The reason why he was so effective in doing this was because it was in fact his own culture. Missionaries today always say that the natives know how to best contextualize the Gospel in their own culture, and this, I suggest, is precisely what we find Paul doing. He is a native contextualizing the Gospel to his own Greco-Roman culture.

2. Paul Was Born a Roman Citizen

Secondly, Paul was born a Roman citizen. This is something quite noteworthy seeing that Rome was the reigning empire over all of the places where Paul evangelized (Galatia, Philippi, Thessalonica, Corinth, Ephesus, Rome, etc.). He was not an outsider coming in to a new culture; rather, he was an insider, a born citizen knowing the ins and outs of the way this world worked and thought.

3. Paul Was a Native Speaker of Greek

Lastly, Paul was a native speaker of Koine Greek. This is the language that all of his epistles have been handed down to us in and this is also most likely the language that he used when evangelizing. Now of course, Paul was also a Jew and knew Aramaic and probably Hebrew as well, but Greek was the language he used on the road and he didn’t have to go to missionary school in order to learn some new language because he was himself a native speaker. What is more, his preferred Bible was the LXX or Septuagint which was a Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament.

CONCLUSIONS

In sum, Paul didn’t have to learn a new language, didn’t have to learn a new people group, and didn’t have to learn a new worldview. In other words, Paul didn’t have to learn a new culture. Why? Because he was a missionary in his own culture.

Now while the Greco-Roman world was by definition poly-cultural (i.e. many subcultures under the umbrella of one large culture), it was the norm for Paul to interact with people from the same culture in different subcultures. But this is not the same as cross-cultural which is two totally distinct cultures. (As a side note, I believe that  a great comparison for understanding Paul’s cultural dynamic in his Greco-Roman world can be made between America and Rome: think of America today and all of its different subcultures based upon geography. You have the subcultures of the South, the Midwest, the North East, the West Coast, the South West, etc. Now while these all have very distinct subcultures, they all fall under the umbrella of the broader American culture. Everyone speaks English and everyone knows what 9/11 means. I think this is a good comparison to Paul’s situation. Grec0-Roman culture dominated the entire empire, though there were multiple subcultures in all the various geographical parts of the empire.)

So if Paul was not a cross-cultural missionary, then what was he? In addition to being an “apostle” sent by God to proclaim the Gospel, I suppose that we could call Paul a cross-geographical missionary since he frequently moved from location to location throughout his ministry in the Roman Empire. But this is very different from a cross-cultural missionary who is faced with the challenges of overcoming so many cultural and lingual barriers. So if Paul was not a cross-cultural missionary, and thus not the founder of cross-cultural missions, then what are we basing our theology of cross-cultural missions on today? It could perhaps be founded on the Great Commission in Matt 28 or the promise that people from all nations will hear the Gospel and worship Christ from Matt 24 and Rev 7. It cannot however, as I have suggested here, be founded upon the assumption that Paul was a cross-cultural missionary, because he ministered, evangelized, taught, and preached to his own culture which was why he was so successful. Let this serve as an affirmation to us today that God has given us the great calling to be missionaries right where we are in our own world and culture.


 

For further exploration on this topic, check out NT scholar Phillip Long’s blog post on this subject and also Eckhard Schnabel’s book Paul the Missionary: Realities, Strategies, and Methods which you can buy on amazon.

The Problem of Evil and the Bible (Part 6)

Fresco depicting the Resurrection in Notre Dame de Bayeux cathedral, Bayeux, Normandy, France, Europe

OBJECTIONS TO A BIBLICAL THEOLOGY OF SUFFERING

           In this sixth and final part on The Problem of Evil and the Bible, I will address two possible objections to this biblical theology of suffering as presented in the previous parts. The first objection could be that there is no guarantee or evidence of this future evil-less world. To this I would reply first that not many things in life are guaranteed, especially with 100% certainty. In many ways, it requires faith, but not a faith that is uninformed or illogical. Secondly, there is very little evidence that any future event will occur, let alone that God will destroy evil forever. So, the Christian witness about the future in that sense would be just as good as any other. Nevertheless, one can look to its past and see the historicity and reliability of the Christian Scripture and from there decide whether or not its declaration concerning the future is plausible.

The second possible objection is that there are still many unanswered questions as to why this present world must have evil and suffering, especially when it appears to be meaningless (i.e. gratuitous evil). To this I would reply with three more questions. First, what if suffering and evil in the world is meant to leave within humans a longing for freedom from evil, pain, and suffering – a longing for resurrection, and the new heavens and earth; the new creation – so that they would then turn from evil toward God who will provide that freedom? Secondly, what if evil and suffering are to prepare us to inherit the glories of eternity in a sinless, evil-less, suffer-less world? And lastly, what if suffering and evil are a way for God to test who will really be true to him in good times and ill, for better or worse? I think that pondering these questions will help us better understand God’s ultimate purposes for allowing evil to reign for so long in this present world.

CONCLUSION

            To conclude, the Christian Scriptures present a robust theology of suffering that in many ways I believe rebuttals the problem of evil. Though evil entered the world by human choice and spread vastly throughout the earth shortly thereafter, God made an attempt through Noah to destroy evil then. What is more, evil is mysteriously part of God’s deep purposes in that it is necessary for his people to endure it in order to inherit the future glory of resurrection which is void of it. Ultimately, the Bible proclaims that evil will end on the last day and in that day God only goodness will reign in the new heavens and new earth from that time on and forevermore. The upshot I suggest to holding this biblical perspective concerning the problem of evil and this theology of suffering is that it is reasonable, plausible, comprehensive, and carried out by a God who hates and wants to destroy evil in the world more than the nontheist philosophers do.

 

 

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Baker, David W. “r‘a‘a.” Pages 1154-1158 in vol. 3 of New International Dictionary of Old Testament Theology & Exegesis. Edited by Willem A. VanGemeren. 5 vols. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1997.

Elliger, Karl and Willhelm Rudolph. Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia. Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelstiftung, 1976-1977.

Nestle, E. and K. Aland et al., eds. Novum Testamentum Graece. 27th ed. 1993. Repr., Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 2006.

Peterson, Michael, ed. Philosophy of Religion: Selected Readings. 4th Edition. New York: Oxford University Press, 2009.

Peterson, Michael, ed. Reason and Religious Belief: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Religion. 4th Edition. New York: Oxford University Press, 2008.

The Problem of Evil and the Bible (Part 5)

Building being demolished

IV. Evil Will Come to an End in the Future

            The last (pun intended) and most pertinent aspect of a biblical theology of suffering is eschatology, that is, the study of the last things or end times. Unfortunately, eschatology has largely been ignored by the church for most of its history. However, for nearly two millennia, chapters 21-22 of the book of Revelation have declared that evil, suffering, and pain will come to an end in the eschaton the day that Jesus Christ returns to the earth. On this day, God will renew this present world – the new creation – remaking it with only goodness, where no evil or impurity may enter. In speaking of the New Jerusalem which will be in the new heavens and new earth in the new creation, Revelation describes this lack of impurity like so: “Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful,but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life” (Rev 21:27).

For too long, Christians have been uninformed about eschatology, and this may be why it has not been appealed to very often in the debate regarding the problem of evil. Most nontheist philosophers claim that if a perfectly good God who is also omniscient and omnipotent exists, that he could and should have created a world with no evil or at least much less evil than this current one has. What they fail to recognize is that the God of the Bible will do this very thing; however only those who choose in the present life to abhor evil and live uprightly before him enduring suffering and pain for his sake will inherit this glory in the new creation.

Which of them would dare turn down such an offer? Is this not the kind of world that they are complaining about not having? Should this not give them all the more reason to embrace Christianity so that they may inherit this world that they are so longing for? But then again, maybe they would desire their lives, pleasures, and comforts in this world more than a future world with no suffering or evil. Or perhaps suffering now is too costly in their minds for an eternity without evil?

Regardless of whether one embraces this view or not, the Bible indeed declares the ultimate downfall of evil and suffering in the world, that in the end God will destroy evil forever when he sends His Son to earth a second time to renew heaven and earth.

The Problem of Evil and the Bible (Part 4)

Cross on top of mountain

III. The Necessity of Suffering for the Righteous in This World

            Another aspect regarding a biblical theology of suffering has to do with the fate of the righteous in this life. In particular, the Bible asserts that it is necessary for the righteous to suffer and endure much evil in this world in order to inherit the glories of next. While this is somewhat of a mystery, it permeates the pages of the Bible and is at the forefront of many of the biblical authors’ minds.

First, in Gen 12-50, the writer tells the story of the Patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph. Throughout these chapters, we hear of the many sufferings that they went through. From Abraham leaving his family and country out of obedience to Yahweh to the barrenness of Sarah, Rebekah, and Rachel; from enmity between Isaac and Ishmael, Jacob and Esau to the cruelty and hurt done to young Joseph by his brothers; from Joseph’s imprisonment for purity to famine destroying the land of Canaan and Egypt, the Patriarchs went through immense suffering and trials, the ultimate test being waiting for God to fulfill his promises to them, namely, the promises of innumerable offspring, the land of Canaan, and the blessing of the nations. In the NT, the author of Hebrews reflects upon this saying, “All of these died in faith without having received the promises, but from a distance they saw and greeted them…Yet all these, though they were commended for their faith did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better so that they would not, apart from us, be made perfect.”[1] According to the epistle to the Hebrews, then, the Patriarchs went through great sufferings and endured both moral and natural evils in order to receive “something better” which is later clarified as resurrection in the New Jerusalem.[2]

Another OT story about suffering comes from the book of Job. This part narrative, part poetry book tells of a righteous and innocent man whom Yahweh allowed terrible and horrendous evils to fall upon. When Job’s wife exhorts him to curse God and die because of this suffering, he piously replies, “Shall we receive the good at the hand of God, and not receive the bad?” (Job 2:10).[3] The book of Job overall seems to refute the popular idea at that time that those who are rich and wealthy are blessed by God because they are righteousness and those who are poor and suffer are cursed and punished by God because of their sin and unrighteousness. Job then argues the contrary: the righteous will undergo even more trials, evil, and suffering in this world than the unrighteous.

Moving to the NT, the most atrocious evil recorded in the Bible is probably the crucifixion of Jesus.[4] As an innocent man, he was betrayed, unjustly tried, flogged, crucified, and killed by the Jewish religious elites and the Romans. Prior to this throughout the Gospels, Jesus thrice predicted that he would be crucified, die, and be raised on the third day.[5] In these sayings, he states that his sufferings must happen, in other words, it was necessary that he suffer. Here, we see the first glimpses of the Christ narrative and Christian gospel: that suffering (cross) is the necessity for entering into glory (resurrection).

The last example that we’ll look at from the NT is the Apostle Paul who endured tremendous suffering for Christ’s sake. Even from the moment of his conversion and calling, Jesus said this of Paul in Acts 9:16: “I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.”[6] The subsequent chapters in Acts then flesh out this statement in that it narrates Paul’s life and ministry enamored by trial and hardship. There are several places also where Paul lists his sufferings in his epistles and often strangely boasts about his sufferings rather than his strengths.[7] Overall, Paul’s theology of suffering seems to be summarized best in Rom 8:17: “we suffer with him [Christ] so that we may also be glorified with him.”[8] In other words, suffering and enduring evil and pain for the sake of God and his righteousness in this life is the necessary constituent for entering into the glory of resurrection with Christ in the age to come. This consumed Paul’s mind so much that he says his life goal is to share in the narrative of Christ’s suffering, death, and resurrection: “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death, if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead” (Phil 3:10-11).

Overall, the red thread throughout these biblical examples is that suffering is a necessary part of the Christian life and that enduring evil and pain for the sake of Christ in this world is prerequisite for attaining the glory of the resurrection of the dead in the age to come, an age where evil, pain, suffering, sorrow, disease, decay, and death will be no more. It is to these matters that we will turn to next in part 5.



[1] Heb 11:13, 39.

[2] Hence the phrase “be made perfect” here. See Heb 11:35; 12:18-29. Note that we will take up the issue of eschatology and how it relates to the problem of evil in part 5.

[3] The Hebrew word for “bad, evil” is the adjective ra’ and can be used of both physical harm or disaster and of moral evil, perverseness, or malice. It is often times in contrast with tov (“good”) as it is here in Job 2:10. See NIDOTTE 1154-55.

[4] Theists and nontheists alike define “evil” as some sort of “extreme pain, the suffering of innocents, physical deformities…injustice,”[4] and Jesus’ trial and crucifixion fit these criteria (Peterson, Reason, 146).

[5] The first is in Matt 16:13-23; Mark 8:27-33; Luke 9:18-22. The second is in Matt 17:22-23; Mark 9:30-32; Luke 9:43b-45. The third is in Matt 20:17-19; Mark 10:32-34; Luke 18:31-34. In all three instances, the Greek word dei is used, which means “it is necessary, it must.”

[6] Again, the Greek word for “must” here is dei – “it is necessary.”

[7] Cf. Rom 8:17-25; 1 Cor 15:30-32; 2 Cor 2:12-13; 6:4-10; 11:16-33; Phil 1:12-30; 2 Tim 4:14-18.

[8] Suffering with Christ precedes being raised in glory with him.