From BiblePortal Wikipedia

Baker's Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology [1]

The experience of physical pain and/or mental distress. The words and phrases in the Bible expressing this concept are too numerous to list. The Old Testament, intertestamental literature, and the New Testament present two perspectives on human suffering. On the one hand, suffering is the consequence of the flawed nature of creation. In this view human beings—with the exception of the first man and womanare victims, exposed constantly to the perils of a created order gone away. On the other hand, a person's suffering is the direct consequence of his or her violation of God's laws. The same can be true of a collective.

Suffering as the Consequence of the Flawed Nature of Creation. On account of the disobedience of Eve and then Adam, a wretched legacy has been bequeathed to the human race. God cursed the ground, so that human beings can stay alive only through much toil; the pain of childbirth is greatly increased for all women (  Genesis 3:16-19 ); death and all the suffering attendant upon dying have entered the world ( Genesis 2:17 ).

In this context, the prophets speak about a future time when much of the suffering caused by the flawed creation will be removed for a restored Israel, often with benefits accruing to the nations ( Isaiah 11:6-9;  25:6-9;  65:17-25;  Hosea 2:21;  Amos 9:11-15 ).  Isaiah 65:17 actually speaks of the creation of a new heaven and a new earth.

In line with the eschatological promises of the prophets, many intertestamental sources anticipate a time in the future when Israel will be restored to the land in a state of prosperity, sometimes with the help of a messianic figure. Some texts call this the kingdom of God (e.g., Pss.  Song of Solomon 17 T. Mos. 10:1). Often there is a differentiation made between this age/world and the age/world to come; the latter follows the resurrection and judgment and is the domain of the righteous alone (4Ezra; 2Apoc. Bar.; early rabbinic writings). The age/world to come for the righteous is to be an existence of blessedness, without suffering. In this vein, 1Enoch 45:4-5 speaks about the transformation of the heaven and the earth, at which time the Elect One, the Messiah, will dwell on earth with the righteous. In many intertestamental texts, Satan is viewed as a contributing cause of the flawed nature of creation and, therefore, the suffering of human beings, so that his removaland along with him all of his demonic subordinatesis expected at the eschaton (e.g., T. Mos. 10:1; T. Levi 18:12; T. Judah 25:3; T. Zebulon 9:8; T.   Daniel 5:10-11;  6:3;  1 Enoch  1;  10:13-16;  54:6;  55;  69:28-29;  90:24; Jub. 23:29; 1QS 4 11QMelch ).

The New Testament continues what is found in the Old Testament and the intertestamental texts. Paul writes that the creation, subject to futility, awaits its liberation from its bondage to destruction, groaning as if in the pangs of childbirth ( Romans 8:19-22 ). Similarly, in  2 Peter 3:13 and   Revelation 21:1 , the Isaian concept of the new heaven and new earth finds expression. Paul attributes the tyranny of death, "the last enemy" ( 1 Corinthians 15:26 ), to the sin of Adam, the effects of which reach to all human beings and are nullified by the death and resurrection of Christ ( Romans 5:12-17;  1 Corinthians 15:20-22 ). The New Testament also assumes that creation is flawed as a result of the activity of Satan and allied spirits, who wreak havoc on human existence (e.g.,  Mark 9:14-27; =  Luke 9:37-43 ).

Unlike the Old Testament and intertestamental texts, however, the New Testament understands the flawed nature of creation to have been at least partially rectified, inasmuch as the influence of Satan and allied spirits on it has been curtailed through the appearance, death, and resurrection of the Messiah. Jesus understands his healings and exorcisms as an assault on the kingdom of Satan ( Matthew 12:25-29; =  Mark 3:23-27; =  Luke 11:17-22;  Luke 10:18-20;  John 12:31;  16:11 ). Paul speaks of the exaltation of Christ over all spiritual beings ( Ephesians 1:19-22;  Colossians 2:15 ), and describes believers as those who have been rescued from the kingdom of darkness and brought into the kingdom of the Son ( Colossians 1:13; cf.  1 Peter 2:9 ).

Suffering as the Consequence of Sin . In the Old Testament, the intertestamental literature, and the New Testament, suffering more frequently is causally linked to the sins of the descendants of the first man and woman. God established a moral order in creation, with the result that retributive justice is meted out in life experience. In this worldview, the appearance of suffering in human experience is not random, but has its causal antecedents in an individual's or community's moral decisions. Retributive justice is sometimes conceived as the working out of a moral law imminent in creation, as in the Book of Proverbs. At other times, it is the direct judgment of God manifesting itself through such things as drought, disease, or foreign invasion.

Collective Suffering . In the Old Testament, nations fall under God's judgment for their disregard of God's will. Nineveh faces imminent judgment on account of the collective guilt of its inhabitants; national repentance forestalls the wrath of God (Book of Jonah). The nations of Moab, Edom, and Philistia are singled out for judgment because of their hostile foreign policy toward Judah ( Ezekiel 25:8-17 ). Babylon, though the instrument of God's judgment against Judah, is also destined for judgment for its atrocities committed against the nation ( Isaiah 21;  Jeremiah 50-51 ).

Israel's covenant at Sinai is a special historical manifestation of the principle of retributive justice. The people are placed conditionally under the Torah: obedience brings blessing, while disobedience brings destruction or exile ( Deuteronomy 27-28 ). In this regard, the Book of Esther stands in contrast to Lamentations. The former is a testimony to God's protection granted to his obedient people against their enemies. "For such a time as this" God raises up Queen Esther to bring deliverance to Israel. On the other hand, Lamentations places the blame for the destruction of Jerusalem squarely on the shoulders of the apostate nation. The Book of Judges, similarly, interprets Israel's suffering through foreign domination as stemming from national disobedience to the law (2:6-23).

Israel's situation differs from that of other nations, for God, on account of the patriarchs, has promised never ultimately to destroy his people, even when they sin ( Leviticus 26:42;  Psalm 106:40-46 ). This may necessitate, however, that God discipline the nation when disobedient to the Torah, so that at times it may appear that God favors the nations more than Israel.

It could also happen that the sin of a minority or even one individual within Israel could have consequences for the nation. The fate of the nation as a corporate entity is bound up intricately with the moral decisions of its individual members. Achan, for instance, disobeys God, but the whole nation is defeated in battle as a consequence of his disobedience ( Joshua 7 ).

Individual sins also have intergenerational consequences. The sins of a man will adversely affect his descendants: "Yet he [God] does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generations" ( Exodus 34:7; cf. also  Exodus 20:5;  Numbers 14:18;  Deuteronomy 5:9-10 ).

The notion that national calamity originates with national sin prevails in the intertestamental literature. The Maccabean crisis was interpreted as resulting from the sin of the nation; Antiochus's persecution was really God's discipline of an unruly people (cf.  1 Maccabees 1:64;  2 Maccabees 6:13-16;  7:18,32-33,37-38; Jub. 23 T. Mos. 8 ). Similarly, Pompey's intervention in the internal affairs of the Jewish nation, which brought about much suffering and death to some Jews, was understood as precipitated by national sin (cf. Pss.  Song of Solomon 2,8 ,  17-18 ). Later, in the context of the destruction of the Jerusalem temple, the deuteronomistic principle that invasion by foreign powers is God's chastisement of Israel for its sins is reiterated (2Apoc.  Baruch 1:5;  78:3-4;  79:2 ).

A new element in the intertestamental sources is the notion that the judgment of Israel's Gentile oppressors takes place as part of Israel's eschatological vindication (cf. also the Book of Daniel). As in the Old Testament, it is sometimes asserted that, although the Gentile nations are God's instruments of discipline, they are nonetheless in line for similar treatment at the hands of God. In some texts, the deliverance expected on completion of God's discipline of the nation through foreign domination is the eschatological deliverance foretold in the prophets. One Enoch 90,93, Jubilees 23, and Testament of Moses 8-10, for example see the Antiochean persecution as precipitating the final, eschatological deliverance of God, whereas Psalms of Solomon and 4Ezra look for messianic deliverance from Roman oppression.

The idea that national suffering is consequent on disobedience to God is continued in the New Testament. Jesus warns that Israel's rejection of the kingdom of God will lead to the visitation of God's wrath on the nation ( Matthew 12:38-45; =  Luke 11:29-32;  Matthew 21:33-46; =  Mark 12:1-12; =  Luke 20:9-19;  Matthew 23:33-38;  Luke 13:6-8;  19:41-44 ). Paul, likewise, believes that the nation is temporarily rejected by God until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in ( Romans 11 ). Cities are also threatened with judgment on account of their rejection of Jesus or his emissaries ( Matthew 11:20-24; =  Luke 10:13-15 ).

Individual Suffering . Apart from an individual's suffering because of his or her belonging to a nation under God's judgment or on account of the sins of a previous generation, the Old Testament (with some exceptions), the intertestamental texts, and the New Testament portray God as dealing with each human being on the principle of retributive justice. When the righteous do suffer, the need for theodicy arises: in order for God to be exonerated from the charge of being unjust, justification for the apparently anomalous situation of the suffering of the righteous must be found.

In the Old Testament, that the principle of retributive justice is operative in the existence of each human being comes to expression most clearly in Proverbs and Psalms. In Proverbs wisdom and the fear of Yahweh are correlated with long life and prosperity; conversely, the wicked and the foolish will die prematurely and be deprived of earthly goods (2:21-22; 3:9-10,33-34; 5:23; 9:11; 10:3,16, 24,27; 11:19,21, 27-28; 16:31; 24:19-20; 29:25). Likewise, many psalms are premised on the notion that Yahweh blesses those who are righteousthose who desire to obey him and habitually do soand protects those who take refuge in him. The wicked, on the other hand, he destroys.  Psalm 1 , for example, compares the man whose delight is in the Torah of Yahweh to a tree planted by streams of water bearing fruit in its season; the wicked, on the other hand, are compared to chaff blown away by the wind.

But the Old Testament also gives evidence of the irregular working out of the principle of retributive justice. Sometimes, the application of the principle is delayed, so that the righteous suffer for a period of time before vindication. At other times, the correlation between righteousness and longevity/prosperity in this life breaks down altogether. Three types of justification are offered in the Old Testament for the suffering of the righteous: eschatological, remedial, and expiatory.

In the Daniel apocalypse, the suffering of those who are "wise" (11:35) is an eschatological necessity. The period of time in which the temple is defiled and the righteous are oppressed is predetermined, established according to the divine timetable. The individual righteous person is at the mercy of the larger historical designs of God. Nonetheless, at the judgment of the dead, God will vindicate those who are martyred, raising them to everlasting life ( Daniel 12 ).

The suffering of the righteous also has a remedial function. God disciplines the righteous individual, taking preventative and corrective measures in order to keep the heart of the righteous from turning away from him.  Proverbs 3:11-12 says: "My son, do not despise the Lord's discipline, and do not resent his rebuke, because the Lord disciplines those he loves as a father the son he delights in" (cf. also   Psalm 94:12;  Daniel 11:35 ).

In the Servant Songs of Isaiah, the suffering and death of the servant has a vicarious and expiatory purpose ( Isaiah 53 ). Although in these texts ( Isaiah 42,44 ,  49,50 ,  52-53 ) the servant is often a collective noun denoting Israel, in  Isaiah 53 the servant clearly is an individual who suffers on behalf of the collective, the people.   Daniel 11:35 is another example of the suffering of the righteous having an expiatory effect.

In the intertestamental literature the three explanations for the suffering of the righteous found in the Old Testament also appear.

The eschatological argument for the suffering of the righteous figures prominently in many texts. The application of God's retributive justice is postponed, so that the righteous suffer unjustly in this life. The righteous are urged, therefore, to be patient in their suffering and to wait for the eschatological judgment and salvation of God, at which time they will receive the blessing due to them, whereas the wicked, who are often the oppressors of the righteous, will be punished and destroyed (cf.  2 Maccabees 6-7;  1 Enoch  102:3-103:15;  104:6-8;  108:3;  2 Enoch  9:1;  50:1-6;  51:3-5;  65:6-11;  66:6;  4 Ezra  7:18;  2 Apoc.  Baruch 14:1-19;  15:7-8;  24:1-2;  44:13-14;  Wisdom of Solomon 1-5 ). Often human wickedness and the persecution of the righteous are expected to intensify greatly just prior to the final judgment and salvation of God (cf. Jub. 23; 1Enoch 100:1-3; 107; Sib. Or. 3.632-51; 1 QH. 3:29-36; 2Apoc.   Baruch 25-29;  70-71;  4 Ezra  5:1-13;  8:50;  9:1-6;  16:70-73 ).

Continuing what is found in the Wisdom Literature of the Old Testament, many texts understand the sufferings of the righteous as being remedial: they are one of God's means of preserving the righteous as such, thereby retaining for them the benefits of being righteous in either this life or the next. The attitude of the one afflicted should be that of acceptance and even joy that God would relate to him or her as a father who disciplines his children (cf.  Sirach 16:12;  18:13-14;  22:27-23:3;  Wisdom of Solomon 3:5; Pss.  Song of Solomon 10:1-2;  13:9-10;  14:1;  16:1-11;  Judith 8:27;  1 QH  2:13-14;  9:23-24 ).

Although the suffering servant seems not to have played a major role in shaping the conceptualities of the extant literature of the intertestamental period, the notion of vicarious suffering and death does crop up now and then, paralleling what is found in  Daniel 11:35 . The Maccabean martyrs are said to bring God's judgment of the nation to an end (4Macc 1:11; 6:29; 17:21; T. Mos. 9:6-10:1), and the Qumran community understood its own suffering as expiatory (1 QS. 8:3-6; cf. also  Sirach 2:4-5 ). A cornerstone of early rabbinic theology is the view that God manifests his mercy to the righteous in this age, in that he allows their suffering, when received with equanimity, to expiate the guilt generated by previous sins (Sipre  Deuteronomy 6:5; [32] Mek. Bahodesh 10:1-86).

The three explanations for the suffering of the righteous individual found in the Old Testamenteschatological, remedial, expiatoryalso occur in the New Testament. In addition, a fourth explanation, unique to it, appears: Paul writes that suffering has the effect of ensuring his dependence on the power of God in his apostolic labors.

In the Beatitudes Jesus teaches that the appearance of the kingdom of God will bring an eschatological reversal, so that the righteous who now suffer will no longer ( Matthew 5:3-12;  Luke 6:20-26 ). Jesus also warns his disciples that their suffering will be an eschatological necessity; until the consummation of the kingdom of God, those who follow him and especially those who proclaim him will experience resistance and hostility from those on the outside (or, to use Johannine terminology, "the world"), especially during the period just prior to the end (cf.  Matthew 10:19-23; =  Luke 12:11;  Matthew 20:22-23; =  Mark 10:38-39;  Matthew 24:9-10; =  Mark 13:9-11; =  Luke 21:12-18;  John 7:6-11;  15:18-25;  17:14 ). The idea of the eschatological necessity of suffering is also found in the rest of the New Testament ( Romans 8:16-18;  Galatians 3:3-4;  Philippians 1:27-30;  1 Thessalonians 1-3;  2 Thessalonians 1:4-10;  Hebrews 10:32-34;  James 5:11;  1 Peter 2:18-20;  3:13-4:19;  Revelation 2:10;  4-22 ).

The remedial view comes to expression most prominently in the letter to the Hebrews (12:3-13). The author instructs his readers to "endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons" (v. 7), quoting  Proverbs 3:11-12 to make the point. The Book of James similarly identifies trials as a means of engendering holiness (1:2-3), as does   1 Peter 1:3-9 . Paul also believes that God disciplines believers in order to bring about repentance ( 1 Corinthians 5:1-8;  2 Corinthians 11:17-33;  1 Timothy 1:20 ).

Jesus interprets his death as expiatory and vicarious. At the Last Supper he understands himself as the eschatological Passover lamb ( Matthew 26:26-28; =  Mark 14:22-24;  Luke 22:19-20 ). He also interprets his impending fate as the fulfillment of the destiny of the suffering servant ( Matthew 20:28; =  Mark 10:45;  Luke 22:37 ). A presupposition of the message preached by the early church was that Jesus' death was vicarious and expiatory. In two passages outside the Gospels it is explicit that Jesus' death is the fulfillment of the vicarious and expiatory death of the servant ( Acts 8:32-33;  1 Peter 2:21-25 ).

There is a fourth interpretation of the suffering of the righteous individual that comes to expression in the New Testament. Paul interprets his own suffering as a means of ensuring that he be ever conscious of his own weakness, so that he remembers always that the power at work in him is from God and not himself and so that he is not deluded into relying on his own power ( 2 Corinthians 1:8-10;  4:7-12 ). Similarly, Paul says God sent him a "thorn in the flesh" to keep him from becoming conceited on account of his surpassingly great revelations ( 2 Corinthians 12:7 ).

The Books of Job and Ecclesiastes. Generally, in the Old Testament, God deals with human beings on the principle of retributive justice. If the righteous do suffer it must be for a reason, which functions as a valid exception to the moral principle that the righteous prosper and the wicked suffer. But there are some cases of the suffering of the righteous impervious to theodicy. That sometimes the righteous suffer for no apparent reason is the thesis of the Book of Job. Job suffers, yet he is righteous. Although his comforters defend the principle of retributive justice and conclude that Job cannot be innocent, as he claims, the reader knows that they are wrong: Job speaks truly about his moral condition. In the end God never explains to Job the point of his suffering (although the reader is aware of Satan's involvement); instead, he asks Job a series of rhetorical questions designed to make the pint that some things are beyond human comprehension. Job is to accept his suffering without questioning god's wisdom or justice.

The Book of Ecclesiastes also questions the causal relation between righteousness and prosperity. In the author's experience, the fates of the righteous and the wicked are opposite of what they should be, which only adds to the meaninglessness of life (7:15; 8:14; but cf. 12:13-14).

Barry D. Smith

See also Discipline; Theology Of Ecclesiastes; Theology Of Job; Justice; Persecution; Providence Of God

Bibliography . J. Carmignac, Revue de Qumran 3 (1961): 365-86; J. L. Crenshaw, A Whirlpool of Torment  ; idem, Theodicy in the Old Testament  ; C. S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain  ; J. S. Pobee, Persecution and Martyrdom in the Theology of Paul  ; D. Sö le, Suffering  ; J. A. Sanders, Suffering as Divine Discipline in the Old Testament and Post-Biblical Judaism .

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament [2]

‘Suffering’ is the usual translation of πάθημα (found in sing.[Note: singular.]only in  Hebrews 2:9) in Authorized Versionand Revised Version. In Authorized Versionthe Gr. word is also translation‘afflictions’ (3 times; Revised Version‘sufferings’), ‘affections’ ( Galatians 5:24; Revised Version‘passions’), and ‘emotions’ ( Romans 7:5; Revised Version‘passions’). The cognate verb πάσχω is always translation‘suffer’ in Authorized Versionand Revised Version, with two exceptions ( Acts 1:3, ‘passion,’ Authorized Versionand Revised Version;  Acts 28:5, Authorized Version‘feel,’ Revised Version‘took’). The same verb appears in compound forms in ‘suffer before’ ( 1 Thessalonians 2:2, Authorized Versionand Revised Version) and ‘suffer with’ ( Romans 8:17,  1 Corinthians 12:26, Authorized Versionand Revised Version). In Revised Versionκακοπάθεια is rendered ‘suffering’ ( James 5:10; Authorized Version‘suffering affliction’); κακοπαθέω, ‘suffer hardship’ ( 2 Timothy 4:5, Authorized Version‘endure afflictions’;  2 Timothy 2:9, Authorized Version‘suffer trouble’), ‘be suffering’ ( James 5:13; Authorized Version‘be afflicted’); συγκακοπαθέω, ‘suffer hardship with’ ( 2 Timothy 1:8, Authorized Version‘be partaker of the afflictions of’; and  2 Timothy 2:3, Authorized Version‘endure hardness’). In Authorized Versionπαθητός is rendered ‘should suffer,’ in Revised Version‘must suffer,’ in Revised Version margin ‘subject to suffering’ ( Acts 26:23).

Other words rendered by ‘suffer’ are ἀτιμάζω ( Acts 5:41; Authorized Version‘suffer shame,’ Revised Version‘suffer dishonour’); ζημιόω (pass.), ‘suffer loss’ ( 1 Corinthians 3:15,  Philippians 3:8, Authorized Versionand Revised Version;  2 Corinthians 7:9, Revised Version; Authorized Version‘receive damage’); κακουχέομαι ( Hebrews 13:3; Authorized Version‘suffer adversity,’ Revised Version‘be evil entreated’); μακροθυμέω ( 1 Corinthians 13:4, Authorized Versionand Revised Version, ‘suffer long’;  2 Peter 3:9, Authorized Versionand Revised Version,  1 Thessalonians 5:14, Revised Version, ‘be longsuffering,’ elsewhere ‘be patient,’  1 Thessalonians 5:14, Authorized Version,  James 5:7 f., Authorized Version,  James 5:7 f., Revised Version, or ‘patiently endure,’  Hebrews 6:15, Authorized Versionand Revised Version); ναυαγέω, ‘suffer shipwreck’ ( 2 Corinthians 11:25, Authorized Versionand Revised Version); ὀνειδίζω (pass.), ‘suffer reproach’ ( 1 Timothy 4:10, Authorized Version; Revised Version‘strive’); στέγω ( 1 Corinthians 9:12; Authorized Version‘suffer,’ Revised Version‘bear’; also translation‘bear’  1 Corinthians 13:7, Authorized Versionand Revised Version, and ‘forbear,’  1 Thessalonians 3:1;  1 Thessalonians 3:5, Authorized Versionand Revised Version); συγκακουχέομαι ( Hebrews 11:25; Authorized Version‘suffer affliction with,’ Revised Version‘be evil entreated with’); ὑπέχω ( Judges 1:7, ‘suffer,’ Authorized Versionand Revised Version); ὑπομένω ( 2 Timothy 2:12; Authorized Version‘suffer,’ Revised Version‘endure’; usually rendered ‘endure’ in Authorized Versionand Revised Version, but also ‘be patient,’  Romans 12:12, Authorized Versionand Revised Version, ‘take patiently,’  1 Peter 2:20 bis, Authorized Versionand Revised Version).

1. The sufferings of Christ. -The sufferings of Christ were foretold ( Acts 3:18;  Acts 26:22 f.,  1 Peter 1:11). ‘It behoved the Christ to suffer’ ( Acts 17:3; cf.  Hebrews 9:26). Moses and the prophets showed how that must be ( Acts 26:23; cf.  Acts 17:3). He suffered throughout His earthly life, ‘in the flesh’ ( 1 Peter 4:1). He suffered, being tempted ( Hebrews 2:18). On the Cross His sufferings culminated. He suffered for sins once ( 1 Peter 3:18), suffered without the gate ( Hebrews 13:12; cf.  Acts 1:3). His sufferings revealed His character, and had a reflex influence on His own nature. ‘When he suffered, he threatened not’ ( 1 Peter 2:23). ‘He learned obedience by the things which he suffered’ ( Hebrews 5:8). Of these sufferings St. Peter was one of the chief witnesses ( 1 Peter 5:1), and he points out Christ as the great example ( 1 Peter 2:21). It was for His followers that He suffered (ib.).

2. The sufferings of Christ shared by Christians. -Though Christ suffered, His disciples are not saved from suffering. Rather does their relationship to Him cause them to suffer also. If they are faithful to Him, the enmity and opposition He met with will also to some extent fall to their lot. Hence St. Paul, who endured so much on behalf of the gospel, could with reason speak of sharing the sufferings of Christ. ‘The sufferings of Christ abound unto us,’ he says ( 2 Corinthians 1:5). He longs to know ‘the fellowship of his sufferings’ ( Philippians 3:10). Others who belong to Christ also suffer with Him; and those who thus suffer will share His glory ( Romans 8:17). ‘Insomuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings, rejoice’ ( 1 Peter 4:13). ‘If we endure, we shall also reign with him’ ( 2 Timothy 2:12).

3. Suffering on behalf of the faith. -The suffering of the NT is almost entirely suffering in the cause of Christ. St. Paul is told that he is to suffer for the Lord’s name’s sake ( Acts 9:16). He tells Timothy that he suffers because he is an apostle and a teacher ( 2 Timothy 1:12), suffers hardship even unto bonds ( 2 Timothy 2:9). He speaks of his sufferings in such a way as to show that they were chiefly persecutions ( 2 Timothy 3:11). Accordingly, Timothy is exhorted to suffer hardship with him ( 2 Timothy 2:3). ‘Be not ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me his prisoner; but suffer hardship with the gospel’ ( 2 Timothy 1:8). ‘Suffer hardship, do the work of an evangelist’ ( 2 Timothy 4:5). St. Paul suffered, and was shamefully entreated at Philippi ( 1 Thessalonians 2:2). There he endured stripes and imprisonment ( Acts 16:19 ff., esp.  Acts 16:23). He also suffered because of the perverse ideas of his converts ( 1 Corinthians 9:12,  2 Corinthians 1:6). His converts, too, frequently suffered on account of the faith. The Galatians suffered many things (cf.  Acts 14:2-5;  Acts 14:19-22). The Philippians suffered on behalf of Christ ( Philippians 1:29). The Thessalonians suffered for the Kingdom of God ( 2 Thessalonians 1:5) at the hands of their fellow-countrymen, as the churches of Judaea did at the hands of the Jews ( 1 Thessalonians 2:14). The readers of 1 Pet. were also subjected to suffering. They suffered wrongfully when well-doing ( 1 Peter 2:19-20), for righteousness’ sake ( 1 Peter 3:14; cf.  1 Peter 3:17), as Christians ( 1 Peter 4:16). St. Peter told them that those who are called to God’s eternal Kingdom in Christ may nevertheless suffer ( 1 Thessalonians 5:10), just as St. Paul had told Timothy that ‘all that would live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution’ ( 2 Timothy 3:12). Among the things which the Christians of Smyrna have to suffer is imprisonment ( Revelation 2:10; cf.  Hebrews 13:3). The Hebrews are reminded that after they were enlightened they ‘endured a great conflict of sufferings; partly, being made a gazingstock both by reproaches and by afflictions; and partly, becoming partakers with them that were so used’ ( Hebrews 10:32). The heroes also suffered for their faithfulness. Moses preferred to suffer affliction with the people of God ( Hebrews 11:25). The prophets gave an example of suffering ( James 5:10). The early Christians seem to have concerned themselves little about what we call the problem of suffering, except perhaps in so far as their sufferings were ascribed to the activity of the devil ( 1 Peter 5:9). Their chief anxiety seems to have been that they should suffer according to the will of God ( 1 Peter 4:19), i.e. for well-doing ( 1 Peter 3:17,  1 Peter 4:19).

4. The fruits of suffering. -Jesus because of the suffering of death was crowned with glory and honour ( Hebrews 2:9). Glories followed His sufferings ( 1 Peter 1:11). Through them He was made perfect ( Hebrews 2:10; cf.  Hebrews 5:8). In the case of His followers suffering has a similar result. Those who suffer for righteousness’ sake are blessed ( 1 Peter 3:14). Those who are called to God’s eternal glory in Christ and suffer a little while shall be perfected, established, and strengthened by God ( 1 Peter 5:10). One who suffers as a Christian has reason to glorify God ( 1 Peter 4:16). To do well and to suffer for it is acceptable with Him ( 1 Peter 2:20). ‘Wherefore let them also that suffer according to the will of God commit their souls in well-doing unto a faithful Creator’ ( 1 Peter 4:19).

There is a great mass of modern literature on the problem of pain or suffering, but how little of it is concerned with sorrow at the slow progress of righteousness or of the Kingdom of God! It was otherwise in the Apostolic Age. There is very little in the NT about purely personal suffering ( Acts 28:5,  1 Corinthians 12:26). In one case at least suffering is distinguished from sickness ( James 5:13 f.).

Literature.-R. Winterbotham, The Kingdom of Heaven Here and Hereafter, London, 1898, pp. 234-240; J. Weiss, Die Schriften des NT, Göttingen, 1907, s.v. ‘Leiden’ in index; Handkommentar zum NT, Freiburg, 1892, s.v. ‘Leiden’ in indexes; Thayer Grimm’s Gr.-Eng. Lexicon of the NT, s.vv.; Dict. of Christ and the Gospels, s.v.; H. W. Beecher, Sermons, 2nd ser., London, 1870, pp. 271-297; A. B. Bruce, The Providential Order of the World, do., 1897, pp. 125 ff., 259 ff.; F. W. Robertson, Expository lectures on the Corinthians, do., 1859, pp. 317 ff., 446 ff., Sermons, 5th ser., do., 1904, serms. i. and ii.

William Watson.


Mention of the sun in the Apostolic Age is almost entirely confined to the book of Revelation. In the Heavenly Jerusalem the sun shall not light upon the blessed nor any heat ( Revelation 7:16). There will no longer be any need of the sun ( Revelation 21:23). Dread judgments are symbolized by the obscuring of the sun, e.g. ‘The sun became black as sackcloth’ ( Revelation 6:12); see also  Revelation 8:12;  Revelation 9:2;  Revelation 16:8 and  Acts 2:20, Joes’s prophecy quoted by St. Peter. It is twice used in similes, i.e. in the description of the Vision of the Christ, ‘His countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength’ ( Acts 1:16), and in the description of an angel, ‘His face was as the sun’ ( Acts 10:1).

In  Revelation 12:1 the woman in the vision is ‘arrayed with the sun.’ The idea may be taken from  Psalms 104:2, ‘Who coverest thyself with light as with a garment.’ The author may also have had in mind the description of the Bride in  Song of Solomon 6:10, ‘clear as the sun.’ If, as some think, the woman represents the Jewish Church, then she appears in all the glory of the patriarchs (see  Romans 9:5). But Semitic writers were apt to decorate representative persons with the heavenly bodies.

Lastly, in  Revelation 19:17 the angel who is entrusted with the overthrow of the Beast and the false prophet is represented as ‘standing in the sun’-probably that he may be able from his position in mid-heaven to summon the great birds of prey to feed on the flesh of the king’s enemies lying on the battle-field.

Morley Stevenson.

Bridgeway Bible Dictionary [3]

Before they brought sin into their world, human beings were was in a state of harmony with God and with the natural world, and as a result were free of pain and suffering. But when they sinned, this state of harmony was ruined. God had given the natural world to them for their physical and spiritual well-being, but that world now became a cause of suffering. God had intended physical effort and bodily functions to bring pleasure, but now they brought pain and hardship ( Genesis 3:16-19).

Unanswered questions

It is therefore true to say that there is suffering in the world because there is sin in the world. It is not true to say, however, that the personal suffering of any one person is the direct result of that person’s sin. The book of Job makes it plain that a person cannot know the moral reasons for another’s suffering. God alone knows ( Job 42:2;  Job 42:7).

If suffering is not a measure of a person’s sin, freedom from suffering is not a measure of a person’s righteousness ( Ecclesiastes 8:14;  Luke 13:1-5;  1 Peter 2:19). In fact, often the righteous suffer, while the wicked enjoy peace and prosperity ( Psalms 73:3-5;  Psalms 73:12-14). This is part of the mystery of human suffering. God does not satisfy people’s curiosity concerning this mystery, but he does work in the lives of those who suffer, to bring them to a fuller knowledge of himself and therefore to glorify him ( John 9:1-3;  2 Corinthians 1:3-7; see also Disease ).

Satan takes pleasure in causing people to suffer ( Luke 13:16;  2 Corinthians 12:7), but he can do his cruel work only to the extent God allows ( Job 1:8-12;  Job 2:1-8). Those who are in a right relationship with God may therefore see their suffering not as something essentially evil, but as something out of which good may come.

In some cases, for example, believers may regard their suffering as a means of teaching them endurance, trust and other virtues. As a result they grow more towards the sorts of people that God wants them to be ( Isaiah 38:17;  Romans 5:3-5;  2 Corinthians 12:7-19). In other cases they may regard it as a fitting chastisement for some wrong they have done ( Psalms 38:1-8;  Psalms 41:3-4; see Chastisement ). Or they may regard it simply as a fact of life that they cannot explain but must accept; though they must do so with faith and courage, not resentment or bitterness ( Psalms 73:21-26;  Romans 8:18;  2 Corinthians 4:17-18;  1 Peter 4:19; cf.  Psalms 13:1-2;  Jeremiah 20:14-18).

Although people may in some circumstances pronounce judgment against themselves because of their suffering, he should not pronounce similar judgment against others who suffer. Instead they should look for ways of giving the sufferers the comfort and strength they need ( Mark 1:40-41;  Mark 14:34-41;  2 Corinthians 1:4).

Whether or not believers understand why they suffer, they need have no doubt that God still loves them and will not leave them. They may have no explanation of God’s purposes, but they can be confident that those purposes do exist and that they are perfect ( Romans 8:28;  Romans 8:37-39). Once it has passed, suffering may soon be forgotten. From the viewpoint of eternity it will appear brief indeed ( John 16:21;  2 Corinthians 4:17).

God’s provision

Jesus was fully human and lived in the world as other people. Therefore, he too experienced the suffering that is in the world through sin, even though he himself never sinned. Through his experiences he learnt the full meaning of obedience to God in a world of sin and suffering ( Hebrews 2:10;  Hebrews 5:8).

Yet Jesus suffered not only because of the sins of others; he suffered to take away the sins of others. He was so identified with his fellow human beings that God’s judgment on sinful people fell upon him. He died for them ( Galatians 2:20;  1 Peter 2:24).

Consequently, the expression ‘the sufferings of Christ’ developed the specific meaning of ‘the death of Christ’. His death was not an accident, but the divinely ordered way of dealing with sin. In suffering for sin, Christ bore God’s punishment on sin and so made it possible for people to be cleansed from sin and brought back to God ( Isaiah 53:4-5;  Isaiah 53:10;  Matthew 8:17;  Mark 8:31;  Hebrews 2:9;  Hebrews 13:12;  1 Peter 1:12;  1 Peter 2:21-24;  1 Peter 3:18). The sufferings of Christ, as well as bringing cleansing from sin, enable him to understand and help others who suffer ( Hebrews 4:15-16).

When people by faith accept the benefits of Christ’s death, they become united with Christ. To some extent they must suffer as he suffered. As the ungodly persecuted Jesus, so they will persecute his followers ( John 15:18;  John 15:20;  Acts 14:22;  2 Corinthians 1:5;  Philippians 1:29;  Philippians 3:10;  1 Peter 2:21;  1 Peter 4:13; see Persecution ). Such sufferings may test the genuineness of their faith, but may also produce in them greater strength and maturity of character ( 1 Peter 1:6-7;  1 Peter 5:10; cf.  Hebrews 2:10; see Testing ). But Jesus’ sufferings were followed by glory, and those who suffer for his sake can look forward to sharing in that glory ( Romans 8:17-18;  1 Peter 5:10).

Holman Bible Dictionary [4]

Old Testament The Semitic mind dealt with concrete situations rather than abstract forms. Their perspective was not to treat the issue of suffering as an intellectual one. The Old Testament writers, accordingly, sought to identify the causes and purposes of suffering when it happened.

The Hebrews regarded suffering as punishment for sin against the divine moral order. The wicked would surely suffer for their evil ways ( Psalm 7:15-16;  Psalm 37:1-3;  Psalm 73:12-20;  Psalm 139:19 ), even though they might prosper for a time ( Job 21:28-33 ). Some writers expressed consternation that God stayed His hand of judgment against the offenders of His will ( Jeremiah 12:1-4;  Habakkuk 1:2-4;  Malachi 3:7-15 ). They often interpreted their own suffering as a sign of God's wrath and punishment for sin in their lives. The highly developed sense of corporate identity in Hebrew thought meant that suffering could come as a result of parents' sin (1Kings 21:20,1Kings 21:22, 1 Kings 21:29; an idea reflected by Jesus' disciples in  John 9:2 , the story of the healing of the man born blind) or the wickedness of the king ( 2 Kings 21:10-11 ).

The suffering of the righteous posed a problem. It was explained variously as a way for God to gain peoples' attention ( Job 33:14;  Job 36:15 ), to correct sin into obedience ( 2 Chronicles 20:9-10;  Malachi 3:3 ), to develop or refine character ( Job 23:10;  Psalm 66:10 ). Ultimately, the writers consigned themselves to trust in God's sometimes hidden wisdom ( Job 42:2-3;  Psalm 135:6 ).

The prophet gained a vision of a greater purpose in suffering—carrying the sins of others ( Isaiah 53:1 ). As eschatological hopes matured in late Old Testament and intertestamental times, the righteous looked forward to the Day of the Lord when they would be vindicated and justice would reign ( Daniel 12:1 ).

New Testament Into an evil world God sent His only Son. God is Himself touched by the suffering of Christ on the cross. Christian writers in the New Testament incorporated the trials of Christ into their existing Old Testament understanding of suffering. The purposefulness and necessity of suffering in the life of the Son of God ( Matthew 16:21;  Mark 8:31;  Luke 9:22 ) aided them in coping with their own.

The early Christians recognized the inevitability of their suffering. As Christ suffered, so would they ( John 16:33;  Acts 14:22;  Romans 8:31-39;  1 Corinthians 12:26;  1 Thessalonians 2:14;  2 Timothy 3:12;  1 Peter 4:12-13 ). Continuing His mission, they would incur tribulation ( Mark 13:12-13;  Revelation 17:6;  Revelation 20:14 ) because the world hates the disciples as much as it did their Lord (see  John 15:18;  1 Corinthians 2:8;  1 John 3:11-12 ). Suffering for His sake was counted a privilege ( Acts 5:41;  1 Corinthians 11:32;  1 Thessalonians 1:4-8 ).

New Testament writers realized there were other types of suffering than that incurred as they lived on Christian mission. These are to be endured patiently rather than rebelliously ( 1 Thessalonians 3:3;  James 1:2-4 ) because God is working His purpose out in His children's lives ( Romans 8:28-29 ). Satan would tempt believers to be defeated in their suffering ( 2 Corinthians 4:8-12;  Revelation 2:10 ). Instead, Christians can grow stronger spiritually through trials ( Romans 6:4-8;  1 Peter 4:1;  Hebrews 12:11 ) and share Christ's ultimate triumph ( Mark 13:9;  John 16:33;  2 Thessalonians 1:5;  Revelation 5:5;  Revelation 20:9 ,Revelation 20:9, 20:14-15 ) even now as they experience daily victories ( Romans 8:37;  1 John 2:13-14;  1 Peter 5:10 ). Therefore, sufferings give rise to hope ( Romans 12:12;  1 Thessalonians 1:3 ), for no present suffering compares with the rewards that await the faithful follower of Christ ( Romans 8:17-18 ).

T. R. McNeal

Vine's Expository Dictionary of NT Words [5]

1: Πάθημα (Strong'S #3804 — Noun Neuter — pathema — path'-ay-mah )

is rendered "sufferings" in the RV (AV, "afflictions") in  2—Timothy 3:11;  Hebrews 10:32;  1—Peter 5:9; in  Galatians 5:24 , "passions," (AV, "affection"). See Affliction , B, No. 3.

 James 5:10Affliction

Webster's Dictionary [6]

(1): ( a.) Being in pain or grief; having loss, injury, distress, etc.

(2): ( p. pr. & vb. n.) of Suffer

(3): ( n.) The bearing of pain, inconvenience, or loss; pain endured; distress, loss, or injury incurred; as, sufferings by pain or sorrow; sufferings by want or by wrongs.

King James Dictionary [7]

SUF'FERING, ppr. Bearing undergoing pain, inconvenience or damage permitting allowing.

SUF'FERING, n. The bearing of pain, inconvenience or loss pain endured distress, loss or injury incurred as sufferings by pain or sorrow sufferings by want or by wrongs.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia [8]

suf´ẽr - ing  : A great variety of Hebrew and Greek expressions, too large to be here enumerated, have been translated by "suffering" and other forms derived from the same verb. The most obvious meanings of the word are the following: (1) The commonest meaning perhaps in the English Versions of the Bible is "to permit," "to allow," "to give leave to": "Moses suffered to write a bill of divorcement, and to put her away" (  Mark 10:4 ). (2) "To experience," "to go through,"' "to endure": "I have suffered many things this day in a dream because of him" ( Matthew 27:19 ). A woman "had suffered many things of many physicians" ( Mark 5:26 ). Other common phrases are "to suffer affliction" ( 1 Thessalonians 3:4;  Hebrews 11:25 , the Revised Version (British and American) "share ill-treatment"), "to suffer hardship" ( 2 Timothy 2:9 ), "to suffer adversity" ( Hebrews 13:3 the King James Version, the Revised Version (British and American) "to be ill-treated"), "to suffer dishonor" (the King James Version "shame,"   Acts 5:41 ), "to suffer violence," ( Matthew 11:12 ), "to suffer wrong" ( Acts 7:24 ), "to suffer terror" ( Psalm 88:15 ), "to suffer shipwreck" ( 2 Corinthians 11:25 ), "to suffer hunger" ( Psalm 34:10;  Proverbs 19:15 ), "to suffer thirst" ( Job 24:11 ). (3) "To put up with," "to tolerate": the King James Version, "For ye suffer fools gladly (the Revised Version (British and American) "ye bear with the foolish gladly"), seeing ye yourselves are wise" ( 2 Corinthians 11:1 ,  2 Corinthians 11:9 ). (4) "To undergo punishment": "Think ye that these Galileans were sinners above all the Galileans, because they have suffered these things?" ( Luke 13:2 ). (5) "To sustain loss": "If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss" ( 1 Corinthians 3:15; also  Philippians 3:8 ). (6) "To suffer death." Here the clearest references are to the suffering or passion of Christ, which indeed includes the enduring of untold hardships and affliction, all of which culminate in His vicarious death for man ( Matthew 16:21;  Mark 8:31;  Mark 9:12;  Luke 9:22;  Luke 17:25;  Luke 22:15;  Luke 24:26 ,  Luke 24:46;  Acts 3:18;  Acts 17:3;  Acts 26:23;  1 Peter 3:18 ).

Suffering belongs to the discipline of all Christ's followers ( Romans 8:17;  2 Corinthians 1:7;  Galatians 3:4;  Philippians 3:10;  1 Thessalonians 2:2;  2 Thessalonians 1:5;  2 Timothy 2:12;  2 Timothy 3:12;  James 5:10;  1 Peter 2:20 f;   1 Peter 3:14 ,  1 Peter 3:17;  1 Peter 4:1 ,  1 Peter 4:13 ,  1 Peter 4:16;  1 Peter 5:10 ). Such suffering is called a suffering for God's or Christ's sake ( Jeremiah 15:15;  Acts 9:16;  Philippians 1:29;  2 Timothy 1:12 ). This fellowship in suffering unites us with the saints of God in all times ( James 5:10 ), and is indeed a fellowship with the Lord Himself ( Philippians 3:10 ), who uses this discipline to mold us more and more according to His character.