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Baker's Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology [1]

As a prerequisite for any discussion of evil, moral evil must be distinguished from physical or natural evil. This essay uses the term "moral evil" to include both social offenses (ethics—murder, theft) and cultic sins (those offenses aimed directly against the deityblasphemy, idolatry). Moral evil, therefore, whether its setting be cultic or social, when carried out may be considered a sin. That cultic and ethical values were one and the same in the Hebraic mind may be illustrated by the similar penalties exacted for the severest offenses in either category (death, being cut off). Cultic values are addressed in the first four of the Ten Commandments ( Exodus 20:3-11;  Deuteronomy 5:7-15 ) and by the first of Jesus' "Great Commandments" ( Matthew 22:37-40;  Mark 12:30;  Luke 10:27; cf.  Deuteronomy 6:5 ); ethics are considered in the last six of the Ten Commandments ( Exodus 20:12-17;  Deuteronomy 5:16-21 ) and by the second "Great Commandment" ( Leviticus 19:18 ).

Accordingly, what is morally good is not what human society decides is in its best interest, but what the revealed will of God declares. There can be no biblical ethics that stand apart from cult nor a biblical morality apart from theology. Instead, morality is defined by theology, which carries within it certain cultic affirmations and prohibitions together with the ethical. For example, the same Decalogue that declares that stealing and murder are wrong likewise forbids idolatry and blasphemy. What makes these things wrong is not some abstract quality called "the good" as sought by philosophers in time past. Instead, what constitutes social evil is what is so defined by God, and in that respect (i.e., as to why a given act is good or bad), differs little from cultic evil. There are, therefore, no grounds for the oft-repeated error wherein the "moral law" (the ethical) is in some way distinguished from the "ceremonial law" (the cultic) in Israel's values system. There can be no such distinction! That which is ethical is right because God has declared it so; the cultic portions of the Law likewise determine what is right for the same reason. Because of this, cult and ethics often appear fused in the Bible, as in Cain's admission of guilt for a faulty sacrifice and the murder of his brother ( Genesis 4:13 ); a similar fusion of the cultic and the ethical occurs in  Genesis 15:16 ("the sin of the Amorites"), where idolatry and unethical activity are considered as one.

If God is the definer of what is good ( 2 Samuel 10:12;  Mark 10:18;  Luke 18:19 ), right ( Genesis 18:25 ), and just ( Job 34:12 ), it is not surprising that the Bible never attributes moral or cultic evil to him ( Job 34:10 ). Indeed, he hates evil ( Psalm 5:6 ) and is the avenging judge who punishes those who practice it ( Isaiah 31:2;  Micah 2:1 ).

On the other hand, what ethicists term physical evil (or, natural evil) is often connected with the activities of God, and thus demonstrates the importance of defining these categories before discussing the subject further. An ethicist may distinguish these two types of evil thus: (1) moral evil, which is real if any intellectual being knowingly does anything he or she ought not to have done without being compelled to do it; and (2) physical evil, which is real if some beings have suffered in situations caused by nonrational beings, or through actions of rational beings acting nonrationally.

Moral Evil and Sin . Distinguishing moral evil from sin is no simple task, yet it must be attempted before any discussion may proceed further. First, it is important to differentiate a sin (an individual expression of sin) from generic sin, the condition that gives rise to its expression. An individual sin, as mentioned earlier, is an acting out of cultic or social evil. But generic sin) is the condition that gives rise to the evil expressed in the individual sin.

However sin and evil may be considered by a secularist, the theological perspective held by the Bible that presupposes an involvement by God in his creation and an active will of God governing that creation requires that evil assume a theological dimension. Accordingly, moral evil finds its roots in disobedience, whether deliberate or accidental, premeditated or unpremeditated, cultic or ethical, to the revealed will of God, and as such, becomes associated with generic sin and virtually synonymous with wickedness. The stress in the Old Testament lies not on the conceptual, but in the practical outworking of a state of disharmony with God and one's fellow humans. It may be expected, therefore, that there will be an extensive overlap between terms for sin and terms expressing moral evil, whether the expression of this sin/evil be cultic or social. The origins for sin and evil in both Old and New Testaments are traced to the activities of an evil creature, Satan ( 1 John 3:8 : "the devil has been sinning from the beginning" ) and to human sin that led to a fall ( Romans 5:12-14 ) and banishment form Eden and the tree of life ( Genesis 3 ).

Cultic and Social Evil . In biblical theology, natural revelation ties humanity in general to a responsibility before God which, when ignored, leads to human relationships that are immoral ( Romans 1:18-25 ). In both Testaments, proper worship and social ethics are subsumed in a common covenant that ties the people of God to him and to one another. Since what God ordains is good, what is ethical is not clearly differentiated from what is cultic. Both belong to that aspect of sin that sets itself against the divinely instituted order, whether social or cultic, and thus inexorable finds itself in incessant conflict with God. Like Gollum's ring in The Hobbit or the addict's first "fix, " evil does not always seem immediately repulsive, but may even be seen as attractive on superficial examination ( Genesis 3:6 ), while profoundly destructive at a deeper level ( Isaiah 59:7 ).

Because what is right was what was ordained by God, and what is wrong was what was proscribed by him, deviation from this paradigm constitutes what is evil. The most common term for cultic evil in the Old Testament (used over 200 times) is awon [   Nehemiah 9:2;  Job 13:23,26;  Psalm 130:3;  Jeremiah 5:25;  33:8;  Ezekiel 36:33;  43:10;  Lamentations 4:13;  Daniel 9:16 ); (2) the ensuing guilt (often in formulations such as "bear their guilt" [[[Nrsv Niv]] "held responsible"],  Leviticus 5:17;  17:16 ); and (3) the punishment for the act (e.g.,  Genesis 4:13;  Job 19:29 ). It may be used to describe idolatry ( Exodus 20:5;  Joshua 22:17; cf.  Jeremiah 11:10;  Ezekiel 7:19;  14:3,4 ,  7 ), trivializing the deity ( 2 Samuel 3:13-14 ), apostasy ( Jeremiah 13:22 ), breach of the covenant ( Jeremiah 5:25 ), or other activities that would in some way demean God's character or name ( 1 Samuel 3:13-14 ). It may refer to doing away with the fear of God ( Job 15:4-5 ) or a lack of steadfastness toward him ( Psalm 78:37-38 ) and it functions to alienate the individual from God ( Leviticus 26:40;  Isaiah 59:4 ). Prohibitions sometimes list words for "sin" together with awon [   Deuteronomy 19:15;  Isaiah 1:4 ).

A frequently used word to convey the wrongness of idolatry is awen [   Genesis 35:18 ). The word is often used along with "toil" or "labor, " and in such cases may designate the sin that brings the trouble ( Psalm 7:14;  Isaiah 10:1 ). It may also be used to emphasize the absence of any theological value to a religious exercise ( Isaiah 1:13 ). Taking on the nuance of power used in a harmful manner, in  Psalm 36:4 awen [   Job 31:3;  Psalm 5:6;  6:9;  Proverbs 10:29;  21:15 ).

Other common words for evil include the nouns awel, awla, derived from a root meaning "to deviate." The two words have virtually no detectable difference in meaning and denote what is contrary to the character of God; thus they bring at their heels a divine response. They are used to describe what is not right ( Leviticus 19:15,35 ) and dishonest business practices ( Deuteronomy 25:14-16 ). Although Ezekiel generally seems to stress a need for cultic correctness, he uses awel to denote moral lapse, dishonesty (3:20; 18:24,26; 33:18) such as taking usury and showing partiality in judgment (18:8), dishonest trade that desecrates the sanctuaries (28:18), and taking pledges for loans, stealing, and so on (33:15). Moreover, awel is sometimes found in one's hand (18:8). Both words are clearly seen as denoting actions by their frequent use as objects of verbs of doing. They are frequently seen as antonyms for words denoting justice, faithfulness, honesty, proper (just) administration, and rightness. They are frequently paired with synonyms with other words denoting persecution, wickedness, rebellion, violence, and evil.

Many Hebrew words are used for both cultic and social evil. For example, awon [   Leviticus 18:20 ), adultery ( Numbers 5:15,31 ), and other civil or social perversions ( 1 Samuel 20:1,8;  2 Samuel 3:8;  Nehemiah 4:5;  Psalm 51:2 ). The words rasa [רָשַׁע], resa [רֶשַׁע] are the most important antonyms for "what is right, just."

The words ra [12:13), and has no future (24:20). Job complains that the evil man is spared in the day of calamity (21:30). In   Jeremiah 2:33 , Israel, the unfaithful wife of Yahweh, has so departed from his ways that she is able to teach her ways even to evil women. The men in  1 Samuel 30:22 termed evil are those who had pursued the Amalekites with David but who had selfishly decided that those left to guard the baggage should not share in the Amalekite spoil. In   Genesis 13:13 the word describes the men of Sodom. In   Psalm 140:2 , evil things are devised in the hearts of violent men. The Revised Standard Version interprets ra [רַע רַע] in  Psalm 10:15 as the "evildoer."

In the New Testament the words poneros [   Deuteronomy 31:17;  Amos 3:6 b). The word appears in the New Testament without the attendant problems of theodicy that appear in its Old Testament setting. As such the adjective kakos [   Matthew 24:48 ), what is harmful (e.g., the tongue,  James 3:8; cf.  Romans 14:20 ), or, when used as a substantive, what is contrary to law (i.e., a sin, crime,  John 18:23;  Romans 7:21 ). Most of its occurrences in the New Testament are found in Paul's writings, where it can depict the evil one does unwillingly ( Romans 7:15,17-20 ) and which becomes a law that rules him (7:21,23) and which can only be overcome by the grace of God through Christ (7:25).

The compounds and derivatives of the word poneros [   Matthew 7:11 ), the hardened Pharisees ( Matthew 12:34 ), and the Jews as the evil generation ( Matthew 12:39 ). In  Matthew 7:17-18 , an "evil" tree bears "evil" fruit, whereas in 7:11 poneros [   Matthew 22:10 ) who will be judged in the final judgment ( Matthew 13:49-50 ). Anyone who decides against Jesus is evil ( 2 Thessalonians 3:2;  2 Timothy 3:13 ). Particularly when used with the definite article it may serve as a sobriquet for Satan ( Matthew 13:19;  Mark 4:15;  Luke 8:12 ).

Although its literal meaning is "lawlessness, " anomia [   Matthew 7:23;  2 Thessalonians 2:7 ).

Physical Evil . The denominative Hebrew root r with its derivatives ra [רַע רַע], roa , and raa [רָעַע מֵרֵעַרָעַע], is frequently used in the Old Testament to designate the physical aspect of the action, situation, or state as it appears to the one experiencing its effects.

What Is Harmful . This distinctive nuance of the root r may be clearly seen where one of the words listed above is used to designate something physically harmful and where no moral reference is clearly intended as primary. Examples of this are found in its use to describe poisonous herbs in Elisha's pot (  2 Kings 4:41 ) and the bad water he heals ( 2 Kings 2:19 ). Closely allied to the latter are the "evil diseases" of Egypt ( Deuteronomy 7:15 ) and the "evil diseases" of  Ecclesiastes 6:2 . Similarly seen as harmful are the deadly sword of  Psalm 144:10 and God's arrows in   Ezekiel 5:16 . Dangerous animals capable of destroying human life are called "evil" ( Genesis 37:20,33 ). God will remove them from Canaan ( Leviticus 26:6 ), but will send them again to destroy rebellious Jerusalem ( Ezekiel 5:17; cf. also  Ezekiel 14:15 ), only to banish them again when Judah is restored from captivity ( Ezekiel 34:25 ). Edomites are chided for gloating over the disaster of the destruction of Jerusalem, called "his [Judah's] evil" ( Obadiah 1:13 ).

What Is Subjectively Perceived . Jacob's assertion that "my years have been few and difficult [evil]" ( Genesis 47:9 ) may be interpreted as either subjective, wherein the "evil" indicates suffering, or objective, as a hyperbole of humility. However, in  1 Kings 22:8 and its parallel (  2 Chronicles 18:12 ) the king of Israel (Ahab) answers Jehoshaphat of Judah, declaring that there is indeed a prophet of Yahweh about, adding peevishly, "But I hate him because he never prophesies anything good about me, but always bad [evil]." That neither moral nor objective evil is intended is clear when the prophecy unfolds as a prediction of Ahab's death. The prophecy is evil to Ahab, for whom it bodes personal harm and by whom it must be subjectively received. Ahab recognizes this, and confirms this as what he intended when he had predicted an evil prophecy (22:18).

Almost as obvious as the preceding is the phrase an "evil name" found frequently throughout the Old Testament to designate an unsavory reputation. For example, the husband's charge of nonvirginity in his bride "gives her a bad [evil] name" ( Deuteronomy 22:14,19 ). Nehemiah denounces the hireling of Tobiah and Sanballat as one who wished to intimidate him and thus "give me a bad [evil] name" ( Nehemiah 6:13 ). The evil name does not indicate moral, objective evil (as, for instance, a blasphemous or lewd epithet or title), but a subjectively perceived harm. Similar is the "evil" report (NIV, "distressing words") of  Exodus 33:4 , in which Moses reports to the people God's displeasure at calf-worship. An objective moral evil would require a foul, malevolent report. Instead, it describes the evaluation of God's reaction to Israel's idolatry and his decision not to go with them any longer. Nor is Joseph's evil report of his brothers objective, moral evil ( Genesis 37:2 ), but a tale of their behavior that cast them in an unfavorable light. In  Jeremiah 49:23 , Hamath and Arpad hear evil tidings about the fall of Damascusevil to them because Damascus was their ally and her fall portends their own fates.

The Teacher in Ecclesiastes calls the disappointing pursuit of wisdom a "heavy burden" (1:13) and repeats the words in 4:8 to describe the unfruitfulness of materialism. In 5:13 he calls selfishness a "grievous evil" (RSV). Finally, discipline is called evil in  Proverbs 15:10 because it brings pain. A net is evil to the fish it catches (Eccel 9:12); misfortune is an evil to Solomon as its recipient (  1 Kings 5:4; NIV "disaster" ).

To "be evil in someone's eyes, " or "to displease someone" can describe a woman slave who does not please her master ( Exodus 21:8 ) and Esau's Canaanite (Hittite) wives who displeased Isaac ( Genesis 28:8 ). In  1 Samuel 29:7 , Achish warns David against displeasing the lords of the Philistines. God's mercy to Nineveh displeased Jonah (4:1) because it embarrassed him; he felt its effects in losing face.

Appearance is another way in which a subjective notion is expressed by the words in question.  Ecclesiastes 7:3 speaks of an "evil of countenance" to indicate a sad expression, as the context demonstrates. The Persian king asks Nehemiah, "Why are your faces evil, when you are not sick?" (  Nehemiah 2:2 ), or, "Why does your face look so sad when you are not ill?" ( NIV ). Evil appearance denotes the poor quality of the cattle in Pharaoh's dream ( Genesis 41:3,4,19,20,21,27 ); land ( Numbers 13:19 ); and a bargaining session ( Proverbs 20:14; [twice] ). The figs in Jeremiah's vision were so "evil" they could not be eaten (24:2,3, 8; 29:17; they were of such poor quality that they were already in a state of decomposition that rendered them inedible).

Prosperity and adversity are also seen in terms of good and evil. When the people say to Jeremiah, "Whether it is good or evil, we will obey the voice of the Lord our God" (42:6 RSV), they are really saying, "For success or failure, we will obey."

Evil as the Responsibility of God . While moral evil is never imputed to God, there is often a connection made between Yahweh and ra [רַע רַע], roa , and raa [רָעַע מֵרֵעַרָעַע]. The classical reference,  Isaiah 45:7 , wherein God is called creator of evil would then refer to physical destruction, rather than moral evil, as the parallel term "maker of peace" would seem to render conclusive. God's judgments are not moral evil, else they would hardly be called judgments, but are physical, and called evil because of the adverse effects.

When God is pictured as "bringing evil, " it is nearly always an invasion of Judah by a foreign power as exemplified in  Jeremiah 4:6 , where the term clearly refers to the impending invasion of Judah by the Babylonians (similar are  1 Kings 9:9;  21:29;  2 Kings 21:12;  2 Chronicles 7:22;  Jeremiah 6:19;  19:3,15;  36:31 ). Especially clear is  Exodus 32:12 a, which says, referring to the exodus from Egypt, "it was with evil intent that he [God] brought them [Israel] out."  Isaiah 31:2 predicts the failure of the alliance between Judah and Egypt, proclaiming God as the one who is wise and "brings evil, " that is, brings defeat to his enemies. Similarly,   Amos 3:6 asks, assuming a negative answer, if evil befalls a city, unless the Lord has done it. The meaning is clear. If a city is captured by an enemy, God has ordained it. In each of the preceding cases, the context verifies the interpretation as physical evil, in these cases as experienced subjectively by the victim of the military action.   Lamentations 3:38 declares that it is the decree of God that brings good and evil.

The "Evil Day" may likewise be resolved as a day on which something harmful occurs rather than a day evil in and of itself. For example,  Jeremiah 17:16-18 indicates that the "day of evil" (RSV) is a day on which Yahweh judges those who are his enemies, in this case, those who persecute the prophet. The "evil day" of   Amos 6:3 refers to the fall of Samaria and destruction of Israel as a judgment by God (for similar language for Judah, see   Jeremiah 16:10 ). Similarly, the psalmist declares that God's chastening is designed to keep him from days of trouble ( Psalm 94:13;  27:5;  49:5 ). In  Ecclesiastes 12:1 , however, the phrase "evil days" alludes simply to old age, as the context shows.

For God to speak evil concerning someone ( 1 Kings 22:23 ) may mean passing sentence on him. Similar is Naomi's complaint that God has brought evil upon her ( Ruth 1:21 ). Yahweh "brings evil" upon Absalom by defeating the counsel of Ahithophel ( 2 Samuel 17:14 ). The "evil" of which God repents in  Jonah 3:9-10 is evil only to the Ninevites, for they would have felt its effects physically and subjectively. But objectively, the act would have been justice executed because of the immoral conduct of the Assyrians.

Saul's Evil Spirit . The evil spirit from Yahweh that plagued Saul ( 1 Samuel 16:14-16,23;  18:10;  19:9 ) may be considered as a spirit (disposition) sent by God that eventually destroyed Saul. The spirit, then, was God's instrument of judgment on Saul because of his rebellious attitude. Morally, the issue is justice, not evil. Similar is the evil spirit sent between Abimelech and the inhabitants of Shechem, which turns the Shechemites against him ( Judges 9:23 ).

While the above cited evidence might lead one to conclude that all natural evil (disaster) is a judgment of God for some sort of evil committed by the afflicted party, the Bible will not bear this conclusion. Job and Ecclesiastes issue a sharp challenge to the doctrine of retribution in this life and  John 9:1-3 repudiates it as a means of explaining all suffering.

Why Evil? The Bible does not answer the oft-posed problem of how a just, omnipotent, and loving God could permit evil to exist in a universe he had created. A detailed examination to this question lies outside the scope of this article. Some suggestions, however, that have been offered about moral evil are: (1) while God is perfect, creation is only pronounced "very good" ( Genesis 1:31 ); it is impossible for a created universe to rival God in perfection and the existence of moral evil is one example of its imperfection; (2) to compel all beings to act morally is to override their free will; likewise, to grant them free moral agency is to concede the possibility that someone at some time will act in an evil manner; and (3) God in his infinite wisdom created the best of all possible worlds; one can only consider that, were the world created any other way it would have been less than the best of all possibilities. The latter consideration also holds true as a possible explanation for natural evil.

William C. Williams

See also Demon; Sin

Bibliography . E. Achilles, NIDNTT, 1:561-67; M. Barker, Heythrop Journal 19 (1978): 12-27; K. H. Bernhardt, TDOT, 1:140-47; R. H. Bube, JASA 27:4 (1975): 171-80; G. R. Castellino, CBQ 30 (1968): 15-28; W. M. Clark, JBL (1989): 266-78; M. Dahood, Biblica 53 (1972): 386-403; G. I. Davies, VT 27 (1977): 105-10; J. E. Davison, JBL 104 (1985): 617-35; M. Ferguson, SWJTh 5 (1963): 7-20; C. T. Francisco, SWJTh 5 (1963): 33-41; B. Gross-Antony, Biblische Notizen 53 (1990): 23-25; M. Greenberg,  Ezekiel 1-20  ; R. Reuven, Judaism 39/3 (1990): 318-25; G. S. Kane, Religious Studies 11 (1975): 49-71; G. Krodel, Currents in Theology and Mission 17 (1990): 440-46; A. Lococque, Biblical Research 24-25 (1979-80): 7-19; W. F. Lofthouse, ExpT 60 (1949): 264-68; C. Morrison, The Powers That Be: Earthly Rulers and Demonic Powers in  Romans 13:1-7  ; J. C. Moyer, ISBE, 2:825; G. S. Ogden, Technical Papers for the Bible Translator 38/3 (1987): 301-7; C. R. Priebenow, Luth Th J 15 (1981): 45-52; B. Ramm, SWJTh 5 (1963): 21-32; A. B. Randall, Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies 2 (1990): 39-55; J. F. Ross, Introduction to the Philosophy of Religion  ; D. S. Shapiro, Judaism 5 (1956): 46-52; J. A. Thompson, The Book of Jeremiah  ; W. Wink, Naming the Powers: The Language of Power in the New Testament  ; idem, Unmasking the Powers  ; A. D. Verhey, ISBE, 2:206-10; R. G. Wilburn, Lexington Theological Quarterly 16/1 (1981): 126-41; R. Yates, EQ 52 (1980): 97-111.

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament [2]

This article is not a study of the word ‘evil’ as substantive, adjective, or adverb in the two senses of ‘bad’ and ‘hurtful,’ for which the use of a concordance may suffice; but of the conception of evil in the apostolic writings. Three senses of the term have been distinguished by Leibniz: metaphysical -the necessary imperfection of the creature as compared with the Creator; physical -pain, suffering, sorrow, death; and moral -sin. Although the NT does assert the difference between God and the world and man, and the inferiority of the made to the Maker, it does not conceive creatureliness as itself evil, but expresses its limitation and impotence in the term ‘flesh,’ For this aspect see articleFlesh. The articleSin deals with the third sense of the word ‘evil.’ It is thus with physical evil alone that we are here concerned. Its existence in manifold forms is assumed by all the apostolic writers; but generally it is with the sufferings of Christian believers, including persecution, that they are concerned, in order to encourage patience, offer comfort, or assure deliverance.

What these sorrows were, Paul’s account of his own experience shows ( Acts 20:18-35,  2 Corinthians 1:3-11;  2 Corinthians 6:4-10;  2 Corinthians 11:23-33; cf.  Romans 8:35-36). This experience is regarded as a sharing of Christ’s sufferings ( 2 Corinthians 1:5,  1 Peter 4:13), and even as a completion of that suffering for the good of the Church ( Colossians 1:24). ‘Paul does not claim to fill up the defects in Christ’s earthly suffering or in the sufferings of the Church, but in the sufferings which he has to endure in his flesh, which are Christ’s sufferings, because he and Christ are one’ (Peake, Expositor’s Greek Testament , ‘Col.,’ 1903, p. 515). Suffering is a means of entering into closer fellowship with Christ ( Philippians 3:10). As suffering was a condition of perfecting Christ Himself for His work ( Hebrews 2:10;  Hebrews 2:14-15;  Hebrews 4:15;  Hebrews 5:8-9;  Hebrews 7:28), so also it perfects Christian character if properly endured ( Romans 5:3,  1 Thessalonians 1:3,  Hebrews 10:36,  1 Peter 5:10). It is to be regarded not as penal, but as chastening ( Hebrews 12:7-11,  James 1:2-4;  James 5:11). It cannot separate from the love of God ( Romans 8:35-39), and it prepares for, and secures, the glory hereafter ( Ephesians 3:13,  Revelation 7:14), with which it is not worthy to be compared ( Romans 8:18), since the companions of Christ’s sufferings will also be the partners of His reign ( Romans 8:17,  2 Corinthians 1:5,  Philippians 3:10,  2 Timothy 2:11-13,  1 Peter 4:13). Of all evils death is regarded as the greatest, and in Paul we find a painful shrinking from it ( 2 Corinthians 5:1-8); accordingly, it is evident how precious a comfort was the Christian hope of immortality and resurrection ( Romans 8:23-25). Since death is regarded as the penalty of sin ( Romans 5:12-21;  Romans 6:21-23,  1 Corinthians 15:21-22;  1 Corinthians 15:56), the salvation in Christ includes deliverance from death for the believer, and finally the abolition of death ( 1 Corinthians 15:24-28,  2 Timothy 1:10) and all other evils ( Revelation 21:4). Behind death, sin, and all evil, the Apostolic Church saw the devil and other powers of wickedness ( Ephesians 4:27,  1 Thessalonians 3:5,  Hebrews 2:14,  James 4:7,  1 Peter 5:8,  1 John 5:19,  Revelation 12:9), and accordingly Christ’s work, especially His death ( Colossians 2:15), was regarded as a victory over all evil powers ( 1 John 3:8).

This teaching is for the most part experimental and practical, and can still minister comfort and encouragement to the Christian believer. There are two speculative elements in it which modern Christian faith cannot unquestioningly accept-the connexion of death with sin as its penalty, and the existence of the devil and other evil powers. As regards the first point, the writer ventures to repeat a few sentences he has written elsewhere. ‘It is generally admitted that death is a natural necessity for animal organisms such as man’s, and that before man was in the world death prevailed. It seems vain to justify Paul by speculations such as these: that God anticipating sin introduced death into the natural order as a. penalty already prepared for sin, or that, had man preserved his innocence, he might have risen above this natural necessity. Paul’s interest is primarily in the moral character and the religious consciousness. What he was concerned with was man’s sense of the mystery and dread of the desolation of death, man’s looking for judgment after death. In such totality, including what man thinks of, and feels about, death, surely Paul’s view of the connexion between sin and death is not altogether false. It is man’s sense of guilt that invests death with its terror ( 1 Corinthians 15:56). Nor are we warranted in saying that conscience here is playing tricks on man, frightening him with illusions. If there he indeed a moral order in the world, an antagonism of God to sin, and if, as there is reason to believe, there is a moral continuity between this life and the next, such a change as death is may he conceived as fraught with moral significance, as introducing the soul into such conditions as have been determined by the judgment of God on the moral character of this life’ ( Studies of Paul and his Gospel , 1911, pp. 146-7). As regards the second point, one sentence regarding Paul will suffice. ‘In his cosmology, angelology, and demonology, as well as his eschatology, he remains essentially Jewish’ ( op. cit. p. 17); and this is equally true of the whole Apostolic Church. Christian faith need not burden itself with this load of Jewish beliefs.

There are two passages in which Paul attempts a theodicy ( Romans 8:18-25;  Romans 8:9-11), the first dealing with Nature and the second with human history. In the first passage he attributes to Nature consciousness of, and a dissatisfaction with, its present imperfection-a desire for, and an expectation of, its completion. He includes Nature in man’s grievous disaster, but also in his glorious destiny. As by the sin he has committed he has brought misery, so by the grace he will receive he will impart blessing. We are unable to accept ‘Paul’s account of the origin of physical evil as altogether due to man’s sin. There can, however, be no doubt that man has a vital, organic relation to his environment. The evolution of the world and the development of humanity are not independent but connected processes. If we are warranted in believing in the progress of the race, we are justified in hoping for a correspondent and consequent transformation of the universe, For the perfect man we may expect the perfect home’ ( Romans [Century Bible, 1901], p. 193). In the second passage we are not here concerned with the argument as a whole, but only with Paul’s conclusion, that, as the unbelief of the Jews has opened the door for the faith of the Gentiles, so the gathering in of the Gentiles will lead to the restoration of the Jews. ‘For God hath shut up all unto disobedience, that he might have mercy upon all’ ( Romans 11:32). Without ascribing to Paul on the ground of this and similar passages a dogmatic universalism , against which there is contrary evidence throughout the NT, we may assign to the Apostolic Church the hope of the final victory of Christ over all evil. The apostolic attitude towards the problem of evil cannot be described as optimism , for the reality of sin and pain is too seriously and sympathetically recognized, nor as pessimism , for the possibility of redemption is too confidently and persuasively urged, but it may be spoken of as meliorism , for it has the faith which claims a present salvation for every believer, and the hope of a final fulfilment of God’s purpose of grace, and both are linked with a love that sees in human need and pain an opportunity for service and sacrifice, in which man can regard himself as a fellow-worker with God in the solution of the problem of evil. To revert to the distinctions made in the beginning of this article, the apostolic view recognizes no metaphysical evil, for to be the creature, subject, and child of God, is for man only good; it links physical with moral evil, and makes deliverance from pain dependent on salvation from sin; and it throws all the emphasis on moral evil; for it is concerned not with the speculative intellect, but only with the moral conscience and religions consciousness of man.

Literature.-W. Beyschlag, NT Theology , Eng. translation, 1895, i. 228, ii. 107; G. B. Stevens, Theology of the NT , 1899, pp. 187, 375; T. v. Haering, The Christian Faith , Eng. translation, 1913, ii. 562-577; J. Martineau, A Study of Religion 2, 1889, ii. 49-132; A. B. Bruce, Apologetics , 1892, p. 63; A. M. Fairbairn, The Philosophy of the Christian Religion , 1902, pp. 94-168; G. W. Leibniz, Essais de Théodicée sur la Bonté de Dieu, la Liberté de l’homme et l’Origins du mal , 1710.

Alfred E. Garvie.

Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible [3]

EVIL is an older form of the word ‘ill’; used, both as substantive and adjective, to tr. [Note: translate or translation.] various synonyms and ranging in meaning from physical unfitness to moral wickedness. The former is archaic, but occurs in   Genesis 28:8 (AVm [Note: Authorized Version margin.] ),   Exodus 21:8 (AVm [Note: Authorized Version margin.] ),   Jeremiah 24:3 (AV [Note: Authorized Version.] ), and   Matthew 7:18 , though the two last passages are not without an ethical tinge. But the word almost invariably connotes what is either morally corrupt (see Sin) or injurious to life and happiness.

1 . In the OT the two meanings are at first scarcely differentiated. Whatever comes to man from without is, to begin with, attributed simply to God (  Amos 3:6 ,   Lamentations 3:38 ,   Ezekiel 14:9 ,   Isaiah 45:7 ). Destruction is wrought by His angels (  Exodus 12:23 ,   2 Samuel 24:16 ,   Psalms 78:49 ). Moral temptations come from Him (  2 Samuel 24:1 ,   1 Kings 22:23 ), though there is a tendency to embody them in beings which, though belonging to the host of heaven, are spoken of as evil or lying spirits (  1 Samuel 16:14 ,   Judges 9:23 ,   1 Kings 22:22 ). The serpent of the Fall narrative cannot be pressed to mean more than a symbol of temptation, though the form which the temptation takes suggests hostility to the will of God external to the spirit of the woman (  2 Corinthians 11:3 , cf.   Genesis 3:1-3 ). Then later we have the figure of the Adversary or Satan, who, though still dependent on the will of God, is nevertheless so identified with evil that he is represented as taking the initiative in seduction (  Zechariah 3:1 ,   1 Chronicles 21:1 , but cf.   2 Samuel 24:1 ). This marks the growth of the sense of God’s holiness (  Deuteronomy 32:4 etc.), the purity which cannot behold evil (  Habakkuk 1:13 ); and correspondingly sharpens the problem. Heathen gods are now identified with demons opposed to the God of Israel (  Deuteronomy 32:17 ,   Psalms 106:37; cf.   1 Corinthians 10:20 ). This tendency, increased perhaps by Persian influence, becomes dominant in apocryphal literature (  2 Peter 2:4 and   Judges 1:6 are based on the Book of Enoch), where the fallen angels are a kingdom at war with the Kingdom of God.

2 . In the NT moral evil is never ascribed to God (  James 1:13 ), being essentially hostile to His mind and will (  Romans 1:18-21; Rom 5:10 ,   1 John 1:5-7;   1 John 2:16; 1Jn 2:29;   1 John 3:4;   1 John 3:9 ); but to the Evil One (  Matthew 6:13;   Matthew 13:19 ,   1 John 5:19 ), an active and personal being identical with the Devil (  Matthew 13:39 ,   John 8:44 ) or Satan (  Matthew 4:10 ,   Mark 4:15 ,   Luke 22:31 ,   John 13:27 ), who with his angels (  Matthew 25:41 ) is cast down from heaven (  Revelation 12:9 , cf.   Luke 10:18 ), goes to and fro in the earth as the universal adversary (  1 Peter 5:8 ,   Ephesians 4:27;   Ephesians 6:11 ,   James 4:7 ), and will be finally imprisoned with his ministering spirits (  Revelation 20:2;   Revelation 20:10 , cf.   Matthew 25:41 ). Pain and suffering are ascribed sometimes to God (  Revelation 3:19 ,   1 Thessalonians 3:3 ,   Hebrews 12:5-11 ), inasmuch as all things work together for good to those that love Him (  Romans 8:28 ); sometimes to Satan (  Luke 13:16 ,   2 Corinthians 12:7 ) and the demons (  Matthew 8:28 etc.), who are suffered to hurt the earth for a season (  Revelation 9:1-11;   Revelation 12:12 ).

The speculative question of the origin of evil is not resolved in Holy Scripture, being one of those things of which we are not competent judges (see Butler’s Analogy , i. 7, cf.   1 Corinthians 13:12 ). Pain is justified by the redemption of the body (  Romans 8:18-25 ,   1 Peter 4:13 ), punishment by the peaceable fruits of righteousness (  Hebrews 12:7-11 ), and the permission of moral evil by the victory of the Cross (  John 12:31 ,   Romans 8:37-39 ,   Colossians 2:15 ,   1 Corinthians 15:24-28 ). Accept the facts and look to the end is the teaching of the Bible as a guide to practical religion (  James 5:11 ). Beyond this we enter the region of that high theology which comprehensive thinkers like Aquinas or Calvin have not shrunk from formulating, but which, so far as it is dealt with in the NT, appears rather as a by-product of evangelical thought, than as the direct purpose of revelation (as, e.g ., in   Romans 9:1-33 , where God’s elective choice is stated only as the logical presupposition of grace). St. Paul is content to throw the responsibility for the moral facts of the universe upon God (  Romans 9:19-24; cf.   Job 33:12 ,   Ecclesiastes 5:2 ,   Isaiah 29:16 ), who, however, is not defined as capricious and arbitrary power, but revealed as the Father, who loves the creatures of His hand, and has foreordained all things to a perfect consummation in Christ the Beloved (  Ephesians 1:3-14 etc.).

J. G. Simpson.

Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary [4]

is distinguished into natural and moral. Natural evil is whatever destroys or any way disturbs the perfection of natural beings, such as blindness, diseases, death, &c. Moral evil is the disagreement between the actions of a moral agent, and the rule of those actions, whatever it be. Applied to choice, or acting contrary to the moral or revealed laws of the Deity, it is termed wickedness, or sin. Applied to an act contrary to a mere rule of fitness, it is called a fault. The question concerning the origin of evil has very much perplexed philosophers and divines, both ancient and modern. Plato, for the solution of this question, maintained, that matter, from its nature, possesses a blind and refractory force, from which arises in it a propensity to disorder and deformity; and that this is the cause of all the imperfection which appears in the works of God, and the origin of evil. Matter, he conceives, resists the will of the supreme Artificer, so that he cannot possibly execute his designs; and this is the cause of the mixture of good and evil, which is found in the material world. "It cannot be," says he, "that evil should be destroyed, for there must always be something contrary to good;" and again, "God wills, as far as it is possible, every thing good, and nothing evil." What that property of matter is which opposes the wise and benevolent intentions of the first Intelligence, Plato has not clearly explained; but he speaks of it as ξυμφυτος επιθυμια , an intimate propensity to disorder, and says, that before nature was adorned with its present beautiful forms, it was inclined to confusion and deformity, and that from this habitude arises all the evil which happens in the world. Plutarch supposes the Platonic notion to be, that there is in matter an unconscious, irrational soul; and this supposition has been adopted by several modern writers. But the writings of Plato afford no evidence that he conceived the imperfection of matter to arise from any cause distinct from its nature. Such a notion is incongruous with Plato's general system, and is contrary to the doctrine of the Pythagorean school, to which he was probably indebted for his notions on this subject; for the philosophers of that sect held that motion is the effect of a power essential to matter. Some of the Stoics adopted the notion of the Platonists concerning the origin of evil and ascribed it to the defective nature of matter, which it is not in the power of the great Artificer to change; asserting, that imperfections appear in the world, not through any defect of skill in its author, but because matter will not admit of the accomplishment of his designs. But it was perceived by others, that this hypothesis was inconsistent with the fundamental doctrine of the Stoics concerning nature. For since, according to their system, matter itself receives all its qualities from God, if its defects be the cause of evil, these defects must be ultimately ascribed to him. No other way of relieving this difficulty remained, than to have recourse to fate, and say, that evil was the necessary consequence of that eternal necessity to which the great whole, comprehending both God and matter, is subject. Thus, when Chrysippus was asked whether diseases were to be ascribed to Divine providence, he replied that it was not the intention of nature that these things should happen; nor were they conformable to the will of the Author of nature and Parent of all good things; but that, in framing the world, some inconveniences had adhered by necessary consequence, to his wise and useful plan. To others the question concerning the origin of evil appeared so intricate and difficult, that, finding themselves unequal to the solution of it, they denied either that there is any God at all, or, at least, any author or governor of the world. The Epicureans belonged to this class; nor does Lucretius allege any other reason for denying the system of the world to be the production of a Deity beside its being so very faulty. Others again judged it to be more rational to assign a double cause of visible effects, than to assign no cause at all; as nothing, indeed, can be more absurd than to admit actions and effects without any agent and cause. These persons perceiving a mixture of good and evil, and being persuaded that so many inconsistencies and disorders could not proceed from a good being, supposed the existence of a malevolent principle, or god, directly contrary to the good one; hence they derived corruption and death, diseases, griefs, mischiefs, frauds, and villanies, while from the good being they deduced nothing but good. This opinion was held by many of the ancients; by the Persian magi, Manicheans, Paulicians, &c.

2. Dr. Samuel Clarke, in his "Demonstration of the Being and Attributes of God," deduces from the possibility and real existence of human liberty an answer to the question, What is the cause and original of evil? For liberty, he says, implying a natural power of doing evil, as well as good; and the imperfect nature of finite beings making it possible for them to abuse this their liberty to an actual commission of evil; and it being necessary to the order and beauty of the whole, and for displaying the infinite wisdom of the Creator, that there should be different and various degrees of creatures, whereof, consequently, some must be less perfect than others; hence there necessarily arises a possibility of evil, notwithstanding that the Creator is infinitely good. In short thus: all that we call evil is either an evil of imperfection, as the want of certain faculties and excellencies which other creatures have; or natural evil, as pain, death, and the like; or moral evil, as all kinds of vice. The first of these is not properly an evil: for every power, faculty, or perfection, which any creature enjoys, being the free gift of God, which he was no more obliged to bestow, than he was to confer being or existence itself, it is plain the want of any certain faculty or perfection in any kind of creatures which never belonged to their nature, is no more an evil to them than their never having been created, or brought into being at all, could properly have been called an evil. The second kind of evil, which we call natural evil, is either a necessary consequence of the former; as death, to a creature on whose nature immortality was never conferred; and then it is no more properly an evil than the former; or else it is counterpoised, in the whole, with as great or greater good, as the afflictions and sufferings of good men, and then also it is not properly an evil; or else, lastly, it is a punishment; and then it is a necessary consequent of the third and last sort of evil, namely, moral evil. And this arises wholly from the abuse of liberty, which God gave to his creatures for other purposes, and which it was reasonable and fit to give them for the perfection and order of the whole creation; only they, contrary to God's intention and command, have abused what was necessary for the perfection of the whole, to the corruption and depravation of themselves. And thus all sorts of evils have entered into the world, without any diminution to the infinite goodness of its Creator and Governor.

3. This is obviously all the answer which the question respecting the origin of evil is capable of receiving. It brings us to the point to which the Scriptures themselves lead us. And though many questions may yet be asked, respecting a subject so mysterious as the permission of evil by the Supreme Being, this is a part of his counsels of which we can have no cognizance, unless he is pleased to reveal them; and as revelation is silent upon this subject, except generally, that all his acts, his permissive ones as well as others, are "wise, and just and good" we may rest assured, that beyond what is revealed, human wisdom in the present state can never penetrate.

Bridgeway Bible Dictionary [5]

If Christians believe in a God of love and power who created and controls the world, how can they explain the presence and power of evil in the world? This question commonly puzzles people, but the Bible gives no direct answer to it. As usual the Bible’s response to the problem is practical rather than theoretical. It is more concerned with helping people develop character than with satisfying intellectual curiosity. And as people accept that help, they receive answers to some of the problems (cf.  John 7:17). (Concerning the superior knowledge that Gnostics claimed to have regarding good and evil see Knowledge .)

Human nature

God created the world good and he wanted the people of his creation to enjoy it with him ( Genesis 1:31;  1 Timothy 4:4;  Hebrews 4:4;  Hebrews 4:10). But since he created them as morally responsible beings with a freedom to make their own decisions, the possibility existed that they might misuse their freedom. They might choose to do what they knew they should not do ( Genesis 2:15-17). Maturity would come through making correct moral choices. The self-denial involved in rejecting tempting alternatives would strengthen character (cf.  Hebrews 5:8;  Hebrews 5:14).

God wanted people to live in a relationship of love with him and with their fellow human beings; but they could not love if they were not free. If they were robots, they could do what their maker programmed them to do, but they could not love or enjoy anything. However, as freedom produced the possibility of devotion and goodness, so also it produced the possibility of rebellion and evil. Evil was not a product of the creative activity of God, but a product of the wrong use of freedom by morally responsible beings ( Genesis 3:1-7;  James 1:12-13).

Life in a spoiled world

The Bible commonly speaks of evil in two different but related ways. Firstly, it speaks of evil in a moral sense similar to that considered above, where evil is the opposite of moral goodness ( Proverbs 8:13;  Jeremiah 7:24;  Micah 2:1;  Matthew 5:45;  Matthew 15:19;  Romans 7:19;  Romans 7:21;  2 Thessalonians 3:2; for details see Sin ). Satan, through whom this evil entered the human race, is fittingly called ‘the evil one’ ( Genesis 3:1;  Matthew 13:19;  1 John 2:13;  1 John 5:19; see Satan ).

Secondly, the Bible speaks of evil in a more general sense, where it refers to calamities, conflicts, sufferings, misfortunes and even to things such as bad health and bad fruit. The word again means the opposite of good, but with a non-moral meaning ( Deuteronomy 7:15;  2 Samuel 15:14;  Matthew 7:17;  Luke 16:25). Yet there is a connection between these two uses of ‘evil’. Because the evil of sin has infected the world, calamities and misfortunes have become part of life in the world.

When the Old Testament says that God sends both good and evil, it is referring not to moral good and moral evil, but to life’s blessings and troubles. Israelites in Old Testament times acknowledged God’s overall control in all the affairs of life, both good and bad ( Job 2:10;  Isaiah 45:7). They saw that the evils of conflict, disaster and destruction were often God’s means of punishing the wicked ( 1 Samuel 16:14;  Jeremiah 35:17;  Amos 3:6).

No cause for despair

Although the entrance of sin into the world has spoiled God’s purposes for the human race, it has not overthrown them. God can bring good out of evil ( Genesis 50:20;  Romans 8:28). The troubles of life are not always God’s judgments for specific wrongdoings. God usually does not explain why particular evils occur or why people suffer from them. Nevertheless, he consistently uses those evils to bring positive benefits ( Habakkuk 1:13;  Habakkuk 3:17-19;  Luke 13:1-5;  John 9:2-3;  2 Corinthians 12:7-9; see Suffering ). This, however, does not excuse the people who cause the evils ( Isaiah 10:5-11;  Jeremiah 51:5-10;  Jeremiah 51:34-36;  Matthew 26:24;  Acts 2:23;  Romans 3:8).

Probably the most feared of all evils is death, but God uses even death to fulfil his purposes for good. Through death he has conquered death and delivered people from the power of evil ( Hebrews 2:14; see Death ). Through Christ’s death, believers can enjoy victory over evil while still living in the present evil world ( Romans 6:7-11;  Romans 6:14;  Galatians 1:4; see Salvation ). They will enjoy final victory when Christ returns to remove all evil, even to its last trace, and bring in God’s new heaven and new earth ( 1 Corinthians 15:25-28;  Revelation 21:4;  Revelation 21:27;  Revelation 22:1-3).

Holman Bible Dictionary [6]

The Problem of Evil Evil is a major theoretical and practical problem for a Christian. Evil is of two types. First, there is natural evil. There are destructive forces in nature, ranging from earthquakes and tidal waves to cancer. Second, there is moral evil which has its source in the choice and action of humans. This type of evil includes war, crime, cruelty, and slavery.

If God is all-powerful and good, as the Bible affirms, why does He allow evil? There are statements and emphases in the Bible which help to explain and reduce the problem of natural and moral evil.

Natural Evil Concerning natural evil, several emphases should be noted. First, moral evil accounts for much of natural evil. In Genesis, evil and suffering appeared only after the Fall ( Genesis 3:16-19 ). By contrast, the original creation is very good ( Genesis 1:31 ). The new heavens and the new earth will have no more suffering ( Revelation 21:4 ). This means that evil and suffering are not eternally inevitable. Rather they are bound up with the actions of sinful humans. Physical suffering and pain and finally death have been introduced as a consequence of the Fall ( Genesis 3:16-19 ).

Second, God disciplines His people collectively and individually, even through natural evil and pain, to bring them closer to His purposes ( Proverbs 3:11-12;  Jeremiah 18:1-10 ). This emphasis is also found in the New Testament ( Hebrews 2:10;  Hebrews 5:8-9;  Hebrews 12:5-11 ).

Third, personal life cannot develop except in a stable environment. God limited Himself by the establishment of regularity and law. This regularity of nature is an important factor in developing human personality. The earthquake, volcano, and storm, which cause human suffering, all belong to nature's regularity. Some so-called natural evil, therefore, can be attributed to the necessary operation of natural uniformities.

Fourth, natural evils may be used for judgment upon sin. It is deeply ingrained in the Bible that physical evils have been used by God for the punishment of individual and national wickedness. Noah's flood, the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, and the fall of Jerusalem are examples. This does not mean that all physical evils are the punishment of physical sins.

Moral Evil There are also some biblical teachings which help us to understand moral evil from the Christian perspective.

First, God limited Himself in giving people and angels freedom. To be truly human, a person must have the power of choice. Apparently God felt that, for reasons which were evident to Him but which we can only partly understand, it was better to make human beings than robots.

Robots might respond in an automatically correct way in every situation, but they would be machines, not persons. Not even God can love machines in the sense that persons can be loved.

Second, humans used freedom in such a way as to bring in evil. The Bible tells us that with the Fall, humanity's first sin, a radical change took place in the universe. Death came upon mankind ( Genesis 2:17;  Genesis 3:2-3 ,  Genesis 3:19 ). God pronounced a curse upon mankind which is represented by certain specifics: anguish in childbearing ( Genesis 3:16 ), male domination over the wife ( Genesis 3:16 ), toilsome labor ( Genesis 3:17 ), and thorns and thistles ( Genesis 3:18 ). These are probably only a sample of the actual effects upon the creation. Paul in  Romans 8:22 said that the whole creation has been affected by human sin and is now in bondage to decay.

Third, back of human revolt stood Satan. In  Genesis 3:1 we read that the serpent tempted Eve. Thus, an evil force was present within the creation. It was Satan's appeal which stirred within Adam and Eve the desire which led them to sin. Compare   Revelation 12:9 .

It is clear, then, that God did not create evil and sin. He merely provided the options necessary for human freedom. People sinned, and before that, the fallen angels, not God.

Fourth, even though evil is because of human revolt and failure, God continues to be active in redeeming people from their self-imposed evil.

Fifth, God deals with evil through judgment and wrath. This judgment can be seen in the Old Testament ( Deuteronomy 28:20-21;  Isaiah 3:11 ). The wrath of God is not divine vindictiveness, but is dynamic, persistent opposition to sin ( Romans 1:18 ). Thus, a principle of judgment upon, and annulment of, evil can be discerned at work in history and even in individual lives.

Sixth, God deals with evil through the incarnation, the cross, and the resurrection. The Bible teaches that God Himself in Jesus Christ became the victim of evil so that there might be victory over evil. It is also indicated in such passages as  Colossians 1:24;  Philippians 3:10; and  2 Corinthians 12:7 that the Christian can bear suffering for others and assist in God's redemptive purpose.

After all the solutions are considered, we still realize that the problem of evil is not completely solved on an intellectual level from our limited human perspective. However, on the practical and experiential level we can say with the apostle Paul that “in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us” ( Romans 8:37 ).

John P. Newport

King James Dictionary [7]

E'VIL, a. e'vl. Heb. to be unjust or injurious, to defraud.

1. Having bad qualities of a natural kind mischievous having qualities which tend to injury, or to produce mischief.

Some evil beast hath devoured him.  Genesis 37

2. Having bad qualities of a moral kind wicked corrupt perverse wrong as evil thoughts evil deeds evil speaking an evil generation. 3. Unfortunate unhappy producing sorrow, distress, injury or calamity as evil tidings evil arrows evil days.

E'VIL, n. Evil is natural or moral. Natural evil is any thing which produces pain, distress, loss or calamity, or which in any way disturbs the peace, impairs the happiness, or destroys the perfection of natural beings.

Moral evil is any deviation of a moral agent from the rules of conduct prescribed to him by God, or by legitimate human authority or it is any violation of the plain principles of justice and rectitude.

There are also evils called which affect injuriously the peace or prosperity of a city or state and political evils, which injure a nation, in its public capacity.

All wickedness, all crimes, all violations of law and right are moral evils. Diseases are natural evils, but they often proceed from moral evils.

2. Misfortune mischief injury.

There shall no evil befall thee.  Psalms 91

A prudent man foreseeth the evil, and hideth himself.  Proverbs 22

3. Depravity corruption of heart, or disposition to commit wickedness malignity.

The heart of the sons of men is full of evil.  Ecclesiastes 9

4. Malady as the king's evil or scrophula.

E'VIL, adv. generally contracted to

1. Not well not with justice or propriety unsuitable.

Evil it beseems thee.

2. Not virtuously not innocently. 3. Not happily unfortunately.

It went evil with his house.

4. Injuriously not kindly.

The Egyptians evil entreated us, and afflicted us.

In composition, evil, denoting something bad or wrong, is often contracted to

Webster's Dictionary [8]

(1): ( n.) Moral badness, or the deviation of a moral being from the principles of virtue imposed by conscience, or by the will of the Supreme Being, or by the principles of a lawful human authority; disposition to do wrong; moral offence; wickedness; depravity.

(2): ( a.) Having qualities tending to injury and mischief; having a nature or properties which tend to badness; mischievous; not good; worthless or deleterious; poor; as, an evil beast; and evil plant; an evil crop.

(3): ( a.) Having or exhibiting bad moral qualities; morally corrupt; wicked; wrong; vicious; as, evil conduct, thoughts, heart, words, and the like.

(4): ( a.) Producing or threatening sorrow, distress, injury, or calamity; unpropitious; calamitous; as, evil tidings; evil arrows; evil days.

(5): ( n.) Anything which impairs the happiness of a being or deprives a being of any good; anything which causes suffering of any kind to sentient beings; injury; mischief; harm; - opposed to good.

(6): ( n.) malady or disease; especially in the phrase king's evil, the scrofula.

(7): ( adv.) In an evil manner; not well; ill; badly; unhappily; injuriously; unkindly.

Charles Buck Theological Dictionary [9]

Is distinguished into natural and moral. Natural evil is whatever destroys or any way disturbs the perfection of natural beings; such as blindness, diseases, death, &c. Moral evil is the disagreement between the actions of a moral agent, and the rule of those actions, whatever it is. Applied to a choice, or acting contrary to the moral or revealed laws of the Deity, it is termed wickedness or sin. Applied to acting contrary to the mere rule of fitness, a fault.

See article SIN.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia [10]

ēv ´' l , ē´vil רע , ra‛  ; πονηρός , ponērós , κακός , kakós , κακόν , kakón ): In the Bible it is represented as moral and physical. We choose to discuss the subject under these heads. Many of the evils that come upon men have not been intended by those who suffer for them. Disease, individual and national calamity, drought, scarcity of food, may not always be charged to the account of intentional wrong. Many times the innocent suffer with, and even for, the guilty. In such cases, only physical evil is apparent. Even when the suffering has been occasioned by sin or dereliction of duty, whether the wrong is active or passive, many, perhaps the majority of those who are injured, are not accountable in any way for the ills which come upon them. Neither is God the author of moral evil. "God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempteth no man" ( James 1:13 ). See Temptation .

1. Moral Evil

By this term we refer to wrongs done to our fellowman, where the actor is responsible for the action. The immorality may be present when the action is not possible. "But if that evil servant shall say in his heart" ( Matthew 24:48 ,  Matthew 24:49 ), whether he shall smite his fellow-servants or not, the moral evil is present. See Sin . "All these evil things proceed from within, and defile the man" ( Mark 7:21-23 ). The last six commandments of the Decalogue apply here ( Exodus 20:12-17 ). To dishonor one's parents, to kill, to commit adultery, to steal, to bear false witness and to covet are moral evils. The spiritual import of these commandments will be found in  Matthew 5:21 ,  Matthew 5:22 ,  Matthew 5:27 ,  Matthew 5:28 . "But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness" ( Matthew 6:23 ). Words and deeds are coined in the heart before the world sees or hears them ( Matthew 12:34 ,  Matthew 12:35 ). The word ought or its equal may be found in all languages; hence, it is in the mind of all people as well as in our laws that for the deeds and words we do and speak, we are responsible. "Break off thy sins by righteousness" (  Daniel 4:27 ) shows that, in God's thought, it was man's duty, and therefore within his power, to keep the commandment. "Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil; learn to do well" ( Isaiah 1:16 f). We cannot think of God commanding men to do what He knew they had no ability to do! God has a standing offer of pardon to all men who turn from their evil ways and do that which is right (  Ezekiel 33:11-14 f). Evil begins in the least objectionable things. In   Romans 1:18-23 , we have Paul's view of the falling away of the Gentiles. "Knowing God" ( Romans 1:21 ), they were "without excuse" ( Romans 1:20 ), but "glorified him not as God, neither gave thanks; but became vain in their reasonings, and their senseless heart was darkened" ( Romans 1:21 ). "Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools" ( Romans 1:22 ). This led the way into idolatry, and that was followed by all the corruption and wrongdoing to be instigated by a heart turned away from all purity, and practiced in all the iniquity to be suggested by lust without control. Paul gives fifteen steps in the ladder on which men descend into darkness and ruin ( Galatians 5:19-21 ). When men become evil in themselves, they necessarily become evil in thought and deed toward others. This they bring upon themselves, or give way to, till God shall give "them up unto a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not fitting" ( Romans 1:28 ). Those thus fallen into habits of error, we should in meekness correct, that "they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him unto his will" ( 2 Timothy 2:25 ,  2 Timothy 2:26 ).

2. Physical Evil

Usually, in the Old Testament the Hebrew word ra‛ is employed to denote that which is bad. Many times the bad is physical; it may have been occasioned by the sins for which the people of the nation were responsible, or it may have come, not as a retribution, but from accident or mismanagement or causes unknown. Very many times the evil is a corrective, to cause men to forsake the wrong and accept the right. The flood was sent upon the earth because "all flesh had corrupted their way" (  Genesis 6:12 ). This evil was to serve as a warning to those who were to live after. The ground had already been cursed for the good of Cain ( Genesis 4:12 ). Two purposes seemed to direct the treatment: (1) to leave in the minds of Cain and his descendants the knowledge that sin brings punishment, and (2) to increase the toil that would make them a better people. God overthrew Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah and Zeboim, cities of the plain, making them "an example unto those that should live ungodly" ( 2 Peter 2:6 ). In the Book of Isa the prophet, we find a number of "burdens": the burden of Babylon (13:1-22); the burden of Moab ( Isaiah 15:1-9 ); the burden of Damascus ( Isaiah 17:1-14 ); the burden of Egypt (19:1-17); the burden of the Wilderness of the Sea ( Isaiah 21:1-10 ); the burden of Dumah ( Isaiah 21:11 ,  Isaiah 21:12 ); the burden upon Arabia (21:13-17); the burden of the Valley of Vision (22:1-25); the burden of Tyre (23:1-18); the burden of the Beasts of the South ( Isaiah 30:6-14 ); the burden of the Weary Beast ( Isaiah 46:1 ,  Isaiah 46:2 ). These may serve as an introduction to the story of wrongdoing and physical suffering threatened and executed. Isa contains many denunciations against Israel: against the Ten Tribes for following the sin introduced by Jeroboam the son of Nebat; and the threatening against Judah and Benjamin for not heeding the warnings. Jeremiah saw the woes that were sure to come upon Judah; for declaring them, he was shut up in prison, and yet they came, and the people were carried away into Babylon. These were the evils or afflictions brought upon the nations for their persistence in sin. "I form the light, and create darkness; I make peace, and create evil; I am Yahweh, that doeth all these things" ( Isaiah 45:7 ). These chastisements seemed grievous, and yet they yielded peaceable fruit unto them that were exercised thereby ( Hebrews 12:11 ).

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature [11]

is discord or disturbance in the order of the universe. Leibnitz divides it into metaphysical evil, i.e., imperfection; physical evil, i.e., suffering; moral evil, i.e., sin. Origen defined evil to be the negation of good; and in this he has been followed by many Christian thinkers. The distinction into natural and moral evil is the only one now generally recognized.

1. "Natural evil is whatever destroys or any way disturbs the perfection of natural beings, such as blindness, diseases, death, etc. But as All that we call natural evil is not the penalty of sin, nor, as some have supposed, Only The penalty of it, such disturbance is not necessarily an evil, inasmuch as it may be counterpoised, in the whole, with an equal if rot greater good, as in the afflictions and sufferings of good men. When such disturbance occurs as the penalty of transgression, it is the necessary consequence of moral evil." The tendency of modern thought is towards the doctrine that the (apparent) disturbances of the physical world are likely to be reconciled with universal law as science advances.

2. "Moral evil is the disagreement between the actions of a moral agent and the rule of those actions, whatever it be. Applied to choice, or acting contrary to the revealed law of God, it is termed Wickedness or Sin. Applied to an act contrary to a mere rule of fitness, it is called a fault" (Bucky s.v.). On the origin of evil, and its relations to the government of God, (See Sin); (See Theodicy).