Some thirty years ago now, when I taught my class at Rutgers on “The Problem of Suffering in the Biblical Traditions,” I came to realize – or at least came to realize more clearly – that a number of the views set forth in the Bible simply did not resonate with me. Which, I suppose, is a more tactful way of saying that I simply didn’t agree with them.
By far the most prominent explanation for suffering in the Bible is that God is using pain, misery, and human disaster in order to punish his people because they have failed to live up to his standards and to follow his will. He penalizes them by inflicting pain That is why there are droughts, famines, economic crises, and military disasters. That lesson is taught time after time after time in the Hebrew Bible – just read Deuteronomy, or Amos, or Jeremiah, or, well, any of the prophets. I suppose when I was a fundamentalist I completely accepted that view. But eventually – probably when teaching this class — I came to realize that I simply did and could not agree with it. This is a view of God — starving people to death or having them hacked to shreds, because they broke his law – that I simply couldn’t buy.
Other views found in the Bible I considered more plausible. For example…
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