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EVIL (Heb. ra‘, Gr. ponēros, kakos). A term designating what is not in harmony with the divine order. In the Bible, evil is clearly depicted under two distinct aspects; moral and physical. The Hebrew word ra‘ has an immensely wide coverage, ranging from what tastes “nasty” right through to intrinsic moral and spiritual evil. Its two main “blocks” of meaning, spread evenly over some six thousand occurrences, cover meanings from “calamity,” “disaster,” and “downfall” to “wrong,” “wicked,” and “pernicious.” For the precise meaning the context must always be consulted; for example, in
The reconciliation of the existence of evil with the goodness and holiness of a God infinite in his wisdom and power is one of the great problems of theism. The Scriptures indicate that evil has been permitted by God in order that his justice might be manifested in its punishment and his grace in its forgiveness (
Bibliography: C. R. Smith, The Bible Doctrine of Sin, 1953; O. F. Clarke, God and Suffering, 1964; J. Hick, Evil and the God of Love, 1966; J. W. Wenham, The Goodness of God, 1974; W. Grundmann, TDNT, 3:469-84.——BP
EVIL (רַע, H8273, bad, usually tr. evil; πονηρός, G4505, wicked; κακός, G2805, bad).
Ponērós, with its noun ponēría, occurs 82 times in the NT; of physical evil only twice (
Natural, or physical evil, occurs when undesirable natural occurrences tend to frustrate human life. Examples of such evils are earthquakes, tornadoes, tidal waves, disease, and imbecility. Accidents are usually thought of as instances of natural evil, although they often happen as a result of improper human decisions. A psalmist complained, “Evils have encompassed me without number” (
On this problem, some have been embittered, “pan-diabolistic” pessimists (Buddha, Schopenhauer, Joseph Wood Krutch). Others have been optimists of some sort (Neo-Platonists, Spinoza, Calvin,), agreeing in general with Robert Browning who said, “God’s in his heaven—all’s right with the world” (“Pippa Passes”)—and with Alexander Pope who announced, “One truth is clear, Whatever is, is right” (Essay on Man). Some would call themselves meliorists (esp. E. S. Brightman), and say that both good and evil are real and that men should become co-workers with God to rout evil and enhance what is beneficial to men.
It might well be that an adequate conception of the Incarnation would furnish a pointer on this problem. Perhaps Christ, who holds the solution of moral evil, is also the locus of solution for the abysmal mystery of natural evil. His enfleshment surely implies that materiality as such is not evil. His healings suggest that diseases are not necessarily the direct will of the Father. Since the Father is “to unite all things in him [Christ]” (
H. W. Robinson, Suffering: Human and Divine (1939); C. R. Smith, The Bible Doctrine of Sin (1953); A. MacLeish, J. B. (1956); C. Marney, Faith in Conflict (1957).
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)
ev’-’-l, e’-vil ra`; poneros, @kakos, @kakon:
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" (
1. Moral Evil:
2. Physical Evil: