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Brothers Karamazov/Bible on Suffering

from niki - Tuesday, November 12, 2002
accessed 2097 times

Request for Biblical evidence concerning the notion of Suffering

I am writing a paper in regards to F. Dostoevsky’s "Brother's Karamazov" and exploring the question: Why is suffering necessary to find spiritual/psychological redemption? Does anyone remember what the Bible (esp. the New Testament—relating to Christianity) has to say about suffering? I am not that interested in exploring the "redemption through Christ" theme (have that one down, thanks! :-) but rather IF an individual must suffer BEFORE he can be cleansed/renewed/redeemed.

I see suffering IS necessary based on the premise that one must confess their sins in order to be saved. To come to this realization (that one is a sinner) could be considered suffering because it is a painful realization to admit one is not perfect (particularly for us proud folks). BUT, is suffering necessary for redemption?

If Jesus came to save humans from their damnation (make humans perfect by washing away their sins) one no longer suffers for their own sins once they accept him as their 'savior.' HOWEVER, as shown above, suffering may not only be paying for one's sins. Suffering could simply be the process of discovering one is a sinner, and that he or she must reconcile himself or herself in some manner (ie: accepting Christ). Therefore, I see that suffering IS necessary in order to become a “new creature” because if there is no realization of imperfection (assuming that realization is painful), there would be no reason to become new.

Can anyone find Bible verses to support/deny this claim:
Suffering is necessary in order to become a “new creature?”

Thanks, Bible scholars! I hope this is not a painful task. If it is, I suggest you read "Brothers Karamazov"--D takes the 'magic' out of Christianity in a very, very fascinating way--perfect for

(Disclaimer: I am not interested in personal beliefs on this manner—only textual evidence.)

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from thatata
Friday, October 05, 2007 - 14:03


The Bible is definitely into that whole suffering thing; I think Dostoyevsky who apeared to be a christian, perhaps he was, i cant be sure, but he ostensibly seemed to promote Othordox Russian Christiantity . Was he? , I cant be sure.

As pertains to the book, The Brothers Karamazov, I belive his aim, as recorded in his diary was to, "find the man in man". And he may have succeded more then anyone, one of the paradoxes of Dostoyevsky is,he gives his opposition a better argument then his own, Ivans blasphemies are more powerfull then Alyosha or the monk Zossimas Christianity.

Although a supposed Christian, his book is for humanity. And it's not a bad read.

And I mean it Myaaaaaaaaaaaaaaan!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (with no sarcasm)

(reply to this comment)

From one of the...
Saturday, October 06, 2007, 05:56

....things I found disturbing as a child was that the gods in the garden of eden ordered and rewarded Abels blood sacrifice (to venerate the gods-and as a portion of the mens wealth-tax?) over Cain's fruit.

and the first devision of mankind seems to occur-

the gods it seems want blood! (reply to this comment
from ophelia
Saturday, November 16, 2002 - 03:47


Agony, affliction, or distress; intense pain or sorrow. Suffering has been part of the human experience since man's fall into sin . The Psalms, one-third of which are laments, include graphic descriptions of suffering . The theme of the Book of Job is the problem of suffering and why God permits the righteous to suffer.
The Bible makes it clear that some suffering is the result of evil action or sin in the world. This type of suffering came upon man after the FALL in the Garden of Eden . But some suffering is not related to the past. It is forward-looking in that it serves to shape and refine God's children . The Book of Hebrews declares that Jesus learned obedience by the things which He suffered , and that He was perfected through suffering . Suffering has the potential of demonstrating God's power . Those who suffer are in a position to comfort others .
Suffering also helps believers to identify with Christ, which is more than suffering for Christ. Through persecution and tortures, people have suffered for the sake of Christ and His kingdom . To suffer with Christ, however, is another matter. Paul speaks of the "fellowship of His [Christ's] sufferings" . Believers share in the suffering of Christ in the sense that through suffering they identify with Christ. To be a disciple involves suffering like the Master. Christ as Lord and His believers as disciples are bonded even further through the experience of suffering.
Another type of suffering is that endured for the sake of others. The prophet Isaiah portrayed the Suffering Servant as sin-bearer when he declared, "By His stripes we are healed" . Jesus announced repeatedly that His suffering was His mission . Looking back to the cross, Peter explained that "Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God" .
(from Nelson's Illustrated Bible Dictionary)
(Copyright (C) 1986, Thomas Nelson Publishers)

(reply to this comment)
from PompousJohn
Friday, November 15, 2002 - 09:55

As many have answered this post, and so far only Joe has made an attempt to actually answer the question, (albeit briefly) I am going to go ahead and throw in my two cents:

The first noteworthy item in regards to the biblical perspective on suffering can be drawn from the very use of the word “suffer” in the early times of the English language: it meant “permit” as in “suffer little children” and “thou shalt not suffer a witch to live” while at the same time it also meant suffering as we use the word today. This suggests that perhaps in the minds of our ancestors (or those ancestors who spoke English anyway) that suffering was a kind of gateway to achievement, or permission, and that the two were inseparable. Apparently, in order for permission to be granted, there had to be some suffering. It also seems that the biblical concept of suffering was voluntary, people allowed themselves to suffer, so that they might reap some reward. I realize this is an assumption based on some rather circumstantial evidence, and therefore an exceedingly weak argument, “noteworthy” none the less.

The second item, (and this is largely circumstantial as well) are the many biblical references to a virtue, (also one of the “fruits of the spirit” that all family members are familiar with), called “long-suffering”. “Charity suffereth long” from I Corinthians 13 comes to mind here, I wonder if it’s worth debating whether “Charity” (the Family liked to substitute “Love” here) is permissive, or just has a lot of bad days as per this scripture…nah, it aint worth it. In Numbers however, we are told that the Lord is possessed of this particular virtue in a rather confusing passage:

NUM 14:18 The LORD is long-suffering, and of great mercy, forgiving iniquity and transgression, and by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation.

Moving on to the current use of the word “suffering” and biblical references to it, I find that in the old testament, this kind of suffering is ONLY referred to as a BAD thing, brought upon us by our enemies, or by our own mistakes, the Lord is pictured as a deliverer from suffering, not the cause of it:

PS 9:13 Have mercy upon me, O LORD; consider my trouble which I suffer of them that hate me, thou that liftest me up from the gates of death:

PS 34:10 The young lions do lack, and suffer hunger: but they that seek the LORD shall not want any good thing.

PROV 19:15 Slothfulness casteth into a deep sleep; and an idle soul shall suffer hunger.

PROV 19:19 A man of great wrath shall suffer punishment: for if thou deliver him, yet thou must do it again.

And of course the ever popular:

PS 34:19 Many are the afflictions of the righteous: but the LORD delivereth him out of them all.

Really the concept of enduring arbitrary suffering as a means of self-improvement doesn’t show up in the bible at all until the New Testament, and even then not until the Epistles, The Apostles had their little cult running, and it had gone international, and it was necessary for them to suppress any doubts among their followers by convincing them that by accepting the suffering brought upon them by the cult and it’s leaders they were actually going to become better people and have a bigger reward in Heaven and bla bla bla. This is actually where Judeo-Christian philosophy/theology first begins to blatantly turn its collective back on the laws of nature, and proclaim that Faith was the key to accepting these seeming contradictions. The instinctual nature of man causes us to avoid pain and suffering whenever we can, and we are only really productive and efficient when engaged in efforts that we enjoy, and which bring us pleasure in doing, and not only in the rewards reaped from work that we hate, such as a paycheck from a shit job, or the dubious “rewards” of membership in a cult, reaped by denying our own individuality and instincts of self-preservation. (more on this topic later, if I ever have time and enough caffeine and/or alcohol to get into it)

Now we get to the Epistles in the new Testament, and some of the early church fathers are going to tell us about how suffering makes us better people; their logic seems to be that since Jesus suffered so much, the more we suffered the more we’d be like Jesus. We are also told repeatedly that we get extra brownie points if we suffer for no apparent reason, or on account of our good deeds. There are a lot of these, I picked out what seemed the most relevant, I hope the applicableness of each scripture posted here is self-apparent. If not, well then you definitely should have been paying more attention during word time, young lady.

If you need more evidence, you should find some interesting things running a search under “affliction” I did, but the results would have been much too long to go into here, this post is most likely getting boring as it is.

ROM 8:17 And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.

ROM 8:18 For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.

2COR 1:5 For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ.

2COR 1:6 And whether we be afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation, which is effectual in the enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer: or whether we be comforted, it is for your consolation and salvation.

2COR 1:7 And our hope of you is stedfast, knowing, that as ye are partakers of the sufferings, so shall ye be also of the consolation.

PHIL 1:29 For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake;

PHIL 3:8 Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ,

PHIL 3:10 That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death;

2THESS 1:5 Which is a manifest token of the righteous judgment of God, that ye may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which ye also suffer:

2TIM 2:12 If we suffer, we shall also reign with him: if we deny him, he also will deny us:

2TIM 3:12 Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.

HEB 5:8 Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered;

HEB 13:12 Wherefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered without the gate.

JAS 5:10 Take, my brethren, the prophets, who have spoken in the name of the Lord, for an example of suffering affliction, and of patience.

1PET 1:11 Searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow.

1PET 2:19 For this is thankworthy, if a man for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully.

1PET 2:20 For what glory is it, if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? but if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God.

1PET 2:21 For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps:

1PET 2:23 Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously:

1PET 3:14 But and if ye suffer for righteousness' sake, happy are ye: and be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled;

1PET 3:17 For it is better, if the will of God be so, that ye suffer for well doing, than for evil doing.

1PET 4:16 Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf.

1PET 4:19 Wherefore let them that suffer according to the will of God commit the keeping of their souls to him in well doing, as unto a faithful Creator.

1PET 5:10 But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you.

Well I hope this answers your question, if you want to run some of your own searches, try I am sure there are other similar websites out there, that’s just the first on I found.

(reply to this comment)
From niki
Monday, November 25, 2002, 22:17

Hey mr. PompousJohn,

Sorry this is coming so late, but I do want to thank you for your very detailed guide to the topic of "suffering" Biblical-style. Your references have been a wonderful aid to my paper (which I almost have sorted!). "Suffering" has taken a bit of a back seat in the paper; nonetheless, I believe I have a clearer idea of the topic as a whole, particularly from the standpoint of Christianity, and that is an extra 'brownie-point.' Yes, I "definitely should have been paying more attention during word time." I'm glad I can use your mind to fill in those blanks. :-)

(reply to this comment
from Nique
Thursday, November 14, 2002 - 16:44

Are you only looking at the bible angle on redemption through suffering? If not, I took a class on Theatre History where we studied the great Greek tragic plays and learned about Aristotle's "The Poetics". In Edwin Wilson's Living Theatre: A History, Aristotle's definition of tragedy is stated, "tragedy produces the emotions of pity and fear but there is a katharsis of these emotions...these emotions, however, are purged by the drama because the audience acknowledges them, and by doing so cleanses itself of their deleterious effects...".
Another definition was that "the tragic character, rather than the audience is purged by pity and fear by discovering the reason for his or her suffering and downfall." Each tragic character in the great Greek tragedies was usually afflicted with and suffered because of a tragic flaw in their character, usually excessive pride, and through their suffering came to a katharsis or purification. The characters in these tragedies were usually a king or queen and causing the audience members to fear that a similar fate could befall them.
I am by no means the expert on this but your question reminded me of another angle on redemption through suffering so I figured I'd post it. As far as the bible stuff, I'll try an look it up and see what I find. It has definitely been a while since I've looked at it. The last time was '99 for a paper.
(reply to this comment)
From niki
Thursday, November 14, 2002, 20:34

Thank you for your insight concerning suffering in the Greek tragedies. I will have to do some reseach on the topic. I wonder if the idea of suffering to become new is strictly a component of Greek/Judo-Christian theology. Edmund Spenser's 'Faerie Queene' also deals with suffering, or rather 'labor and long time' in order to fashion a man into a knight. I wonder if this idea of suffering is an Eastern belief as well??
(reply to this comment
from Bella
Wednesday, November 13, 2002 - 20:31

Ok Sis, this is a little off topic but possibly something interesting for your paper, a possible angle - what about the suffering of Christ himself in order to bring salvation? Look at Isaiah 53 (which is presumed to be about the Messiah, right?). Additionally, the fact that God turned his back while Jesus was on the cross etc etc ... Were these things inevitable events that Christ had to endure in order to save, like the inevitability of our own suffering in order for us to have salvation? Just a thought, could be way off topic but perhaps not. I do not own and have not read a Bible since I left TF, so I can't give you exact scriptures here though, sorry hon. Oh and by the way - these aren't my personal feelings on the subject, but you already know that. =)
(reply to this comment)
From niki
Wednesday, November 13, 2002, 22:08

I like the example of Christ's suffering. I think it helps to confirm the idea that suffering must occur during the process of becoming a 'new creature’ (IICor 5:16)—though Christ’s suffering is a bit more complex since his end goal was offering man redemption from sin, and not his (Christ’s) own transformation.

I still cannot discern, however, IF suffering is a byproduct of the transformation, OR if it is a necessary factor in order for that transformation to occur. Take the example of a chemical reaction: some elements MUST have heat (fire/energy) in order for a chemical reaction to occur, and thereby produce a new material (molecule). Is it similar--from the standpoint of the Bible--for the formation of a "new creature?" We see with the example of Job (and others) that suffering coexists with his 'transformation;' but I ask the question: WHY? Why could he not become a 'new creature' without suffering?

Unlike Christ, Job does not suffer for the sins of mankind. Why does he suffer? To prove his faith? To become something 'new?' Is he something 'new' at the end? And if he is, why did he not just become that new person, instead of being ripped of his livelihood, etc., before he became it?

Suffering MAY just be an expression of work—which is required in any type of transformation. This can be demonstrated in more secular terms: I see that my house needs a new paint job. I sit on the grass, contemplating the fact that it must be painted. I figure out how much money the paint will cost me; how much energy I must exert in order to find a ladder, balance it so I do not plunge to my death; how much time it will take; etc., etc…. I may never paint my house because of the pain of the activity (esp. if I am lazy). Or, I may not be willing to spend my few pennies, which I previously set aside for beer, on the paint. I realize it is going to cost me time, energy, and money to paint my house. If having a newly painted house means enough to me, however, I will undertake the project, regardless of the loss involved. Further, I know that if I remain on the grass in mere contemplation, the house will never be painted.

Therefore, maybe suffering is the work required for transformation; without it, nothing will be done.

Acts 14:22 says, “..we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God.” (entering the kingdom of God could represent a type of transformation, since one must be ‘saved’ in order to enter..) I can find so many ‘must’ with no real ‘because…’… I cannot find an explanation for why it is necessary; only that it is. Maybe there is no rational explanation for suffering in the Bible—maybe there is?
(reply to this comment
From Bella
Thursday, November 14, 2002, 15:31

Niki, I see your dilemma. I too cannot think of any examples where Bible explicitly states that suffering is necessary in order for one to be saved. I have an idea about analyzing the word "salvation" itself, but, it is too difficult to express on paper so I'll call you. (reply to this comment
From niki
Thursday, November 14, 2002, 16:32

Yea call me. I would love to hear your ideas...

As for my paper: I am still exploring the subject of suffering in relation to 'salvation' (though an agnostic approach to salvation: primarily one that is psychological--mental peace--rather than spiritual); but I am now required to compare/contrast Dostv with Nietzsche (Twilight of the Idols/The Anti-Christ; Gay Science). Therefore, the paper topic is expanding! I will let you know my thoughts once I finish my reading of Nietz. I am particularly interested if he has any thoughts concerning becoming a "new creature"--possibly thinks it's altogether unnecessary?

Get this: he calls Socrates a "dialectician buffoon, who got himself taken seriously." He also says, "Ugliness is frequently enough the sign of a thwarted development, a development retarded by interbreeding. Otherwise it appears as a development of decline... One knows how ugly [Soc] was. Was Soc a type of criminal, decadent?" (Twilight 40)

A little off the topic of 'suffering,' but damn!--dis'n Soc? He has some very valid points that make for interesting argumentation.
(reply to this comment
From Bella
Thursday, November 14, 2002, 17:33

Well you are in some good company for Nietzsche here Niki as I believe there are a few "Nietzsche Fans" on this board. Perhaps someone will help shed light on his fascinating yet angry mind. Yes, he hated (or was at least highly skeptical of) just about every philosopher out there, and if I am not mistaken (and please correct me if I am) he was most fond of Plato, believe it or not.

As a matter of fact, Hitler was a huge Nietzsche fan and judging from Nietzsche's statement from "Twilight," we can clearly deduce why. Again, correct me if I am wrong, but I believe that Nietzsche contracted syphilis, lost all his hair, teeth, went crazy, and ended dying from the STD.

Unfortunately, Continental Philosophy is sort of "dying on the vine" here in the States and I am no expert in it. =( UCLA doesn't offer much on the subject and neither does your lovely UCB. We should hop on a plane and go to Europe to study it together, what do you think??(reply to this comment
From niki
Thursday, November 14, 2002, 20:27

Yes, I'm sure there are some Nietzsche fans here who have their 'two cents' about the man. I will have a few of my own once I finish the reading and let my thoughts haunt me for a few days.

My official paper topic is as follows:

"Take some theme such as transformation into man, suffering, etc., and explain how Dostoevsky's treatment of this theme is Christian and Nietzsche's is anti-Christian."

SO, now the floor is open to both Biblical references (as I have my Dost ones), and thoughts from Nietzsche on the issue of suffering and transformation of man.

How fun!

As for Europe: I'm up for a plane-ride and a semester abroad!!! YES, with you! Paul wants to go to France. They MUST have a lovely selection of Continental Philo there! ... where else?

(reply to this comment
From lucidchick
Thursday, November 14, 2002, 21:50

They sure do (have a good selection). I did my junior year there, took out lotsa loans but it was sooo worth it. And when you can write exams and papers on philosophy in French, you can be confident your French is pretty good!(reply to this comment
From lucidchick
Friday, November 15, 2002, 12:03

I don't want to worry those who still try to "owe no man," lol-- I did get scholarship money too. I just had to round out my budget with loan money but it was one of the best decisions I ever made. I can't say enough about what studying abroad for a bit did for my experience as a student, and in my case my professional future! I would go for it all over again.(reply to this comment
From TimR
Thursday, November 14, 2002, 21:35

Nietzsche is certainly one of the greatest, you should read "The Geneology of Morals" Damm good book!

As far as "Morality" went, he was a real SOB, but still a very brave thinker, who asked brave questions. (reply to this comment
from JoeH
Wednesday, November 13, 2002 - 15:51

how about James ("the trial of your faith")? or the end of Hebrews 11? Didn't Daniel starve practically to death before receiving one of his later prophecies, something involving the prince of Persia? I'll add more when I think of it
(reply to this comment)
From niki
Wednesday, November 13, 2002, 22:16

Thanks JoeH. James 1:3 ".. the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing."

Seems to be that suffering--through the trying of faith--IS necessary for transformation because of the patience it produces, which inturn produces 'perfection.'

hmmmmm.. what do you think?(reply to this comment
From JoeH
Thursday, November 14, 2002, 14:51

you should read Crime and Punishment, also by Dostoyevsky. Suffering is a huge theme in that novel.

I think suffering is essential to human development, I'm not going to bring up all the cheesy animal metaphors from the Good Thoughts, but they make sense. (reply to this comment
From niki
Thursday, November 14, 2002, 16:43

I have not read 'Crime and Punishment' yet, though I have heard much discussion of the book. (Yes, I will read it!) Suffering is a common motif in Dostoyevsky's novels, which he catagorizes into two separate types: suffering for sin vs. suffering in ordered to integrate the duality of the self (animal nature and spiritual natures) and thereby become a 'new' person. Both types of suffering occur in 'Brothers K' -- I wonder if they both occur in 'Crime and Punishment' as well?
(reply to this comment
From JoeH
Friday, November 15, 2002, 17:17

yes, they do. I think you'll like the ending where a filthy child-abuser gets his come-uppance. (reply to this comment
From Venus in Furs
Thursday, November 14, 2002, 14:57

So masochists are aiming to be super highly developed humans?(reply to this comment
from hmm
Wednesday, November 13, 2002 - 15:44

Maybe Job?
(reply to this comment)
From niki
Wednesday, November 13, 2002, 22:18

Job, great example of suffering. What do you think was the result of his suffering? Did he become a new man because of it?(reply to this comment
From job
Thursday, November 14, 2002, 15:54

he definately became a richer man!!! Better? not sure, perhaps wiser.(reply to this comment

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