Red X iconGreen tick iconYellow tick icon


    A detailed study of texts from the Hebrew Bible and related literature that wrestles with the problem of how God can be regarded as just in the face of the reality of suffering.

    A detailed study of biblical and other early Jewish texts that wrestle with the problem of reconciling a belief in the justice of God with the reality of human suffering. This paper is based on the detailed study of texts from 1 and 2 Kings, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Psalms, Job, 4 Ezra and 2 Baruch. Many of these texts respond theologically to catastrophes in the historical life of ancient Israel, such as the destruction of Jerusalem in 586 BCE and 70 CE, but some of them have a more individual focus. We will pay special attention to what is sometimes called the protest tradition. The aim is not to explain the problem of suffering, but rather to engage critically and sympathetically with particular biblical and early Jewish texts that deal with suffering, evil, and the justice of God.

    About this paper

    Paper title God, Suffering and Justice (Advanced)
    Subject Biblical Studies
    EFTS 0.1667
    Points 20 points
    Teaching period(s) Semester 1 (Distance learning)
    Semester 1 (On campus)
    Domestic Tuition Fees ( NZD ) $1,240.75
    International Tuition Fees Tuition Fees for international students are elsewhere on this website.
    BIBS 317, BIBX 317, BIBX 413
    Limited to
    BA(Hons), PGDipArts, PGCertChap, PGDipChap, MChap, BTheol(Hons), PGDipTheol, MTheol, PGDipMin, MMin
    All students are welcome to study the Bible regardless of whether they have a particular faith commitment or not. All that is required is an inquiring mind and an interest in acquiring the critical skills common to all subjects in the Humanities.

    Dr James Harding

    Teaching staff


    Paper Structure

    Lectures and videoconferences focus on the exegesis of specific texts that deal with divine justice and human suffering.


    • Assignment One (3,000 words) 30%
    • Assignment Two (3,000 words) 30%
    • Assignment Three (4,500 words) 40%
    Teaching Arrangements

    The paper will be taught by Distance and on campus, and the Distance version includes some face to face components.

    On-campus students: 26 x 1-hour lectures
    Distance students: six x 2-hour videoconferences and a teaching day held via Zoom


    Students need to have access to a Bible that contains the apocryphal and deutero-canonical books, including 4 Ezra (part of 2 Esdras).

    Course outline

    View the course outline for BIBS 413
    View the course outline for BIBS 413 (distance)

    Graduate Attributes Emphasised
    Lifelong learning, Scholarship, Critical thinking, Cultural understanding, Ethics.
    View more information about Otago's graduate attributes.
    Learning Outcomes

    At the end of this paper, all students will:

    • Be able to summarise the major approaches to the problem of suffering in the Hebrew Bible (and related texts)
    • Have a solid grasp of the different understandings of divine and social justice in the Hebrew Bible
    • Have studied texts from 1 & 2 Kings, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Psalms, Job, 4 Ezra, and 2 Baruch.
    • Understand how modern events, such as the Holocaust, have shaped the way modern Jewish and Christian theologians read the Psalms, Lamentations, and Job


    Semester 1

    Teaching method
    This paper is taught through Distance Learning
    Learning management system

    Semester 1

    Teaching method
    This paper is taught On Campus
    Learning management system


    Stream Days Times Weeks
    A1 Tuesday 13:00-13:50 9-13, 15-22
    Thursday 13:00-13:50 9-13, 15-16, 18-22
    Back to top