In a book I have been reading, the author stated that Jesus rejected the idea of the Old Testament that suffering was a punishment from God that would affect future generations. Jesus, however, was the fulfillment of the Old Testament, so how can we reconcile that some passages in the Old Testament say that punishment only happens to the sinful, while the New Testament says it can happen to the just?
It is not entirely accurate to say that the Old Testament teaches that suffering is always a punishment from God. [list]
*]The Book of Job is an entire drama about how that is not always the case. Job’s “friends” demand that he admit he has sinned and is being punished by God, but Job refuses. In the end, God supports Job and rebukes the “friends.”
*]Psalm 44 lists a number of calamities that had befallen Israel and states: “All this has come upon us, though we have not forgotten you, nor been disloyal to your covenant. Our hearts have not turned back, nor have our steps strayed from your path.”
*]The author of Ecclesiastes (7:15) laments: “I have seen all manner of things in my vain days: the just perishing in their justice, and the wicked living long in their wickedness.”[/list]
To say that the Old Testament is monolithic in its view that punishment only befalls the wicked is just plain wrong. Ancient Judaism had a spectrum of views of the hows and whys of suffering in the world. There was even a notion that the suffering of the just was a purification of them for the afterlife (Wisdom 3:6).
Even today there are people who will claim that any suffering or bad thing that happens is a direct punishment for a sin someone committed. Just because some people hold that view does not mean all of Christianity holds that view. Similarly, just because some people in the ancient world held that view does not mean all of Judaism and the Old Testament held that view.