Ransom

Ransom is one of the metaphors employed by the early church to speak of the saving work of Christ. It is found on the lips of Jesus in Mark 10:45 / Matt. 20:28, "The Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister and to give his life as a ransom for many." Paul also states that Christ gave himself as a "ransom for all" (I Tim. 2:6). As a metaphor ransom commonly points to a price paid, a transaction made, to obtain the freedom of others. These ideas are supported also by such expressions as "buying" and "price" (I Cor. 6:20) and "redeem" (1 Pet. 1:18ff).^[1]^

Ransom theory of atonement

A Ransom Theory of Christ's atonement became prevalent in the early church. It is difficult to find the origin of this theory, but it dates from at least Irenaeus (ca. 125-202). The view was particularly prominent in the Greek Church around the time of Origen and ultimately became predominant in the Post-Nicene Church.

As Irenaeus took it, Jesus had ransomed the Church by his blood. This much is supported by Scripture according to the words of Jesus [Matt 20:28, Mark 10:45], Paul [1 Tim 2:6] and John [Rev 5:9]. It appears that Irenaeus believed the ransom was paid to God, but it is Origen (ca. 185-254) who raises the question to whom the ransom was paid, and denies that it was paid to God, affirming that it was paid to the Devil.

Notes

  1. ? R. W. Lyon, Elwell Evangelical Dictionary, s.v. Ransom.

See also