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International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
1. Usage by Christ
2. Old Testament Usage - the Law
(1) General Cases
(2) Redemption Money - the Firstborn
(3) Connection with Sacrifice
(4) Typical Reference to the Messiah
3. The Psalms and Job
4. Apostolic Teaching
5. To Whom Was the Ransom Paid?
(1) Not to Satan
(2) To Divine Justice
( a ) Redemption by Price
( b ) Redemption by Power
1. Usage by Christ:
The supremely important instance is the utterance of the Lord Jesus Christ as reported by Matthew and Mark (Matthew 20:28; Mark 10:45 ), and in looking at it we shall be able, by way of illustration, to glance at the Old Testament passages. The context refers to the dispute among the disciples concerning position in the Kingdom, with their misconception of the true nature of Christ's Kingdom. Christ makes use of the occasion to set forth the great law of service as determining the place of honor in that Kingdom, and illustrates and enforces it by showing that its greatest exemplification is to be found in His own mission: "For the Son of man also came not to be ministered unto, but to minister" (Mark 10:45 ). His ministry, however, was to pass into the great act of sacrifice, of which all other acts of self-sacrifice on the part of His people would be but a faint reflection - "and to give his life (soul) a ransom for many" (same place). He thus gives a very clear intimation of the purpose and meaning of His death; the clearest of all the intimations reported by the synoptists. The word He uses bears a well-established meaning, and is accurately rendered by our word "ransom," a price paid to secure the freedom of a slave or to set free from liabilities and charges, and generally the deliverance from calamity by paying the forfeit. The familiar verb
2. Old Testament Usage
- T he Law:
(1) General Cases.
In Exodus 21:30 we have the law concerning the case of the person killed by an ox; the ox was to be killed and the owner of it was also liable to death but the proviso was made, "If there be laid on him a sum of money, then he shall give for the ransom of his life whatsoever is laid upon him" (the King James Version). The Hebrew for "sum of money" is
(2) Redemption Money
But perhaps the most important passage is the law concerning the half-shekel to be paid by every Israelite from 20 years old and upward when a census was taken. It was to be the same for rich and poor, and it was called "atonement money," "to make atonement for their souls." In the opening words of the law, as given in Exodus 30:12 (the King James Version), we read "Then shall they give every man a ransom for his soul unto the Lord" - the Hebrew
(3) Connection with Sacrifice.
It is also clear in the typical teaching that sacrifice and ransom were closely related. Even in classical Greek, as we have noted, the two conceptions were connected, and it is not surprising to find it so in the Old Testament.
(4) Typical Reference to the Messiah.
Sacrifice was thus linked with ransom. Sacrifice was the divinely-appointed covering for sin. The ransom for the deliverance of the sinner was to be by sacrifice. Both the typical testimony of the Law and the prophetic testimony gave prominence to the thought of redemption. The Coming One was to be a Redeemer. Redemption was to be the great work of the Messiah. The people seem to have looked for the redemption of the soul to God alone through the observance of their appointed ritual, while redemption, in the more general sense of deliverance from all enemies and troubles, they linked with the advent of the Messiah. It required a spiritual vision to see that the two things would coincide, that the Messiah would effect redemption in all its phases and fullness by means of ransom, of sacrifice, of expiation.
Jesus appeared as the Messiah in whom all the old economy was to be fulfilled. He knew perfectly the meaning of the typical and prophetic testimony; and with that fully in view, knowing that His death was to fulfill the Old Testament types and accomplish its brightest prophetic anticipations, He deliberately uses this term
3. The Psalms and Job:
Besides the passages in the Pentateuch which we have noted, special mention should be made of the two great passages which bear so closely upon the need of spiritual redemption, and come into line with this great utterance of Christ. Psalm 49:7 , Psalm 49:8 , "None of them can by any means redeem (
4. Apostolic Teaching:
This great utterance of the Saviour may well be considered as the germ of all the apostolic teaching concerning redemption, but it is not for us to show its unfolding beyond noting that in apostolic thought the redemption was always connected with the death, the sacrifice of Christ.
Thus, Paul (Ephesians 1:7 ), "In whom we have our redemption through his blood." Thus Peter (1 Peter 1:18 , 1 Peter 1:19 ), "Ye were redeemed, not with corruptible things ... but with precious blood, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot, even the blood of Christ." So in Hebrews 9:12 it is shown that Christ "through his own blood, entered in once for all into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption"; and in the Apocalypse ( Revelation 5:9 ) the song is, "Thou wast slain, and didst purchase unto God with thy blood men of every tribe," etc. In all but the last of these passages there is an echo of the very word used by Christ,
5. To Whom Was the Ransom Paid?:
The question "Who receives the ransom?" is not directly raised in Scripture, but it is one that not unnaturally occurs to the mind, and theologians have answered it in varying ways.
(1) Not to Satan.
The idea entertained by some of the Fathers (Irenaeus, Origen) that the ransom was given to Satan, who is conceived of as having through the sin of man a righteous claim upon him, which Christ recognizes and meets, is grotesque, and not in any way countenanced by Scripture.
(2) To Divine Justice.
But in repudiating it, there is no need to go so far as to deny that there is anything answering to a real ransoming transaction. All that we have said goes to show that, in no mere figure of speech, but in tremendous reality, Christ gave "his life a ransom," and if our mind demands an answer to the question to whom the ransom was paid, it does not seem at all unreasonable to think of the justice of God, or God in His character of Moral Governor, as requiring and receiving it. In all that Scripture asserts about propitiation, sacrifice, reconciliation in relation to the work of Christ, it is implied that there is wrath to be averted, someone to be appeased or satisfied, and while it may be enough simply to think of the effects of Christ's redeeming work in setting us free from the penal claims of the Law - the just doom of sin - it does not seem going beyond the spirit of Scripture to draw the logical inference that the ransom price was paid to the Guardian of that holy law, the Administrator of eternal justice. "Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us" (Galatians 3:13 ). This essential, fundamental phase of redemption is what theologians, with good Scripture warrant, have called redemption by blood, or by price, as distinguished from the practical outcome of the work of Christ in the life which is redemption by power.
(A) Redemption by Price:
As to Satan's claims, Christ by paying the ransom price, having secured the right to redeem, exercises His power on behalf of the believing sinner. He does not recognize the right of Satan. He is the "strong man" holding his captives lawfully, and Christ the "stronger than he" overcomes him and spoils him, and sets his captives free (Luke 11:21 , Luke 11:22 ). In one sense men may be said to have sold themselves to Satan, but they had no right to sell, nor he to buy, and Christ ignores that transaction and brings "to nought him that had the power of death, that is, the devil" (Hebrews 2:14 ), and so is able to "deliver all them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage" (Hebrews 2:15 ).
(B) Redemption by Power:
Many of the Old Testament passages about the redemption wrought on behalf of God's people illustrate this redemption by power, and the redemption by power is always founded on the redemption by price; the release follows the ransom. In the case of Israel, there was first the redemption by blood - the sprinkled blood of the Paschal Lamb which sheltered from the destroying angel (Exodus 12 ) - and then followed the redemption by power, when by strength of hand Yahweh brought His people out from Egypt (Exodus 13:14 ), and in His mercy led forth the people which He had redeemed (Exodus 15:13 ).
So under the Gospel when "he hath visited and wrought redemption for his people" (Luke 1:68 ), He can "grant unto us that we being delivered out of the hand of our enemies should serve him without fear" (Luke 1:74 ). It is because we have in Him our redemption through His blood that we can be delivered out of the power of darkness (Colossians 1:13 , Colossians 1:14 ). See further,
See works on New Testament Theology (Weiss, Schmid, Stevens, etc.); articles in Hastings, Dictionary of the Bible (five volumes); Hastings, Dictionary of Christ and the Gospels .
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Orr, James, M.A., D.D. General Editor. Entry for 'Ransom'. International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/isb/r/ransom.html. 1915.