Redeemer (Christianity)

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The English word redemption means "repurchase" or "buy back", and in the Old Testament referred to the ransom of slaves (Exodus 21:8).[1]

The concept of the redeemer is used in the Book of Ruth to refer to the kinsman-redeemer, and in the Book of Isaiah to refer to God, the "Redeemer of Israel". In Job 19:25, Job makes the statement, "I know that my Redeemer liveth." This has been used in Christian hymnody, such as Charles Wesley's I Know That My Redeemer Lives, and the first words to the song "Antioch 277" in the shape note song book The Sacred Harp are "I know that my Redeemer lives, Glory Hallelujah!". It also appears as an aria, I know that my Redeemer liveth, in Handel's Messiah.

In the New Testament the redemption word group is used to refer both to deliverance from sin and to freedom from captivity.[2] In Christian theology, Jesus is sometimes referred to as a Redeemer. This refers to the salvation he is believed to have accomplished, and is based on the metaphor of redemption, or "buying back". Although the Gospels do not use the title "Redeemer", the word "redemption" is used in several of Paul's letters. Leon Morris says that "Paul uses the concept of redemption primarily to speak of the saving significance of the death of Christ."[3]

Many Christian churches are named "Redeemer", such as Redeemer Presbyterian Church (New York City) and the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer, Jerusalem. Other institutions which carry the name are the Roman Catholic Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer and Redeemer University College in Ancaster, Ontario. The Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro is a famous landmark.


Christ the Redeemer by Titian (c. 1534), Palazzo Pitti, Florence.

The New Testament speaks of Christ as the one Saviour for all people.[4] The First Epistle of John says that Jesus is "the propitiation for our sins and not for ours only but also for the sins of the world" (1 John 2:2). Adherents of unlimited atonement interpret this to mean that Jesus' redemptive role is for all people without exception, while adherents of limited atonement interpret it as being for all people without distinction—for Gentiles as well as Jews. The first Christians also recognized Jesus' redemptive role to be unique (without parallel), complete (as One who conveys the fullness of salvation), and definitive (beyond any possibility of being equalled, let alone surpassed, in his salvific function). In particular, his universal role means that through him the deadly forces of evil are overcome, sin is forgiven, their contamination purified, and the new existence as God's beloved, adopted children has been made available.[5] This New Testament sense of Christ's indispensable and necessary role for human salvation could be summarized by a new axiom: extra Christum nulla salus ("outside Christ no salvation"). This sense of his all-determining role in the whole redemptive drama is suggested by a fact: unlike the Old Testament, where various human beings could be called "saviour" (e.g., Judges 3: 9, 15, and 31), the New Testament gives the title "Saviour" only to God (eight times) and to Christ (sixteen times).[5]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Bruce Demarest, The Cross and Salvation: The Doctrine of Salvation (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 1997): 176.
  2. ^ Demarest, The Cross and Salvation, 177.
  3. ^ Leon Morris, 'Redemption' Dictionary of Oxford and his Letters (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1993): 784.
  4. ^ On Christ's role as universal Saviour, cf. Gerald O'Collins, Salvation for All: God's Other Peoples, OUP (2008).
  5. ^ a b For this section, and its respective themes and positions, compare Gerald O'Collins, Christology: A Biblical, Historical, and Systematic Study of Jesus, OUP (2009), pp. 297–333. Cf. also O'Collins, Salvation for All: God's Other Peoples, cit.; id., Jesus: A Portrait, Darton, Longman & Todd (2008), Chs 11–12; id., Incarnation, Continuum (2002), pp. 36–42; J.A. Fitzmyer, The Gospel According to Luke I–IX, Doubleday (1981), pp. 79–82; Karl Rahner, Foundations of Christian Faith, trans. W.V. Dych, Darton, Longman & Todd (1978), pp. 193–195, 204–206, 279–280, 316–321.


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