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Redemption (theology)

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Redemption is an essential concept in many religions, including Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. The term implies that something has been paid for or bought back, like a slave who has been set free through the payment of a ransom.


In Christian theology, redemption (Greek: Ἀπολύτρωσις, romanizedapolutrosis) refers to the deliverance of Christians from sin and its consequences.[1] Christians believe that all people are born into a state of sin and separation from God, and that redemption is a necessary part of salvation in order to obtain eternal life.[2] Leon Morris says that "Paul uses the concept of redemption primarily to speak of the saving significance of the death of Christ."[3]

In the New Testament, redemption and related words are used to refer both to deliverance from sin and to freedom from captivity.[4] In Christian theology, redemption is a metaphor for what is achieved through the atonement;[4] therefore, there is a metaphorical sense in which the death of Jesus pays the price of a ransom, releasing Christians from bondage to sin and death.[5] Most evangelical Protestant theologians and denominations reject Origen's argument that God paid the ransom price of redemption to Satan.[5]

The term salvation refers to the overall process of being saved,[4] which includes redemption especially but also encompasses other aspects of the Christian faith such as sanctification and glorification.


A concept similar to redemption in Indian religions is called prāyaścitta, which is not related to the theological sense of sin, but to expiation and personal liberation from guilt or sin. However the end goal of a being is moksha or liberation from karma, resulting in the end of the cycle of birth and death. By attaining moksha, the Atma (self or soul) merges back into Paramatma (God), just as a wave merges back into the ocean.[6][7]


Like other Indian religions, redemption is more closely related to expiation, but also expects absolution. Pratikramana (lit.'"introspection"'), is a ritual during which Jains repent (prayaschit) for their sins and non-meritorious activities committed knowingly or inadvertently during their daily life through thought, speech or action. Rather than a Prayascitta after perpetrating sin, it is more of a regular conduct, where every possible form of misdeed is recited and repented, if might have been committed, consciously or accidentally. This is also in form of ātma-ālocana ("self-criticism") which is central to Jainism. Vratis and Pratimadharis, including Munis and Aryikas perform Sāmāyika and Pratikramana as a daily essential routine.


In Islam, redemption is achieved by being a Muslim and doing no action that would forfeit one's identification with Islam,[8] being of sincere faith (iman) and doing virtuous actions.[9] Muslim sinners need to turn to a merciful God in repentance and carry out other good deeds, such as prayer (salah) and charity, for redemption.[10][11] In certain instances, redemption is also linked to seeking forgiveness from the person that has been wronged by Muslims, and obtaining their forgiveness in addition to seeking forgiveness from God directly. As a result of this view of redemption, Muslims have criticized alternative views on redemption, especially the Christian doctrine of original sin.[8]


In the Torah, redemption (Hebrew ge'ulah) referred to the ransom of slaves (Exodus 21:8).[12]

The concept of redemption is a legal and transactional one in halakha, including various sacrifices at the Temple in Jerusalem:

The concept also applies to redemption of real property such as fields[18] and houses,[19] stock animals, such as donkeys,[20] produce,[21] and specific items such as tefillin.[22] It also means the liberation of an estate in real property from a mortgage.

Redemption also applies to individuals or groups: an Israelite slave,[23] an Israelite captive,[24] and the firstborn son[25] pidyon haben, (Hebrew: פדיון הבן) or redemption of the first-born son,[26] is a mitzvah in Judaism whereby a Jewish firstborn son is redeemed from God by use of silver coins to a kohen.[27] It is from these three cases that the concept of exilic redemption is derived because the People Israel are considered God's 'firstborn' derived from Jacob, who are God's slaves[28] forever, but are currently held captive, even while they reside in the modern state of Israel.

In Rabbinic Judaism, redemption refers to God redeeming the Israelites from their exiles, starting with that from Egypt.[29] This includes the final redemption from the present exile.[30]

In Hasidic philosophy parallels are drawn between the redemption from exile and the personal redemption achieved when a person refines his character traits, although there is no source for this in the Talmud. Rather the Messianic redemption is linked to observing Shabbat,[31] Jewish prayer,[32] and the promise of redemption for those looking toward Mount Zion,[33] the last being the original cultural source of Zionism. As such, the original intent of Zionism was the redemption process by which the Land of Israel that has been pledged to the Israelites[34] is reclaimed, accomplished through a payment of the debt owed to God[33] as a fulfillment of the conditions set out in the Torah.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Morris, Leon (1962). Redeemer, Redemptio, 'The New Bible Dictionary'. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company. pp. 1078–1079.
  2. ^ "Redemption." Christian Classics Ethereal Library at Calvin College. July 2, 2009. http://www.ccel.org/s/schaff/encyc/encyc09/htm/iv.vii.lxxxv.htm
  3. ^ Morris, Leon (1993). 'Redemption' Dictionary of Paul and his Letters. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press. p. 784.
  4. ^ a b c Demarest, The Cross and Salvation, 177.
  5. ^ a b Grudem, Wayne (1994). Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine. Nottingham: InterVarsity Press. p. 580.
  6. ^ Robert Lingat (1973). The Classical Law of India. University of California Press. pp. 98–99. ISBN 978-0-520-01898-3.
  7. ^ Bhikkhu Nyanatusita (2014). Analysis of the Bhikkhu Patimokkha. Buddhist Publication Society. p. 86. ISBN 978-955-24-0405-4.
  8. ^ a b Hava Lazarus-Yafeh (1981). Some Religious Aspects of Islam: A Collection of Articles. Brill Archive. p. 48. ISBN 9789004063297.
  9. ^ Yahiya Emerick (1 Nov 2011). The Complete Idiot's Guide to Islam, 3rd Edition. Penguin. ISBN 9781101558812. Salvation and redemption: Islam says our sincere faith and virtuous actions get us into heaven, not just a one-time conversion moment.
  10. ^ Mahmoud Mustafa Ayoub. "The Idea of Redemption in Christianity and Islam". BYU. Retrieved 18 February 2015.
  11. ^ Chawkat Georges Moucarry (2001). Faith to Faith: Christianity & Islam in Dialogue. Inter-Varsity Press. p. 110. ISBN 9780851118994.
  12. ^ Demarest, Bruce (1997). The Cross and Salvation: The Doctrine of Salvation. Wheaton: Crossway Books. p. 176.
  13. ^ Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Chullin, 35b
  14. ^ Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Moed Katan, 12a
  15. ^ for example Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Temurah, 31a
  16. ^ Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Arachin, 30b
  17. ^ Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Shevuot, 11b
  18. ^ Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Arachin, 14b
  19. ^ Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Arachin, 33a
  20. ^ Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Bechorot, 5b
  21. ^ Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Succah, 40b
  22. ^ Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Gittin, 45b
  23. ^ , for example, Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Kiddushin, 18a
  24. ^ Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Bava Batra, 8a
  25. ^ Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Bechorot, 31b
  26. ^ Eugene Joseph Cohen Guide to ritual circumcision and redemption of the first-born son Volume 1 - 1984 "The Redemption of the First-Born - A mother's first-born is to be dedicated to the service of God, in accordance with the verse, "Sanctify the first-born who opens the womb."1 This sanctification was the result of a historical event."; Michele Klein A Time to Be Born: Customs and Folklore of Jewish Birth 2000 Page 224 "They have attributed healing properties to the stick.54 REDEMPTION OF THE FIRST-BORN SON A first child has special significance for both parents, and this was as true in biblical times as today, but then only when the child was male"; Mark Washofsky Jewish living: a guide to contemporary reform practice 2001 Page 148 "Redemption of the First-born Son (Pidyon Haben)- In Jewish tradition, the first-born son is to be "redeemed" from God. This originates in the belief that God "acquired" the Israelite first-born by sparing them from makkat bekhorot"; Ruth Langer To Worship To Worship God Properly: Tensions Between Liturgical Custom and Halakhah in Judaism (Monographs of the Hebrew Union College Series) 2005 Page 73 "Redemption of the First Born."
  27. ^ Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Bechorot, 51b
  28. ^ Vayikra 25:55
  29. ^ Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Rosh HaShanah, 11b
  30. ^ for example Talmud Yerushalmi, Tractate Berachot, 2c "(mid.)
  31. ^ Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Shabbat, 118b
  32. ^ Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Berachot, 4b
  33. ^ a b Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Ketubot, 75a
  34. ^ Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Bava Batra, 119a

External links[edit]

  • Redemption, BBC Radio 4 discussion with Richard Harries, Janet Soskice and Stephen Mulhall (In Our Time, Mar. 13, 2003)