Jesus paid our ransom to whom?

edited December 1969 in Faith Issues
Our Lord Jesus Christ paid the ransom to redeem us from the power of death and hades.

To whom was the ransom paid.  Some Orthodox Christians state that the Church Fathers are consistent in that he paid the ransom to death/hades owner, which was the devil.  Others say the ransom was paid to God the Father as the debt owed to him for our sin.  Others say the ransom was actually paid to us.

What is the consensus of the early Fathers on this?  To whom was the ransom paid by Christ?

Was the ransom of Christ's death/blood paid to the Father, us, or the devil?


  • I have generally heard in sermons that the ransom was to God the Father to accept the redemption of our souls by paying the price of death for our sins. Like you said we owed a great debt to our Lord and he paid it in full with His death on the cross.
  • wasn't the ransom paid to divine justice?
  • If you're looking for a consistent patristic witness, you won't find one. Many great Fathers theologised differently in regard to this question, which simply means that the Holy Spirit has not chosen to reveal Himself conclusively on the matter as of yet.

    Those who take a more legal/literal understanding of the notion of ransom tend towards the "God the Father" position. I personally think this position challenges an accurate Orthodox conception of God, Who, being infinite and transcendent, was in no need of such a ransom.

    St. Gregory of Nyssa is famously known for opting for the idea that the ransom was paid to satan, but he is very tactful in so doing. Lest he give the impression that God was somehow bound to satan's demands, St. Gregory of Nyssa emphasises that the devil was deceived into taking the bait of the Lord Christ's death, hook, line, and sinker, for he was not aware that the Lord Christ was capable of rising from the dead, and in so doing conquering death. This, in effect, means that inasmuch as the ransom was "technically" paid (for the Lord Christ truly endured true human death), it was not paid in the way that satan had expected, for the death that Christ endured was not one to which He remained victim to, but one He voluntarily underwent temporarily for the sake of our salvation. Rather than being in satan's favour, the ransom was in our favour, for rather than the death of Christ signifying the defeat of satan over God and mankind, it signified the defeat of Satan, for by His death He trampled death (as we say in our Resurrection Hymns). Behold, the Wisdom of God!

    Fathers like St. Athanasius take a very loose and symbolic interpretation of ransom, and hence argue that the ransom was offered to death (a non-personal condition).

    In my opinion the latter two positions are the better ones to adopt. I personally prefer the second one, only because I find it much more intriguing than the third.
  • I am having conflicting thoughts on this.
    I could be wrong but i believe that perhaps Jesus paid the ransom to us and we either pay this ransom to the the father or to the devil.
    For example: You were gambling and you lost a bet and now you must pay back someone a large sum of money you do not have.  You seek the help of a friend and your friend is willing to give you the money without expecting you to repay him or her.  Finally when it comes time to pay your money back you find that you used your money again in gambling again. 
    Please correct if i am wrong
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