The Word "Redemption" in the Usage of the Holy Apostles

 Martyr Charitina of Amisus

Martyr Charitina of Amisus

My beloved spiritual children in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,


The totality of the consequences of the Cross and Resurrection are usually expressed by the Holy Apostles, and therefore in theological terminology also, by the single concept of "redemption" which literally signifies a "ransom," an offering of payment. This conception is sufficiently vivid and lively that it has been accessible to the understanding of people even of the lowest rank of society. But this vividness in itself has inspired attempts to ask further questions which do not relate to the essence of salvation, inasmuch as this term has only a symbolical, allegorical significance. Therefore, Saint Gregory the Theologian puts off these further questions and establishes the essence of the present expression in the following reflections:

"To whom was that Blood offered that was shed for us, and why was it shed? I mean the precious and famous Blood of our God and High Priest and Sacrifice. We were detained in bondage by the evil one (Satan), sold under sin, and received pleasure in exchange for wickedness. Now, since a ransom belongs to him who holds in bondage, I ask to whom was this offered and for what cause? If to the evil one (Satan), fie upon the outrage! The robber receives ransom, not only from God, but a ransom which consists of God Himself, and has such an illustrious payment for his tyranny, a payment for whose sake it would have been right for him to have left us alone altogether. But I ask first, how? For it was not by Him that we were being oppressed; and next, on what principle did the Blood of His Only-Begotten Son delight the Father, Who would not receive even Isaac, when he was being offered by his father, but changed the sacrifice, putting a ram in the place of the human victim? Is it not evident that the Father accepts Him, but neither asked for Him nor demanded Him; but on account of the Incarnation, and because humanity must "be sanctified by the Humanity of God," that He might deliver us Himself, and overcome the tyrant, and draw us to Himself by the mediation of His Son, Who also arranged this to the honor of the Father, Whom it is manifest that he obeys in all things?" (Saint Gregory the Theologian, Second Orations on Pascha; English translation in Eerdman Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Series, vol. 7, p. 431).

This theological reflection of Saint Gregory the Theologian the idea which appears in the First Catholic Epistle of the Holy Apostle Peter is given complete expression: "You were not redeemed with vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot, who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world" (I Peter 1: 18-20).

For a theological definition of the concept of "redemption," a philological examination of the Greek word which corresponds to this concept has great importance.

In the Greek text of the New Testament Scriptures, this concept is expressed by two words, and each of them has a significant shade of meaning. The first of them lytro-o, means "to buy off," "ransom." In those times the world knew three forms of ransoming people, namely (according to Greek dictionaries), 1) ransoming from captivity, 2) ransoming from prison, for example, for debts, 3) ransoming from slavery. In the Christian meaning, the Holy Apostles use this term to express the moment in the accomplishment of our salvation that is joined to the Cross of Christ, that is, the deliverance from the sinful world, from the power of the devil, the liberation from the curses, the liberation of the righteous from the bonds of Hades. These are the same three forms of "ransoming": ransoming from the captivity of sin; ransoming from Hades; ransoming from slavery to the devil.

The second verb, agorazo signifies "to buy for oneself," "to buy at the marketplace" (agora means "marketplace"). The image utilized in this term refers only to believers, to Christians. Here it has an especially rich significance. This verb is encountered three times in the writings of the Holy Apostles, namely:

I Corinthians 6:19-20: "What! Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price.

I Corinthians 7:23: "Ye are bought with a price; be not ye the servants of men."

Apocalypse (Revelation) 5:9, the hymn in heaven to the Lamb: "Thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by Thy blood."

In all three places this verb signifies that Christ has acquired us for Himself so that we might belong to Him entirely, as bought slaves belong to their Master. It remains for us to reflect upon the depth of this image, which was placed in the word by the Holy Apostles themselves.

On the one hand, the name "slaves" of Christ signifies a complete, unconditional giving over of oneself into obedience to Him Who has redeemed us all. It is sufficient to read the first verses of a number of the Epistles of the Apostles. In the first words they call themselves the slaves (or servants) of Christ: "Simon Peter, a servant and an apostle of Jesus Christ" (II Peter); Jude, the servant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James" (Jude); "Paul and Timothy, the servants of Jesus Christ" (Philippians). Such a self-awareness should be present, according to the teaching of the Holy Apostles, in all believers. The Holy Church in precisely the same way at all times has called and does call the members of the Church in the language of the Divine Services, "slaves" (servants) of God." (Source: Orthodox Dogmatic Theology by Father Michael Pomazansky)


"Glory Be To GOD For All Things!"--Saint John Chrysostom


With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God

+Father George