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Was it a ransom paid by Christ for the release of mankind from its bondage to sin? In Biblical times slaves could obtain their freedom by the payment of a sum of money to their masters as a ransom, and this was called redemption. To the early Christians, the redemption of slaves served as an analogy for the redemption from the bondage to sin that Christ obtained for all people by virtue of the crucifixion. In a sense, then, the crucifixion was said to be a ransom. But this is almost the same as a substitute punishment. Why would a God who is good and just demand compensation in the form of suffering and death on the Cross paid by the one innocent person who was not in bondage to sin as the price for releasing those who were?

A legendary belief was that the ransom was not paid to God, but it was to be paid by God to the devil. It was the devil who caused people to sin, and he did it because he was God's enemy. Bondage to sin was bondage to the devil, and it meant spending eternity with him in hell. In order to release us from such bondage, the devil was supposed to have demanded that God sacrifice the life of his son as a ransom. According to the legend, God tricked the devil by seeming to permit Christ to die on the Cross, and then, when the sinners were released, he resurrected him. Such a theory was in more primitive times given credence, but it need not detain us except to note it in passing.

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