What is your understanding of the terms "Ransom" and "Redeem"?

by Doug Mason 29 Replies latest watchtower bible

  • Doug Mason
    Doug Mason

    With respect to Christ being the "Redeemer" and of having "paid the Ransom", I would like to know:

    (1) What is your technical understanding of each term?

    (2) What is the Watchtower's understanding of each term?

    I am not looking for the list of verses that employ each term. I want to know how one "redeems" and how one "pays a ransom" and how Christ achieved these.



  • Carol1111
  • Carol1111

    In the old testament, according to Strong's dictionary, redeem seems to mean release or rescue. Ransom means to cover as in covering a roof with pitch to stop it leaking. There are few incidences of these words in the new testament, interestingly, and they seem to mean to pay a price.

    I don't know how the JW's interpret these words.

  • Vidqun

    Doug, hope this will help. There was a Bethel lecture on the subject. Some here might still have it on their files. The following is based on Dan. 9:24. If I remember correctly, this first part comes from the Keil-Delitzsch Commentary of above verse. The source of the rest of the quotes are noted.

    To make atonement for error. The third statement is, כִּפֶּר is terminus techn., to pardon, to blot out by means of a sin-offering, i.e., to forgive.

    These three passages thus treat of the setting aside of sin and its blotting out; but they neither form a climax nor a mere συναθροισμός, a multiplying of synonymous expressions for the pardoning of sins. Against the idea of a climax it is justly objected, that in that case the strongest designation of sin, הַפֶּשַׁע, which designates sin as a falling away from God, a rebelling against Him, should stand last, whereas it occurs in the first sentence. Against the idea of a συναθροισμός it is objected, that the words “to shut up” and “to seal” are not synonymous with “to make reconciliation for,” i.e., “to forgive.” The three expressions, it is true, all treat alike of the setting aside of sin, but in different ways. The first presents the general thought, that the falling away shall be shut up, the progress and the spreading of the sin shall be prevented. The other two expressions define more closely how the source whence arises the apostasy shall be shut up, the going forth and the continued operation of the sin prevented. This happens in one way with unbelievers and in a different way with believers. The sins of unbelievers are sealed, are guarded securely under a seal, so that they may no more spread about and increase, nor any longer be active and operative; but the sins of believers are forgiven through a reconciliation. The former idea is stated in the second member, and the latter in the third, as Hofmann and Kliefoth have rightly remarked.

    There follows the second group of three statements, which treat of the positive unfolding of salvation accompanying the taking away and the setting aside of sin.


    Making atonement. וּלְכַפֵּ֣ר from כפר, to cover, to atone.

    Etymology: The lexica of the nineteenth century associated Heb. kipper with Arab. kafara, “cover,” describing the act of atonement as the covering of guilt. Since Heinrich Zimmern’s reference to Bab. kuppuru, the two etymologies agree.

    In the Koran, Arab. kaffara, “absolve” (with God as subject), is a term borrowed from Judaism but given a new semantic structure: atonement is an act of the merciful God, without the need of any sacrifice. Arabic lexicographers derive the word from kaffara, “cover,” so that kaffara may have overtones of “atone (by covering).”

    The use of kesāyā, “cover,” to translate kappōreṯ in 4Q156 presupposes a specific concept of the sacral object called kappōreṯ; it is not an etymological conjecture. The interpretation of kipper as “cover” on the basis of Arabic, most recently supported by Stamm, is fraught with problems.

    In the LXX, words based on the root kpr are translated consistently by derivatives of hiláskomai; “propitiate, appease.” The regular equivalent of kipper is exiláskomai; the Day of Atonement is translated hēméra exilasmoú (Lev. 23:27f.); the sacral object termed kappōreṯ is translated hilastḗrion; kōṗer is translated exílasma (1 Sam. 12:3; Ps. 49:7 [LXX48:8]).

    a. The construction of exiláskomai carefully imitates that of kipper.

    b. The usage is described as a semitism; it does not agree with common Greek idiom.

    c. Contrary to a popularly accepted theory, certain other translations of kipper – in particular apaleíphō (Dnl. 9:24, possibly a double translation in conjunction with exiláskomai), “wipe away” – cannot be cited in support of the basic meaning of “cover” for kipper.

    d. The variety of translations for kōṗer is noteworthy, especially lýtron (Prov. 6:35; 13:8; pl. in Ex. 21:30; 30:12; Num. 35:31f.), “ransom” or “to free by ransom” (cf. Ex. 13:13).

    e. In the CGS we notice a rare word ảntílutron, “corresponding ransom,” at 1 Tim. 2:6, a statement based on Matt. 20:28 and Mark 10:45 (cf. Tit. 2:14). See TDOT, vol. VII, pp. 289-292; TDNT, vol. IV, p. 349.

    For error. To err, to deviate, to incur guilt. עָוֹ֔ן from עָוָה. Influenced by the efforts of earlier lexicographers to derive every Hebrew word from a basic material meaning, GesTregLex viewed `wh as a union of two Arab. verbs `wy “bend, turn” and ģwy “deviate, err from the path,” which in turn corresponds to Eth. `awawa, “err, stray, not know.”

    R. Knierim thus deduces a basic meaning of “bend, curve, turn aside, twist.” Even if this etymological meaning is correct, one still cannot determine whether any biblical writer was familiar with the original meaning. In any event, the use of the individual conjugation stems already shows that the root expresses a “dynamistic holistic thought” that tries to conceive in a single sweep “the various phases of a misdeed-consequence process (deed-consequence completion).”

    In older traditions, `āwōn occurs approximately 20 times as a “vernacular term… qualified by a dynamistic understanding of reality.” In the majority of instances it refers to the transgressions of human beings toward others, errors inevitably prompting drastic consequences for the perpetrator. It is closely related to “sin” (cf. 1 Sam. 20:1; 2 Sam. 24:10), its opposite being ḥeseḏ (cf. 2 Sam. 3:8). The reference is thus to fateful guilt caused by a person’s iniquitous transgressions; neither “guilt” nor “sin” nor “punishment” provides an adequate translation in such cases.

    God is the only entity capable of turning away such burden of guilt from a perpetrator, thereby bringing about a positive outcome. He either takes away `āwōn from a sinner (cf. 2 Sam. 24:10) or can permit atonement. The people confess chāṭā’nû; in later texts `āvînû is added for the sake of completeness (Dnl. 9:5; cf. 2 Chron. 6:37). See TDOT, vol. X, pp. 547-549, 550-552.

    It think this was how the Witnesses saw it. Things might have changed. I am not up-to-date with current Witness theology.

    To finish off sin as well as making atonement for error. Jesus’ being cut off in death, his resurrection, and his appearance in heaven resulted in ‘finishing off sin as well as in making atonement for error’ (Dan. 9:24). The Law covenant had exposed the Jews as sinners, condemned them as such, and brought upon them the curse as covenant breakers. But where sin “abounded” as exposed or made evident by the Mosaic Law, God’s mercy and favor abounded much more through his Messiah (Rom. 5:20). By Messiah’s sacrifice, transgression and sin of the repentant sinners can be cancelled and the penalty thereof be lifted. Interestingly, the life course of the Isaiah’s Suffering Servant would result in him “being pierced for our transgression; he was being crushed for our errors… because of his wounds there has been a healing for us… despite the fact that he had done no violence and there was no deception in his mouth” (Is. 53:5, 8).

  • snowbird

    My limited understanding:

    Through sinning or falling out of favor with God, the first human pair, and by extension the whole human race, was condemned to a life of despair, ending in death. This was due to the influence of a certain Evil One.

    Redeem - Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ, chose to Redeem or buy us back from the Evil One's hold.

    Ransom - Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ, paid the price or Ransom for this redemption with His Life.

    First Adam sold himself and us

    Threw everyone under the bus

    Second Adam came to redeem

    Those who choose to be on His team

    He paid the price with His own life

    As a loving husband would for a wife

    This may all seem needless and foolish

    But, it is God's way for evil to abolish

    The WT teaches that Adam and Eve sinned willfully; therefore the Ransom doesn't cover them; no redemption, no resurrection.

    I do not believe this teaching.


  • Doug Mason
    Doug Mason

    Thank you for your help. I have saved them to my computer and I will work through them.

    The early Church taught that Jesus "redeemed" humankind from Satan and similarly that the "Ransom" was a payment made to Satan in order to obtain the release of his captives. These understandings are no longer accepted.

    So I wondered how people today and the Watchtower explained this payment of a "redemption" or of a "ransom". The latter is of course especially significant for the Watchtower and it has been the cause of major rifts in the past.

    While it is helpful to access references such as dictionaries, I wonder whether people have thought through these personally. In other words, how I do "redeem" something and how do I pay a "ransom"? Are these the practices of 2000 years ago?

  • Doug Mason
    Doug Mason


    Thank you for that source, which I managed to locate. The context of your first citation continues with the following, to which your final sentence refers.



    The first expression of this group, or the fourth in the whole number, is “to bring in everlasting righteousness.” After the entire setting aside of sin must come a righteousness which shall never cease. That [Hebrew text] does not mean “happiness of the olden time” (Bertholdt, Rösch), nor “innocence of the former better times” (J. D. Michaelis), but “righteousness,” requires at present no further proof. Righteousness comes from heaven as the gift of God (Ps. lxxxv. 11-14; Isa. li. 5-8), rises as a sun upon them that fear God (Mal. iii. 20), and is here called everlasting, corresponding to the eternity of the Messianic kingdom (cf. ii. 44, vii. 18, 27). [Same Hebrew text] comprehends the internal and the external righteousness of the new heavens and the new earth, 2 Pet. iii. 13. This fourth expression forms the positive supplement of the first: in the place of the absolutely removed transgression is the perfected righteousness. (Biblical Commentary on The Old Testament, Keil And Delitzsch (1884), on Chap. IX. 24-27, page 343)

  • Doug Mason
    Doug Mason

    Hi Sylvia,

    I presume by "I do not believe this teaching" that you are confining that comment to the Watchtower's attitude concerning Adam and Eve.

    While I appreciate your poetry, it does not address my question, inasmuch it simply asserts that: "He paid the price with his own life". To whom was the payment made? If God demanded it, what does that say about God?

    I hesitatingly suggest that your understanding is known as "The Penal-substitution Theory", also as the Judicial (Juridical) Model of salvation. This idea is derived from Bishop Anselm of the 11th century which was then modified during the Reformation.

    This judicial model is typical of the Catholic/Protestant tradition and I suggest that your Orthodox friends (Greek - Russian, etc. - the Eastern Churches) could find that idea strange.

    For a description of the various Atonement models:



  • David_Jay

    While as a Jew I do not subscribe to this doctrine, the "ransom" of Christ is his becoming the "Lamb of God," an offering to humans as "food" for their journey to "passover" from the mortal state to that of the divine.

    Originally atonement theology was very basic. It suggested that God was being appeased by the suffering of his own Son. But it changed over the centuries, and currently the teaching is that Christ offered himself to humans, not to God. As 2 Peter 1:4 states, Jesus paid the price of himself in order to "enable you to share in the divine nature."

    As the lamb was food for the Exodus out of Egypt for the Jews, the life of Jesus is Viaticum, food for the journey to pass from mortality to share in God's divine nature. Jesus flesh and blood are "paid" over to humans as "true food" and "true drink," not on an altar to God but on a table to humans.--John 6:55.

    "Redemption" is different, however. It refers to restoring people by legal claim, or restoring something to people by legal means. Jews view the Exodus as God's redemption of his people from slavery. God paid no one to redeem the Jews as God owes no one. But God had legal claim to them by means of the Abrahamic covenant. The same covenant claimed rights and privileges to the Israelites that they could not possess as slaves in Egypt. Thus a "redemption" took place via the Exodus. Redemption in this sense involves restoration.

    Some Christians still hold to an "appeasement" view of Christ's ransom. In these instances, "redemption" is somewhat of a synonym for "ransom" in a paradigm when Christ offers a sacrifice to God.

    But where the theology that rejects appeasement exists, "redemption" keeps the original meaning as used by the Jews. In Christian terms it refers to restoring what was lost in Eden (according to Christianity's Original Sin doctrine), giving this back to humans via the "cost" of Christ's sacrifice.

    Jehovah's Witnesses believe in appeasement theology, where God requires blood to be spilled to appease his sense of justice. This view has been rejected by almost all forms of mainstream Christianity today. Even some Fundamentalist movements find the appeasement view appalling as it draws God as a bloodthirsty deity.

  • snowbird

    Hi, Doug.

    I believe the Ransom was paid by God - in the Person of Jesus of Nazareth - to Himself.

    That takes care of the What and the Who.

    When? 33 CE, 1984 years ago ...

    Where? Outside the city of Jerusalem ...

    How? By dying a painful unjustified death ...

    Now comes the meat of the matter:


    To appease the Father? I believe not.

    As a substitute for us? I think not.

    To cancel our debt to sin? This, I believe, is the answer.

    But, since the debt has been paid, why haven't we been released?

    All in due time.



    PS. The poem was just a spur of the moment thing.

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