Ransom Theory of Atonement

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The ransom theory of the atonement of Jesus is the teaching that the death of Christ on the cross was a ransom paid to Satan. In Mark 10:45, Jesus said, "For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” But, we see no place in Scripture that teaches us such a ransom was paid to the evil one.

This theory was developed by Origen (a.d. 185-254), and it advocated that Satan held people captive as a victor in war. This theory, which was also held by Augustine, advocated that because Satan held people captive, a ransom had to be paid, not to God, but to Satan.1

The ransom theory of the atonement is false. First of all, it makes Satan a benefactor in the atoning work. Second, it gives Satan too high a role in redemption. There is nothing in Scripture that says that Satan was the one whom ransom was paid to. It would seem that the ransom was paid to God the Father.


  • 1. Enns, Paul P., The Moody Handbook of Theology, p. 312

About The Author

Matt Slick is the President and Founder of the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry.