Was Jesus’ Death Really A “Ransom” For Our Sins?


As a lifelong Catholic, the idea of Jesus’ death being a “ransom” for our sins has come to bother me a bit as I’ve grown up – I’m now in my late 20s. If God is all loving and all powerful and the creator of all things, who would He have to pay a ransom to?

And if the ransom had to be paid before we could enter heaven, what a bummer it must have been for everyone who died prior to Jesus’ crucifixion – forced to wait it out for thousands of years. This idea that God wouldn’t accept souls into heaven because of the sins of souls before them seems to contradict the idea of an all-loving and all-powerful God who loves all souls and has the power to bring all souls into His kingdom whenever He wants.

Please help me to understand this rationale better.

I have no problem believing that Jesus died “because” of our sins. After all, all of humankind is responsible for his death. It’s obvious to me that if Jesus came to our world today, humans would once again create the exact same result. His death always reminds us of our sinfulness.

I also have no problem believing that Jesus came to our world, died, and rose from the dead “for” us all. He brought us his Father’s message and had He not gone through the worst of what human sin is capable of creating: humiliation, torture, pain, suffering, and death, it would be much more difficult to accept His message. After all, had He arrived in this world living in luxury like a king, living in palaces, and never having to overcome un-pleasantries and obstacles in life, it would be much harder for us all to relate to His human experience.

It’s just this idea of a “ransom” needing to be paid by God for our souls that seems to contradict the God we know as being all-powerful, all-loving and the creator of all.


Perhaps an analogy might be useful.

A father tells his son that he cannot join the family in Disneyworld until he gets an A in Math. The son tries but fails again and again, remaining a C student. The son is frustrated and feels that it is simply impossible to get an A in this subject; in fact, no one’s come close for a long time.

The father loves the son and wants him to join the family on the trip. But he simply cannot waive the rule, because doing so would likely mean his children stop striving altogether. He sits down with the son and proceeds to complete his homework, demonstrating that it is quite possible to get an A in Math given the right diligence and approach, and that he loves his son and wants him to succeed.

This analogy, imperfect as it is, helps me to have some conception of sin, law, and salvation. God gave us the Law. The Law had to be fulfilled. Since we did not fulfill it, He did.


It is very strange, I agree with you. Let me try my analogy:

After repeated warnings against it, my young neighbor continues to drink beer from the frig in my garage. I get really angry with him but I want to forgive him. So, in the spirit of being all-loving, I send my son over to his house to explain how to be neighborly. My neighbor tortures my son and then offers him to me in a barbaric human sacrifice. This, of course, totally appeases me and I forgive my neighbor for paying the price of his sin forever.


I agree, the “ransom” concept is really not useful, and can be quite off-putting. It makes it sound like the Father was determined to have blood, even if it was that of his own Son.

What Christ did by his death and resurrection included (a) showing us the deadly effects of our own sin, (b) showing us how much God loved us, to willingly endure that at our hands, and take upon himself the sin of the world, and © showing us that our greatest fear, death, is not to be feared at all (if death is the end then there’s no reason not to sin, but if death is not the end…)


The idea of “ransom” is a very powerful way to look at Jesus’ death on the cross and what exactly his death means for his Christian faithful.

First, God could have restored humanity in any number of ways, but out of his Wisdom and Love, he sent his only Son not only to teach us by word and by example, but also to die for us. **While without sin, he took on the punishment of sin on behalf of all of us, and the reward of eternal life which was becoming of a sinless man was given to all of us who believe in him and who share in his death and Resurrection through the Eucharist. **

In other words, if a sinless man died, he would only save himself. But since God became man, the gift of salvation was “dispersed” all throughout the human nature.

I would recommend reading Cur Deus Homo by Anselm.


Very helpful replies, much appreciated! I never thought of it in the way Teflon put it with his analogy, but it helps me see the love involved with the whole situation. Thanks to all for helping me analyze this question I’ve struggled with in a new and logical way.


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