I have recently learned that it was the view of the Church Fathers that Christ's atonement was a ransom paid to the devil and this view was widely held until the middle ages when St Anselm refuted it. Why if fathers know best do we not follow this today? Can anyone explain this to me as i just think it is bizarre that the church fathers taught this and that it was only rejected in the middle-ages. Anyone have any information? ( please note I am a catholic and not an anti-catholic polemicist)
This is what the catholic encyclopedia says newadvent.org/cathen/02055a.htm
(Removed excessively long document quotes as per Forum Rules)
It cannot be questioned that this theory also contains a true principle. For it is founded on the express words of Scripture, and is supported by many of the greatest of the early Fathers and later theologians. But unfortunately, at first, and for a long period of theological history, this truth was somewhat obscured by a strange confusion, which would seem to have arisen from the natural tendency to take a figure too literally, and to apply it in details which were not contemplated by those who first made use of it. It must not be forgotten that the account of our deliverance from sin is set forth in figures. Conquest, captivity, and ransom are familiar facts of human history. Man, having yielded to the temptations of Satan, was like to one overcome in battle. Sin, again, is fitly likened to a state of slavery. And when man was set free by the shedding of Christ's precious Blood, this deliverance would naturally recall (even if it had not been so described in Scripture) the redemption of a captive by the payment of a ransom.