A Theological Appraisal of the Recapitulation and Ransom Theories of Atonement

Isaac Boaheng ORCID iD

Issue: Vol.8  No.4 April 2022 Issue  Article 1 pp.98-108
DOI : https://doi.org/10.38159/erats.2022841  |   Published online 8th April 2022.
© 2022 The Author(s). This is an open access article under the CCBY license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).


The patristic era represents the formative period of Christian theology. As such, this period witnessed remarkable theological immaturity and complexity. One theological issue that attracted much attention in this period was atonement. Patristic scholars, in an attempt to build on the apostolic tradition, expressed varied interpretations of Christ’s death on the cross. Among the different patristic interpretations, Iranaeus’ recapitulation and Origen’s ransom theories of atonement became the most outstanding. The recapitulation theory emphasizes the restoration of the human race to their divine-given status. The ransom theory, on the other hand, stresses the transactional dimension of the atonement which resulted in the defeat of Satan. This paper critically examines these two theories using data gathered from books, journal articles, and dissertations, among other sources. The paper concluded that, though the recapitulation and ransom interpretations of the atonement are ancient theories, they are still relevant to the overall contemporary understanding of Christian soteriology. The findings from the paper will not only contribute to modern soteriological discourses but will also help readers to avoid some pitfalls that characterize the two interpretations discussed.

Keywords: Atonement, Christ, Christians, Patristic, Ransom, Recapitulation

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Isaac Boaheng holds a PhD in Theology from the University of the Free State, South Africa, a Master of Theology degree from the South African Theological Seminary, South Africa, a Master of Divinity degree from the Trinity Theological Seminary, Ghana and a Bachelor of Science degree in Geomatic Engineering from the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Ghana. He is a lecturer in Theology and Christian Ethics at the Christian Service University College, Ghana, and a Research Fellow at the Department of Biblical and Religion Studies, University of the Free State, South Africa. Boaheng has over fifty publications in Systematic Theology, Ethics, Biblical Studies, Translation Studies, African Christianity, Linguistics, Pentecostalism and Christian Mission, among others. He is an Ordained Minister of the Methodist Church Ghana serving the Nkwabeng circuit of the Sunyani Diocese.

Boaheng, I. “A Theological Appraisal of the Recapitulation and Ransom Theories of Atonement,” E-Journal of Religious and Theological Studies, 8 no.4 (2022): 98-108.  https://doi.org/10.38159/erats.2022841

© 2022 The Author(s). Published and Maintained by Noyam Publishers. This is an open access article under the CCBY license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).