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  The origin of this powerful imagery in the Judaeo-Christian tradition is that of the benefactor who pays off someone else\'s mortgage or debts (particularly when the debtor or members of his or her family were in danger of being sold into slavery to settle those debts), or who ransoms them from slavery. One\'s ‘redeemer’ could also be one\'s advocate, as when Job tells his friends he will be vindicated (‘I know that my Redeemer liveth..’). Running through the Hebrew Scriptures and liturgy is the refrain of the God of Israel redeeming his people form bondage in Egypt. By early Christian times a redeemer was one who paid a ransom for a captive or a slave, or among Greeks and Romans arranged manumission. Hence many longed for a heavenly redeemer who would redeem them from sin and death, a theme found in other religions as well, especially where, as in Hinduism, redemption from the misery of this world is so ardently desired.

Jesus spoke of giving his life as a ransom for many, and the image became part of the Christian theology of atonement. For St Paul redemption involved not only release from bondage to sin and death, but the restoration of all creation to what God intended it to be. The early church fathers drew not only on Hellenistic concepts of a heavenly redeemer, but developed the vision of God\'s mercy and love in restoring humanity to divine status and the world to incorruptibility. Since there could be not limits on God\'s love, even the inmates of Hell would in the end be redeemed. In an agreeable mixture of theological and the original practical meaning of ‘redemption’, several groups saw it as their Christian mission to ‘redeem’ people from hardship in the temporal world. During the Crusades, the Redemptionists bought back Christians captured as slaves; in 1732 the Society of Redemptionists was formed, to ‘buy back’ the poor and the heathen from Satan, by doing good works. EMJ KMcL



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Reductio Ad Absurdum


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