Atonement in the Early Church

Christus Victor is a new model of atonement that some argue dates back to the early church. The model emphasizes Christ’s victory over the devil and death by His death and resurrection. Some hold this model to be a complete view of the atonement and argue that the early Church never understood redemption in terms of satisfaction of God’s judgment for sin, but only of healing and demonstration of God’s love. The purpose of this article was to analyze whether or not penal and/or substitutionary language exists in the writings of the early Church in regards to Old Testament Sacrifices and the sacrifice of Christ. The article is divided into several sections. To show patristic consensus, references from both Chalcedonian and non-Chalcedenian fathers will be utilized; focus will be on the writings of the pre-Chalcedonian Church fathers.

Origin of Doctrinal Deviation/Controversy

Within the last one hundred years or less, there was a movement among some in the Orthodox Church to “purge” Orthodoxy of the “juridical” dimension of atonement. Many Orthodox today are led to believe that the juridical dimension of atonement is a “contamination” of Western influence. They argue that this dimension is not supported by scripture, and cannot be found in the writings of the early Church fathers, prior to Anselm of Canterbury. Spearheading this movement to “reformulate” the doctrine of atonement, was Metropolitan Anthony (Khrapovitsky) Kiev who wrote in his work “Dogma of Redemption”, published in 1917:

For the last thirty years, this basic dogma of our faith, that is, its formulation, has been the subject of constant reformulation. More exactly, it has been subjected to attempts at restoration…this reformulation is directed not against Orthodoxy (or in deviation from it) but, on the contrary, toward true Orthodoxy. It has been undertaken with a desire to free the theological science which is taught in seminaries, and the school catechisms from heterodox contaminations.

Rejecting the idea of a vicarious substitution, Metropolitan Anthony argued: “What kind of love is it that crucifies? And who needs it?” He went on to argue that a juridical view, if true, only manifests God’s “mercilessness” and “injustice”:

Adam’s sufferings and the agonizing death which befell Adam’s descendants were not sufficient to expunge that dreadful affront. The shedding of a servant’s blood could not effect this; only the Blood of a Being equal in rank with the outraged Divinity, that is, the Son of God, Who of His own good will took the penalty upon Himself in man’s stead. By this means the Son of God obtained mankind’s forgiveness from the wrathful Creator Who received satisfaction in the shedding of the Blood and the death of His Son. Thus, the Lord has manifested both His mercy and His equity! With good reason do the skeptics affirm that if such an interpretation corresponds to Revelation, the conclusion would be the contrary: the Lord would have manifested here both mercilessness and injustice.  (The Dogma of Redemption, pp. 5-6)

Metropolitan Anthony’s motive was clearly to refute “mockeries” from non-Christians. Seeking to counter what might have been an over-emphasis by the West on the juridical dimension, Metropolitan Anthony rejected a fundamental dimension of atonement altogether (essentially throwing out the baby with the bath water). His zeal led him to reject the same view of atonement taught in Orthodox seminaries and catechisms of his time:

The teaching about redemption proffered in our school courses and catechisms (I shall never call this a Church teaching) gives occasion to the enemies of Christianity to raise coarse, but difficult to refute, mockeries…Japanese pagans object to our missionaries that: “You preach the most unreasonable faith, that God supposedly was angered at all people because of Eve’s one act of foolishness. But then he executed His totally innocent Son and only then became soothed.

Metropolitan Anthony’s views created much controversy and were rejected by most Orthodox theologians of his time. Nevertheless, since then, other influential Orthodox theologians such as Fr. John Meyendorff and Alexander Kalomiros and others, began to promote his views, to the extent that such views have asserted themselves strongly in the Byzantine Church today. As a result, many are led to reject the “juridical” dimension of atonement as “heteredox”, even though it was taught in Orthodox “seminaries, and the school catechisms”, as Metropolitan Anthony himself admitted. As will also be evidenced in this article, the Orthodox Church has always acknowledged two dimensions to the redemption: one of healing and another that is “juridical”. Christ renewed and “deified” the fallen nature, as well as paid the “debt” and “penalty” of death  on account of transgression “in place of” humanity.

At about the same time, a Lutheran theologian by the name of Gustaf Aulén published his book named “Christus Victor”, in 1930.  Aulén  argued that prior to Anselm of Canterbury and within the first 1000 years, the Church never understood redemption in terms of a satisfaction of God’s justice/judgment, but merely as a conquering of sin, death, and the devil. Aulén essentially conjured up a new atonement theory called “Christus Victor” which he argued was the predominant view of the early Church. He based his argument on the fact that the early Church fathers spoke with consensus about the victorious Christ. In his book, Aulén pitted his atonement theory against what he called the “Latin” view. While it is undeniable that the Church fathers spoke about Christ’s victory over death, was substitutionary atonement truly absent from the early Church as per Aulén? We will examine Aulén’s claims in great detail in this article. Unfortunately, many have accepted Aulén’s Book at face value without questioning the historical and patristic accuracy or objectivity of Aulén’s arguments.

Death as a “Debt” for Transgression

Those who adopt the modern views of atonement (Christus Victor) often argue that the death of Adam was merely a consequence of sin (as of an illness), devoid of any elements of punishment or chastising on God’s part. Hence they argue that humanity only needed healing from sin and victory over death and the devil. How can a loving God also punish? This question will be answered at more length in the Divine Dilemma section of this article. It is best to try to understand God’s earthly punishment, including physical death, as chastening of a loving Father. It is also important to differentiate between “corruption of death” which is physical death vs. spiritual death, which is death of the soul as result of separation from God. Christ was incarnate and crucified to deliver humanity from both.

Scriptural references>>

Genesis 3:22-24
And the Lord God said, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.” So the Lord God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken. After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life.

Ezekiel 18:20
The one who sins is the one who will die. The child will not share the guilt of the parent, nor will the parent share the guilt of the child. The righteousness of the righteous will be credited to them, and the wickedness of the wicked will be charged against them.

Romans 6:23
For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Galatians 3:10
Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.”

Romans 3:5
But if our unrighteousness brings out God’s righteousness more clearly, what shall we say? That God is unjust in bringing his wrath on us?

Romans 5: 18
So then as through one trespass the judgment came unto all men to condemnation; even so
through one act of righteousness the free gift came unto all men to justification of life.

Colossians 3:5-6
Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming.

Hebrews 2:2
For since the message spoken through angels was binding, and every violation and disobedience received its just punishment, how shall we escape if we ignore so great a salvation? 

While it is undeniable that Christ “healed” and renewed humanity by His incarnation, analysis of both Scripture and early patristic writing confirms that the early Church also understood death to be  a “debt”, “penalty”, “punishment”, “judgment”, “sentence”, “curse’, “chastisement”, and even “condemnation” for transgression. Let’s analyze for example, one sentence by St. Athanasius from “On the Incarnation of the Word”:

“And thus taking from our bodies one of like nature, because all were under penalty of the corruption of death He gave it over to death in the stead of all, and offered it to the Father

From the above sentence alone, we see:
1.       Corruption of death was a “penalty” (not just a consequence or illness).
2.       Christ gave his body over to death “in the stead of all” (substitute).
3.       Christ offered his body as a sacrifice “to the Father

St. Theophilus also refers to Adam’s banishment form Paradise as a type of “punishment” and discipline:

St. Theophilus of Antioch (120 – 190 AD) – to Autolycus, Book 2
It is obviously not the law which causes punishment, but the disobedience and transgression; — for a father sometimes enjoins on his own child abstinence from certain things, and when he does not obey the paternal order, he is flogged and punished on account of the disobedience…And God showed great kindness to man in this, that He did not suffer him to remain in sin forever; but, as it were, by a kind of banishment, cast him out of Paradise, in order that, having by punishment expiated, within an appointed time, the sin, and having been disciplined, he should afterwards be restored.

St. Irenaeus explains that it was necessary for God to reprimand Adam and Eve so that they don’t despise his commandment. But God also wished to save them so that in His mercy, they do not perish because of His curse:

St. Irenaeus (130 – 202 AD) – Against Heresies, Book 3, Chapter 23
It was necessary, therefore, that the Lord, coming to the lost sheep, and making recapitulation of so comprehensive a dispensation, and seeking after His own handiwork, should save that very man who had been created after His image and likeness, that is, Adam, filling up the times of His condemnation, which had been incurred through disobedience…But man received, as the punishment of his transgression, the toilsome task of tilling the earth, and to eat bread in the sweat of his face, and to return to the dust from whence he was taken. Similarly also did the woman [receive] toil, and labor…so that they should neither perish altogether when cursed by God, nor, by remaining unreprimanded, should be led to despise God.

St. Cyril of Alexandria also refers to death as a “divine curse” for disobedience:

St. Cyril of Alexandria (378 – 444 AD) – Commentary on the Gospel of St. Luke
for it was that rebel serpent who led the first man to the transgression of the commandment, and to disobedience, by means of which he fell under the divine curse, and into the net of death: for it was said to him, “Earth you are, and to the earth you shall return.”

The “sentence” of God and Adam’s curse extended over all, since all broke God’s decrees:

St. Cyril of Alexandria (378 – 444 AD) – Commentary on the Gospel of St. John
And the title contained a handwriting against us—the that, by the Divine Law, impends over the transgressors, and the sentence that went forth against all who erred against those ancient ordinances of the Law, like unto Adam’s curse, which went forth against all mankind, in that all alike broke God’s decrees. For God’s anger did not cease with Adam’s fall, but He was also provoked by those who after him dishonored the Creator’s decree; and the denunciation of the Law against transgressors was extended continuously over all.

Speaking of death of the body in the grave as well as of the soul which went to Hades, St. Athanasius explains that death was divided into parts. Both were a “judgment” and “condemnation” by God:

St. Athanasius (296 – 373 AD) – Contra Apollinarium
He who held the enquiry into the transgression, and gave judgment, passed the general doom in a twofold form, saying to the earthly part, Earth thou art, and to earth shalt thou depart:—and so, the Lord having pronounced sentence, corruption receives the body: —but to the soul, Thou shalt die the death: and thus man is divided into two parts, and is condemned to go to two places.

St. Athanasius further explains that Christ died to free humanity from the “condemnation”, “sentence”, and “curse” of death:

St. Athanasius (296 – 373 AD) – Discourses Against the Arians
For since it is said in the Word, ‘Dust thou art, and unto dust thou shalt return,’ suitably through the Word Himself and in Him the freedom and the undoing of the condemnation has come to pass…He sends His own Son, and He becomes Son of Man, by taking created flesh; that, since all were under sentence of death, He, being other than them all, might Himself for all offer to death His own body; and that henceforth, as if all had died through Him, the word of that sentence might be accomplished (for ‘all died’ in Christ), and all through Him might thereupon become free from sin and from the curse which came upon it, and might truly abide forever, risen from the dead and clothed in immortality and incorruption.

Some argue that St. Athanasius never explained redemption in terms of fulfillment of God’s punishment, but only of God’s healing and renewal. Nothing could be further from the truth. St. Athanasius’s book “On the Incarnation of the Word” is filled with references to death as a “penalty” and “sentence” which Christ endured “in the stead” and as a “substitute” for humanity. He dedicates two full chapters discussing God’s mercy vs. truth (“The Divine Dilemma”). When he explained the cross to those inside the Church, St. Athanasius did not hesitate to expound this “penal” reality. He said Christ came to “bear the curse that lay on us”:

St. Athanasius – On the Incarnation of the Word
So much for the objections of those outside the Church. But if any honest Christian wants to know why He suffered death on the cross and not in some other way, we answer thus: in no other way was it expedient for us, indeed the Lord offered for our sakes the one death that was supremely good. He had come to bear the curse that lay on us; and how could He “become a curse” otherwise than by accepting the accursed death? And that death is the cross, for it is written “Cursed is every one that hangeth on tree.” Again, the death of the Lord is the ransom of all…
.

Thus, early church fathers do speak of Christ as the Physician and Healer, but they do not deny the punishment for sin and curse he bore on our behalf:

St. John Chrysostom (349 – 407 AD) – Homilies on Epistle to the Hebrews
For behold the love of God to man! We ought on every ground to have been punished at the first; in that having received the natural law, and enjoyed innumerable blessings have not acknowledged our Master, and have lived an unclean life. Yet He not only has punished us, but has even made us partakers of countless blessings, just as if we had accomplished great things. Again we fell away, and not even so does He punish us, but has given medicine of repentance

The Church’s liturgical texts also confirm that death was a “sentence” and “punishment”:

 Liturgy of Saint Gregory
I  laid  aside  Your  law  by  my  own opinion. I neglected your commandments. I brought upon myself the sentence of death. You O my Master have turned for me the punishment into salvation. As a good shepherd you have sought the stray.

More patristic quotes>>

St. Ignatius of Antioch (35 – 108 AD) – Epistle to the Ephesians, Chapter 11
The last times are come upon us. Let us therefore be of a reverent spirit, and fear the long-suffering of God, lest we despise the riches of His goodness and forbearance. For let us either fear the wrath to come, or let us love the present joy in the life that now is; and let our present and true joy be only this, to be found in Christ Jesus, that we may truly live.  

Polycarp (69 – 155 AD) – Victories of the Martyrs
I have served Jesus Christ these fourscore and six years; he never did me harm, but much good; how can I blaspheme him ? How can I blaspheme my Creator and my Savior, who is also my judge, and who justly punishes those who deny him ?

St. Justin Martyr (100 – 165 AD) – Justin’s Hortatory Address to the Greeks
For it was not just that they who did not keep the first commandment, which it was easy to keep, should any longer be taught, but should rather be driven to just punishment. Being therefore banished from Paradise, and thinking that they were expelled on account of their disobedience only, not knowing that it was also because they had believed in the existence of gods which did not exist, they gave the name of gods even to the men who were afterwards born of themselves.

St. Irenaeus (130 – 202 AD)
For this reason also He has taught us to say in prayer, “And forgive us our debts;” since indeed He is our Father, whose debtors we were, having transgressed His commandments.

St. Irenaeus (130 – 202 AD) – Against Heresies, Book 3
Wherefore also He drove him out of Paradise, and removed him far from the tree of life, not because He envied him the tree of life, as some venture to assert, but because He pitied him, [and did not desire] that he should continue a sinner for ever, nor that the sin which surrounded him should be immortal, and evil interminable and irremediable. But He set a bound to his [state of] sin, by interposing death, and thus causing sin to cease, putting an end to it by the dissolution of the flesh, which should take place in the earth, so that man, ceasing at length to live to sin, and dying to it, might begin to live to God.

St. Clement of Alexandria (150 – 215 AD) – Exhortation to the Heathen
“Behold,” He says, “I have set before your face death and life.” The Lord tries you, that “you may choose life.” He counsels you as a father to obey God. “For if ye hear Me,” He says, “and be willing, ye shall eat the good things of the land:” this is the grace attached to obedience. “But if ye obey Me not, and are unwilling, the sword and fire shall devour you:” this is the penalty of disobedience. For the mouth of the Lord — the law of truth, the word of the Lord — hath spoken these things.

St. Clement of Alexandria (150 – 215 AD) – Recognitions of Clement Book 9
And yet they are deceived even in this; for if men be quickly turned to repentance, and remember and fear the future judgment, the punishment of death is remitted to those who are converted to God by the grace of baptism

Tertullian (160-220 AD) – THE FIVE BOOKS AGAINST MARCION, Book II
This his state was confirmed even by the very law which God then imposed upon him. For a law would not be imposed upon one who had it not in his power to render that obedience which is due to law; nor again, would the penalty of death be threatened against sin, if a contempt of the law were impossible to man in the liberty of his will. So in the Creator’s subsequent laws also you will find, when He sets before man good and evil, life and death, that the entire course of discipline is arranged in precepts by God’s calling men from sin, and threatening and exhorting them; and this on no other ground than that man is free, with a will either for obedience or resistance.

St. Cyprian (200 -258 AD) – The Glory of Martyrdom
For what have you to do with this light, if you have the promise of an eternal light? What interest have you in this commerce of life and nature, if the amplitude of heaven is awaiting you? Doubtless let that lust of life keep hold, but let it be of those whom for unatoned sin the raging fire will torture with eternal vengeance for their crimes. Let that lust of life keep hold, but let it be of those to whom it is both a punishment to die, and a torment to endure (after death).

St. Hilary of Poitiers (310 – 367 AD) – On the Trinity, Book 1
He blotted out through death the sentence of death that by a new creation of our race in Himself He might sweep away the penalty appointed by the former Law. He let them nail Him to the cross that He might nail to the curse of the cross and abolish all the curses to which the world is condemned. 

St. Athanasius (296 – 373 AD) – Letters of Athanasius with Two Ancient Chronicles of His Life
…He became man in the body for our salvation, in order that having somewhat to offer for us He might save us all, ‘as many as through fear of death were all their life-time subject to bondage.’ For it was not some man that gave Himself up for us; since every man is under sentence of death, according to what was said to all in Adam, ‘earth thou art and unto earth thou shalt return.

St. Athanasius (296 – 373 AD) – Contra Arianos, Discourse II, Chapter 21, #67
For then, because the works were become imperfect and mutilated from the transgression, He is said in respect to the body to be created; that by perfecting them and making them whole, He might present the Church unto the Father, as the Apostle says, ‘not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but holy and without blemish.’ Mankind then is perfected in Him and restored, as it was made at the beginning, nay, with greater grace. For, on rising from the dead, we shall no longer fear death, but shall ever reign in Christ in the heavens. And this has been done, since the own Word of God Himself, who is from the Father, has put on the flesh, and become man. For if, being a creature, He had become man, man had remained just what he was, not joined to God; for how had a work been joined to the Creator by a work? or what assistance had come from like to like, when one as well as other needed it? And how, were the Word a creature, had He power to undo God’s sentence, and to remit sin, whereas it is written in the Prophets, that this is God’s doing? For ‘who is a God like unto Thee, that pardoneth iniquity, and passeth by transgression?’ For whereas God has said, ‘Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return,’ men have become mortal; how then could things originate undo sin? but the Lord is He who has undone it, as He says Himself, ‘Unless the Son shall make you free;’ and the Son, who made free, has shewn in truth that He is no creature, nor one of things originate, but the proper Word and Image of the Father’s Essence, who at the beginning sentenced, and alone remitteth sins. For since it is said in the Word, ‘Dust thou art, and unto dust thou shalt return,’ suitably through the Word Himself and in Him the freedom and the undoing of the condemnation has come to pass.

St. Athanasius (296 – 373 AD) – ON THE SALUTARY APPEARING OF CHRIST,
AND AGAINST APOLLINARIS
And since Adam’s soul was detained under sentence of death, and was continually crying out to its Lord, and those who had been well-pleasing to God, and had been justified by the natural law, were detained with Adam, and were mourning and crying out with him, God, taking pity on man whom He had made, was pleased through the revelation of a mystery to work out a new salvation for the race of men, and to effect the overthrow of the enemy, who through envy had deceived them, and to exhibit an incalculable exaltation of man by his union and communion with the Most High in nature n and truth.

St. Athanasius – On the Incarnation of the Word
Forasmuch then as the children are ” the sharers in blood and flesh, he also himself in like ” manner partook of the same, that through death he ” might bring to nought him that had the power of ” death, that is, the devil; and might deliver them “who, through fear of death, were all their lifetime subject to bondage.” For by the sacrifice of his own body, he both put an end to the law which was against us, and made a new beginning of life for us, by the hope of resurrection which he has given us. For since from man it was that death prevailed over men, for this cause conversely, by the Word of God being made man has come about the destruction of death and the resurrection of life; as the man which bore Christ saith: ” For since by man came death, by man came also the “resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so “also in Christ shall all be made alive: ” and so forth. For no longer now do we die as subject to condemnation; but as men who rise from the dead we await the general resurrection of all, “which in its own times he shall” show,” even God, who has also wrought it, and bestowed it upon us…Why, now that the common Saviour of all has died on our behalf, we, the faithful in Christ, no longer die the death as before, agreeably to the warning of the law; for this condemnation has ceased; but, corruption ceasing and being put away by the grace of the Resurrection, henceforth we are only dissolved, agreeably to our bodies’ mortal nature, at the time God has fixed for each, that we may be able to gain a better resurrection.  

St. Cyril of Jerusalem (313 – 386 AD) – Catechetical Lectures of St. Cyril
There is a sentence in the Gospels, saying, He that believeth not on the Son, shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him. For the Father hath indignation when the Only-begotten Son is set at nought.  For it is grievous to a king that merely his soldier should be dishonored; and when one of his nobler officers or friends is dishonored, then his anger is greatly increased: but if any should do despite to the king’s only-begotten son himself, who shall appease the father’s indignation on behalf of his only-begotten son?  

St. Cyril of Jerusalem (313 – 386 AD), Lecture XIII, On the Words Crucified and Buried
What power, O robber, led thee to the light?  Who taught thee to worship that despised Man, thy companion on the Cross? O Light Eternal, which gives light to them that are in darkness!  Therefore also he justly heard the words, Be of good cheer; not that thy deeds are worthy of good cheer; but that the King is here, dispensing favours. The request reached unto a distant time; but the grace was very speedy. Verily I say unto thee, This day shalt thou be with Me in Paradise; because to-day thou hast heard My voice, and hast not hardened thine heart. Very speedily I passed sentence upon Adam, very speedily I pardon thee.  To him it was said, In the day wherein ye eat, ye shall surely die; but thou to-day hast obeyed the faith, to-day is thy salvation.   

St. John Chrysostom explains that death was a punishment humanity suffered on account of Adam’s transgression, but saved through the grace of Jesus Christ:

St. John Chrysostom – Homilies on Epistle to the Romans, Homily X, Rom. V. 12
“But not as the offence, so is also the free gift. For if through the offence of one many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto the many.” For what he says is somewhat of this kind. If sin had so extensive effects, and the sin of one man too; how can grace, and that the grace of God, not the Father only, but also the Son, do otherwise than be the more abundant of the two? For the latter is far the more reasonable supposition. For that one man should be punished on account of another does not seem to be much in accordance with reason. But for one to be saved on account of another is at once more suitable and more reasonable. If then the former took place, much more may the latter. Hence he has shown from these grounds the likelihood and reasonableness of it.  

St. John Chrysostom (349 – 407 AD) – Homilies on First Corinthians
Dost thou not see how He punished Adam for one single sin… And we cannot even say that Adam had heard prophets, that he had seen others punished for sins, and it was meet that he should have been terrified thereby and corrected, were it only by the example. For he was at that time first, and alone; but nevertheless he was punished.

St. John Chrysostom (349 – 407 AD) – Commentary on Galatians
“For our sins,” says the Apostle; we had pierced ourselves with ten thousand evils, and had deserved the gravest punishment; and the Law not only did not deliver us, but it even condemned us, making sin more manifest, without the power to release us from it, or to stay the anger of God. But the Son of God made this impossibility possible for he remitted our sins, He restored us from enmity to the condition of friends…

St. John Chrysostom (349 – 407 AD) – Homilies on Epistle to the Hebrews, Hebrews 9:15
“And for this cause” (he says) “He is the Mediator of the New Testament.” What is a “Mediator”? A mediator is not lord of the thing of which he is mediator, but the thing belongs to one person, and the mediator is another: as for instance, the mediator of a marriage is not the bridegroom, but one who aids him who is about to be married. So then also here: The Son became Mediator between the Father and us.The Father willed not to leave us this inheritance, but was wroth against us, and was displeased [with us] as being estranged [from Him]; He accordingly became Mediator between us and Him, and prevailed with Him. And what then? How did He become Mediator? He brought words from [Him] and brought [them to us], conveying over what came from the Father to us, and adding His own death thereto. We had offended: we ought to have died: He died for us and made us worthy of the Testament. By this is the Testament secure, in that henceforward it is not made for the unworthy. At the beginning indeed, He made His dispositions as a father for sons; but after we had become unworthy, there was no longer need of a testament, but of punishment. Why then (he would say) dost thou think upon the law? For it placed us in a condition of so great sin, that we could never have been saved, if our Lord had not died for us; the law would not have had power, for it is weak.

St. John Chrysostom (349 – 407 AD) – Against the Jews, Homily VIII
He said to Adam: ‘From every tree in the garden you will eat; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil do not eat; for on the day you eat of it; you will surely die.‘ God put Adam on his guard by giving him every warning he would need: he showed him the ease of fulfilling the Law, the liberality of what it permitted, the harshness of the future punishment, and the speed with which it would come. For God did not say: ‘After one, two, or three days, but, ‘on the very day you eat of it, you will surely die.’

Sulpitius Severus (363 – 420 AD) – Doubtful Letters
What then? Did God punish man with death for the sake of the fruit of a tree? No: not on account of the fruit of the tree, but on account of the contempt of the commandment. The question, therefore, is not about the nature of the offense, but about the transgression of the commandment.

St. Cyril of Alexandria (378 – 444 AD) – Commentary on the Gospel of St. John
And the meaning of the figure is in no way affected by the fact, that the men who hung by His side were malefactors; for we were by nature children of wrath, before we believed in Christ, and were all doomed to death, as we said beforeAnd the title contained a handwriting against us—the curse that, by the Divine Law, impends over the transgressors, and the sentence that went forth against all who erred against those ancient ordinances of the Law, like unto Adam’s curse, which went forth against all mankind, in that all alike broke God’s decrees. For God’s anger did not cease with Adam’s fall, but He was also provoked by those who after him dishonoured the Creator’s decree; and the denunciation of the Law against transgressors was extended continuously over all. We were, then, accursed andcondemned, by the sentence of God, through Adam’s transgression, and through breach of  the Law laid down after him; but the Savior wiped out the handwriting against us, by nailing the title to His Cross, which very clearly pointed to the death upon the Cross which He underwent for the salvation of men, who lay undercondemnationFor our sake He paid the penalty for our sins. For though He was One that suffered, yet was He far above any creature, as God, and more precious than the life of all. Therefore, as the Psalmist says, the mouth of all lawlessness was stopped, and the tongue of sin was silenced, unable any more to speak against sinners. For we are justified, now that Christ has paid the penalty for us; for by His stripes we are healed, according to the Scripture. And just as by the Cross the sin of our revolt was perfected, so also by the Cross was achieved our return to our original state, and the acceptable recovery of heavenly blessings; Christ, as it were, gathering up into Himself, for us, the very fount and origin of our infirmity.

St. Cyril of Alexandria (378 – 444 AD) – That Christ is One
Such then, as I think, is the meaning of the Saviour’s words; for He was inviting the good favour of the Father not on Himself but on us rather. For as the [fruits] of wrath passed through as from the first root, I mean Adam, unto the whole nature of man (for death hath reigned from Adam unto Moses over them too which sinned not after the likeness of Adam’s transgression): thus too will the [fruits] from our second first-fruits, Christ, pass through unto the whole human race. And the all-wise Paul will be our warrant, saying, For if by the transgression of one man the many died, much more by the righteousness of the One shall the many live, and again, For as in Adam all die so too in Christ shall all be quickened.

St. Cyril of Alexandria (378 – 444 AD) – Commentary on the Gospel of St. John, Book XII
For death reigned from Adam until Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the likeness of Adam’s transgression; and we bore the image of the earthy in his likeness, and underwent the death that was inflicted by the Divine curse. But when the Second Adam appeared among us, the Divine Man from heaven, and, contending for the salvation of the world, purchased by His death the life of all men, and, destroying the power of corruption, rose again to life, we were transformed into His Image, and undergo, as it were, a different kind of death, that does not dissolve us in eternal corruption, but casts upon us a slumber which is laden with fair hope, after the Likeness of Him Who has made this new path for us, that is, Christ.

St. Cyril of Alexandria (378 – 444 AD) – Commentary on the Gospel of St. John, Book XII
For it was meet that the Lord should be our restorer in this way also. For by Adam’s transgression, as in the firstfruits of the race, the sentence went forth to the whole world: Dust thou art, and to dust thou shalt return; and to the woman in special: In sorrow thou shalt bring forth children. To be rich in sorrow, then, as by way of a penalty, was the fate of woman. It was, therefore, necessary that by the mouth of Him That had passed sentence of 
condemnation, the burden of that ancient curse should be removed, our Saviour Christ now wiping away the tears from the eyes of the woman, or rather of all womankind, as in Mary the firstfruits. For she, first of women, being offended at the death of the Saviour, and grieving thereat, was thought worthy to hear the voice that cut short her weeping…Jesus saith unto her, Mary. She turneth herself, and saith, unto Him in Hebrew, Rabboni; which is to say, Master, and ran forward to touch Him.

St. Cyril of Alexandria (378 – 444 AD) – Commentary on Gospel of St. Luke
For the first man was indeed in the beginning in the paradise of delight, being ennobled by the absence both of suffering and of corruption: but when he despised the commandment that had been given him, and fell under a curse and condemnation, and into the snare of death, by eating the fruit of the forbidden tree, Christ, as I said, by the very same thing restores him again to his original condition. For He became the fruit of the tree by having endured the precious cross for our sakes, that He might destroy death, which by means of the tree had invaded the bodies of mankind.

St. Cyril of Alexandria (378 – 444 AD) – Commentary on Gospel of St. Luke
For it is thus written in the Exodus concerning the children of Israel; “And they came to Marah: and the people could not drink the waters of Marah; for they were bitter. And Moses cried unto the Lord, and the Lord shewed him a tree; and he cast it into the waters, and the waters were made sweet.” Now Marah, when translated, means bitterness; and is taken by us as a type of the law.For the law was bitter, in that it punished with death. And of this Paul is witness, saying, “He that hath despised Moses’ law is put to death without mercy at the mouth of two or three witnesses.” It was bitter therefore, and unendurable to those of old time, and was unacceptable on this account, just as were also those bitter waters. But it also was sweetened by the precious cross, of which that tree there shewn by God to the blessed Moses was a type.  

St. Cyril of Alexandria (378 – 444 AD) – Commentary on Gospel of St. John, Chapter IX
But when he was being punished for his transgressions, then with justice hearing Dust thou art and unto dust shalt thou return, he was bared of the grace; the breath of life, that is the Spirit of Him Who says I am the Life, departed from the earthy body and the creature falls into death, through the flesh alone, the soul being kept in immortality, since to the flesh too alone was it said, Dust thou art and unto dust shalt thou return. It needed therefore that that in us which was specially imperilled, should with the greater zeal be restored, and by intertwining again with Life That is by Nature be recalled to immortality: it needed that at length the sentence, Dust thou art and unto dust shalt thou return should be relaxed, the fallen body being united ineffably to the Word That quickeneth all things.

St. Cyril of Alexandria (378 – 444 AD) – Commentary on Gospel of St. John
For by the effect of His precious cross the sovereignty of the devil was doomed to fall to eternal ruin; death was to be deprived of its sting, and the sway of corruption to be destroyed; the  human race was to be freed from that ancient curse, and to be enabled through the gracious love of our Saviour Christ to hope for the annulling of the sentence: Earth thou art, and to earth shalt thou return; all iniquity, in the words of the prophet, was to stop her mouth, and those in all the world that know not Him Who alone is in His nature God were to be utterly brought to nought, and no longer to condemn those that had been in her power but were justified by faith in Christ; and for the time to come the gate of paradise was to be expected to be opened. 

St. Cyril of Alexandria, Commentary on John 10:48-50

This was the first thing that [Adam] learnt [after the fall]—his own shame; and he hid himself from God.  Yet here too he makes a gain, namely death, and the cutting off of sin, in order that evil may not be immortal.  Thus his punishment is changed into a mercy; for it is in mercy, I am persuaded, that God inflicts punishment.

The below quote is among many quotes refuting the modern deviant view that asserts that death was merely a “natural consequence” to sin and not also a divine punishment. St. Cyril explains that death was a “Divine sentence” and that the Savior ended God’s anger when He overthrow death which prevailed from God’s curse:

St. Cyril of Alexandria (378 – 444 AD) – Commentary on Gospel of St. John, Book V, Chap IV
Hearest thou how to the Jews asking a sign as a proof that He is God by Nature, even though they said it tempting Him, He says that no other shall be shewn to them save the sign of the prophet Jonas, i. e. the three days death and the coming to life again from the dead? For what token of God-befitting authority so great and manifest, as to undo death and overthrow decay, albeit by Divine sentence having the mastery over human nature? For in Adam it heard, Dust thou art and unto dust shalt thou return; but it was in the power of Christ the Saviour both to end His Anger, and by blessings to overthrow the death which from His curse prevailed. But that the Jews exceedingly feared the sign of the resurrection as mighty to convince that Christ is by Nature God, their final deed will clearly tell us, for when they heard of the Resurrection of the Saviour, and that He was not found in the tomb, terrified and exceeding fearful thereat, they planned to buy off the informations of the soldiers by large money. 

St. Cyril refutes an argument that the soul supposedly pre-existed and was given a flesh by God as a punishment. He argues that we were punished while in the flesh not before :

St. Cyril of Alexandria (378 – 444 AD) – Commentary on Gospel of St. Luke
If souls were embodied for previous sins, and the nature of the body were invented as a species of punishment for them, how did the Saviour profit us by abolishing death? how was not rather decay a mercy, destroying that which punished us, and putting an end to the wrath against us? Hence one might rather say that it were meeter to give thanks to decay than on the contrary to Him Who laid on us endless infliction through the resurrection of the dead. And yet we give thanks as freed from death and decay through Christ.  

St. Cyril of Alexandria (378 – 444 AD) – Commentary on Gospel of St. Luke, SERMON XLII
For that there is no obedience without reward, and on the other hand, no disobedience without penalty, is made plain by what God spake by His holy prophet to those who disregarded Him…For let us see, if you will, even from the writings of Moses, the grief to which disobedience has brought us. We have been driven from a paradise of delights, and have also fallen under the condemnation of death; and while intended for incorruption:—for so God created the universe:—we yet have become accursed, and subject to the yoke of sin. And how then have we escaped from that which betel us, or Who is He that aided us, when we had sunk into this great misery? It was the Only-begotten Word of God, by submitting Himself to our estate, and being found in fashion as a man, and becoming obedient unto the Father even unto death. Thus has the guilt of the disobedience that is by Adam been remitted: thus has the power of the curse ceased, and the dominion of death been brought to decay. 

St. Cyril of Alexandria – Commentary on the Gospel of St. John, Book V, Chapter III
“Hearest thou how to the Jews asking a sign as a proof that He is God by Nature, even though they said it tempting Him, He says that no other shall be shewn to them save the sign of the prophet Jonas, i. e. the three days death and the coming to life again from the dead? For what token of God-befitting authority so great and manifest, as to undo death and overthrow decay, albeit by Divine sentence having the mastery over human nature? For in Adam it heard, Dust thou art and unto dust shalt thou return; but it was in the power of Christ the Saviour both to end His Anger, and by blessings to overthrow the death which from His curse prevailed.  

St. Gregory Nazianzen – Oration II
Moreover, to distinguish still more clearly between them, we have, against the fear of office, a possible help in the law of obedience, inasmuch as God in His goodness rewards our faith, and makes a perfect ruler of the man who has confidence in Him, and places all his hopes in Him; but against the danger of disobedience I know of nothing which can help us, and of no ground to encourage our confidence. For it is to be feared that we shall have to hear these words concerning those who have been entrusted to us:  I will require their souls  at your hands; and, Because ye have rejected me, and not been leaders and rulers of my people, I also will reject you, that I should not be king over you; and, As ye refused to hearken to My voice, and turned a stubborn back, and were disobedient, so shall it be when ye call upon Me, and I will not regard nor give ear to your prayer. God forbid that these words should come to us from the just Judge, for when we sing of His mercy we must also by all means sing of His judgment.

Theodoret (393 – 457 AD) – Dialogues. The “Eranistes” or “Polymorphus”
Orth.—And what punishment did God assign for the transgression of the commandment?

Eran.—Death
Orth.—… For since death is the punishment of sinners, and death unrighteously and against the divine law seized the sinless body of the Lord, He first raised up that which was unlawfully detained, and then promised release to them that were with justice imprisoned.

Salvian (400 – 490 AD) – On the Government of God
But, forsooth, I seem to be contradicting myself; whereas I said before that we are punished by God on account of our sins, now I say that we are punishing ourselves. Both are true; we are indeed punished by God, but we ourselves force him to punish us. Inasmuch as we cause our own punishment, who can doubt that we are chastising ourselves by our crimes? For whoever gives cause for his punishment chastises himself, according to the saying: “Every one is bound by the chains of his sins.” If wicked men are bound by the chains of their sins, every sinner doubtless binds himself when he sins.

St. Severus of Antioch (465 – 538 AD) – Letter of St. Severus to EUPRAXIUS THE CHAMBERLAIN
Since Adam was condemned to death after the transgression which was committed through the deceitfulness of the serpent
, and heard the words, “Dust thou art and to dust shalt thou return”, and, “Cursed is the ground in the work of thine hands”, and, “In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat thy bread”, and Eve too was also condemned with him by hearing the words, “In pains shalt thou bear children”, so with us also who are sprung from them the charges of disobedience have been confirmed, and we ourselves are dust and to dust we return, and we are condemned to the curse and are creatures born in pains: and from that time we have been in subjection, being subject to lust and to the varied pleasure of this, according to the saying of the blessed Paul. For it was right that against the cunning contriver of evil, the serpent and the destroyer of our life, we should contend with him with the same weapons (?) with which he deceived those founders of our race: and, since it was not the part of another power to annul the punishment fixed by our Lord himself, he did not send an envoy nor an angel, but, as Isaiah cries, the Lord himself saved us.

St. Gregory the Great (540 AD –  604 AD) –  Registrum Epistolarum, Book XI, Letter 64
For, when our first parents had transgressed in Paradise, they lost by the just judgment of God 
the immortality which they had received.  Therefore, because Almighty God would not utterly extinguish the human race for their fault, He took away immortality from man for his sin, and yet, in the kindness of His pity, reserved to him fruitfulness in offspring. 

St. Gregory the Great (540 AD –  604 AD) – Morals on the Book of Job
For man, being created for the contemplation of his Maker, but banished from the interior joys in justice to his deserts, gone headlong into the wofulness of a corrupt condition, undergoing the darkness of his exile, was at once subject to the punishment of his sin, and knew it not; so that he imagined his place of exile to be his home, and so rejoiced under the weight of his corrupt condition as in the liberty of a state of salvation.

St. Gregory the Great (540 AD– 604 AD) – Epistles of St. Gregory, Epistle XXXIV
And certainly Adam and Eve ate of the forbidden tree, and yet in their flesh they lived afterwards more than nine hundred years.  It is therefore evident that in his flesh he did not die. If then he did not die in his soul, the impious conclusion follows that God pronounced a false sentence concerning him, when He said that in the day that he ate he should die. But far be this error, far be it from the true faith.  For what we say is, that the first man died in soul in the day that he sinned, and that through him the whole human race is condemned in this penalty of death and corruption.  But through the second man we trust that we can be freed, both now from the death of the soul, and hereafter from all corruption of the flesh in the eternal resurrection:—as moreover we said to the aforesaid representatives; ‘We say that the soul of Adam died by sin, not from the substance of living, but from the quality of living. For, inasmuch as substance is one thing, and quality another, his soul did not so die as not to be, but so died as not to be blessed.  Yet this same Adam returned afterwards to life through penitence.’

John Damascene (676 – 749) – EXPOSITION OF THE ORTHODOX FAITH
Man, then, was thus snared by the assault of the arch-fiend, and broke his Creator’s command, and was stripped of grace and put off his confidence with God, and covered himself with the asperities of a toilsome life (for this is the meaning of the fig-leaves); and was clothed about with death, that is, mortality and the grossness of flesh (for this is what the garment of skins signifies); and was banished from Paradise by God’s just judgment, and condemned to death, and made subject to corruption. Yet, notwithstanding all this, in His pity, God, Who gave him his being, and Who in His graciousness bestowed on him a life of happiness, did not disregard man

John Damascene (676 – 749) – On Holy Images
At that time Adam’s race was under a curse, and death was a penalty, therefore a mourning. A corpse was looked upon as unclean, and the man who touched it as contaminated. But since the Godhead has taken to Himself our nature, it has become glorified as a vivifying and efficacious remedy, and has been transformed unto immortality. Thus the death of the saints is a rejoicing, and churches are raised to them, and their images are set up.

John Damascene (676 – 749) – On Holy Images
The gates of heaven are opened to receive the receptacle of God, who, bringing forth the tree of life, destroyed Eve’s disobedience and Adam’s penalty of death. And Christ, the cause of all life, receives the chosen mirror, the mountain from which the stone without hands filled the whole earth. She, who brought about the Word’s divine Incarnation, rests in her glorious tomb as in a bridal chamber, whence she goes to the heavenly bridals, to share in the kingdom of her Son and God, leaving her tomb as a place of rest for those on earth.

Methodius (815 – 885 AD) – From the Discourse on the Resurrection
Therefore, since the flesh is the boundary between corruption and incorruption, not being either corruption or incorruption…Therefore it became subject to corruption. When, then, it had been overcome by corruption, and was given over to death for chastisement,  


Divine Dilemma (Truth vs. Mercy)

According to the Church fathers, death was a “penalty for transgression” which could not be “repealed” otherwise God would be “untrue”. The “sentence of death” had to be “fulfilled”, but God in His mercy, wished to save humanity. Although speaking only in human terms, St. Athanasius presented this dichotomy between God’s truth (judgment) vs. mercy as the “Divine Dilemma”. Nevertheless, Scripture and patristic writings tend to present judgement and mercy as being perfectly complementary and intrinsically harmonious in a “perfect” God; God is just in His mercy and merciful in His justice/judgment. 

Scriptural references>>

Exodus 34:6-7 (Septuagint)
The Lord God, pitiful and merciful, longsuffering and very compassionate, and true, and keeping justice and mercy for thousands, taking away iniquity, and unrighteousness, and sins; and he will not clear the guilty; bringing the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and to the children’s children, to the third and fourth generation

Psalm 85:10
Mercy
and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other.

Psalm 89:14
Justice and judgment are the habitation of thy throne: mercy and truth shall go before thy face.

Psalm 33: 5
The LORD loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of his unfailing love.

Psalm 101:1
I will sing of mercy and judgment: unto thee, O LORD, will I sing.

Psalm 103:6-10 (Septuagint)
The Lord executes mercy and judgment for all that are injured. He made known his ways to Moses, his will to the children of Israel. The Lord is compassionate and pitiful, long-suffering, and full of mercy. He will not be always angry; neither will he be wrathful for ever.  

Psalm 119:149-150 (Septuagint)
Hear my voice, O Lord, according to thy mercy; quicken me according to thy judgment. They
have drawn nigh who persecuted me unlawfully; and they are far removed from thy law

Jeremiah 9:24 (Septuagint)
But let him that boasts boast in this, the understanding and knowing that I am the Lord that exercise mercy, and judgment, and righteousness, upon the earth; for in these things is my pleasure, saith the Lord.

Sirach 18:20
Before judgment examine thyself, and in the day of visitation thou shalt find mercy. Humble thyself before thou be sick, and in the time of sins shew repentance.

Jeremiah 9:24
But let the one who boasts boast about this: that they have the understanding to know me, that I am the LORD, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,” declares the LORD.

Deuteronomy 32:39-41
See now that I myself am He! There is no god besides me. I put to death and I bring to life, I have wounded and I will heal, and no one can deliver out of my hand. I lift my hand to heaven and solemnly swear: As surely as I live forever, when I sharpen my flashing sword and my hand grasps it in judgment, I will take vengeance on my adversaries and repay those who hate me.

Sirach 5:6
Do not say, “His mercy is great,  he will forgive the multitude of my sins,” for both mercy and wrath are with himand his anger rests on sinners.

Romans 2:5
Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed.

Romans 11:22
Consider therefore the kindness and sternness of God: sternness to those who fell, but kindness to you, provided that you continue in his kindness. Otherwise, you also will be cut off.

Ephesians 2:3-4
Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the  flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved),

James 2:13
For judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.

Revelation 3:19
Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent.

In addressing heresies, St. Irenaeus explains that a judicial god who is not also good is not God, and likewise a good god who has no judicial power, is not deity. He asserts that God’s goodness must also be accompanied with judgement and the ability to “save all”. Otherwise, God would be deprived of the true characters of deity:

St. Irenaeus (130 – 202 AD) – Against Heresies
For he that is the judicial one, if he be not good, is not God, because he from whom goodness is absent is no God at all; and again, he who is good, if he has no judicial power, suffers the same [loss] as the former, by being deprived of his character of deity…Therefore the Father will excel in wisdom all human and angelic wisdom, because He is Lord, and Judge, and the Just One, and Ruler over all. For He is good, and merciful, and patient, and saves whom He ought: nor does goodness desert Him in the exercise of justice, nor is His wisdom lessened; for He saves those whom He should save, and judges those worthy of judgment.

There are some who deny that the word “justice” was used in Scripture or by the Church fathers to mean “judgment”. They argue that whenever the word “justice” was used, it always meant “righteousness”. They maintain that the idea of a Divine “justice” understood in a juridical or retributive sense, is a pollution of Western/Protestant theology. While it is undeniable that the word “justice” was sometimes used in scripture to mean “righteousness”, analysis of Scripture and the writings of the Church fathers, shows that depending on the context, the word “justice” clearly also meant God’s “judgment” and retribution for sin: 

St. Athanasius explained that God’s “justice” is tempered by His mercy:

St. Athanasius (296 – 373 AD) – Letter to Marcellinus
And when you have yourself experienced His power in judgement (for always His justice is tempered by His mercy) the next Psalm [101] will express your need.  If through the weakness of your nature and the strain of life you find yourself at times downcast and poor, sing for your consolation Psalm 102,

Demonstrating how God combines both “judgment” and mercy”, St. Clement of Alexandria explained that the “justice” of the Instructor deals in rebukes, while  the goodness of God deals in compassion:

St. Clement of Alexandria (150 – 215 AD) – The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 9
For He,” it is said, “is merciful; He will heal their sins, and not destroy them, and fully turn away His anger, and not kindle all His wrath.”See how the justice of the Instructor, which deals in rebukes, is shown; and the goodness of God, which deals in compassions. Wherefore David — that is, the Spirit by him — embracing them both, sings of God Himself, “Justice and judgment are the preparation of His throne: mercy and truth shall go before Thy face.” He declares that it belongs to the same power both to judge and to do good. For there is power over both together, and judgment separates that which is just from its opposite. And He who is truly God is just and good; who is Himself all, and all is He; for He is God, the only God.

St. Clement also explained that God inflicts punishment so that “justice” is not neglected on our account:

St. Clement of Alexandria (150 – 215 AD) – The Instructor, Chap VIII
And God does not inflict punishment from wrath, but for the ends of justice; since it is not expedient that justice should be neglected on our account. Each one of us, who sins, with his own free-will chooses punishment, and the blame lies with him who chooses. God is without blame. “But if our unrighteousness commend the righteousness of God, what shall we say? Is God unrighteous, who taketh vengeance? God forbid.”

Tertullian explained that the “justice” of God passes penal sentences against the evils of sin:

Tertullian (160 -220 AD) – The Five Books Against Marcion, Book 2, Chapter 13
We, on the contrary, distinguish between the two meanings of the word in question, and, by separating evils of sin from penal evils, mala culpae from mala poenae, confine to each of the two classes its own author, — the devil as the author of the sinful evils (culpae), and God as the creator of penal evils (poenae); so that the one class shall be accounted as morally bad, and the other be classed as the operations of justice passing penal sentences against the evils of sin. Of the latter class of evils which are compatible with justice, God is therefore avowedly the creator. They are, no doubt, evil to those by whom they are endured, but still on their own account good, as being just and defensive of good and hostile to sin. In this respect they are, moreover, worthy of God. Else prove them to be unjust, in order to show them deserving of a place in the sinful class, that is to say, evils of injustice; because if they turn out to belong to justice, they will be no longer evil things, but good — evil only to the bad, by whom even directly good things are condemned as evil.

St. John Chrysostom explained that because God is “just”, He recompenses to each according to what they deserve

St. John Chrysostom (349 – 407 AD) – Homilies Concerning the Power of Demons
If there is a God, as indeed there is, it follows that He is just, for if He is not just neither is He God, and if He is just He recompenses to each according to their desert. But we do not see all here receiving according to their desert. Therefore it is necessary to hope for some other requital awaiting us, in order that by each one receiving according to his desert, the justice of God may be made manifest.

St. John also explained that if there were no judgment, God would not be “just”:

St. John Chrysostom (349 – 407 AD) – Homilies on Colossians
For such is ever the devil’s way; he puts forward everything in a wily, and not in a straightforward manner, to put us on our guard. If there is no Judgment, God is not just (I speak as a man): if God is not just, then there is no God at all…Seest thou the drift of this satanical argument?…Let us then not be persuaded by him. For there is a Judgment, O wretched and miserable man!

St. Basil explained that the pains of hell are the “just punishment” of transgression, since God is both “just and merciful”:

St. Basil the Great (330 – 379 AD) – A Treatise on Baptism
Let it be remembered that the glory of heaven is a gratuitous supernatural favor: and that the pains of hell are the just punishment of voluntary actual transgression…God is just and merciful, and if His dispensations seem severe, we must nevertheless adore them, and await with patience the full manifestation of their justice in the light of glory. We cannot, against the express authority of Christ, promise entrance into His kingdom to such as are not born of water and the Spirit. We cannot question a condition for salvation recognized by the whole church of God during so many ages. Charity suggests that we should urge our fellow-men to comply with it, and leave to God the vindication of His own justice and goodness.

Hence it is clear from the above references, among many others, that the early Church fathers understood that God combines both mercy and justice, and that the early Church used the word “justice” to not only speak God’s righteousness or goodness, but to also of God’s judgment, punishment, and/or retribution for sin. 

More quotes>>

St. Justin Martyr (100 – 165 AD)
For we see that the Almighty God is kind and merciful, causing His sun to rise on the unthankful and on the righteous, and sending rain on the holy and on the wicked; all of whom He has taught us He will judge.

St. Irenaeus (130 – 202 AD) – Against Heresies, Book 4 CHAPTER 28
Those persons prove themselves senseless who exaggerate the mercy of Christ, but are silent as to the Judgment, and look only at the more abundant grace of the New Testament; but forgetful of the greater degree of perfection which it demands from us 

Clement of Alexandria (150 – 215 AD) – The Instructor, Chap X
By Moses, too, by reason of the love He has to man, He promises a gift to those who hasten to salvation. For He says, “And I will bring you into the good land, which the Lord sware to your fathers.” …”And blessed is he,” He saith by David, “who has not sinned; and he shall be as the tree planted near the channels of the waters, which will yield its fruit in its season, and his leaf shall not wither “(by this He made an allusion to the resurrection)…Again, showing the opposite scale of the balance of justice, He says, “But not so the ungodly–not so; but as the dust which the wind sweeps away from the face of the earth.” By showing the punishment of sinners, and their easy dispersion, and carrying off by the wind, the Instructor dissuades from crime by means of punishment; and by holding up the merited penalty, shows the benignity of His beneficence in the most skilful way, in order that we may possess and enjoy its blessings.  

Tertullian (160 -220 AD) – The Five Books Against Marcion
Thus far, then, justice is the very fullness of the Deity Himself, manifesting God as both a perfect father and a perfect master: a father in His mercy, a master in His discipline; a father in the mildness of His power, a master in its severity; a father who must be loved with dutiful affection, a master who must needs be feared; be loved, because He prefers mercy to sacrifice; be feared because He dislikes sin; be loved, because He prefers the sinner’s repentance to his death; be feared, because He dislikes the sinners who do not repent.  

Tertullian (160 -220 AD) – Marcion’s “God”, Book 1, chapter 27

Again, he plainly judges evil by not willing it, and condemns it by prohibiting it; while, on the other hand, he acquits it by not avenging it, and lets it go free by not punishing it. What a prevaricator of truth is such a god! What a dissembler with his own decision! Afraid to condemn what he really condemns, afraid to hate what he does not love, permitting that to be done which he does not allow, choosing to indicate what he dislikes rather than deeply examine it! This will turn out an imaginary goodness, a phantom of discipline, perfunctory in duty, careless in sin. Listen, ye sinners; and ye who have not yet come to this, hear, that you may attain to such a pass! A better god has been discovered, who never takes offense, is never angry, never inflicts punishment, who has prepared no fire in hell, no gnashing of teeth in the outer darkness! He is purely and simply good. He indeed forbids all delinquency, but only in word. He is in you, if you are willing to pay him homage, for the sake of appearances, that you may seem to honor God; for your fear he does not want. And so satisfied are the Marcionites with such pretenses, that they have no fear of their god at all. They say it is only a bad man who will be feared, a good man will be loved. Foolish man, do you say that he whom you call Lord ought not to be feared, whilst the very title you give him indicates a power which must itself be feared? But how are you going to love, without some fear that you do not love? Surely (such a god) is neither your Father, towards whom your love for duty’s sake should be consistent with fear because of His power; nor your proper Lord, whom you should love for His humanity and fear as your teacher.

 

Origen (185 -254 AD) – De Principiis, Book 2
By all which it is established, that the God of the law and the Gospels is one and the same, a just and good God, and that He confers benefits justly, and punishes with kindness; since neither goodness without justice, nor justice without goodness, can display the (real) dignity of the divine nature.

Origen (185 -254 AD) – Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans
For at the end of the age, in the most recent times, God has manifested his righteousness and given Christ to be our redemption. He has made him our propitiator. If he had sent him as the propitiator at some earlier time, there would have been fewer people whose sins needed propitiating than there are now. For God is just, and therefore he could not justify the unjust. Therefore he required the intervention of a propitiator, so that by having faith in him those who could not be justified by their own works might be justified

St. Cyprian (200 -258 AD) – Select Epistles
We read, moreover, in the psalms, the justice of God in his menaces, and his mercies in saving the persons he so had threatened, punishing them in order to their reformation, and then saving them after it; I will visit (saith he) their transgression with the rod, and their iniquity with stripes; nevertheless my lovingkindness will I not utterly take from them.

St. Cyprian (200 -258 AD) – Treatise 3 – On the Lapsed
But if any one, by an overhurried haste, rashly thinks that he can give remission of sins to all, or dares to rescind the Lord’s precepts, not only does it in no respect advantage the lapsed, but it does them harm. Not to have observed His judgment is to have provoked His, wrath, and to think that the mercy of God must not first of all be entreated, and, despising the Lord, to presume on His power. Under the altar of God the souls of the slain martyrs cry with a loud voice, saying, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost Thou not judge and avenge our blood upon those who dwell on the earth?”…And again: “I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth, saith the Lord, but that he should return and live.” And Joel the prophet declares the mercy of the Lord in the Lord’s own admonition, when he says: “Turn ye to the Lord your God, for He is merciful and gracious, and patient, and of great mercy, and repenteth Him with respect to the evil that He hath inflicted.” He can show mercy; He can turn back His judgment. He can mercifully pardon the repenting, the laboring, the beseeching sinner. He can regard as effectual whatever, in behalf of such as these, either martyrs have besought or priests have done. Or if any one move Him still more by his own atonement, if he appease His anger, if he appease the wrath of an indignant God by righteous entreaty, He gives arms again whereby the vanquished may be armed; He restores and confirms the strength whereby the refreshed faith may be invigorated.

Lactantius (240-320 AD) – OF TRUE WISDOM AND RELIGION
But since God is kind and merciful to His people, He sent Him to those very persons whom He hated, that He might not close the way of salvation against them for ever, but might give them a free opportunity of following God, that they might both gain the reward of life if they should follow Him (which many of them do, and have done), and that they might incur the penalty of death by their fault if they should reject their King. 

St. Athanasius (296 – 373 AD) – Contra Arianos
Not as being subject to laws, and biassed to one side, does He love the one and hate the other, lest, if from fear of falling away He chooses the one, we admit that He is alterable otherwise also; but, as being God and the Father’s Word, He is a just judge and lover of virtue, or rather its dispenser. Therefore being just and holy by nature, on this account He is said to love righteousness and to hate iniquity; as much as to say, that He loves and chooses the virtuous, and rejects and hates the unrighteous.

St. Athanasius (296 – 373 AD) – On the Incarnation of the Word
For death, as I said above, gained from that time forth a legal hold over us, and it was impossible to evade the law, since it had been laid down by God because of the transgression, and the result was in truth at once monstrous and unseemly. For it were monstrous, firstly, that God, having spoken, should prove false—that, when once He had ordained that man, if he transgressed the commandment, should die the death, after the transgression man should not die, but God’s word should be broken.For God would not be true, if, when He had said we should die, man died not…It was, then, out of the question to leave men to the current of corruption; because this would be unseemly, and unworthy of God’s goodness. But just as this consequence must needs hold, so, too, on the other side the just claims of God lie against it: that God should appear true to the law He had laid down concerning death. For it were monstrous for God, the Father of truth, to appear a liar for our profit and preservation. So here, once more, what possible course was God to take? To demand repentance of men for their transgression?…But repentance would, firstly, fail to guard the just claim of God.For He would still be none the more true, if men did not remain in the grasp of death; nor, secondly, does repentance call men back from what is their nature—it merely stays them from acts of sin. 

St. Basil the Great (330 – 379 AD) – Extant Letters, Letter CCXXXIV
Do you worship what you know or what you do not know? If I answer, I worship what I know, they immediately reply, What is the essence of the object of worship?  Then, if I confess that I am ignorant of the essence, they turn on me again and say, So you worship you know not what.  I answer that the word to know has many meanings.  We say that we know the greatness of God, His power, His wisdom, His goodness, His providence over us, and the justness of His judgment; but not His very essence.  The question is, therefore, only put for the sake of dispute.  For he who denies that he knows the essence does not confess himself to be ignorant of God, because our idea of God is gathered from all the attributes which I have enumerated.  But God, he says, is simple, and whatever attribute of Him you have reckoned as knowable is of His essence.  But the absurdities involved in this sophism are innumerable.  When all these high attributes have been enumerated, are they all names of one essence?  And is there the same mutual force in His awfulness and His loving-kindnessHis justice and His creative power, His providence and His foreknowledge, and His bestowal of rewards and punishments, His majesty and His providence?  In mentioning any one of these do we declare His essence? If they say, yes, let them not ask if we know the essence of God, but let them enquire of us whether we know God to be awful, or just, or merciful.These we confess that we know.  If they say that essence is something distinct, let them not put us in the wrong on the score of simplicity.  For they confess themselves that there is a distinction between the essence and each one of the attributes enumerated.  The operations are various, and the essence simple, but we say that we know our God from His operations, but do not undertake to approach near to His essence.  His operations come down to us, but His essence remains beyond our reach…We know God from His power.  We, therefore, believe in Him who is known, and we worship Him who is believed in.

St. Ambrose (337- 397 AD)
Yet that we may not think that this mercy is without judgment, there is a distinction made between those who have paid continual obedience to God’s commandments, and those who at some time, either by error or by compulsion, have fallen….consider the decision of Christ, Who said: “If the servant knew his Lord’s will and did it not, he shall be beaten with many stripes, but if he knew it not, he shall be beaten with few stripes.” Each, then, if he believes, is received, for God “chasteneth every son whom He receiveth,”and him whom He chasteneth He does not give over unto death…

St. John Chrysostom (349 – 407 AD) – Homilies on First Corinthians
But, “They are men,” someone will say, “who do these things; as for God, He is loving unto men.” Now, first of all, not even men do these things in cruelty, but in humanity. And God Himself, as “He is loving unto men,” in the same character doth He punish sins. (Sirac. xvi. 12.) “For as His mercy is great, so also is His reproof.” When therefore thou sayest unto me, “God is loving unto men,” then thou tellest me of so much the greater reason for punishing: namely, our sinning against such a Being… For as His mercy is great, so also is His punishment.

Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom 
O Lord our God, who didst bow the heavens, and come down for the salvation of the race of men, look upon thy servants, and upon thine inheritance. For to thee the fearful Judge, and lover of man, have thy servants bowed down their heads, and subjected their necks; not awaiting the help which is of men, but abiding thy mercy, and waiting for thy salvation; whom keep at all times, especially during the present evening, and the approaching night, from every enemy, from all adverse power of the devil, from vain thoughts, and wicked imaginations.

St. John. Chrysostom (349 – 407 AD) – Homily on the Gospel of St. John
Many of the more careless sort of persons, using the loving-kindness of God to increase the magnitude of their sins and the excess of their disregard, speak in this way, “There is no hell, there is no future punishment, God forgives us all sins.”To stop whose mouths a wise man says, “Say not, His mercy is great, He will be pacified for the multitude of my sins; for mercy and wrath come from Him, and His indignation resteth upon sinners” (Ecclus. v. 6 )

St. Cyril of Alexandria (378 – 444 AD) – Commentary on Gospel of St. John
But now attend carefully, for I am about to take up again the question proposed at first. God declares Himself to shew His kindness and His incomparable love of  men in a manner suitable to Deity…The Lord is long-suffering and of great mercy and true, forgiving transgressions and iniquities and sins; and He will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the sins of fathers upon children unto the third and fourth generation. Forgive this people their sin according to Thy great mercy, as Thou hast been favourable to them from Egypt even until now. It appears therefore that He Who is God over all attributes to Himself love of men and the greatest forbearance towards evil. 

St. Augustine (354 – 430 AD) – A Treatise on the Merits and Forgiveness of Sins…
Now the children of wrath God punishes in anger; whereas it is in mercy that He punishes the children of grace; since “whom He loveth He correcteth, and scourgeth every son whom He receiveth.”

Constitutions of the Holy Apostles
Observe, you who are our beloved sons, how merciful yet righteous the Lord our God is; how gracious and kind to men; and yet most certainly “He will not acquit the guilty:”

The Blessed Fabiola – Fathers of the Desert 
But what the anger of God could not accomplish, was done by the Blood of God, and by His love.

Theodoret (393 – 457 AD) – The Ecclesiastical History of Theodoret
How the Lord God is long suffering towards those who rage against him, and chastises those who abuse his patience, is plainly taught by the acts and by the fate of Valens. For the loving Lord uses mercy and justice like weights and scales; whenever he sees any one by the greatness of his errors over-stepping the bounds of loving kindness, by just punishment He hinders him from being carried to further extremes.

Salvian (400 – 490 AD) – On the Government of God
And although the spirit and majesty of God are such that he is not moved by any passion or anger, yet such is the aggravation of our sins that they drive him to wrath. If I may say so, we subject his loving kindness to force, and seem to lay violent hands on his mercy. For although he is so gentle that ho would like to spare us constantly, our perversity compels him to punish our sins. As those who blockade well-fortified cities or attempt to capture and undermine their mighty strongholds, customarily lay siege to them with all sorts of machines and weapons, so we attack the mercy of God with every kind of frightful sin as if we, too, were using siege engines. Then we think God injures us, though we are acting most injuriously toward him. Indeed every fault of all Christians is an insult to his divinity. “When we perform those acts that are forbidden by God we trample underfoot the orders of him who forbade us. It is impious to blame God’s severity for our misfortunes: we should instead accuse ourselves. For when we commit the sins that cause our torture, we are ourselves the authors of our torments. Why then do we complain of the bitterness of our punishments? Each one of us punishes himself. 

Agpeya (Coptic Orthodox daily book of prayers) – A Prayer for Repentance  
Do not judge me according to Your justice, but according to Your mercy for no one will be justified before You. Dress me in a new attire that befits Your glory. Forgive my sins and I shall sing saying: “Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.” I said I will confess my sins to the Lord, and You cleansed me. Amen.

H.G. Bishop Youanis – Paradise of the Spirit
Is there a contradiction to God’s justice, which states that “The wages of sin is death?” (Romans 6:23) This could have been true if God’s mercy had not interfered. But God’s mercy has met God’s justice and that is what David stated, “Mercy and truth are met together; Righteousness and peace have kissed each other.” (Psalms 85:10) God’s mercy did not contradict His justice, but it found a solution. That solution is based on God’s death to redeem man who sinned.

Fr. Tadros Malaty – THE PERSONALITY OF ST. ATHANASIUS THE APOSTOLIC
AND THE CHURCH ENVIRONMENT
Previously I have shown the stereological thought in the theology of St. Athanasius including
the following points: 1. We would have never been redeemed if God the Word (the Logos) had not become Man. For man is in need of the Creator to redeem his fallen nature to its origin, granting it the image of God, restoring it from corruption to incorruption. In Him mankind overcame death and was recreated. 2. As the Son of God is one with the Father in essence (ousia), He offered Himself as a Sacrifice, paying the debt of our sins, and achieving the divine justice and mercy 3. The Logos is God who defended Satan not only for Himself, but also for our sake. 4. Being God, the incarnate Logos He regained for us our honor, granting us to be children of the Father in the Holy Spirit. St. Athanasius says: [He was made Man that we might be come gods.] [For although there is one Son by nature, True and Only-Begotten, we too become sons, not as He in nature and truth, but according to the grace of Him that calls us, and though we are earthly humans, we are called gods.] 5. The Incarnation presented us to God, the Incarnate Logos reveals the Father to us, and the Father attracts us to the Son (John 17:26; 6:44).

H.G. Bishop Youanis – Paradise of the Spirit, Part 1, Second Edition
Your soul is worth more than the whole world. Jesus said, “For what is a man profited, if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matthew 16:26) The price of your soul is the blood of Jesus Christ, which was shed for your salvation. It is pathetic that some people do not care for their souls. If their shoes or clothes get dirty, they hurry to clean them, but they never care about cleaning their souls and straightening their ways. We live now in the age of mercy, but tomorrow you shall be in the age of justice. If you insult justice here, you may ask for mercy; but if you do not care for mercy here, what will be your status there?


Solution to the “Divine Dilemma”

Scriptural references>>

Romans 3:25-26
God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.

According to St. Athanasius, it was unworthy of God’s goodness to let man die, but He also wished to maintain God’s just claims regarding the “sentence of death”, otherwise God’s word would be untrue. God could simply require repentance, but doing so would not guard the “divine consistency”, and God would appear a liar if man did not die on account of transgression. Neither would mere repentance recall men from the subsequent corruption of their nature. Only the Word could be an ambassador with the Father and die as a “sufficient exchange for all”. Because He is immortal, the Word took a human body capable of dying, surrendered it to death, and offered it to the Father as a sufficient “exchange” and “substitute” for all. In doing so, He saved humanity by fulfilling through his death the “penalty” and “sentence” of death that was required for all, as well as put an end to the corruption of death for all by His resurrection. Thus, was the solution to the Divine Dilemma; by His incarnation and sacrifice, the Word demonstrated God’s great love, while at the same time He upheld the truth of God’s just sentence:

St. Athanasius – On the Incarnation of the Word
As we have already noted, it was unthinkable that God, the Father of Truth, should go back upon His word regarding death in order to ensure our continued existence…But repentance would not guard the Divine consistency, for, if death did not hold dominion over men, God would still remain untrue. For He alone, being Word of the Father and above all, was in consequence both able to recreate all, and worthy to suffer on behalf of all and to be an ambassador for all with the Father… He saw that corruption held us all the closer, because it was the penalty for the Transgression; He saw, too, how unthinkable it would be for the law to be repealed before it was fulfilled. He saw how unseemly it was that the very things of which He Himself was the Artificer should be disappearing…Thus, taking a body like our own, because all our bodies were liable to the corruption of death, He surrendered His body to death instead of all, and offered it to the Father…The Word perceived that corruption could not be got rid of otherwise than through death; yet He Himself, as the Word, being immortal and the Father’s Son, was such as could not die. For this reason, therefore, He assumed a body capable of death, in order that it, through belonging to the Word Who is above all, might become in dying a sufficient exchange for all, and, itself remaining incorruptible through His indwelling, might thereafter put an end to corruption for all others as well, by the grace of the resurrection…For naturally, since the Word of God was above all, when He offered His own temple and bodily instrument as a substitute for the life of all, He fulfilled in death all that was required.

St. Athanasius explained that in dying, Christ “bore in Himself the wrath that was the penalty of our transgression”:

St. Athanasius (296 – 373 AD) – Letter to Marcellinus     
And Psalms 88 and 69, again speaking in the Lord’s own person, tell us further that He suffered these things, not for His own sake but for ours. Thou has made Thy wrath to rest upon me, says the one; and the other adds, I paid them things I never took. For He did not die as being Himself liable to death: He suffered for us, and bore in Himself the wrath that was the penalty of our transgression, even as Isaiah says, Himself bore our weaknesses.

St. Athanasius explained that in Christ, the “undoing” of the “condemnation” of death came to pass. Christ “accomplished” God’s “sentence of death” on behalf of all, since “all died in Christ”:

St. Athanasius (296 – 373 AD) – Contra Arianos, Discourse II, Chapter 21
‘Unless the Son shall make you free;’ and the Son, who made free, has shewn in truth that He is no creature, nor one of things originate, but the proper Word and Image of the Father’s Essence, who at the beginning sentenced, and alone remitteth sins. For since it is said in the Word, ‘Dust thou art, and unto dust thou shalt return,’ suitably through the Word Himself and in Him the freedom and the undoing of the condemnation has come to pass…He sends His own Son, and He becomes Son of Man, by taking created flesh; that, since all were under sentence of death, He, being other than them all, might Himself for all offer to death His own body; and that henceforth, as if all had died through Him, the word of that sentence might be accomplished (for ‘all died’ in Christ), and all through Him might thereupon become free from sin and from the curse which came upon it, and might truly abide forever, risen from the dead and clothed in immortality and incorruption.

In other words, it was necessary for God to “annul His own sentence” via the condemnation of the sinless Christ:

St. Athanasius (296 – 373 AD) – Later Treatises of St. Athanasius, Contra Apollinarium
For this reason the action of Him who had pronounced sentence became necessary, that He might by His own act annul His own sentence, after He had been seen in the form of him that was condemned, but in that form as uncondemned and sinless; that the reconciliation of God to man might come to pass, and the freedom of the whole of man might be effected by means of man, in the newness of the image of His Son Jesus Christ our Lord.

St. Athanasius further explained that the curse for sin was removed because it was transferred to the Word, Who became a “curse for us”:

St. Athanasius (296 – 373 AD) – Discourses Against the Arians
For no longer according to that former generation in Adam do we die; but henceforward, our generation and all infirmity of flesh being transferred to the Word, we rise from the earth, the curse by reason of sin being removed, because of Him who is in us and who has become a curse for us. And with reason; for as we are all from earth and die in Adam, so being regenerated from above of water and Spirit, in the Christ we are all quickened…

Once again, the law [of God] regarding the penalty of death was fulfilled in Christ and undone. Because all died in Him, death no longer has holding-ground against them:

St. Athanasius – On the Incarnation of the Word
But He comes in condescension to shew loving-kindness upon us, and to visit us. And seeing the race of rational creatures in the way to perish, and death reigning over them by corruption; seeing, too, that the threat against transgression gave a firm hold to the corruption which was upon us, and that it was monstrous that before the law was fulfilled it should fall through…and seeing, lastly, how all men were under penalty of death: He took pity on our race, and had mercy on our infirmity, and condescended to our corruption, and, unable to bear that death should have the mastery—lest the creature should perish, and His Father’s handiwork in men be spent for nought…And thus taking from our bodies one of like nature, because all were under penalty of the corruption of death He gave it over to death in the stead of all, and offered it to the Father—doing this, moreover, of His loving-kindness, to the end that, firstly, all being held to have died in Him, the law involving the ruin of men might be undone (inasmuch as its power was fully spent in the Lord’s body, and had no longer holding-ground against men, his peers), and that, secondly, whereas men had turned toward corruption, He might turn them again toward incorruption and quicken them from death by the appropriation of His body and by the grace of the Resurrection, banishing death from them like straw from the fire

And again, because Christ died on behalf of all “in fulfillment of the threat of the law”, we no longer die. The condemnation of death has come to an end:

St. Athanasius (296 – 373 AD) – On the Incarnation of the Word
Have no fears then. Now that the common Savior of all has died on our behalf, we who believe in Christ no longer die, as men died aforetime, in fulfillment of the threat of the law. That condemnation has come to an end; and now that, by the grace of the resurrection, corruption has been banished and done away, we are loosed from our mortal bodies in God’s good time for each, so that we may obtain thereby a better resurrection.

St. Irenaeus explains that the Word redeemed us in a way that did not infringe upon His own justice, by giving His soul for our souls and flesh for our flesh:

St. Irenaeus (130 – 202 AD) – Against Heresies, Book 5
the Word of God, powerful in all things, and not defective with regard to His own justice, did righteously turn against that apostasy, and redeem from it His own property…so that neither should justice be infringed upon, nor the ancient handiwork of God go to destruction. Since the Lord thus has redeemed us through His own blood, giving His soul for our souls, and His flesh for our flesh, and has also poured out the Spirit of the Father for the union and communion of God and man… 

St. Cyril of Jerusalem also explained that by dying, Christ preserved both the truth of His sentence, and the exercise of His loving-kindness:

St. Cyril of Jerusalem (313 – 386 AD) – Catechetical Lectures of St. Cyril
These things the Savior endured, and made peace through the Blood of His Cross, for things in heaven, and things in earth.  For we were enemies of God through sin, and God had appointed the sinner to die.  There must needs therefore have happened one of two things; either that God, in His truth, should destroy all men, or that in His loving-kindness He should cancel the sentence.  But behold the wisdom of God; He preserved both the truth of His sentence, and the exercise of His loving-kindness.  Christ took our sins in His body on the tree, that we by His death might die to sin, and live unto righteousness…The transgression of sinners was not so great, as the righteousness of Him who died for them; we have not committed as much sin as He has wrought righteousness who laid down His life for us,—who laid it down when He pleased, and took it again when He pleased. 

St. Cyril of Alexandria explained that Christ is mercy and justice:

St. Cyril of Alexandria (378 – 444 AD) – Commentary on Gospel of St. Luke
Christ is mercy and justice: for we have obtained mercy through Him, and been justified, having washed away the stains of wickedness through faith that is in Him. 

According to Pope Leo, the omnipotent God could have rescued mankind by the mere exercise of His free will. However, God chose the Passion of Christ to fulfill God’s plan of both mercy and justice, as well as exalt humanity via union of the creature with the Creator:

Leo the Great (390 – 461 AD) – On the Passion, Sermon LXVIII
we should understand that not only was the remission of sins accomplished by Christ, but also the standard of justice satisfied…The glory, dearly-beloved, of the Lord’s Passion, on which we promised to speak again to-day, is chiefly wonderful for its mystery of humility, which has both ransomed and instructed us all, that He, Who paid the price, might also impart His righteousness to us.  For the Omnipotence of the Son of God, whereby He is by the same Essence equal to the Father, might have rescued mankind from the dominion of the devil by the mere exercise of Its will, had it not better suited the Divine working to conquer the opposition of the foe’s wickedness by that which had been conquered, and to restore our nature’s liberty by that very nature by which bondage had come upon the whole race…He remained one and the same Son of God by exalting our properties, not His own: because it was the weakness, not the power that had to be reinforced, so that upon the union of the creature with the Creator there should be nothing wanting of the Divine to the assumed, nor of the human to the Assuming
This plan of God’s mercy and justice, though in the ages past it was in a measure enshrouded in darkness, was yet not so completely hidden that the saints, who have most merited praise from the beginning till the coming of the Lord, were precluded from understanding it…

Gregory of Nyssa explains that God’s goodness could not simply restore humanity to liberty without a method of “exchange” that also satisfied “justice”:

Gregory of Nyssa (335 -394 AD) – Great Catechism
Whether we regard the goodness, the power, the wisdom, or the justice of God, it displays a combination of all these acknowledged attributes, which, if one be wanting, cease to be Divine…After we had thus freely sold ourselves to the deceiver, He who of His goodness sought to restore us to liberty could not, because He was just too, for this end have recourse to measures of arbitrary violence. It was necessary therefore that a ransom should be paid, which should exceed in value that which was to be ransomed; and hence it was necessary that the Son of God should surrender Himself to the power of death. God’s justice then impelled Him to choose a method of exchange, as His wisdom was seen in executing it.

Note: Although the concept of God’s mercy vs. justice is present in his understanding, Gregory of Nyssa, like his mentor Origen, he believed the “ransom” was paid to the devil.  

Pope Gregory speaks of the “marvelous balancing” of God’s justice and loving-kindness:

Pope Gregory (540 AD –  604 AD) – Morals on the Book of Job
Who else is set forth by the title of ‘ the balances,’ but the Mediator between God and man, Who came to weigh the merit of our life, and brought down with Him both justice and loving-kindness together? But putting the greater weight in the scale of mercy, He lightened our transgressions in pardoning them. For in the hand of the Father having been made like scales of a marvelous balancing, in the one scale He hung our woe in His own Person, and in the other our sins. Now by dying He proved the woe to be of heavy weight, and by releasing it shewed the sin to be light in mercy’s scale...

Indeed, the Word instructed, healed, sanctified, and elevated fallen humanity via His incarnation and personal manifestation in the flesh. However, the Creator didn’t “need” to experience physical death to abolish the corruption of death. As evidence, Christ raised the daughter of Jairus and the Widow of Nain’s son, by His command. The Life-Giver raised Lazarus from the corruption of death after four days, by His mere command. According to the Church fathers, God could have simply repealed His sentence and forgiven man, but this would not have guarded the “Divine consistency”, nor would it have renewed humanity’s fallen image. He choose instead, to annul His own sentence by fulfilling it in Himself, and thus He ransomed all from the debt of death by His own righteous blood. He choose to renew (“deify”) humanity by His incarnation, as well as to abolish the corruption of death in human nature for all, by the power of His own resurrection. Thus, He choose a solution that fulfilled the truth of God’s just judgment, while at the same time manifested the fullness of His compassion and loving-kindness: “Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other.” (Psalm 85:10).

More quotes>>

St. Irenaeus (130 – 202 AD) – Against Heresies, Book 5
And since the apostasy tyrannized over us unjustly, and, though we were by nature the property of the omnipotent God, alienated us contrary to nature, rendering us its own disciples, the Word of God, powerful in all things, and not defective with regard to His own justice, did righteously turn against that apostasy, and redeem from it His own property, not by violent means, as the [apostasy] had obtained dominion over us at the beginning, when it insatiably snatched away what was not its own, but by means of persuasion, as became a God of counsel, who does not use violent means to obtain what He desires; so that neither should justice be infringed upon, nor the ancient handiwork of God go to destruction. Since the Lord thus has redeemed us through His own blood, giving His soul for our souls, and His flesh for our flesh, and has also poured out the Spirit of the Father for the union and communion of God and man, imparting indeed God to men by means of the Spirit, and, on the other hand, attaching man to God by His own incarnation, and bestowing upon us at His coming immortality durably and truly, by means of communion with God…

St. Ephraim Syrus (306 -373 AD) – Nineteen Hymns on the Nativity of Christ in the Flesh, Hymn II
He had commanded that we should be sold for ourdebt: His mercy became our advocate;principal and increase, we repaid with the farthing [unit of currency of one quarter of a penny], which our repentance offered. Ten thousand talents for that little payment, our debt He forgave us.  He was bound to exact it, that He might appeaseHis justice: He was constrained again to forgive, that He might make His grace to rejoice….He satisfied His justice, in exacting and taking a little; He made His grace to rejoice, when for a little He forgave much.

St. Ephraim Syrus (306 -373 AD) – The Nisibene Hymns
The good God has divided and given, my misdeeds to His grace,—my offenses to His justice; His mercy has blotted out my misdeeds—His judgment has requited my offences.

St. Cyril of Alexandria explained that it did not “satisfy justice” for any created being to save the human race:

St. Cyril of Alexandria (378 – 444 AD) – Commentary on the Gospel of St. John
For when God determined to save the corrupted race upon the earth, and it did not satisfy justice that any created being should accomplish this, the Only-begotten God, Who knows the Will of God the Father, Himself undertook the task, as the enterprise exceeded all the power that there was in the world. And thus He came down to a voluntary subjection, so as even to descend to death, and that a most shameful one.

St. Augustine (354 – 430 AD) –REPLY TO FAUSTUS THE MANICHAEAN, Book XIV, p.7
He was cursed for our offences, in the death which He suffered in bearing our punishment…The believer in the true doctrine of the gospel will understand that Christ is not reproached by Moses when he speaks of Him as cursed, not in His divine majesty, but as hanging on the tree as our substitute, bearing our punishment, any more than He is praised by the Manichæans when they deny that He had a mortal body, so as to suffer real death…Confess that He died, and you may also confess that He, without taking our sin, took its punishment.  Now the punishment of sin cannot be blessed, or else it would be a thing to be desired.  The curse is pronounced by divine justice, and it will be well for us if we are redeemed from it.

Theodoret (393 – 457 AD) – On Divine Providence
For He [God] did not wish to liberate us merely in virtue of His omnipotence, nor did He want mercy to be His sole weapon against the enemy who had enslaved our nature—the enemy might misrepresent such mercy as unjust—but instead He contrived a way that was full of kindness and adorned with justice.

Salvian (400 – 490 AD) – On the Government of God
How are we bad servants? Because, to be sure, our sufferings are only in proportion to our deserts. How are we the servants of a good master? Because he shows what we deserve, even though he does not inflict on us the punishment due, for he would rather correct us by the most kind and mercifulchastisement than permit us to perish. As far as our misdoings are concerned, we deserve the penalty of death, but he, attaching more importance to mercy than to severity, prefers to better us by mercifully tempering his censure, than to slay us by the infliction of a just chastisement.

Fr. Tadros Malaty –Commentary on Gospel of St. John
The  Voice  of  the  Father  is  heard  saying:  “I  have  both  glorified  it  and  will  glorify  it again,”. It is as though He was saying: ‘I have achieved My plan through You. I have sent You to be atonement for the sins of the world. I have executed justice which will never be void of My love and mercy. You have completed My work. That is why You offer Your Blood on the Cross, and I accept it as a sacrifice of love. Your death and resurrection  glorify Me and  fulfill  My  mission  towards  My  beloved:  Man. I have glorified You and will glorify You at Your death and at Your resurrection’.

Fr. Tadros Malaty – Lecures in Patrology, Book One
“Being the Son of God, one and equal with the Father in the same essence (ousia), He offered Himself as a self-sacrifice that can pay our debt of sins and achieve divine justice and mercy at the same time.”

Fr. Tadros Malaty – Commentary on Epistles of St. John
“Our Lawyer is righteous and He does not want to acquit us unjustly. He does not defend us in heaven without any justice, but He has paid the price for our debt. St. Ephram the Syrian says, ‘The bowels of the Father has sent Him to us, so He has not taken our sins to the divine majesty, but through His goodness, He has offered Himself to Him a propitiation for us.’”

Fr. Tadros Malaty – Christ in the Eucharist
And the Founder of the covenant is called “the Just King,” who pays our debts by His blood, fulfilling the divinejustice, reigning over our hearts. He is “Victorious,” for He conquers Satan by the power of His Cross. He is “humble,” for He crushes the powers of darkness…The rite does not stop at the splattering of blood, but the believers should eat the flesh of the lamb,  roasted  in  fire  to  unite  with  the  Lord  Christ,  who  went  through  the  divine  justice,  as through fire.

Fr. Tadros Malaty – The Coptic Orthodox Church and The Dogmas – God
It was necessary for our salvation that the Word of God Himself be incarnated so that He might die on our behalf; then, He alone not only can realize the divine justice, but as the Creator He can renew our human nature…St. Athanasius states, “It is just that the Word of God, in offering His body as a ransom for us, should discharge our debt by His death.

Fr. Tadros Malaty – Commentary on Isaiah
There was a great need for the Son of God, the One with the Father and the equal in essence, to offer Himself a Sacrifice that is capable of repaying the debt of our sins, and, at the same time, of realizing divinejustice and mercy…St.  John  Chrysostom  says, “…[God did not condemn us for our several transgressions that we committed against Him despite His goodness to us, but, instead, gave us His Son; whom He turned, for our sake, into sin… He forsook Him to be convicted and to die as someone cursed…He, who did not know sin, He made Him as a sinner and a sin…He is like a king, watching a thief about to be executed, He sends His only Son, to put on Him the criminal’sguilt, and even death itself! All that for the sake of salvation of the guilty, to lift him up to a great dignity.]  [The Lord Christ paid more than we deserve, as an ocean is compared to a drop of water.]”


Christ Paid the Debt (“Ransom”)

Scriptural references>>

Matthew 18: 23-27
Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand bags of gold was brought to him. Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt. At this the servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go.

Mark 8:36-37
For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? 

Hosea 13:14
I will ransom them from the power of Sheol; I will redeem them from death: O death, where are thy plagues? O Sheol, where is thy destruction?

Psalm 49:7
None of them can by any means redeem his brother, nor give to God a ransom for him: the ransom for a life is costly, no payment is ever enough

Psalm 118: 17-18
I shall not die, but live, and declare the works of the LORD. The LORD has chastened me severely: but he has not given me over unto death.

Isaiah 43: 1-4  (Septuagint)
And now thus saith the Lord God that made thee, O Jacob, and formed thee, O Israel, Fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine. And if thou pass through water, I am with thee; and the rivers shall not overflow thee: and if thou go through fire, thou shalt not be burned; the flame shall not burn thee. For I am the Lord thy God, the Holy One of Israel, that saves thee: I have made Egypt and Ethiopia thy ransom, and given Soene for thee. Since thou becamest precious in my sight, thou hast become glorious, and I have loved thee: and I will give men for thee, and princes for thy life

Jeremiah 38:10-11 (Septuagint)
Hear the words of the Lord, ye nations, and proclaim them to the islands afar off; say, He that scattered Israel will also gather him, and keep him as one that feeds his flock. For the Lord has ransomed Jacob, he has rescued him out of the hand of them that were stronger than he.

Zephaniah 3:14-15 (Septuagint)
Rejoice, O daughter of Sion; cry aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem; rejoice and delight thyself with all thine heart, O daughter of Jerusalem. The Lord has taken away thine iniquities, he has ransomed thee from the hand of thine enemies: the Lord, the King of Israel, is in the midst of thee: thou shalt not see evil any more

Mark 10:45
For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.

John 11:51-52
Nor consider that it is expedient for us, that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not. 
And this spoke he not of himself: but being high priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus should die for that nation

Acts 20:28
Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood.

1 Timothy 2:5
For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all people.

1 Thessalonians 5:9
For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Romans 8: 3-4
For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do: sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the just requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us

Hebrews 9:15
For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance—now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant.

2 Cor 5:21
For He hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.

Hebrews 2:9
But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man.

1 Corinthians 6:20
“you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.”

1 Thessalonians 1:9-10
…and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead–Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath.

Romans 5:8-9
But God commends his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.

Colossians 2:13-14
And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. 

1 Peter 3:18
For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit.”

According to the early church fathers, Christ bore our sins in His body on the cross, as well as the consequent “penalty”, “chastisement”, and “curse” for sin. By His suffering and death, Christ “paid” our “debt” for sin, which we could not pay. He “ransomed” and “redeemed” us from the condemnation of the Law. He exchanged our sinfulness with His righteousness and turned our “punishment into salvation”. Since none of this we could do on our own, Christ did so (as expressed in the language of the fathers) “in our stead”, “on our behalf”, and also as our “substitute” and “exchange”.

Speaking on behalf of Christ, Clement of Alexandria says I “paid your penalty of death, which you owed”:

St. Clement of Alexandria (150 – 215 AD) – Who is the Rich Man That Shall Be Saved?
On your behalf I wrestled with death and paid your penalty of death, which you owed for your former sins and your faithlessness towards God.” When you have listened to these appeals from each side pass judgment on your own behalf and cast the vote for your own salvation. Even though a brother says the like, or a child or wife or any one else, before all let it be Christ that conquers in you; since it is on your behalf He struggles.

Epistle to Diognetus (dating back to about ~ 130 AD) explains that when we deserved punishment and death because of our wickedness, Christ ransomed us. He took upon Himself the burden of our iniquities to exchange with us His righteousness:

Epistle of Mathetes to Diognetus (~ 130 AD), Chap 9
But when our wickedness had reached its height, and it had been clearly shown that its reward, punishment and death, was impending over us; and when the time had come which God had before appointed for manifesting His own kindness and power, how the one love of God, through exceeding regard for men, did not regard us with hatred, nor thrust us away, nor remember our iniquity against us, but showed great long-suffering, and bore with us, He Himself took on Him the burden of our iniquities, He gave His own Son as a ransom for us, the holy One for transgressors, the blameless One for the wicked, the righteous One for the unrighteous, the incorruptible One for the corruptible, the immortal One for them that are mortal. For what other thing was capable of covering our sins than His righteousness? By what other one was it possible that we, the wicked and ungodly, could be justified, than by the only Son of God? O sweet exchange! O unsearchable operation! O benefits surpassing all expectation! that the wickedness of many should be hid in a single righteous One, and that the righteousness of One should justify many transgressors! 

Arnobius explains that it was God’s plan to pay the debts of sinners and ransom them by being a voluntary sacrifice for sins:

Arnobius (255 – 330 AD) – Elucidations
Now, Christianity unveils the secret, presenting the Son of God, made man, a voluntary sacrifice for the sins of the whole world. If it be a mystery, still we do not wonder at the idea when we see one man paying the debts of another, and so ransoming the debtor. Christianity states this as God’s plan for the ransom of sinners.

St. Athanasius speaks of death as an exchange, His body for our body and His soul for our soul:

St. Athanasius (296 – 373 AD) – Contra Apollinarium
But it was not possible to pay one thing as a ransom in exchange for a different thing on the contrary. He gave body for body, and soul for soul, and a perfect existence for the whole of man : this is Christ’s exchange, which the Jews, the foes of life, insulted at the crucifixion, as they passed by and shook their heads. For neither did Hades endure the approach of a Godhead unveiled; this is attested both by prophets and apostles.

Christ paid our debt and “ransomed” us when He “yielded His body to death as a substitute”:

St. Athanasius (296 – 373 AD) – On the Incarnation of the Word
And He, to pay our debt of death, must also die for us, and rise again as our first-fruits from the grave…Thus, taking a body like our own, because all our bodies were liable to the corruption of death, He surrendered His body to death instead of all, and offered it to the Father. This He did out of sheer love for us…He it is that was crucified before the sun and all creation as witnesses, and before those who put Him to death: and by His death has salvation come to all, and all creation been ransomed. He is the Life of all, and He it is that as a sheep yielded His body to death as a substitute, for the salvation of all, even though the Jews believe it not.

Christ put away death from His peers by offering of an equivalent. He satisfied the debt of death by His death:

St. Athanasius (296 – 373 AD) – On the Incarnation of the Word
For the Word, perceiving that no otherwise could the corruption of men be undone save by death as a necessary condition, while it was impossible for the Word to suffer death, being immortal, and Son of the Father; to this end He takes to Himself a body capable of death, that it, by partaking of the Word Who is above all, might be worthy to die in the stead of all, and might, because of the Word which was come to dwell in it, remain incorruptible, and that thenceforth corruption might be stayed from all by the Grace of the Resurrection. Whence, by offering unto death the body He Himself had taken, as an offering and sacrifice free from any stain, straightway He put away death from all His peers by the offering of an equivalent. For being over all, the Word of God naturally by offering His own temple and corporeal instrument for the life of all satisfied the debt by His death.

St. Cyril also speaks of death in light of  a “Divine curse” and of suffering as a just “punishment” that we deserved for sin. He then goes on to say that Christ’s sufferings “procured a ransom…owing to His love for the Father”:

St. Cyril of Alexandria (378 – 444 AD) – Commentary on the Gospel of St. John
Adam, the author of our race, underwent death by a Divine curse, through his breaking the commandment given to him, accused by himself and the devil. He indeed seems to have suffered for good reason, since the doom of punishment justly pursues those who have sinned from indolence; but the second Adam, that is our Lord Jesus Christ, Who can have no such charge brought against Him at all, for He did no sin, neither was guile found in His mouth, underwent His sufferings for us, having of Himself no responsibility whatever for them, but by His sufferings procured a ransom for the world, owing to His love for the Father, Who yearned for the salvation of the world. 

We are justified and healed because Christ paid the penalty of our sins. We are restored to our original state because Christ took upon Himself the origin of our infirmity:

St. Cyril of Alexandria (378 – 444 AD) – Commentary on the Gospel of St. John
For our sake He paid the penalty for our sins. For though He was One that suffered, yet was He far above any creature, as God, and more precious than the life of all. Therefore, as the Psalmist says, the mouth of all lawlessness was stopped, and the tongue of sin was silenced, unable any more to speak against sinners. For we are justified, now that Christ has paid the penalty for us; for by His stripes we are healed, according to the Scripture. And just as by the Cross the sin of our revolt was perfected, so also by the Cross was achieved our return to our original state, and the acceptable recovery of heavenly blessings; Christ, as it were, gathering up into Himself, for us, the very fount and origin of our infirmity. 

The curse for sin was removed because Christ made the “debts of our race” His own:

St. Severus of Antioch (465 – 538 AD) – Letter of St. Severus to EUPRAXIUS THE CHAMBERLAIN
If he became man to free our race from the bonds of former crimes, and took upon him the seed of Abraham, and flesh of our nature, and united a human soul to himself hypostatically, therefore he made all the debts of our race to which we were liable his own: for we are accursed, and we came under, the penalty of the curse, and heard the words, “Dust thou art and to dust shalt thou return”, and, “Cursed is the earth in the work of thine hands”, and, “In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread”…And he himself underwent the accursed death that was for our sake, and thence blessed the whole human race…

Christ bore our punishment and paid our debt. This is also expressed in the Church’s liturgical texts:

Fraction to the Son – Divine Liturgy
He ascended upon the Cross that He may bear the punishment of our sins. We are the ones who sinned, and He is the One who suffered. We are the ones who were indebted to divine justice because of our sins, and He was the One who paid the debts on our behalf.

More patristic quotes>>

We were debtors to God against whom we sinned. We became God’s enemies. Christ PROPITIATED THE FATHER. He fastened OUR DEBT (OWED TO THE FATHER) to the cross, giving us remission of our debt:

St. Irenaeus of Lyons (c. 130-202) , Against Heresies Book V, Chapter 16-17
For we were debtors to none other but to Him whose commandment we had transgressed at the beginning.
Now this being is the Creator (Demiurgus), who is, in respect of His love, the Father; but in respect of His power, He is Lord; and in respect of His wisdom, our Maker and Fashioner; by transgressing whose commandment we became His enemies. And therefore in the last times the Lord has restored us into friendship through His incarnation, having become “the Mediator between God and men;”propitiating indeed for us the Father against whom we had sinned, and cancelling (consolatus) our disobedience by His own obedience; conferring also upon us the gift of communion with, and subjection to, our Maker. For this reason also He has taught us to say in prayer, “And forgive us our debts;” since indeed He is our Father, whose debtors we were, having transgressed His commandments…Therefore, by remitting sins, He did indeed heal man, while He also manifested Himself who He was. For if no one can forgive sins but God alone, while the Lord remitted them and healed men, it is plain that He was Himself the Word of God made the Son of man, receiving from the Father the power of remission of sins; since He was man, and since He was God, in order that since as man He suffered for us, so as God He might have compassion on us, and forgive us our debts, in which we were made debtors to God our Creator. And therefore David said beforehand, “Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man to whom the LORD has not imputed sin;” pointing out thus that remission of sins which follows upon His advent, by which “He has destroyed the handwriting” of our debt, and “fastened it to the cross;” so that as by means of a tree we were made debtors to God, [so also] by means of a tree we may obtain the remission of our debt.

St. Clement of Alexandria (150 – 215 AD) – The Rich Mans’ Salvation
Forgetful of his years John followed after him with all his strength, crying out: ” Why do you fly from me, child, from your own father, from this old, unarmed man ? Have pity on me, child, do not fear. You have still hopes of life, I myself will give account” to Christ for you. If need be, I will willingly undergo your penalty of death, as the Lord did for us.I will give my own life in payment for yours. Stand; believe; Christ has sent me.” On hearing this he at first stood still, looking down; then threw away his weapons; then trembling began to weep bitterly. When the old man had come near the robber embraced him, making excuse as best he could by his groans, and being baptized a second time with his tears,” hiding his right hand alone.

Origen (185 -254 AD) – Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew, Book 12
But the saying, “What shall a man give in exchange for his own life,” if spoken by way of interrogation, will seem to be able to indicate that an exchange for his own life is given by the man who after his sins has given up his whole substance, that his property may feed the poor, as if he were going by that to obtain salvation; but, if spoken affirmatively, I think, to indicate that there is not anything in man by the giving of which in exchange for his own life which has been overcome by death, he will ransom it out of its hand. A man, therefore, could not give anything as an exchange for his own life, but God gave an exchange for the life of us all, “the precious blood of Christ Jesus,” according as “we were bought with a price,” “having been redeemed, not with corruptible things as silver or gold, but with precious blood, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot,” even of Christ.

Hippolytus (170 -235 AD) – Exegetical Fragments
But though He took to Himself the frame of man as He received it from the Virgin, and was made under the law, and was thus purified after the manner of the first-born, it was not because He needed this ceremonial that He underwent its services, but only for the purpose of redeeming from the bondage of the law those who were sold under the judgmentof the curse.

Hippolytus (170 -235 AD) – Treatise Against the Jews
Then, in what next follows, Christ speaks, as it were, in His own person: “Then I restored that,” says He, “which I took not away;” that is, on account of the sin of Adam I endured the death which was not mine by sinning.

St. Cyprian (200 -258 AD) – Treatise X, On Works and Alms
Many and great are those divine bounties, dearest brethren, wherein the plentiful and abundant mercy of God the Father and of Christ,both hath been, and ever continues to be,exercised for our salvation; in that the Father sent His Son, in order to preserve and quicken us, and thereby to restore us, and in that the Son was sent, and willed to be called the Son of man, that He might make us sons of God; humbled Himself, that He might upraise a race which before was fallen; was wounded, that He might heal our wounds; served, that He might ransom to liberty them that were in servitude; endured to die, that He might give to mortal men the boon of immortality.

Gregory Thamaturgus (213 AD – 270 AD) – Second Homily on the Annunciation to the Holy Virgin Mary
And on this account did God the Word deem it meet to take to Himself the flesh and the perfect humanity by a woman, the holy Virgin; and He was born a man, in order that He might dischargeour debt, and fulfill even in Himself the ordinances of the covenant made with Abraham, in its rite of circumcision, and all the other legal appointments connected with it.

Alexander of Alexandria (250 – 326 AD) – On the Soul and Body and Passion of the Lord
Then the Lord, the third day after His death, rose again, thus bringing man to a knowledge of the Trinity. Then all the nations of the human race were saved by Christ. One submitted to the judgment, and many thousands were absolved.

Alexander of Alexandria (250 – 326 AD) – Epistles on Arianism
Who compelled God to come down to earth, to take flesh of the holy Virgin, to be wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger, to be nourished with milk, to be baptized in the Jordan, to be mocked of the people, to be nailed to the tree, to be buried in the bosom of the earth, and the third day to rise again from the dead; in the cause of redemption to give life for life, blood for blood, to undergo death for death? For Christ, by dying, has discharged the debt of  death to which man was obnoxious. Oh, the new and ineffable mystery! The Judge was judged. He who absolves from sin was bound; He was mocked who once framed the world; He was stretched upon the cross who stretched out the heavens; He was fed with gall who gave the manna to be bread; He died who gives life. He was given up to the tomb who raises the dead…But when our Lord rose from death and trampled it down, when He bound the strong man and set man free, then every creature wondered at the Judge who for Adam’s sake was judged, at the invisible being seen, at the impassable suffering, at the immortal dead, at the celestial buried in the earth. For our Lord was made man; He was condemned that He might impart compassion; He was bound that He might set free; He was apprehended that He might liberate; He suffered that He might heal our sufferings; He died to restore life to us; He was buried to raise us up.

Alexander of Alexandria (250 – 326 AD) – Epistles on Arianism
Why did He clothe Himself in flesh who was invested with glory? And since He was God, why did He become man? And since He reigned in heaven, why did He come down to earth, and become incarnate in the virgin’s womb?…The Lord, indeed, did not descend into hell in His body but in His Spirit. He forsooth is working everywhere, for while He raised the dead by His body, by His spirit was He liberating their souls. For when the body of the Lord was hung upon the cross, the tombs, as we have said, were opened; hell was unbarred…Then the Lord, the third day after His death, rose again, thus bringing man to a knowledge of the Trinity. Then all the nations of the human race were saved by Christ. One submitted to the judgment, and many thousands were absolved.

Macarius of Jerusalem (? – 335 A.D.) – Acts of the Council of Nice. Book 2
But he himself came as the Savior of all, and in our name bore, in his own flesh, the punishment owed by us.

Eusebius of Caesarea (263 -339 AD) – Church History, Book X
But he alone having reached our deep corruption, he alone having taken upon himself our labors, he alone having suffered the punishments due for our impieties, having recovered us who were not half dead merely, but were already in tombs and sepulchers, and altogether foul and offensive, saves us, both anciently and now, by his beneficent zeal, beyond the expectation of any one, even of ourselves, and imparts liberally of the Father’s benefits,—he who is the giver of life and light, our great Physician and King and Lord, the Christ of God. 

St. Athanasius (296 – 373 AD) – On the Incarnation of the Word
But beyond all this, there was a debt owing which must needs be paid; for, as I said before, all men were due to die. Here, then, is the second reason why the Word dwelt among us, namely that having proved His Godhead by His works, He might offer the sacrifice on behalf of all, surrendering His own temple to death in place of all, to settle man’s account with death and free him from the primal transgression. In the same act also He showed Himself mightier than death, displaying His own body incorruptible as the first-fruits of the resurrection…
For there was need of death, and death must needs be suffered on behalf of all, that the debt owing from all might be paid. Whence, as I said before, the Word, since it was not possible for Him to die, as He was immortal, took to Himself a body such as could die, that He might offer it as His own in the stead of all, and as suffering, through His union with it, on behalf of all, “Bring to nought Him that had the power of death, that is the devil; and might deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.”

St. Athanasius (296 – 373 AD) – On the Incarnation of the Word
But since it was necessary also that the debt owing from all should be paid again: for, as I have already said, it was owing that all should die, for which especial cause, indeed, He came among us: to this intent, after the proofs of His Godhead from His works, He next offered up His sacrifice also on behalf of all, yielding His Temple to death in the stead of all, in order firstly to make men quit and free of their old trespass, and further to shew Himself more powerful even than death, displaying His own body incorruptible, as first-fruits of the resurrection of all. And do not be surprised if we frequently repeat the same words on the same subject…The body, then, as sharing the same nature with all, for it was a human body, though by an unparalleled miracle it was formed of a virgin only, yet being mortal, was to die also, conformably to its peers. But by virtue of the union of the Word with it, it was no longer subject to corruption according to its own nature, but by reason of the Word that was come to dwell in it it was placed out of the reach of corruption. And so it was that two marvels came to pass at once, that the death of all was accomplished in the Lord’s body, and that death and corruption were wholly done away by reason of the Word that was united with it. For there was need of death, and death must needs be suffered on behalf of all, that the debt owing from all might be paid.

St. Athanasius (296 – 373 AD) – Contra Arianos
…therefore the Word of God puts around Him an imperfect body, and is said to be created ‘for the works;’ that, paying the debt in our stead, He might, by Himself, perfect what was wanting to man. Now immortality was wanting to him, and the way to paradise.

St. Athanasius (296 – 373 AD) – Personal Letters, to Epictetus
For what John said, ‘The Word was made flesh,’ has this meaning, as we may see by a similar passage; for it is written in Paul: ‘Christ has become a curse for us.’ And just as He has not Himself become a curse, but is said to have done so because He took upon Him the curse on our behalf, so also He has become flesh not by being changed into flesh, but because He assumed on our behalf living flesh, and has become Man…As then this is the sense of the above text, they all will reasonably condemn themselves who have thought that the flesh derived from Mary existed before her, and that the Word, prior to her, had a human soul, and existed in it always even before His coming. And they too will cease who have said that the Flesh was not accessible to death, but belonged to the immortal Nature. 

St. Athanasius (296 – 373 AD)  – Later Treatises, Treatise VIII
Vain, then, is your sophism : for how could His death have taken place, if the Word had not constituted for Himself both our outward and inward man, that is, body and soul? and how then did He pay a ransom for all, or how was the loosening of the grasp of death completely effected, if Christ had not constituted for Himself, in a sinless state, that which had sinned intellectually, the soul? In that case, death still “reigns” over the inward’ man: for over what did it ever reign, if not over the soul, which had sinned intellectually, as it is written, The soul ‘that sinneth, it shall die? on behalf of which Christ laid down His own soul, (thus) paying a ransom. But what was it that God originally condemned ? that which the Fashioner fashioned, or the action of what was fashioned ? If God condemned that which the Fashioner fashioned, He condemned Himself, and He would then be like to men. But if it is impious to think this of God, and if He condemned the action of the thing fashioned, in that case He annuls the action, and renews the thing fashioned. For we are a thing of His making, created unto good works.

St. Hilary of Poitiers (310 – 367 AD) – Homilies on the Psalms
And although this suffering did not belong to His nature as eternal Son, the immutability of God being proof against the assault of any derogatory disturbance, yet it was freely undertaken, and was intended to fulfil a penal function without, however, inflicting the pain of penalty upon the sufferer…

St. Hilary of Poitiers (310 – 367 AD) – Homily on Psalm LIII. (LIV.)
It is true that in order to take the whole of our nature upon Him He submitted to death, that is to the apparent severance of soul and body, and made His way even to the realms below, the debt which man must manifestly pay: but He rose again and abides for ever and looks down with an eye that death cannot dim upon His enemies, being exalted unto the glory of God and born once more Son of God after becoming Son of Man, as He had been Son of God when He first became Son of Man, by the glory of His resurrection. 

St Cyril of Jerusalem (313 – 386 AD) – Catechetical Lectures, Lecture XIII
And wonder not that the whole world was ransomed; for it was no mere man, but the only-begotten Son of God, who died on its behalf.  Moreover one man’s sin, even Adam’s, had power to bring death to the world; but if by the trespass of the one death reigned over the world, how shall not life much rather reign by the righteousness of the One?  And if because of the tree of food they were then cast out of paradise, shall not believers now more easily enter into paradise because of the Tree of Jesus?  If the first man formed out of the earth brought in universal death, shall not He who formed him out of the earth bring in eternal life, being Himself the Life?  If Phinees, when he waxed zealous and slew the evildoer, staved the wrath of God, shall not Jesus, who slew not another, but gave up Himself for a ransom, put away the wrath which is against mankind? Let us then not be ashamed of the Cross of our Saviour, but rather glory in it.

St. Gregory Nazianzen (329 – 390 AD) – On Easter and His Reluctance
Let us become like Christ, since Christ became like us.  Let us become God’s for His sake, since He for ours became Man.  He assumed the worse that He might give us the better; He became poor that we through His poverty might be rich; He took upon Him the form of a servant that we might receive back our liberty; He came down that we might be exalted; He was tempted that we might conquer; He was dishonoured that He might glorify us; He died that He might save us; He ascended that He might draw to Himself us, who were lying low in the Fall of sin.  Let us give all, offer all, to Him Who gave Himself a Ransom and a Reconciliation for us.  But one can give nothing like oneself, understanding the Mystery, and becoming for His sake all that He became for ours.

St. Gregory Nazianzen (329 – 390 AD) – The Fourth Theological Oration, Which is the Second Concerning the Son
He is Sanctification, as being Purity, that the Pure may be contained by Purity. And Redemption, because He sets us free, who were held captive under sin, giving Himself a Ransom for us, the Sacrifice to make expiation for the world.  And Resurrection, because He raises up from hence, and brings to life again us, who were slain by sin.

St. Basil (330 – 379 AD) – St. Basil the Great, Chap XII, The Christian Life
So that Moses desired to be blotted out of the book of God, if pardon were not extended to the people for their sin, and Paul dared to pray that he himself might be accursed from Christ for his brethren’s sake: filled with the desire to be like his Lord, a ransom for the sins of all : yet knowing, at the same time, that it was impossible that one who had rejected the gracious gifts of God through love to Him, and for the sake of keeping the greatest of the commandments, should be estranged from Him—nay, should not for that reason receive manifold more from Him.

St. Basil of Caeserea (330 – 379 AD)  – Letter 261
Hence it is evident that our Lord assumed the natural affections to establish His real incarnation, and not by way of semblance of incantation, and that all the affections derived from evil that besmirch the purity of our life, He rejected as unworthy of His unsullied Godhead. It is on this account that He is said to have been made in the likeness of flesh of sin; not, as these men hold, in likeness of flesh, but of flesh of sin. It follows that He took our flesh with its natural afflictions, but did no sin. (1 Peter 2:22)Just as the death which is in the flesh, transmitted to us through Adam, was swallowed up by the Godhead, so was the sin taken away by the righteousness which is in Christ Jesus, so that in the resurrection we receive back the flesh neither liable to death nor subject to sin. These, brethren, are the mysteries of the Church; these are the traditions of the Fathers. Every man who fears the Lord, and is awaiting God’s judgment, I charge not to be carried away by various doctrines. 

St. Basil of Caeserea (330 – 379 AD)  –  Letter CCLXI, To the Sozopolitans
After all these in the last days He was Himself manifested ill the flesh, “made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.”If, then, the sojourn of the Lord in flesh has never taken place, the Redeemer 
paid not the fine to death on our behalf, nor through Himself destroyed death’s reign.  For if what was reigned over by death was not that which was assumed by the Lord, death would not have ceased working his own ends, nor would the sufferings of the God-bearing flesh have been made our gain; He would not have killed sin in the flesh: we who had died in Adam should not have been made alive in Christ; the fallen to pieces would not have been framed again; the shattered would not have been set up again; that which by the serpent’s trick had been estranged from God would never have been made once more His own.  All these boons are undone by those that assert that it was with a heavenly body that the Lord came among us.  And if the God-bearing flesh was not ordained to be assumed of the lump of Adam, what need was there of the Holy Virgin?

St. Ambrose of Milan (337- 397 AD) – LETTER XLI
Shall we deem servitude to be a state of greater weakness than that of being made sin, of being a curse, a reproach, than the infirmities which He bore for our sakes that we might be saved from them?For He was made all of these that He might relieve the world from them. But they will not admit that He was made a servant, a reproach, a curse, because they affirm that the Word and the flesh are of one substance, and say, Because He redeemed us He is called a servant, and ought to be called sin. And they do not perceive this to be the glory of Christ, that i
n His Incarnation He took upon Him the state of a servant that He might restore liberty to all; He bore our sins, that He might take away the sin of the world. He was made a servant, He was made sin and a curse, that thou mightest cease to be a servant of sin, and that He might absolve thee from the curse of the Divine judgment.He therefore took upon Him thy curse, for Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree. He was made a curse upon the cross, that thou mightest be blessed in the kingdom of God.  

Ambrose of Milan (337- 397 AD) – Letters of Ambrose, Letter 41
And let no one be startled at the word creditor. (Luke 7:41) We were before under a hard creditor, who was not to be satisfied and paid to the full but by the death of the debtor. The Lord Jesus came, He saw us bound by a heavy debt. No one could pay his debt with the patrimony of his innocence. I could have nothing of my own wherewith to free myself. He gave to me a new kind of acquittance, changing my creditor because I had nothing wherewith to pay my debt. But it was sin, not nature, which had made us debtors, for we had contracted heavy debts by our sins, that we who had been free should be bound, for he is a debtor who received any of his creditor’s money. Now sin is of the devil; that wicked one has, as it were, these riches in his possession. For as the riches of Christ are virtues, so crimes are the wealth of the devil. He had reduced the human race to perpetual captivity by the heavy debt of inherited liability, which our debt-laden ancestor had transmitted to his posterity by inheritance. The Lord Jesus came, He offered His death for the death of all, He poured out His Blood for the blood of all.

St. John Chrysostom (349 – 407 AD) – Homilies on Second Corinthians, Homily XI
‘I say nothing of what has gone before, that you have outraged Him, Him that had done you no wrong, Him that had done you good, that He exacted not justice, that He is first to beseech, though first outraged; let none of these things be set down at present. Ought ye not in justice to be reconciled for this one thing only that He has done to you now?’ And what has He done? Him that knew no sin He made to be sin, for you. For had He achieved nothing but done only this, think how great a thing it were to give His Son for those that had outraged Him. But now He has both well achieved mighty things, and besides, has suffered Him that did no wrong to be punished for those who had done wrong. But he did not say this: but mentioned that which is far greater than this. What then is this? Him that knew no sin, he says, Him that was righteousness itself , He made sin, that is suffered as a sinner to be condemned, as one cursed to die. For cursed is he that hangs on a tree. (Galatians 3:13) For to die thus was far greater than to die; and this he also elsewhere implying, says, Becoming obedient unto death, yea the death of the cross. (Philippians 2:8) For this thing carried with it not only punishment, but also disgrace. Reflect therefore how great things He bestowed on you. For a great thing indeed it were for even a sinner to die for any one whatever; but when He who undergoes this both is righteous and dies for sinners; and not dies only, but even as one cursed; and not as cursed [dies] only, but thereby freely bestows upon us those great goods which we never looked for; (for he says, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him;) what words, what thought shall be adequate to realize these things? ‘For the righteous,’ says he, ‘He made a sinner; that He might make the sinners righteous.’  Yea rather, he said not even so, but what was greater far; for the word he employed is not the habit, but the quality itself. For he said not made [Him] a sinner, but sin; not, ‘Him that had not sinned’ only, but that had not even known sin; that we also might become, he did not say ‘righteous,’ but, righteousness, and, the righteousness of God. For this is [the righteousness] of God when we are justified not by works, (in which case it were necessary that not a spot even should be found,) but by grace, in which case all sin is done away. And this at the same time that it suffers us not to be lifted up, (seeing the whole is the free gift of God,) teaches us also the greatness of that which is given. For that which was before was a righteousness of the Law and of works, but this is the righteousness of God. Reflecting then on these things, let us fear these words more than hell; let us reverence the things [they express] more than the kingdom, and let us not deem it grievous to be punished, but to sin. For were He not to punish us, we ought to take vengeance on ourselves, who have been so ungrateful towards our Benefactor. 

St. John Chrysostom (349 – 407 AD) – Homilies on Romans, Homily X on Rom. v. 12
“For if by one man’s offence death reigned by one, much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift and (so Field with most mss.) of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ.” What he says, amounts to this nearly. What armed death against the world? The one man’s eating from the tree only. If then death attained so great power from one offence, when it is found that certain received a grace and righteousness out of all proportion to that sin, how shall they still be liable to death? And for this cause, he does not here say “grace,” but “superabundance of grace.” For it was not as much as we must have to do away the sin only, that we received of His grace, but even far more. For we were at once freed from punishment, and put off all iniquity, and were also born again from above (John iii. 3) and rose again with the old man buried, and were redeemed, justified, led up to adoption, sanctified, made brothers of the Only-begotten, and joint heirs and of one Body with Him, and counted for His Flesh, and even as a Body with the Head, so were we united unto Him! All these things then Paul calls a “superabundance” of grace, showing that what we received was not a medicine only to countervail the wound, but even health, and comeliness, and honor, and glory and dignities far transcending our natural state. And of these each in itself was enough to do away with death, but when all manifestly run together in one, there is not the least vestige of it left, nor can a shadow of it be seen, so entirely is it done away. As then if any one were to cast a person who owed ten mites (ὀβόλους) into prison, and not the man himself only, but wife and children and servants for his sake; and another were to come and not to pay down the ten mites only, but to give also ten thousand talents of gold, and to lead the prisoner into the king’s courts, and to the throne of the highest power, and were to make him partaker of the highest honor and every kind of magnificence, the creditor would not be able to remember the ten mites; so hath our case been.For Christ hath paid down far more than we owe, yea as much more as the illimitable ocean is than a little drop. Do not then, O man, hesitate as thou seest so great a store of blessings, nor enquire how that mere spark of death and sin was done away, when such a sea of gifts was brought in upon it. For this is what Paul intimated by saying that “they who have received the abundance of the grace and righteousness shall reign in life.”

St. John Chrysostom (349 – 407 AD) – Homilies on Romans
For indeed we are not so much in love with money, as is He with our salvation. Wherefore itwas not money, but His own Blood that He gave as bail for us. And for this cause He would not have the heart to give them up, for whom He had laid down so great a price. See too how he shows that His power also is unspeakable.

St. John Chrysostom (349 – 407 AD) – Homilies on Colossians
For truly, He hath not only delivered from sins, but hath also placed amongst the approved…as if one should not only free acondemnedcriminal from his punishment, but also advance him to honor.

St. John Chrysostom (349 – 407 AD) – Homilies on Colossians
Seest thou how great His earnestness that the bond should be done away? To wit, we all were under sin and punishment. He Himself, through suffering punishment, did away with both the sin and the punishment, and He was punished on the Cross. To the Cross then He affixed it; as having power, He tore it asunder.

St. John Chrysostom (349 – 407 AD) – Homily Eleven on Second Corinthians
“For Him who knew no sin He made to be sin on our account.”

‘I say nothing of what has gone before, that you have outraged Him, Him that had done you no wrong, Him that had done you good, that He exacted not justice, that He is first to beseech, though first outraged; let none of these things be set down at present. Ought ye not in justice to be reconciled for this one thing only that He has done to you now?’ And what has He done? Him that knew no sin He made to be sin, for you. For had He achieved nothing but done only this, think how great a thing it were to give His Son for those that had outraged Him. But now He has both well achieved mighty things, and besides, has suffered Him that did no wrong to be punished for those who had done wrong. But he did not say this: but mentioned that which is far greater than this. What then is this? Him that knew no sin, he says, Him that was righteousness itself , He made sin, that is suffered as a sinner to be condemned, as one cursed to die. For cursed is he that hangs on a tree. Galatians 3:13 For to die thus was far greater than to die; and this he also elsewhere implying, says, Becoming obedient unto death, yea the death of the cross. Philippians 2:8 For this thing carried with it not only punishment, but also disgrace. Reflect therefore how great things He bestowed on you. For a great thing indeed it were for even a sinner to die for any one whatever; but when He who undergoes this both is righteous and dies for sinners; and not dies only, but even as one cursed; and not as cursed [dies] only, but thereby freely bestows upon us those great goods which we never looked for; (for he says, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him;) what words, what thought shall be adequate to realize these things? ‘For the righteous,’ says he, ‘He made a sinner; that He might make the sinners righteous.’ Yea rather, he said not even so, but what was greater far; for the word he employed is not the habit, but the quality itself. For he said not made [Him] a sinner, but sin; not, ‘Him that had not sinned’ only, but that had not even known sin; that we also might become, he did not say ‘righteous,’ but, righteousness, and, the righteousness of God. For this is [the righteousness] of God when we are justified not by works, (in which case it were necessary that not a spot even should be found,) but by grace, in which case all sin is done away. And this at the same time that it suffers us not to be lifted up, (seeing the whole is the free gift of God,) teaches us also the greatness of that which is given. For that which was before was a righteousness of the Law and of works, but this is the righteousness of God.”

St. John Chrysostom (349 – 407 AD) – Homily on Romans
For it was not as much as we must have to do away the sin only, that we received of His grace, but even far more. For we were at once freed from punishment, and put off all iniquity, and were also born again from above…

St. Augustine (354 – 430 AD) – Writings in Connection with Manichaen Controversy
So sin means both a bad action deserving punishment, and death the consequence of sin.  Christ has no sin in the sense of deserving death, but He bore for our sakes sin in the sense of death as brought on human nature by sin.  This is what hung on the tree; this is what was cursed by Moses.  Thus was death condemned that its reign might cease, and cursed that it might be destroyed.  By Christ’s taking our sin in this sense, its condemnation is our deliverance, while to remain in subjection to sin is to be condemned…Death is the effect of the curse; and all sin is cursed, whether it means the action which merits punishment, or the punishment which follows. Christ, though guiltless, took our punishment, that He might cancel our guilt, and do away with our punishment…And as He died in the flesh which He took in bearing our punishment, so also, while ever blessed in His own righteousness, He was cursed for our offenses, in the death which He suffered in bearing our punishment

St. Augustine (354 – 430 AD) – Reply to Faustus the Manichaean
Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree; not this one or that, but absolutely every one. 
What! the Son of God?  Yes, assuredly.  This is the very thing you object to, and that you are so anxious to evade.  You will not allow that He was cursed for us, because you will not allow that He died for us.  Exemption from Adam’s curse implies exemption from his death.  But as Christ endured death as man, and for man; so also, Son of God as He was, ever living in His own righteousness, but dying for our offences, He submitted as man, and for man, to bear the curse which accompanies death.  And as He died in the flesh which He took in bearing our punishment, so also, while ever blessed in His own righteousness, He was cursed for our offences, in the death which He suffered in bearing our punishment. And these words “every one” are intended to check the ignorant officiousness which would deny the reference of the curse to Christ, and so, because the curse goes along with death, would lead to the denial of the true death of Christ.

St. Augustine (354 – 430 AD) – Expositions on the Book of Psalms
For even the Lord was subject to death, but not on account of sin: He took upon Him our punishment, and so looseth our guilt. With reason then, “In Adam all die, but in Christ shall all be made alive.” 

St. Augustine (354 – 430 AD) – City of God
He showed also that death itself, although the punishmentof sin, was submitted to by Him for our sake without sin, and must not be evaded by sin on our part, but rather, if opportunity serves, be borne for righteousness’ sake.  For he was able to expiate sins by dying, because He both died, and not for sin of His own.

St. Augustine (354 – 430 AD) – Doctrinal Treatises
For we, indeed, came to death through sin; He through righteousness: and, therefore, as our death is the punishment of sin, so His death was made a sacrifice for sin

St. Augustine (354 – 430 AD) – A Treatise on Nature and Grace
For if he said this about the law, which only the nation of the Jews received, how much more justly may it be said of the law of nature, which the whole human race has received, “If righteousness come by nature, then Christ died in vain.” If, however, Christ did not die in vain, then human nature cannot by any means be justified and redeemed from God’s most righteous wrath—in a word, from punishment—except by faith and the sacrament of the blood of Christ.

St. Augustine (354 – 430 AD) – Treatise on the Merits and Forgiveness of Sins… 
Now death came by the serpent, which persuaded man to commit the sin, by which he deserved to die. The Lord, however, transferred to His own flesh not sin, as the poison of the serpent, but He did transfer to it death, that the penalty without the fault might transpire in the likeness of sinful flesh, whence, in the sinful flesh, both the fault might be removed and the penalty. As, therefore, it then came to pass that whoever looked at the raised serpent was both healed of the poison and freed from death, so also now, whosoever is conformed to the likeness of the death of Christ by faith in Him and His baptism, is freed both from sin by justification, and from death by resurrection.

St. Cyril of Alexandria (378 – 444 AD) – Five Tomes Against Nestorious, Tome V
For we say that He which was crucified is Lord of glory, and He is so of a truth: yet acknowledging that the Word of God is inseverable and one with the flesh united, to Him having a reasonable soul, we say that He it is Who offered Himself, as it were the Immaculate Offering and most sweet-smelling Sacrifice of His Own Body, to God the Father, and nailed to the wood the handwriting that was against us. And one may hear Him say by the mouth of David, Sacrifice and offering Thou wouldest not but a Body preparedst Thou Me, whole burnt sacrifices and for sin Thou tookest no pleasure in: then said I, Lo I come (in the volume of the book it has been written of Me) to do Thy Will, o God. The commandment according to the Law now availing nought, and perfecting nothing, and God the Father holding the sacrifices through blood unacceptable;—-He says that a Body has been prepared for Himself, in order that giving it a Ransom for the salvation and life of all, He might redeem all, from both death and decay and yet more from sins.

Ambrose of Milan – Against Auxentius on the Giving up the Basilicas  (386 A.D.) 
They read  too to-day that Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, being made a curse for us. Was Christ a curse according to His Divinity? But why He should be called a curse the Apostle teaches thee, alleging the text, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree, that is, He Who in His flesh took upon Him our flesh, in His body carried our griefs and our curses that He might crucify them, for He is cursed, not in Himself, but in thee. Lastly, you have in another place, Who knew no sin, but was made sin for us, for He took upon Him our sins, to do away with them by the Sacrament of His Passion.

Leo the Great (390 – 461 AD) – Sermon On the Feast of S. Laurence the Martyr
For, although that Love, wherewith the Lord has redeemed us, cannot be equalled by any man’s kindness, because it is one thing that a man who is doomed to die one day should die for a righteous man, and another that One Who is free from the debt of sin should lay down His life for the wicked:  yet the martyrs also have done great service to all men, in that the Lord Who gave them boldness, has used it to show that the penalty of death and the pain of the cross need not be terrible to any of His followers, but might be imitated by many of them.  

Leo the Great (390 – 461 AD) – Letter CXXXIX
The true birth of Christ, therefore, is confirmed by the true cross; since He is Himself 
born in our flesh, Who is crucified in our flesh, which, as no sin entered into it, could not have been mortal, unless it had been that of our race.  But in order that He might restore life to all, He undertook the cause of all and rendered void the force of the old bond, by paying it for all,because He alone of us all did not owe it:  that, as by one man’s guilt all had become sinners, so by one man’s innocence all might become innocent, righteousness being bestowed upon men by Him Who had undertaken man’s nature. 

Theodoret (393 – 457 AD) – Dialogue I, The Immutable 
“For just as when the apostle says ‘Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us,’ he does not say that the substance of Christ departed from His own glory, and took the substance of a curse, a position which not even devils would imagine, nor the utterly senseless, and the naturally idiotic—so remarkable being the connection between impiety and insanity. But what he does assert is that after receiving the curse due to us, He does not suffer us to be cursed for the future. It is in this sense that He is stated to have been made flesh, not because he had changed the substance into flesh, but because he had assumed the flesh, the substance remaining all the while unimpaired.”

St. Gregory the Great (540 AD –  604 AD) – Morals on the Book of Job
He ‘ was destroyed without cause,’ Who, being made incarnate, had no sins of His own, and yet being without offence took upon Himself the punishment of the carnal. For it is hence, that speaking by the Prophet He says, Then I restored that which I took not away. For that other that was created for Paradise would in his pride have usurped the semblance of the Divine power, yet the Mediator, Who was without guilt, discharged the guilt of that pride. It is hence that a Wise Man saith to the Father; Forasmuch then as Thou art righteous Thyself, Thou orderest all things righteously; Thou condemnest Him too that deserveth not to be punished.

John of Damascus – On Holy Images
From the time that God the Word became flesh He is as we are in everything except sin, and of our nature, without confusion. He has deified our flesh for ever, and we are in very deed sanctified through His Godhead and the union of His flesh with it. And from the time that God, the Son of God, impassible by reason of His Godhead, chose to suffer voluntarily He wiped out our debt, also paying for us a most full and noble ransom. We are truly free through the sacred blood of the Son pleading for us with the Father.

Methodius (815 – 885 AD) – From the Homily On the Cross and Passion of Christ
It was for this mainly that the cross was brought in, being erected as a trophy against iniquity, and a deterrent from it, that henceforth man might be no longer subject to wrath, after that he had made up for the defeat which, by his disobedience, be had received, and had lawfully conquered the infernal powers, and by the gift of God had been set free from every debt

H.E. Metropolitan Bishoy of Damietta – Remarks on the Understanding of Mercy and Justice in the Writings of Isaac the Syrian
The Lord Jesus Christ was a substitute for the sinners, was crucified instead of them repaying their debt. He is the Only Savior through Whom we received salvation. He is the only One Who is sinless, the only One Who can carry the sin of the whole world and become an accepted ransom before the Heavenly Father, because of His perfect righteousness and His super valuable sacrifice in the perception of God the Father since it is the sacrifice of the only begotten son. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).

H.E. Metropolitan Bishoy of Damietta – THE COMMON THREAD BETWEEN HEGUMEN MATTA-EL-MESKEEN AND MAX MICHEL
If we ignore divine justice… then what is the point of the cross anyway?
… What is its necessity? Is the cross simply a play just so the Lord Christ reveals His love? Also, what is the meaning of the word redemption? When He speaks of giving “His life a ransom for many” (Mat 20:28), or “Who gave Himself a ransom for all” (1 Tim 2:6). Has the term redemption become meaningless? They deny the Redeemer offering Himself instead of the sinner, placing Himself in the place of the sinner, while the Holy Scripture is clear as Isaiah the prophet says: “The LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all” (Is 53:6); John the Baptist said: “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (Jn 1:29); Isaiah says again: “You make His soul an offering for sin” (Is 53:10); in his first epistle, our teacher St. Peter says: “Knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things… but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot” (1 Pt 1:18-19); our teacher St. Paul says: “Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us” (Gal 3:13); again: “For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s” (1 Cor 6:20); and yet again: “Having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross” (Col 2:14). What does tearing apart the handwritten debt against us mean, but fully paying the debt by the cross! So, why do we count the debt as a reproach to the beloved Savior?

H.E. Metropolitan Bishoy – The Dogma Of Atonement And Redemption 
If we had been crucified with Christ on the day of His crucifixion, so that He was not crucified for us but with us, as some claim, are we crucified with Him once more in Baptism or not?! Is it allowable for the crucifixion to be repeated for Him or for us? What is the use of the sacraments and of Baptism? What is the use of the Holy Spirit in the Church?!! We are granted the communion of death with Christ at baptism. Thus Saint Paul the Apostle says: “For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection” (Rom. 6:5). When He says: “we have been united together” it implies that this happened during the Baptism, not before. We are warning about this strange and dangerous teachings that destroy the dogma of redemption. We should stick firmly to the teachings of the ancient holy fathers and the teaching of His Holiness Pope Shenouda III, may God grant him long life. His Holiness affirmed several times the necessity of adhering to the sound teachings of the fathers “that we should no longer be children, tossed to and for and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting” (Eph.4: 14).


Christ Fulfilled the Law

Scriptural references>>

Matthew 5:17
Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.

Luke 24:44,46
He said to them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.”…He told them, “This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day,

John 1:17
For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.

Romans 3:31
Do we, then, nullify the law by this faith? Not at all! Rather, we uphold the law.

Romans 4:15
because the law brings wrath. And where there is no law there is no transgression.

Romans 5:16
Nor can the gift of God be compared with the result of one man’s sin: The judgment followed one sin and brought condemnation, but the gift followed many trespasses and brought justification.

Romans 5:18
Consequently, just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people, so also one righteous act resulted in justification and life for all people. 

Romans 6:14
For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace.

Romans 7:1, 2, 4
Do you not know, brothers and sisters—for I am speaking to those who know the law—that the law has authority over someone only as long as that person lives? For example, by law a married woman is bound to her husband as long as he is alive, but if her husband dies, she is released from the law that binds her to him…So, my brothers and sisters, you also died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another, to him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God. 

Romans 8:3-4
For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.

Romans 11:32
For God has bound everyone over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all.

Galatians 3:10, 13
For all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse, as it is written: “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law…Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.

2 Corinthians 5:14 
For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died.

Ephesians 2:15
Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace

Colossians 2:13-14
And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. 

Galatians 4:4-5
But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship.

Those who subscribe to a modern soteriology that denies a juridical dimension to the redemption argue that God deals with us as children, not as criminals in a court room. While this is true and pleasing to the ear, this modern view denies how we got to this state of grace in the first place. Prior to the cross, sinners were bound by legal ordinances of the Law, subject to curse and condemnation for sin. Prior to the grace of the New Testament, those who blasphemed, committed adultery, cursed parents, etc. were put to death as criminals without mercy under the Law of Moses. This Law was put in place by God. Thus, to argue that God does not punish and only deals with us as children is to argue that God changes and/or that the God of the Old Testament is not the God of the New Testament. Indeed we are under grace and not under the Law through Christ, but this only the case for those who enjoy the rebirth by adoption through faith in Christ and baptism as children of God. But this grace was only given after Christ redeemed sinners from the curse of the Law, having suffered the accursed death of the cross (Galatians 3:13) on their behalf. This was only possible after Christ cancelled “the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross (Colossians 2:13-14).” Prior to this, God “bound everyone over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all.” (Romans 11:32). Apart from this grace of adoption, whoever denies Christ, “the wrath of God abides on him” (John 3:36). Thus, those who deny the juridical element to our redemption, not only imply that the God of the New Testament is a different God than the God of the Old Testament, but also deny how we were transitioned from the condemnation of Law to grace, as children of God. As previously discussed, St. Athanasius explained that death gained a “legal” hold over us and it was impossible to evade the law because it was laid down by God for transgression, and God’s word could not be broken:

St. Athanasius (296 – 373 AD) – On the Incarnation of the Word
For death, as I said above, gained from that time forth a legal hold over us, and it was impossible to evade the law, since it had been laid down by God because of the transgression, and the result was in truth at once monstrous and unseemly. For it were monstrous, firstly, that God, having spoken, should prove false—that, when once He had ordained that man, if he transgressed the commandment, should die the death, after the transgression man should not die, but God’s word should be broken.

It is written, “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law (Gal 3:10).” But Christ did not come to abolish the Law, but fulfill it (Matt 5:17). Thus, Christ came in the “likeness of sinful flesh” and by His obedience, He fulfilled the Law on our behalf in order that the “just requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us (Rom 8:3-4)”. St. Athanasius explains that Christ gave His body over to death in the stead of all so that the law of death would be fulfilled in Him (undone). Since all also died in Him, death no longer has holding-ground against men:

St. Athanasius (296 – 373 AD) – On the Incarnation of the Word
And thus taking from our bodies one of like nature, because all were under penalty of the corruption of death He gave it over to death in the stead of all, and offered it to the Father—doing this, moreover, of His loving-kindness, to the end that, firstly, all being held to have died in Him, the law involving the ruin of men might be undone (inasmuch as its power was fully spent in the Lord’s body, and had no longer holding-ground against men, his peers)

The judgement that hung over us was delivered to the Son that He might abolish it in Himself:

St. Athanasius (296 – 373 AD) – On Luke 10:22 and Matthew 11:27
For man, being in Him, was quickened: for this was why the Word was united to man, namely, that against man the curse might no longer prevail. This is the reason why they record the request made on behalf of mankind in the seventy-first Psalm: ‘Give the King Your judgment, O God?’ [ Psalm 72:1 ]: asking that both the judgment of death which hung over us may be delivered to the Son, and that He may then, by dying for us, abolish it for us in Himself. This was what He signified, saying Himself, in the eighty-eventh Psalm: ‘Your indignation lies hard upon me’ [ Psalm 88:7 ]. For He bore the indignation which lay upon us, as also He says in the hundred and thirty-seventh: ‘Lord, You shall do vengeance for me’ [Psalm 137:8 ].

In essence, Christ took upon Himself the judgement of the Law on behalf of all, bestowing grace and salvation to all:

St. Athanasius (296 – 373 AD) – Orationes contra Arianos
‘For the Son of God came into the world, not to judge the world, but to redeem all men, and that the world might be saved through Him.’ Formerly the world, as guilty, was under judgment from the Law; but now the Word has taken on Himself the judgment, and having suffered in the body for all, has bestowed salvation to all. With a view to this has John exclaimed, ‘The law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.’ Better is grace than the Law, and truth than the shadow.

Because Christ died on our behalf, the condemnation of the law has ceased. We no longer die, but are only “dissolved” to our bodies’ mortal nature until the resurrection:

St. Athanasius (296 – 373 AD) – On the Incarnation of the Word, XXI
Why, now that the common Saviour of all has died on our behalf, we, the faithful in Christ, no longer die the death as before, agreeably to the warning of the lawfor this condemnation has ceased; but, corruption ceasing and being put away by the grace of the Resurrection, henceforth we are only dissolved, agreeably to our bodies’ mortal nature, at the time God has fixed for each, that we may be able to gain a better resurrection.

Christ took upon Himself the Cross that was our due, passing on Himself the condemnation of the Law:

St. Cyril of Alexandria (378 – 444 AD) – Commentary on the Gospel of St. John, Book XII
Bearing the Cross upon His shoulders, on which He was about to be crucified, He went forth; His doom was already fixed, and He had undergone, for our sakes, though innocent, the sentence of  death. For, in His own Person, He bore the sentence righteously pronounced against sinners by the Law. For He became a curse for us, according to the Scripture: For cursed is everyone, it is said, that hangeth on a tree. And accursed are we all, for we are not able to fulfil the Law of God: For in many things we all stumble; and very prone to sin is the nature of man. And since, too, the Law of God says: Cursed is he which continueth not in all things that are written in the book of this Law, to do them, the curse, then, belongeth unto us, and not to others. For those against whom the transgression of the Law may be charged, and who are very prone to err from its commandments, surely deserve chastisement. Therefore, He That knew no sin was accursed for our sakes, that He might deliver us from the old curse. For all-sufficient was the God Who is above all, so dying for all; and by the death of His own Body, purchasing the redemption of all mankind. The Cross, then, that Christ bore, was not for His own deserts, but was the cross that awaited us, and was our due, through our condemnation by the Law. For as He was numbered among the dead, not for Himself, but for our sakes, that we might find in Him, the Author of everlasting life, subduing of Himself the power of death; so also, He took upon Himself the Cross that was our due, passing on Himself the condemnation of the Law, that the mouth of all lawlessness might henceforth be stopped, according to the saying of the Psalmist; the Sinless having suffered condemnation for the sin of all…But our Lord Jesus Christ is not ashamed to bear the Cross that is our due, and to suffer this indignity for love towards us…

According to St. Cyril, Christ ransomed us from the curse of the Law by fulfilling it in our stead:

St. Cyril of Alexandria (378 – 444 AD) – Commentary on Luke
Christ therefore ransomed from the curse of the law those who being subject to it, had been unable to keep its enactments. And in what way did He ransom them? By fulfilling it. And to put it in another way: in order that He might expiate the guilt of Adam’s transgression, He showed Himself obedient and submissive in every respect to God the Father in our stead

Christ fulfilled the terms of the sentence and satisfied the judgement, imparting grace:

St. Ambrose (337- 397 AD) – Flight from the World, ch. 7, sect. 44
And so then, Jesus took flesh that He might destroy the curse of sinful flesh, and He became for us a curse that a blessing might overwhelm a curse, uprightness might overwhelm sin, forgiveness might overwhelm the sentence, and life might overwhelm death. He also took up death that the sentence might be fulfilled and satisfaction might be given for the judgment, the curse placed on sinful flesh even to death. Therefore, nothing was done contrary to God’s sentence when the terms of that sentence were fulfilled, for the curse was unto death but grace is after death.

St. John Chrysostom explains that Chris’ts death was like an innocent man undertaking death for a man sentenced to death, rescuing him from punishment:

St. John Chrysostom (349 – 407 AD) – Commentary on Galatians
“Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangs on a tree.” In reality, the people were subject to another curse, which says, “Cursed is every one that continueth not in the things that are written in the book of the Law.” (Deut. xxvii. 26.) To this curse, I say, people were subject, for no man had continued in, or was a keeper of, the whole Law; but Christ exchanged this curse for the other, “Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree.” As then both he who hanged on a tree, and he who transgresses the Law, is cursed, and as it was necessary for him who is about to relieve from a curse himself to be free from it, but to receive another instead of it, therefore Christ took upon Him such another, and thereby relieved us from the curse. It was like an innocent man’s undertaking to die for another sentenced to death, and so rescuing him from punishment. For Christ took upon Him not the curse of transgression, but the other curse, in order to remove that of others. For, “He had done no violence neither was any deceit in His mouth.” (Isa. liii. 9; 1 Peter ii.22.) And as by dying He rescued from death those who were dying, so by taking upon Himself the curse, He delivered them from it…Thus the Cross removed the curse, Faith brought in righteousness, righteousness drew on the grace of the Spirit.

Christ offered His life as an “equivalent” for the life of all. Thus, He provide perfect satisfaction for all when He fulfilled in Himself the curse of the Law:

St. Cyril of Alexandria (378 – 444 AD) – Commentary on the Gospel of St. John, BOOK IX, v31,32
For if we examine as well as we may the real character of the mystery of His work, we shall see that He died, not merely for Himself, nor even especially for His own sake; but that it was on behalf of humanity that He suffered and carried out both the suffering in itself and the resurrection that followed. For in that He died according to the flesh, He offered up His own life as an equivalent for the life of all; and by rendering perfect satisfaction for all, He fulfilled in Himself to the uttermost the force of that ancient curse. And in that He has risen again from the dead to a life imperishable and unceasing, in Himself He raises the whole of nature.

Thus Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us (Gal 3:13). He satisfied the debt of death we deserved, by fulfilling it (Rom 6:23). He satisfied the “penalty” and reproach “outside the gate” that was due to us, by fulfilling it (Heb 13:12). Christ fulfilled the Law on our behalf by His obedience and by dying on our behalf. In doing so, He cancelled “the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands.” (Col 2:14). He fulfilled the righteousness of the Law, as well as its sentence on our behalf, imparting mercy and salvation to all. As participants in Christ’s death (through baptism), we also died to the Law and were freed from it, as a woman is freed from a marriage covenant after the death of her husband (Romans 7:2). Thus we are no longer under the Law, but are under grace (Romans 6:14). For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ (John 1:17). Consequently, just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all, so also one righteous act resulted in justification and life for all. (Rom 5:18).

In the next few sections, we will discuss how Christ also redeemed us from condemnation of the Law and propitiated God, by fulfilling the Law of Old Testament sacrifices as both Sacrifice and High Priest:

St. Irenaeus (130 – 202 AD) – Against Heresies, Book 4, Chapter 8
For He did not make void, but fulfilled the law, by performing the offices of the high priest, propitiating God for men, and cleansing the lepers, healing the sick, and Himself suffering death, that exiled man might go forth from condemnation, and might return without fear to his own inheritance.

More Quotes>>

St. Athanasius (296 – 373 AD) – Discourses Against the Arians
But if not for Himself is He created, but for us, then He is not Himself a creature, but, as having put on our flesh, He uses such language. And that this is the sense of the Scriptures, we may learn from the Apostle, who says in Ephesians, ‘Having broken down the middle wall of partition between us, having abolished in His flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances, to create in Himself of twain one new man, so making peace.’ But if in Him the twain are created, and these are in His body, reasonably then, bearing the twain in Himself, He is as if Himself created; for those who were created in Himself He made one, and He was in them, as they. And thus, the two being created in Him, He may say suitably, ‘The Lord created me.’ For as by receiving our infirmities, He is said to be infirm Himself, though not Himself infirm, for He is the Power of God, and He became sin for us and a curse, though not having sinned Himself, but because He Himself bare our sins and our curse, so, by creating us in Him, let Him say, ‘He created me for the works,’ though not Himself a creature...But the Apostle opposes such a doctrine a little before, when he says, ‘For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus;’ and if in Christ we are created, then it is not He who is created, but we in Him; and thus the words ‘He created’ are for our sake. For because of our need, the Word, though being Creator, endured words which are used of creatures; which are not proper to Him, as being the Word, but are ours who are created in Him…so, when for our need He became man, consistently does He use language, as ourselves, ‘The Lord hath created Me,’ that, by His dwelling in the flesh, sin might perfectly be expelled from the flesh, and we might have a free mind.

St. John Chrysostom (349 – 407 AD) – Homilies on Paul’s Epistle to the Romans
But after this, they of the seed of Abraham all became subject to punishment. For the Law wrought wrath unto them by being transgressed, and thenceforward deprived them of that promise made unto the fathers…For having fulfilled the whole Law in which He also fulfilled the circumcision, and having by it, and by the Cross, freed them from the curse of the transgression, He suffered not this promise to fall to the ground. When then he calls Him “a Minister of the circumcision,” he means this, that by having come and fulfilled the Law, and been circumcised, and born of the seed of Abraham, He undid the curse, stayed the anger of God, made also those that were to receive the promises fit for them, as being once for all freed from their alienation.To prevent then these accused persons from saying, How then came Christ to be circumcised and to keep the whole Law? he turns their argument to the opposite conclusion. For it was not that the Law might continue, but that He might put an end to it, and free thee from the curse thereof, and set thee entirely at liberty from the dominion of that Law. For it was because thou hadst transgressed the Law, that He fulfilled it, not that thou mightest fulfil it…

St. John Chrysostom (349 – 407 AD) – Commentary on Galatians
“But when the fullness of the time came God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, under the Law that he might redeem them which were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.” Here he states two objects and effects of the Incarnation, deliverance from evil and supply of good, things which none could compass but Christ. They are these; deliverance from the curse of the Law, and promotion to sonship. Fitly does he say, that we might “receive,” “[be paid,]” implying that it was due; for the promise was of old time made for these objects to Abraham, as the Apostle has himself shown at great length. And how does it appear that we have become sons? he has told us one mode, in that we have put on Christ who is the Son; and now he mentions another, in that we have received the Spirit of adoption.“And because ye are sons, God sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father. So that thou art no longer a bond-servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God.”

St. John Chrysostom (349 – 407 AD) – Commentary on the Gospel of St. John
So that when you hear that “the Word became Flesh,” be not disturbed nor cast down. For that 
Essence did not change to flesh, (it is impiety to imagine this,) but continuing what it is, It so took upon It the form of a servant. Wherefore then does he use the expression, “was made”? To stop the mouths of the heretics. For since there are some who say that all the circumstances of the Dispensation were an appearance, a piece of acting, an allegory, at once to remove beforehand their blasphemy, he has put “was made”; desiring to show thereby not a change of substance, (away with the thought,) but the assumption of very flesh. For as when (Paul) says, “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us,” he does not mean that His essence removing from Its proper glory took upon It the being of an accursed thing, (this not even devils could imagine, nor even the very foolish, nor those deprived of their natural understanding, such impiety as well as madness does it contain,) as (St. Paul) does not say this, but that He, taking upon Himself the curse pronounced against us, leaves us no more under the curse; so also here he (St. John) says that He “was made Flesh,” not by changing His Essence to flesh, but by taking flesh to Himself, His Essence remained untouched.

St. Cyril of Alexandria (378 – 444 AD) – Commentary on the Gospel of St. John, Chapter I
The first man, being earthy, and of the earth, and having, placed in his own power, the choice between good and evil, being master of the inclination to each, was caught of bitter guile, and having inclined to disobedience, falls to the earth, the mother from whence he sprang, and over-mastered now at length by corruption and death, transmits the penalty to his whole race…Since then the first Adam preserved not the grace given him of God, God the Father was minded to send us from Heaven the second Adam. For He sendeth in our likeness His own Son Who is by Nature without variableness or change, and wholly unknowing of sin, that as by the disobedience of the first, we became subject to Divine wrath, so through the obedience of the Second, we might both escape the curse, and its evils might come to nought…For this reason, I deem, it was that the holy Baptist profitably added, I saw the Spirit descending from Heaven, and It abode upon Him. For It had fled from us by reason of sin, but He Who knew no sin, became as one of us, that the Spirit might be accustomed to abide in us, having no occasion of departure or withdrawal in Him.

St. Cyril of Alexandria (378 – 444 AD) – Commentary on the Gospel of St. Luke
But recently we saw the Emmanuel lying as a babe in the manger, and wrapped in human fashion in swaddling bands, but extolled as God in hymns by the host of the holy angels. For they proclaimed to the shepherds His birth, God the Father having granted to the inhabitants of heaven as a special privilege to be the first to preach Him. And to-day too we have seen Him obedient to the laws of Moses, or rather we have seen Him Who as God is the Legislator, subject to His own decrees. And the reason of this the most wise Paul teaches us, saying, “When we were babes we were enslaved under the elements of the world; but when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem them that were under the law.” Christ therefore ransomed from the curse of the law those who being subject to it, had been unable to keep its enactments. And in what way did He ransom them? By fulfilling it. 

St. Cyril of Alexandria (378 – 444 AD) – Commentary on Gospel of St. John Book XII
For He That was truly God, and had no sin in Him, was yet Man; and just as the sentence of condemnation for transgression went forth over all mankind, through one man, the first Adam, so likewise, also, the blessing of justification by Christ is extended to all through One Man, the Second Adam. Paul is our witness, who says: As through one the judgment came unto all men to condemnation; even so through One the free gift came unto all men to justification of life. We therefore are diseased through the disobedience of the first Adam and its curse, but are enriched through the obedience of the Second and its blessing. For He that was Lord of the Law as God came among us, and kept the Law as Man. Yea, we find Him saying unto us: He that loveth Me will keep My commandments; even as I have kept My Father’s commandments,
and abide in His love.  

St. Cyril of Alexandria (378 – 444 AD) – Commentary on the Gospel of St. John
For albeit the Son were by nature God and had shone forth from His essence and possessed naturally the immutability of His proper being, and for this cause in no wise could stumble into sin, or turn aside anywhither into what is not right, the Father caused him voluntarily to descend into the flesh that is subject to sin, with intent that making very flesh His own, He might bring it over unto His own natural property, to wit, sinlessness. For, I conceive, we shall not be right in believing that it was with intent to effect this for the Temple of His own Body alone that the Only-begotten has been made man; for where were the glory and profit of His Advent unto us to be seen, if He accomplished the salvation of His own Body alone? But we believe rather that it was to secure the benefits for all nature through Himself and in Himself first as in the firstfruits of humanity, that the Only-begotten has become like us. For like as we have followed after not only death but all the sufferings of the flesh, undergoing this suffering in the first man by reason as well of the transgression as of the divine curse; after the same sort, I conceive, shall we all of us follow Christ, as He saves in many ways and sanctifies the nature of the flesh in Himself. Wherefore also Paul said: And as we love the image of the earthy, we shall bear also the image of the heavenly. For the image of the earthy, to wit of Adam, is to be in sufferings and corruption; and the image of the heavenly, to wit of Christ, is to be in impassibility and incorruption. So then the Word being God by nature condemned sin in His own flesh, by charging it to cease its activity, or rather so amending it as that it should move after the good pleasure of God, and no longer at its own will; and so whereas the body was natural, He made it spiritual. This then is one method of the gathering together; but the method that is most befitting and appropriate to the drift of the passage before us shall follow it. And it will be our task to speak touching eternal life and the slaying of Death, and how the Only-begotten removed from human nature the corruption that came of the transgression. Therefore forasmuch as the children are partakers of blood and flesh, He also in like manner took part in the same with intent to slay Death, and that He that created all things unto immortality and made the generations of the world healthful, according as it is written, might remould once more the fashion of things unto their ancient estate.

St. Cyril of Alexandria (378 – 444 AD) – Commentary on the Gospel of St. John
For if we examine as well as we may the real character of the mystery of His work, we shall see that He died, not merely for Himself, nor even especially for His own sake; but that it was on behalf of humanity that He suffered and carried out both the suffering in itself and the resurrection that followed. For in that He died according to the flesh, He offered up His own life as an equivalent for the life of all; and by rendering perfect satisfaction for all, He fulfilled in Himself to the uttermost the force of that ancient curse. And in that He has risen again from the dead to a life imperishable and unceasing, in Himself He raises the whole of nature.

St. Cyril of Alexandria (378 – 444 AD) – Five Tomes Against Netorius, Tome III
The God of all uttered the Law to them of old, Moses being mediator. But there was not in the Law the power of achieving good without any blame, to those who wished it (for it hath perfected nothing). But neither was the first covenant found faultless, but the all-wise Paul called it the ministry of condemnation. I hear him say, We know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped and all the world may become under sentence before God, because by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in His sight, (for the Law worketh unto wrath, and the Letter killeth), and as himself somewhere saith, He that despised Moses’ law dieth without mercy under two or three witnesses. Seeing therefore that the Law condemneth them that sin and decreeth sometimes the uttermost punishment to them that disregard it, and in no wise pitieth, how was not the manifestation to them on the earth of a Compassionate and truly Merciful High Priest necessary? of One Who should make the curse to cease, should stop the condemnation and free sinners with forgiving grace and with the bending of clemency? for I (He says) am He that blotteth out thy transgressions and will not remember. For we have been justified by faith and not out of the works of the Law, as it is written. On Whom then believing are we justified? is it not on Him who suffered death for us after the flesh? is it not on One Lord Jesus Christ? have we not on declaring His Death and confessing His Resurrection been redeemed? If therefore we have believed on a man like us and not rather on God, the thing is man-worship, and confessedly nothing else: but if we believe that He That suffered in the flesh is God, Who hath been made also our High Priest, we have no ways erred, but acknowledge the Word out of God made Man: and thus is required of us faith God-ward, Who putteth out of condemnation and freeth from sin those that are taken thereby.

Ambrose of Milan (337- 397 AD) – Letters of Ambrose, Letter 41
So, then, we have changed our creditor, not escaped wholly, or rather we have escaped, for the debt remains but the interest is cancelled, for the Lord Jesus said, To those who are in bonds, Come out, and to those who are in prison, Go forth; Isaiah 49:9 so your sins are forgiven. All, then, are forgiven, nor is there any one whom He has not loosed. For thus it is written, that He has forgiven all transgressions, doing away the handwriting of the ordinance that was against us. Colossians 2:13-14 Why, then, do we hold the bonds of others, and desire to exact the debts of others, while we enjoy our own remission? He who forgave all, required of all that what every one remembers to have been forgiven to himself, he also should forgive others.

St. Jerome (347 A.D – 420 A.D.) – Letter to Amandus
The chief stumbling-block in the passage is that the Son is said to be subject to the Father. Now which is the more shameful and humiliating, to be subject to the Father (often a mark of loving devotion as in the psalm “truly my soul is subject unto God”) or to be crucified and made the curse of the cross? For “cursed is everyone that hangeth on a tree.If Christ then for our sakes was made a curse that He might deliver us from the curse of the law, are you surprised that He is also for our sakes subject to the Father to make us too subject to Him as He says in the gospel: “No man cometh unto the Father but by me,” and “I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.” Christ then is subject to the Father in the faithful; for all believers, nay the whole human race, are accounted members of His body…He does not say “that the Father may be all in all” but that “God” may be, a title which properly belongs to the Trinity and may be referred not only to the Father but also to the Son and to the Holy Ghost. His meaning therefore is “that humanity may be subject to the Godhead.”

Pope Leo the Great – Letter 124, IV
What hope then do they, who deny the reality of the human person in our Saviour’s body, leave for themselves in the efficacy of this mystery? Let them say by what sacrifice they have been reconciled, by what blood-shedding brought back. Who is He who gave Himself for us an offering and a victim to God for a sweet smell (Ephesians 5:2): or what sacrifice was ever more hallowed than that which the true High priest placed upon the altar of the cross by the immolation of His own flesh? For although in the sight of the Lord the death of many of His saints has been precious, yet no innocent’s death was the propitiation of the world. The righteous have received, not given, crowns: and from the endurance of the faithful have arisen examples of patience, not the gift of justification. For their deaths affected themselves alone, and no one has paid off another’s debt by his own death: one alone among the sons of men, our Lord Jesus Christ, stands out as One in whom all are crucified, all dead, all buried, all raised again. Of them He Himself said when I am lifted from the earth, I will draw all (things) unto Me.  True faith also, that justifies the transgressors and makes them just, is drawn to Him who shared their human natures and wins salvation in Him, in whom alone man finds himself not guilty; and thus is free to glory in the power of Him who in the humiliation of our flesh engaged in conflict with the haughty foe, and shared His victory with those in whose body He had triumphed.

Theodoret (393 – 457 AD) – Dialogue I, The Immutable
“The text ‘the Word was made flesh’ does not indicate a deterioration of nature but the assumption of our nature. Suppose you take the word ‘was made’ to indicate a change; then 
when you hear Paul saying ‘Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us,’ do you understand him to mean a change into the nature of a curse? Just as being made a curse had no other meaning than that He took our curse upon Himself, so the words was made flesh and dwelt among us mean nothing other than the assumption of flesh.”

St. Severus of Antioch (465 – 538 AD) – LETTER TO EUPRAXIUS THE CHAMBERLAIN 
You see that on all points by being himself made a curse he becomes a dispeller of the curse, and this curse he takes up on to the cross, and thence puts it to flight: for it was overcome by the law which said, “Cursed of God is everyone who shall be hanged upon wood”. And he himself underwent the accursed death that was for our sake, and thence blessed the whole human race…So also he is said to have become sin, because he endured the death that was the due of sinners; for, while he is himself the pure justice of the Father, he is crucified between two robbers; but these on account of their offences, and in accordance with the passage in the Gospel of Mark who says, “And with him they crucified two robbers, one on the right hand and one on the left, and the Scripture was fulfilled which saith, ‘He was numbered with the unjust'”. So he became sin to remit the sins of others: so also he paid the debt that was incurred for us, and we ourselves became righteousness in Him; for those who have been freed from debts are righteous, and are not termed liable. And, because during the time of his Humanization he did no sin, therefore also iniquity was not found in him, but he showed himself righteous, that is, he is righteousness; and, when he became flesh, all our nature again was justified in him as in firstfruits.

Constitutions of the Holy Apostles
But as to those bonds which were further laid upon them after they had sinned, do not thou draw them upon thyself: for our Savior came for no other reason but that He might deliver those that were obnoxious thereto from the wrath which was reserved far them, that He might fulfill the Law and the Prophets, and that He might abrogate or change those secondary bonds which were superadded to the rest of the law. For therefore did He call to us and say, “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

Fr. Tadros Malaty – Commentary on the book of Joshua
The law condemned the sin in us; thus all of us came under the curse of the law. Instead of enjoying salvation, the curse was confirmed, and we came under the verdict of death. That is why, the Lord Jesus Christ came to remove the ‘head cover of execution’, and to abolish the authority of death, not by words or commands, but through practical love; He carried our body, to receive death in it; and to bear our judgment in His body; He, on whom death is unable to shut in, nor judgment be proven; rose, in order to raise us, righteous, in His body; so that the curse cannot, any more, reign on us. That is why the apostle says: “Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law” (Galatians 3: 13); and, “For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh” (Romans 8:3). It is as though the Lord Christ has realized the ultimate aim of the law, namely our salvation, by carrying the judgment in His body, setting us free from judgment; He came under the law, to liberate us from its killing literality.

Christ redeemed us from the curse, by becoming a curse for us, thus making perfect satisfaction for the requirement of the Law:

Fr. Tadros Malaty – Commentary on Galatians
We can say that through sin we became under the curse, while our Savior who is without sin became a curse for our sake not by committing a sin but by being hanged on a tree, and thus he embraced us while we were under the curse and saved us from it by His grace. The crucified Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law by fulfilling in his Person all the requirements of the Law perfectly and at the same time making complete and perfect satisfaction for all the transgressions of the Jews (and mankind in general) against the Law. The Law thus satisfied has no further claims on Him nor on the rest of the human race in so far as they are united with Him by baptism.


Old Testament Sacrifices

Sciptural references>>

Exodus 12:3-11
…each man is to take a lamb for his family, one for each household… Then they are to take some of the blood and put it on the sides and tops of the doorframes of the houses where they eat the lambs. That same night they are to eat the meat roasted over the fire, along with bitter herbs, and bread made without yeast…

Leviticus 4: 33-35 (Septuagint)
And he shall lay his hand on the head of the sin-offerings, and they shall kill it in the place where they kill the victims for whole-burnt-offerings. And the priest shall take of the blood of the sin-offering with his finger…the priest shall make atonement for him for the sin which he sinned, and it shall be forgiven him.

Leviticus 5:6 (Septuagint)
And he shall bring for his transgressions against the Lord, for his sin which he has sinned, a ewe lamb of the flock, or a kid of the goats, for a sin-offering; and the priest shall make an atonement for him for his sin which he has sinned, and his sin shall be forgiven him.

Numbers 16: 44-50 (Septuagint)
And the Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying Depart out of the midst of this congregation, and I will consume them at once: and they fell upon their faces. And Moses said to Aaron, Take a censer, and put on it fire from the altar, and put incense on it, and carry it away quickly into the camp, and make atonement for them; for wrath is gone forth from the presence of the Lord, it has begun to destroy the people. And Aaron took as Moses spoke to him, and ran among the congregation, for already the plague had begun among the people; and he put on incense, and made an atonement for the people. And he stood between the dead
and the living, and the plague ceased. 

2 Samuel (24:17,25)
“When David saw the angel who was striking down the people, he said to the Lord, “I have sinned; I, the shepherd, have done wrong. These are but sheep. What have they done? Let your hand fall on me and my family…David built an altar to the Lord there and sacrificed burnt offerings and fellowship offerings. Then the Lord answered his prayer in behalf of the land, and the plague on Israel was stopped.

Hebrews 9:22
And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission.

Exodus 12:12-13
“On that same night I will pass through Egypt and strike down every firstborn of both people and animals, and I will bring judgment on all the gods of Egypt. I am the Lord. The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are, and when I see the blood, I will pass over you. No destructive plague will touch you when I strike Egypt… Eat it in haste; it is the Lord’s Passover.

It is undeniable that the blood of Old Testament sacrifices was used for “purification”. However, some argue that these sacrifices were only used for “purification” (expiation), and were not necessary for the sinner to receive forgiveness. They argue that sin/guilt offerings were merely a love offering to God and that the life of the animal did not also serve to atone for the life of the sinner. A god who required such propitiation would be “evil”, they argue. Likewise, they argue that Christ’s sufferings were only to teach humility and heal, but His death did not in any way serve to fulfill a penalty/sentence, since a loving God (according to the same argument) would simply forgive sin. They argue that the word “atonement” never meant placating God’s wrath, but only meant reconciliation with God (at-one-ment). Thus, proponents of these views maintain that God only loves, and that any scriptural language of chastening or judgment should not be understood literally. When asked to provide specific scriptural and patristic evidence to to the extent that “God does not punish”, those who uphold such views fail miserably. They maintain that their interpretation is “Orthodox” and that their understanding is in line with “big picture” and the “mind of the fathers”. Yet ironically, they are unable to substantiate with any evidence that either is the case. In fact, their views are mere reincarnations of heresies already condemned by the early Church fathers such as the heresy of Marcion and universal salvation. As previously discussed, Scripture and early church fathers expounded that God is loving, but does not automatically acquit the guilty. He is a loving Father but also chastens and disciplines. He loves and heals, while at the same time upholds His indignation of sin (Exodus 34:7):

“The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished” (Exodus 34:6)

Old Testament sacrifices were offered to receive forgiveness, not just “purification”:

“And he shall bring for his transgressions against the Lord, for his sin which he has sinned, a ewe lamb of the flock, or a kid of the goats, for a sin-offering; and the priest shall make an atonement for him for his sin which he has sinned, and his sin shall be forgiven him.”(Leviticus 5:6)

The word “atonement” also meant to propitiate God’s wrath, not only reconciliation with God :

And Moses said to Aaron, Take a censer, and put fire therein from off the altar, and put on incense, and go quickly to the congregation, and make an atonement for them: for there is wrath gone out from the LORD; the plague is begun…and he put on incense, and made an atonement for the people. And he stood between the dead and the living; and the plague was stayed. (Num 16: 46-48)

Per Church hymnology, the incense of the Old Testament which made “atonement” for the people and stayed the wrath of God, symbolized the sacrifice of Christ which takes away the iniquities:

You are the Censer; made of pure gold, carrying the blessed and live coal; which is taken from the Altar; to purge the sins and take away the iniquities; which is God the Logos, Who was incarnate of you and offered Himself to God, His Father, as incense. (Sunday Theotokia)

Again, the word “atonement” was used in the context of placating God’s wrath when Phinees made atonement for the Israelites by slaying the sinners (sin). In this way, Phinees also represented Christ:

And, behold, a man of the children of Israel came and brought his brother to a Madianitish woman before Moses, and before all the congregation of the children of Israel; and they were weeping at the door of the tabernacle of witness. And Phinees the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, saw it, and rose out of the midst of the congregation, and took a javelin in his hand, and went in after the Israelitish man into the chamber, and pierced them both through, both the Israelitish man, and the woman through her womb; and the plague was stayed from the children of Israel… And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, Phinees the son of Eleazar the son of Aaron the priest has caused my wrath to cease from the children of Israel…because he was zealous for his God, and made atonement for the children of Israel.  (Numbers 25:6-13)

God commanded Moses that the blood (life) of the animal should also be offered to atone for the very soul (life) of the sinner:

For the life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that makes an atonement for the soul. (Leviticus 17:11)

St. John Chrysostom explains that though the Passover Lamb of Moses did not take away sins because it was the shadow, Christ the real Lamb delivered from the wrath of God:

St. John Chrysostom (349 – 407 AD) – Homilies on the Gospel of St. John
He calls Him “Lamb,” to remind the Jews of the prophecy of Isaiah, and of the shadow under the law of Moses, that he may the better lead them from the type to the reality. That Lamb of Moses took not at once away the sin of any one; but this took away the sin of all the world; for when it was in danger of perishing, He quickly delivered it from the wrath of God.

God had no need for Old Testament sin/guilt offerings and took no pleasure in them (Psalm 51:16). They were merely for the benefit of humanity. They were a type of Christ, and shadow of His true sacrifice of atonement/propitiation for sin:

St. Cyril of Alexandria (378 – 444 AD) – Commentary on the Gospel of St. John
For since the blood of bulls and of goats and the ashes of an heifer sufficed not unto the purging away of sin, nor yet would the slaughter of brute beasts ever have destroyed the power of death, Christ Himself came in some way to undergo punishment for all. 

At least the following illustrations and benefits could be gained from Old Testament Sacrifices:

  1. Humanity was reminded of its sinful nature (and need for renewal) (Hebrews 10:3).
  2. Sin against God could not simply be forgiven. It called for purification and atonement (Lev 5:6).
  3. Sin is costly; something dies as a result of sin. (Rom 6:23).
  4. The sacrifice represented sin (“became sin”). Sin was condemned via the death of the sacrifice (Rom 8:3).
  5. The sacrifice was burnt outside the camp to remind the sinner of God’s aversion to sin (Num 15:35), and the separation from Him because of sin (James 4:4).
  6. The offering of the sacrifice was an expression of the sinner’s repentance (Lev 5:5-6).
  7. Purification was received from the blood. (Lev 14:19)
  8. Forgiveness was received (though actual remission of sin was achieved via the Sacrifice of Christ). (Lev 4:26).
  9. The life of the sacrifice atoned for the sinner’s soul/life, and the sinner was reconciled to God (Lev 17:11).
  10. Humanity was prepared to accept the true Sacrifice of the Suffering Messiah for sins. (Heb 10:1).

St. Hilary of Poitiers explains that “whoever failed to sacrifice [for sin] laid himself open the the curse” for disobedience:

St. Hilary of Poitiers (310 – 367 AD) – Homilies on Psalms, Psalm 53
because the sentence of a curse was pronounced on all who broke the Law. Whoever failed to sacrifice laid himself open to the curse. And it was always necessary to go through the whole sacrificial action… It was from this curse that our Lord Jesus Christ redeemed us, when, as the Apostle says: Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made curse for us…

Eusebius explains that Old Testament sacrifices were “brought in place of the lives of them who bring them”. He goes on to explain that Christ being the archetype of these sacrifices, was likewise, the “offering for the sins of the world”:

Eusebius of Caesarea (263 -339 AD) – Proof of the Gospel
Note carefully in the above the words, “I gave to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls; for the blood shall make atonement for the soul.” He says clearly that the blood of the victims slain is a propitiation in the place of human life. And the law about sacrifices suggests that it should be so regarded, if it is carefully considered. For it requires him who is sacrificing always to lay his hands on the head of the victim, and to bear the animal to the priest held by its head, as one offering a sacrifice on behalf of himself… And so the argument holds that the victims are brought in place of the lives of them who bring them…Thus did the holy men of old, anticipating by the Holy Spirit that a holy victim, dear to God and great, would one day come for men, as the offering for the sins of the world…This Sacrifice was the Christ of God, from far distant times foretold as coming to men, to be sacrificed like a sheep for the whole human race.

St. Cyril expounds the same concept: One bird “was slain, and that the other was baptized indeed in its blood, while itself exempt from slaughter”. He explains that this typified the substitutionary nature of the atonement of  Christ:

St. Cyril of Alexandria (378 – 444 AD) – Commentary on the Gospel According to St. Luke
For He has made a new pathway for us unto that which is above, and we in due time shall follow Him. That the one bird then was slain, and that the other was baptized indeed in its blood, while itself exempt from slaughter, typified what was really to happen. For Christ died in our stead, and we, who have been baptized into His death, He has saved by His own blood.

Expounding the sacrifices of the Day of Atonement, St. Cyril explains that because of sin, we fell under the “divine curse”, but Christ transferred to Himself what was our due:

St. Cyril of Alexandria (378 – 444 AD) – Commentary on the Gospel According to St. Luke, Sermon LIII
For according to the Mosaic law two goats were offered, differing in nothing from one another, but alike in size and appearance. Of these, one was called “the lord :” and the other, the “sent-away.” And when the lot had been cast for that which was called “lord,” it was sacrificed: while the other was sent away from the sacrifice: and therefore had the name of the “sent-away. ” And Who was signified by this? The Word, though He was God, was in our likeness, and took the form of us sinners, as for as the nature of the flesh was concerned. The goat, then, male or female, was sacrificed for sins. But the death was our desert, inasmuch as by sin we had fallen under the divine curse. But when the Savior of all Himself, so to speak, undertook the charge, He transferred to Himself what was our due, and laid down His life, that we might be sent away from death and destruction.

Fr. Tadros also expounds that sin and guilt sacrifices bore the curse of the Law which the sinner deserved. They were not accepted as “a sweet aroma” to the Lord:

Fr. Tadros Malaty – Commentary on Leviticus
The three preceding offerings all have the same theme: “a sweet aroma to the Lord;” whereas the theme of the sacrifice of sin and the guilt offering is the substitution of the sinner with the slaughtered animal who bears the curse of the Law under which we have fallen, that it may be removed from our behalf. 

Anyone who deliberately violated the Law of Moses was stoned outside the camp. This was a type of reproach and condemnation of sin. Similarly, bodies of animal sacrifices offered as sin and guilt offerings were burned outside the camp. As the archetype of Old Testament sacrifices, Christ died as an “offering for sin” (Isaiah 53:10) outside the gate, in order to bear the reproach we deserved (Heb 13:12). According to St. Severus, Christ’s sacrifice “outside the gate” “balances the great sin of the world” and sanctifies humanity:

St. Severus of Antioch (465 – 538 AD) – Letter of Mar Severus to John
Various animals were formerly sacrificed for sin, and the blood of these was brought into the sanctuary by the high-priest, while, their bodies were delivered to be burnt outside the camp. This kind of sacrifices therefore symbolized beforehand the great sacrifice which balances the great sin of the world, as Paul also says: “For, as for the animals whose blood was brought into the sanctuary because of sins by the high-priest, the bodies of these were burnt outside the camp. Therefore Jesus also, in order to sanctify the people by his own blood, suffered outside the gate”

Likewise, expounding Hebrews, St. John Chrysostom explains that Christ’s suffering and reproach outside the gate (“without”) were a necessity. He explains that those things were not accidental, but took place per “Divine arrangement” for our sanctification:

St. John Chrysostom (349 – 407 AD) – Homilies on Hebrews
“The bodies of those beasts whose blood is brought into the sanctuary by the High Priest, are burned without the camp.” Then those things were a type of these and thus Christ, suffering “without,” fulfilled all. Here he makes it plain too that He suffered voluntarily, showing that those things were not accidental, but even the [Divine] arrangement itself was of a suffering “without.[He suffered] without, but His Blood was borne up into Heaven…the “reproach” is the cause of the sanctification.

Augustine explains that our debts were cancelled because Christ was made “to be sin for us”  (2 Cor 5:21): 

St. Augustine (354 – 430 AD) – On the Words of the Gospel of John
How do we tolerate what is said, “He made Him sin,” that Christ Himself should be sin?…For it is not an expression once used, but repeatedly, very constantly, sacrifices for sins are called “sins.”…so that in one place the Law says, “That the Priests are to lay their hands upon the sin.” “Him” then, “who knew no sin, He made sin for us;” that is, “He was made a sacrifice for sin.” Sin was offered, and sin was cancelled. The Blood of the Redeemer was shed, and the debtor’s bond was cancelled.

Moreover, an imbalanced view of God’s love that denies any form of exchange/substitution in the atonement as well as any Divine chastening/punishment for sin, presents the following unanswered questions and logical problems:

  1. Why did God pronounce a curse on anyone who did not obey the Law? (Deut 27:26) How did Christ free us from the curse of the Law? Is a curse not considered “punishment”?
  2. Why did God require the blood of the innocent to purify and forgive the guilty? (Lev 17:11)
  3. Why were Old Testament sacrifices not sufficient? Why was the blood of Christ necessary?
  4. Where did the souls of the Old Testament prophets go after they died? If it was Hades, why didn’t God send them to Paradise immediately?
  5. Why was there “enmity” between the loving God and man? Why was Christ a “Mediator”?
  6. Why did Christ suffer “outside the gate” as a condemned criminal (Heb 13:12)?
  7. Christ raised Lazarus from the dead by His command. (John 11:43-44). Couldn’t God simply abolish death by His command?
  8. Couldn’t God simply defeat the devil with His command? Why did He have to die to do so?
  9. If Christ only died to conquer death, why do we still die?
  10. Why didn’t God renew the fallen humanity with His command?

These otherwise difficult questions are almost all, answered by St. Athanasius’s explanation regarding the “Divine Dilemma” (mercy vs. truth). The remaining unanswered questions will be discussed in the next sections of this article.

More patristic quotes>>

Justin Martyr – From manuscript of writings of Justin
The goat that was sent away presented a type of Him who taketh away the sins of men. But the two contained a representation of the one economy of God incarnate. For He was wounded for our transgressions, and He bare the sins of many, and He was delivered for our iniquities.

St. Athanasius (296 – 373 AD) – Festal Epistles
Now He willed it to be in every place, so that in every place incense and a sacrifice might be offered to Him…Our Savior also, since He was changing the typical for the spiritual, promised them that they should no longer eat the flesh of a lamb, but His own, saying. Take, eat and drink; this is My body, and My blood. When we are then nourished by these things, we shall also, my beloved, properly keep the feast of the Passover.

St. Athanasius – Festal Letters, Letter 6
And, in offering his son, he worshipped the Son of God. And, being restrained from sacrificing Isaac, he saw the Messiah in the ram, which was offered up instead as a sacrifice to God. The patriarch was tried, through Isaac, not however that he was sacrificed, but He who was pointed out in Isaiah; ‘He shall be led as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers he shall be speechless;’ but He took away the sin of the world…Thus God accepted the will of the offerer, but prevented that which was offered from being sacrificed. For the death of Isaac did not procure freedom to the world, but that of our Saviour alone, by whose stripes we all are healed.

Eusebius of Caesarea (263 -339 AD) – Proof of the Gospel
He then that was alone of those who ever existed, the Word of God before all worlds, and High Priest of every creature that has mind and reason, separated One of like passions with us, as a sheep or lamb from the human flock, branded on Him all our sins, and fastened on Him as well the curse that was adjudged by Moses’ law, as Moses foretells: “Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree.” This He suffered ” being made a curse for us: and making himself sin for our sakes.” And then “He made him sin for our sakes who knew no sin,” and laid on Him all the punishments due to us for our sins, bonds, insults, contumelies, scourging, and shameful blows, and the crowning trophy of the Cross. And after all this when He had offered such a wondrous offering and choice victim to the Father, and sacrificed for the salvation of us all, He delivered a memorial to us to offer to God continually instead of a sacrifice.

Eusebius of Caesarea (263 -339 AD) –  Demonstratio Evangelica, BOOK IV 
Since then according to the witness of the prophets the great and precious ransom has been found for Jews and Greeks alike, the propitiation for the whole world, the life given for the life of all men, the pure offering for every stain and sin, the Lamb of God, the holy sheep dear to God, the Lamb that was foretold, by Whose inspired and mystic teaching all we Gentiles have procured the forgiveness of our former sins, and such Jews as hope in Him are freed from the curse of Moses, daily celebrating His memorial, the remembrance of His Body and Blood, and are admitted to a greater sacrifice than that of the ancient law…And any Jews, of course, who have taken refuge in Christ, even if they attend no longer to the ordinances of Moses, but live according to the new covenant, are free from the curse ordained by Moses, for the Lamb of God has surely not only taken on Himself the sin of the world, but also the curse involved in the breach of the commandments of Moses as well. The Lamb of God is made thus both sin and curse—sin for the sinners in the world, and curse for those remaining in all the things written in Moses’ law. And so the Apostle says: “Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us”; and “Him that knew no sin, for our sakes he made sin.”For what is there that the Offering for the whole world could not effect, the Life given for the life of sinners, Who was led as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a lamb to the sacrifice, and all this for us and on our behalf? And this was why those ancient men of God, as they had not yet the reality, held fast to their symbols.

St. Cyril of Alexandria (378 – 444 AD) – Commentary on the Gospel of St. John
And, marvel of marvels, the most absurd and irrational idea of all, they think themselves purified by the slaughter of a lamb, which typified for us nothing but the shadow of the mystery that is in Christ; and, while honouring the type of what is coming to pass, they scorn the reality itself. For while they were performing that which was but the semblance of His Atonement, they were defiled by the shedding of the Blood of Christ.  

St. Cyril of Alexandria (378 – 444 AD) – Five Tomes Against Nestorious
But let us see from the legal and more ancient scripture too in what manner and for whom, Emmanuel hath offered Himself for an odour of a sweet smell unto God the Father…And having fully gone through how the details of the sacrifice should be done, He adds and says, And the priest shall make an atonement for them and the sin shall be forgiven them. Observe then that the bullock was offered as a type of Christ the All-Pure and That hath no spot, and they who offer and not surely the bullock were set free from their guilt…we say that the Word out of God the Father was made the High Priest and Apostle of our confession when He was made Man, abasing Himself unto emptiness and in our condition: in order that having offered Himself to the Father for an odour of sweet smell in behalf of all, He might win all under Heaven, might remove the ancient guilt, might justify by grace through faith, might render superior to death and decay, holy and hallowed and full well versed in every kind of virtue…

Fr. Abraam D. Sleman, St Basil Liturgy Reference Book
The people confess their sins during offering the incense among them. The incense brings into our memory the redemptive act of the Lord’s Atonement on the cross. Every one confesses his sins to be redeemed by the Blood of Jesus and to be saved from the plagues resulting from his sins.

Father Athanasius Iskander, UNDERSTANDING THE LITURGY
God ordered Aaron and his children to offer incense twice a day, once in the morning (Ex. 30:7) and once in the evening (Ex. 30:8). Our Church observes this ordinance in the morning and evening Offering of Incense service. But God also ordered another offering of incense, during the high priestly sacrifice of Yum Kippur (the day of atonement). This sacrifice, the most solemn of all the Old Testament sacrifices was done only once a year. Only the high priest could offer it, because he was the only one allowed to enter the Holy of Holies (the second tabernacle) to make this offering. He went in “not without blood to offer for his own sins and for the people’s ignorance” (Heb. 9:7). After offering the sacrifice Aaron was instructed to “take a censer full of burning coals of fire from off the altar before the Lord, and his hands full of sweet incense beaten small, and bring it within the veil. And he shall put the incense upon the fire before the Lord, that the cloud of incense may cover the mercy seat that is upon the testimony, that he die not” (Lev. 16:12-13). Saint Paul tells us that this Old Testament sacrifice was only a shadow and a figure of Christ’s perfect sacrifice, Who “Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by His own blood He entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us” (Heb. 9:12). The priest’s entrance into the sanctuary (behind the veil) to offer incense is in emulation of the Old Testament ordinance. We do this because as we said before, these sacrifices were types and figures of Christ’s eternal sacrifice. And if it behoved Aaron to offer incense over the animal sacrifices of the Old Testament, how much more it behoves the priests of the New Testament to offer incense over Christ’s perfect sacrifice, whose memorial is on the altar?


Isaiah Chapter 53

Scriptural references>>

Isaiah Chapter 53 (Septuagint)
O Lord, who has believed our report? and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed We brought a report as of a child before him; he is as a root in a thirsty land: he has no form nor comeliness; and we saw him, but he had no form nor beauty. But his form was ignoble, and inferior to that of the children of men; he was a man in suffering, and acquainted with the bearing of sickness, for his face is turned from us: he was dishonored, and not esteemed. He bears our sins, and is pained for us: yet we accounted him to be in trouble, and in suffering, and in affliction. But he was wounded on account of our sins, and was bruised because of our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and by his bruises we were healed. All we as sheep have gone astray; every one has gone astray in his way; and the Lord gave him up for our sins. And he, because of his affliction, opens not his mouth: he was led as a sheep to the slaughter, and as a lamb before the shearer is dumb, so he opens not his mouth. In his humiliation his judgment was taken away: who shall declare his generation? for his life is taken away from the earth: because of the iniquities of my people he was led to death. And I will give the wicked for his burial, and the rich for his death; for he practised no iniquity, nor craft with his mouth. The Lord also is pleased to purge him from his stroke. If ye can give an offering for sin, your soul shall see a long-lived seed: the Lord also is pleased to take away from the travail of his soul, to shew him light, and to form him with understanding; to justify the just one who serves many well; and he shall bear their sins. Therefore he shall inherit many, and he shall divide the spoils of the mighty; because his soul was delivered to death: and he was numbered among the transgressors; and he bore the sins of many, and was delivered because of their iniquities. 

Isaiah 53:4, 8-12 (Hebrew)
Surely our diseases he did bear, and our pains he carried; whereas we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted….By oppression and judgment he was taken away, and with his generation who did reason? for he was cut off out of the land of the living, for the transgression of my people to whom the stroke was due. And they made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich his tomb; although he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth.’ Yet it pleased the LORD to crush him by disease; to see if his soul would offer itself in restitution, that he might see his seed, prolong his days, and that the purpose of the LORD might prosper by his hand: Of the travail of his soul he shall see to the full, even My servant, who by his knowledge did justify the Righteous One to the many, and their iniquities he did bear. Therefore will I divide him a portion among the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the mighty; because he bared his soul unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.

Isaiah 53:10 – KJV
Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin.

Isaiah 63:1-3
Who is this coming from Edom, from Bozrah, with his garments stained crimson? Who is this, robed in splendor, striding forward in the greatness of his strength? “It is I, proclaiming victory, mighty to save.” Why are your garments red, like those of one treading the winepress? “I have trodden the winepress alone; from the nations no one was with me.

Psalm 69:26
For they persecute him whom thou hast smitten; and they talk to the grief of those whom thou hast wounded.

Psalm 88:6-9
You have put me in the lowest pit, in the darkest depths. Your wrath lies heavily on me; you have overwhelmed me with all your waves. You have taken from me my closest friends and have made me repulsive to them.

Zechariah 13:7
Awake, O sword, against my shepherd, and against the man that is my fellow, saith the LORD of hosts: smite the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered: and I will turn mine hand upon the little ones.

Mark 14:27
“You will all fall away,” Jesus told them, “for it is written: “‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.’

Luke 24:7
The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners
, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.

John 19:11
Jesus answered, “You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above.

Matthew 27:46
And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?

John 3:16
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

John 3:36
He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.

Romans 4:25
He was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.

Romans 8:32-34
He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things? Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.

Galatians 1:4
Who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father


Galatians 3:13
Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree. 

1 Peter 2:24
“He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.”

Revelation 19:13-16
He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. Coming out of his mouth is a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. “He will rule them with an iron scepter.” He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS

In their efforts to deny any penal aspects to the cross, some argue that Christ’s death was coincidentally inflicted on Christ by evil men; that His suffering had nothing to do with fulfillment of a divine judgment for sin. They interpret the word “esteemed” in “we esteemed Him stricken” (Isa 53:4) to mean that “we (incorrectly) believed He was stricken by God, but in reality, He was only stricken by men.” Some even pervert the interpretation of the whole Chapter, to be about the Nation of Israel, rather than a suffering Messiah. However, St. Athanasius explained that Christ “bore in Himself the wrath that was the penalty of our transgression” (Letter to Marcellinus). He also explained that Christ had to “bear the curse that lay on us” (On the Incarnation of the Word). Per the Prophet Isaiah, “the chastisement of our peace was upon him” and the “Lord gave him up for our sins” (Isaiah 53:5-6). 

The Church fathers explained that because Christ bore our sins, by His own will, He accepted the condemnation and curse that was due humanity for sin, in order to impart grace and healing to all. As a result, He was “smitten” and “delivered up by God” into the hands of sinners, as per the Psalms and Old Testament prophecies:

Aphrahat (270 – 345 AD) – Demonstrations, Demonstration 17 (Of Christ the Son of God)
And again he said:–The spear shall arise against the shepherd, and against the man, My friend; and it shall smite the shepherd, and the sheep of his flock shall be scattered; and I will turn back My hand upon the pastor. And furthermore David said concerning His Passion:–For My meat they gave gall, and for My thirst did they give Me vinegar to drink.–Again he said in that passage:–They have persecuted Him Whom Thou hast smitten; and have added to the affliction of Him that was slain. For they added many (afflictions) to Him, much that was not written concerning Him, cursings and revilings, such as the Scripture could not reveal, for their revilings were hateful. But, however, the Lord was pleased to humiliate Him and afflict Him. And He was slain for our iniquity, and was humiliated for our sins, and was made sin in His own person.

Expounding redemption to a Jew, Justin Martyr explains: “the Father caused Him to suffer these things” in order that the human race might be healed:

St. Justin Martyr (100 – 165 AD) – Dialogue of Justin with Trypho
“For the whole human race will be found to be under a curse. For it is written in the law of Moses, ‘Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things that are written in the book of the law to do them.’ And no one has accurately done all, nor will you venture to deny this; but some more and some less than others have observed the ordinances enjoined…If those who are under this law appear to be under a curse for not having observed all the requirements, how much more shall all the nations appear to be under a curse who practice idolatry, who seduce youths, and commit other crimes? If, then, the Father of all wished His Christ for the whole human family to take upon Him the curses of all, knowing that, after He had been crucified and was dead, He would raise Him up, why do you argue about Him, who submitted to suffer these things according to the Father’s will, as if He were accursed, and do not rather bewail yourselves? For although His Father caused Him to suffer these things in behalf of the human family, yet you did not commit the deed as in obedience to the will of God. For you did not practice piety when you slew the prophets. And let none of you say: If His Father wished Him to suffer this, in order that by His stripes the human race might be healed, we have done no wrong. 

St. Cyprian explains that Christ bore our sins and that God delivered Him up for our sins. The innocent was slain for the salvation of the guilty:

St. Cyprian (200 -258 AD) – Treatise 3, On the Lapsed
Let no one cheat himself, let no one deceive himself. The Lord alone can have mercy. He alone can bestow pardon for sins which have been committed against Himself, who bare our sins, who sorrowed for us, whom God delivered up for our sins…The Lord must be besought. The Lord must be appeased by our atonement, who has said, that him that denieth Him He will deny, who alone has received all judgment from His Father. 

St. Athanasius confirms that because Christ bore our sins, the “Lord delivered Him for our sins” and the chastisement of our peace was upon Him:

St. Athanasius (296 – 373 AD) – On the Incarnation of the Word
He beareth our sins, and is in pain on our account; and we reckoned him to be in labour, and in stripes, and in ill-usage; but he was wounded for our sins, and made weak for our wickedness. The chastisement of our peace was upon him, and by his stripes we were healed.” O marvel at the loving-kindness of the Word, that for our sakes He is dishonoured, that we may be brought to honour. “For all we,” it says, “like sheep were gone astray; man had erred in his way; and the Lord delivered him for our sins; and he openeth not his mouth, because he hath been evilly entreated.

St. John Chrysostom explains that out of His goodness, God forbore his punishment for humanity and delivered up His own Son in their stead:

St. John Chrysostom (349 – 407 AD) – Homily on Timothy
He gave himself a ransom,” he saith, how then was He delivered up by the Father? Because it was of His goodness. And what means “ransom”? God was about to punish them, but He forbore to do it. They were about to perish, but in their stead He gave His own Son, and sent us as heralds to proclaim the Cross.

He further explains that the Father transferred to His Beloved Son the death and guilt due to humanity, to clear humanity from condemnation:

St. John Chrysostom (349 – 407 AD) – Homilies on Second Corinthians
If one that was himself a king, beholding a robber and malefactor under punishment, gave his well-beloved son, his only-begotten and true, to be slain; and transferred the death and the guilt as well, from him to his son, (who was himself of no such character,) that he might both save the condemned man and clear him from his evil reputation and then if, having subsequently promoted him to great dignity…

St. Cyril also explains that Christ was condemned to deliver humanity from deserved condemnation for sin:

St. Cyril of Alexandria (378 – 444 AD) – Commentary on the Gospel According to St. John
He laid down His life for us. He endured the cross for our sake that by death He might destroy death, and was condemned for our sakes that He might deliver all men from condemnation for sin, abolishing the tyranny of sin by means of faith, and nailing to His cross the bond that was against us, as it is written…He was scourged unjustly, that He might deliver us from merited chastisement…For if we think aright, we shall believe that all Christ’s sufferings were for us and on our behalf, and have power to release and deliver us from all those calamities we have deserved for our revolt from God…so we must understand that Christ’s suffering all these things for us sufficed also to release us all from scourging and dishonor.

Because Christ “bore our sins” in His body, He was stricken in our stead and paid our debts:

St. Cyril of Alexandria (378 – 444 AD) – Commentary on the Gospel of St. Luke
He in our stead paid our debts: He bore our sins; and as it is written, “in our stead He was stricken.” “He took them up in His own body on the tree:” for it is true that “by His bruises we are healed.”

St. Gregory explains that Christ made our disobedience His own. Thus representing us, He was  in that sense “forsaken” by the Father on our account:

St. Gregory Nazianzen (329 – 390 AD) – Oration 30.5
Take, in the next place, the subjection by which you subject the Son to the Father. What, you say, is He not now subject, or must He, if He is God, be subject to God? You are fashioning your argument as if it concerned some robber, or some hostile deity. But look at it in this manner: that as for my sake He was called a curse, Who destroyed my curse; and sin, who taketh away the sin of the world; and became a new Adam to take the place of the old, just so He makes my disobedience His own as Head of the whole body. As long then as I am disobedient and rebellious, both by denial of God and by my passions, so long Christ also is called disobedient on my account. But when all things shall be subdued unto Him on the one hand by acknowledgment of Him, and on the other by a reformation, then He Himself also will have fulfilled His submission, bringing me whom He has saved to God. For this, according to my view, is the subjection of Christ; namely, the fulfilling of the Father’s Will. But as the Son subjects all to the Father, so does the Father to the Son; the One by His Work, the Other by His good pleasure, as we have already said. And thus He Who subjects presents to God that which he has subjected, making our condition His own. Of the same kind, it appears to me, is the expression, “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” It was not He who was forsaken either by the Father, or by His own Godhead, as some have thought, as if It were afraid of the Passion, and therefore withdrew Itself from Him in His Sufferings (for who compelled Him either to be born on earth at all, or to be lifted up on the Cross?) But as I said, He was in His own Person representing us. For we were the forsaken and despised before, but now by the Sufferings of Him Who could not suffer, we were taken up and saved. Similarly, He makes His own our folly and our transgressions; and says what follows in the Psalm, for it is very evident that the Twenty-first Psalm refers to Christ. 

Eusebius also explains that because we are His Body, Christ made our sins His own, and bore our iniquities. Thus, “the Lord delivered him for our sins”:

Eusebius of Caesarea (263 -339 AD) – Proof of the Gospel
So it is said: “And the Lord hath laid on him our iniquities, and he bears our sins.”And how can He make our sins His own, and be said to bear our iniquities, except by our being regarded as His body, according to the apostle, who says: “Now ye are the body of Christ, and severally members?”…And the Lamb of God not only did this, but was chastised on our behalf, and suffered a penalty He did not owe, but which we owed because of the multitude of our sins…The Lord delivered him for our sins,” with the result that uniting Himself to us and us to Himself, and appropriating our sufferings.

And again, Christ was forsaken and “delivered up by the Father, as bruised, as bearing our sins”:

Eusebius of Caesarea (263 -339 AD) – Demonstratio Evangelica, Book X
And He, since he understood at once His Father’s Divine counsel, and because He discerned better than any other why He was forsaken by the Father, humbled Himself even more, and embraced death for us with all willingness, and “became a curse for us,” holy and all-blessed though He was, and “He that knew no sin, became sin, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” Yea more—-to wash away our sins He was crucified, suffering what we who were sinful should have suffered, as our sacrifice and ransom, so that we may well say with the prophet, He bears our sins, and is pained for us, and he was wounded for our sins, and bruised for our iniquities, so that by His stripes we might be healed, for the Lord hath given Him for our sins. So, as delivered up by the Father, as bruised, as bearing our sins, He was led as a sheep to the slaughter. With this the apostle agrees when he says, “Who spared not his own Son, but delivered him for us all.” And it is to impel us to ask why the Father forsook Him, that He says, “Why hast thou forsaken me? “The answer is, to ransom the whole human race, buying them with His precious Blood from their former slavery to their invisible tyrants, the unclean daemons, and the rulers and spirits of evil. And the Father forsook Him for another reason, namely, that the love of Christ Himself for men might be set forth. For no one had power over His life, but He gave it willingly for men, as He teaches us Himself in the words, “No one taketh my life from me: I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again.”

Theodoret explains that though some presumed that Christ was punished for His own faults, the chastisement and retribution inflicted on Him were due to us because we offended God:

Theodoret (393 – 457 AD) – On Divine Providence
Those who saw Him nailed to the cross presumed that He was being punished for countless misdeeds and was paying the penalty for personal faults…But the Holy Spirit teaches through the prophet that He was wounded for our iniquities and weakened for our sins. He makes this clearer in what follows: Chastisement for our peace was inflicted on Him and by His bruises we were healed. We were enemies of God, in that we had offended Him, so chastisement and retribution were due from usWe did not, however, settle the debt. Our Savior settled it Himself…As a sheep then, He became a victim and was offered a sacrifice on behalf of the entire race…In saying for us, He showed that though He was Himself innocent and free of all blame He paid our debt and deemed us worthy of freedom, although we lay under countless penalties and were compelled to live in slavery as a result, He redeemed us at the price of His own blood…For although He lay outside the curse (for He did no sin, neither was guilt found in His mouth), He endured the death of sinners . . .

John of Damascus explained that the Son was never forsaken by the Father; for He Himself is sinless. However, the words “forsaken” and “made a curse” could be said about Christ because He represented our disobedience in His humanity. That’s why He became sin and a curse for us, and was forsaken by God:

John of Damascus (676 -749 AD) – Exact Exposition of the Orthodox Faith
Others again are said in the manner of association and relation, as, My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me? and He hath made Him to be sin for us, Who knew no sin, and being made a curse for us; also, Then shall the Son also Himself be subject unto Him that put all things under Him. For neither as God nor as man was He ever forsaken by the Father, nor did He become sin or a curse, nor did He require to be made subject to the Father. For as God He is equal to the Father and not opposed to Him nor subjected to Him; and as God, He was never at any time disobedient to His Begetter to make it necessary for Him to make Him subject. Appropriating, then, our person and ranking Himself with us, He used these words. For we are bound in the fetters of sin and the curse as faithless and disobedient, and therefore forsaken.

Likewise, Augustine explains that Christ was smitten and forsaken by God because that was what we (as His body) deserved:

St. Augustine (354 – 430 AD) –  Expositions on the Psalms, Psalm 69
“For Him whom Thou hast smitten they have themselves persecuted, and upon the pain of my wounds they have added”. How then have they sinned if they have persecuted one by God smitten? What sin is ascribed to their mind? Malice. For the thing was done in Christ which was to be. To suffer indeed He had come…For the Lord smote man with the sentence: “What day ye shall have touched it,” He saith, “with death ye shall die.” Out of this death He had taken upon Him flesh, and our old man hath been crucified together with Him. By the voice of that man He hath said these words, “Him whom Thou hast smitten they have themselves persecuted, and upon the pain of My wounds they have added.” Upon what pain of wounds? Upon the pain of sins they have themselves added. For sins He hath called His wounds. But do not look to the Head, consider the Body; according to the voice whereof hath been said by the Same in that Psalm, wherein He showed there was His voice, because in the first verse thereof He cried from the Cross, “God, My God, look upon Me, why hast Thou forsaken Me?”

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St. Barnabas (? – 61 AD) – Epistle of Barnabas
The Son of God therefore came in the flesh with this view, that He might bring to a head the sum of their sins who had persecuted His prophets to the death. For this purpose, then, He endured. For God saith, “The stroke of his flesh is from them;” and “when I shall smite the Shepherd, then the sheep of the flock shall be scattered.” He himself willed thus to suffer, for it was necessary that He should suffer on the tree.

St. Justin Martyr (100 – 165 AD) – First Apology of Justin, Chap 50
He was bruised for our iniquities, the chastisement of peace was upon Him, by His stripes we are healed…Accordingly, after He was crucified, even all His acquaintances forsook Him, having denied Him; and afterwards, when He had risen from the dead and appeared to them, and had taught them to read the prophecies in which all these things were foretold as coming to pass…

St. Clement of Alexandria (150 – 215 AD) – The Instructor
And this same Word who inflicts punishment is judge; regarding whom Esaias also says, “The Lord has assigned Him to our sins,” plainly as a corrector and reformer of sins. Wherefore He alone is able to forgive our iniquities, who has been appointed by the Father, Instructor of us all; He alone it is who is able to distinguish between disobedience and obedience. 

Tertullian (160 -220 AD) – De Fuga In Persecutione
Why, in this very standing of yours there was a fleeing from persecution, in the release from persecution which you bought; but that you should ransom with money a man whom Christ has ransomed with His blood, how unworthy is it of God and His ways of acting, who spared not His own Son for you, that He might be made a curse for us, because cursed is he that hangeth on a tree, — Him who was led as a sheep to be a sacrifice, and just as a lamb before its shearer, so opened He not His mouth; but gave His back to the scourges, nay, His cheeks to the hands of the smiter, and turned not away His face from spitting, and, being numbered with the transgressors, was delivered up to death, nay, the death of the cross. All this took place that He might redeem us from our sins.

Tertullian (160 -220 AD) – Against Praxeas, Chapter 30
What is your inquiry and reasoning about that? You have Him exclaiming in the midst of His passion: “My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me?” Either, then, the Son suffered, being “forsaken” by the Father, and the Father consequently suffered nothing, inasmuch as He forsook the Son; or else, if it was the Father who suffered, then to what God was it that He addressed His cry? But this was the voice of flesh and soul, that is to say, of man — not of the Word and Spirit, that is to say, not of God; and it was uttered so as to prove the impassibility of God, who “forsook” His Son, so far as He handed over His human substance to the suffering of death. This verity the apostle also perceived, when he writes to this effect: “If the Father spared not His own Son.” This did Isaiah before him likewise perceive, when he declared: “And the Lord hath delivered Him up for our offenses.” In this manner He “forsook” Him, in not sparing Him; “forsook” Him, in delivering Him up. In all other respects the Father did not forsake the Son, for it was into His Father’s hands that the Son commended His spirit. Indeed, after so commending it, He instantly died; and as the Spirit remained with the flesh, the flesh cannot undergo the full extent of death, i.e., in corruption and decay. For the Son, therefore, to die, amounted to His being forsaken by the Father.

Melito of Sardis explains that the ram which was slain in place of Isaac, is a type of Christ sacrificed to redeem humanity. He also explains that Isaac who was led by his father to a mountain to be slain, is a perfect type of Christ:

Melito, Bishop of Sardis (? – 180 A.D) – From the Catena on Genesis
In place of Isaac
the just, a ram appeared for slaughter, in order that Isaac might be liberated from his bonds. The slaughter of this animal redeemed Isaac from death.In like manner, the Lord, being slain, saved us; being bound, He loosed us; being sacrificed, He redeemed us…For the Lord was a lamb, like the ram which Abraham saw caught in the bush Sabec. But this bush represented the cross, and that place Jerusalem, and the lamb the Lord bound for slaughter. For as a ram was He bound, says he concerning our Lord Jesus Christ, and as a lamb was He shorn, and as a sheep was He led to the slaughter, and as a lamb was He crucified; and He carried the cross on His shoulders when He was led up to the hill to be slain, as was Isaac by his father. But Christ suffered, and Isaac did not suffer: for he was but a type of Him who should suffer. Yet, even when serving only for a type of Christ, he smote men with astonishment and fear. For a new mystery was presented to view,-a son led by his father to a mountain to be slain, whose feet he bound together, and laid him on the wood of the sacrifice, preparing with care whatever was necessary to his immolation. Isaac on his part is silent, bound like a ram, not opening his mouth, nor uttering a sound with his voice. For, not fearing the knife, nor quailing before the fire, nor troubled by the prospect of suffering, he sustained bravely the character of the type of the Lord. Accordingly there lies Isaac before us, with his feet bound like a ram, his father standing by, with the knife all bare in his hand, not shrinking from shedding the blood of his son.

Origen (185 -254 AD) – Origen De Principiis
The Father of Jesus is therefore a tender and loving Father, though “He spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up” as His lamb “for us all,” that so “the Lamb of God,” by dying for all men, might “take away the sin of the world.” It was not by compulsion, therefore, but willingly, that He bore the reproaches of those who reviled Him.

Origen (185 -254 AD) – Origen Against Celsus
He continues in this strain: “If he had determined upon these things, and underwent chastisement in obedience to his Father, it is manifest that, being a God, and submitting voluntarily, those things that were done agreeably to his own decision were neither painful nor distressing.” But he did not observe that here he was at once contradicting himself. For if he granted that He was chastised because He had determined upon these things, and had submitted Himself to His Father, it is clear that He actually suffered punishment, and it was impossible that what was inflicted on Him by His chastisers should not be painful, because pain is an involuntary thing. But if, because He was willing to suffer, His inflictions were neither painful nor distressing, how did He grant that “He was chastised?” He did not perceive that when Jesus had once, by His birth, assumed a body, He assumed one which was capable both of suffering pains, and those distresses incidental to humanity, if we are to understand by distresses what no one voluntarily chooses. Since, therefore, He voluntarily assumed a body, not wholly of a different nature from that of human flesh, so along with His body He assumed also its sufferings and distresses, which it was not in His power to avoid enduring, it being in the power of those who inflicted them to send upon Him things distressing and painful. 

St. Cyprian (200 -258 AD) – Treatises of S. Caecilius Cyprian, TREATISE XI.
In fine, all His actions, even from His first coming, are marked by patience as their companion; because first descending out of that heavenly height, into earthly places, the Son of Gods scorned not to put on the flesh of man; and while He Himself was not a sinner, to bear the sins of others. Meantime, putting off His immortality, He suffers Himself to be made mortal, that He, the innocent, may be slain for the salvation of the guilty.

St. Athanasius (296 – 373 AD) – Orationes contra Arianos 
For as by receiving our infirmities, He is said to be infirm Himself, though not Himself infirm, for He is the Power of God, and He became sin for us and a curse, though not having sinned Himself, but because He Himself bare our sins and our curse, so, by creating us in Him, let Him say, ‘He created me for the works,’ though not Himself a creature.

St. Athanasius (296 – 373 AD) – Discourses Against the Arians 
Christ hath become a curse for us,’ and ‘He hath made Him sin for us who knew no sin,’ we do not simply conceive this, that whole Christ has become curse and sin, but that He has taken on Him the curse which lay against us (as the Apostle has said, ‘Has redeemed us from the curse,’ and ‘has carried,’ as Isaiah has said, ‘our sins,’ and as Peter has written, ‘has borne them in the body on the wood’); so, if it is said in the Proverbs ‘He created,’ we must not conceive that the whole Word is in nature a creature, but that He put on the created body and that God created Him for our sakes, preparing for Him the created body, as it is written, for us, that in Him we might be capable of being renewed and deified. 

Eusebius of Caesarea (263 -339 AD) – The Proof of the Gospel Vol 1
In this he shews that Christ, being apart from all sin, will receive the sins of men on Himself. And therefore He will suffer the penalty of sinners, and will be pained on their behalf; and not on His own. And if He shall be wounded by the strokes of blasphemous words, this also will be the result of our sins. For He is weakened through our sins, so that we, when He had taken on Him our faults and the wounds of our wickedness, might be healed by His stripes

Eusebius of Caesarea (263 -339 AD) – Proof of the Gospel
And He speaks thus, since He shares our sins. So it is said: “And the Lord hath laid on him our iniquities, and he bears our sins.” Thus the Lamb of God, that taketh away the sins of the world, became a curse on our behalf: “Whom, though he knew no sin, God made sin for our sake, giving him as redemption for all, that we might become the righteousness of God in him.” But since being in the likeness of sinful flesh He condemned sin in the flesh, the words quoted are rightly used. And in that He made our sins His own from His love and benevolence towards us, He says these words, adding further on in the same Psalm: “Thou hast protected me because of my innocence,” clearly shewing the impeccability of the Lamb of God. And how can He make our sins His own, and be said to bear our iniquities, except by our being regarded as His body, according to the apostle, who says: “Now ye are the body of Christ, and severally members?”…And the Lamb of God not only did this, but was chastised on our behalf, and suffered a penalty He did not owe, but which we owed because of the multitude of our sins; and so He became the cause of the forgiveness of our sins, because He received death for us, and transferred to Himself the scourging, the insults, and the dishonor, which were due to us, and drew down on Himself the apportioned curse, being made a curse for us. And what is that but the price of our souls? And so the oracle says in our person: “By his stripes we were healed,” and ” The Lord delivered him for our sins,” with the result that uniting Himself to us and us to Himself, and appropriating our sufferings, He can say, ” I said, Lord, Lord mercy on me, heal my soul,  for I have sinned against thee”…

Eusebius of Caesarea (263 -339 AD) – Life of the Blessed Emperor Constantine
I may allege yet a third cause of the Saviour’s death. He was the victim offered to the Supreme Sovereign of the universe for the whole human race…This was that sacrifice delivered up to death, of which the sacred oracles speak: “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.”…They declare also the cause, saying: “He bears our sins, and is pained for us: yet we accounted him to be in trouble, and in suffering, and in affliction. But he was wounded on account of our sins, and bruised because of our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and by his bruises we were healed. All we as sheep have gone astray; every one has gone astray in this way; and the Lord gave him up for our sins.”  

St. Hilary of Poitiers (310 – 367 AD) – On the Trinity, Book X
He was found in fashion as a man, with a body which could feel pain, but His nature could not feel pain; for, though His fashion was that of a man, His origin was not human, but He was born by conception of the Holy Ghost. For the reasons mentioned, He was esteemed ‘stricken, smitten and afflicted.’ He took the form of a servant: and ‘man born of a Virgin’ conveys to us the idea of One Whose nature felt pain when He suffered. But though He was wounded it was ‘for our transgressions.’

St. Hilary of Poitiers (310 – 367 AD) – On the Trinity, Book X
If then He said, My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me, and Father, into Thy hands I commend My Spirit, that we might be sure that He did die, was not this, in His care for our faith, rather a scattering of our doubts, than a confession of His weakness? When He was about to restore Lazarus, He prayed to the Father: but what need had He of prayer, Who said, Father, I thank Thee, that Thou hast heard Me; and I know that Thou hearest Me always, but because of the multitude I said it, that they may believe that Thou didst send Me? He prayed then for us, that we may know Him to be the Son; the words of prayer availed Him nothing, but He said them for the advancement of our faith. He was not in want of help, but we of teaching. Again He prayed to be glorified; and immediately was heard from heaven the voice of God the Father glorifying Him: but when they wondered at the voice, He said, This voice hath not come for My sake, but for your sakes. The Father is besought for us, He speaks for us: may all this lead us to believe and confess! The answer of the Glorifier is granted not to the prayer for glory, but to the ignorance of the bystanders: must we not then regard the complaint of suffering, when He found His greatest joy in suffering, as intended for the building up of our faith?…If Christ, ever secure of His divinity, made clear to us His death, Himself indifferent to death, yet dying to assure that it was true humanity that He had assumed: why should we use this very confession of the Son of God that for us He became Son of Man and died as the chief weapon to deny His divinity?

Ambrose of Milan (337- 397 AD) – Sermon Against Auxentius on Giving Up of the Basilicas
Do they not consider these very words which they have brought forward; that Christ is said to have been made, but of a woman; that is, He was “made” as regards his birth from a Virgin, Who was begotten of the Father as regards His divine generation? Have they read also to-day, “that Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us”? Was Christ a curse in His Godhead? But why He is called a curse the Apostle tells us, saying that it is written: “Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree,” that is, He Who in his flesh bore our flesh, in His body bore our infirmities and our curses, that He might crucify them; for He was not cursed Himself, but was cursed in thee. I So it is written elsewhere: “Who knew no sin, but was made sin for us, for He bore our sins, that he might destroy them by the Sacrament of His Passion.”

Ambrose of Milan (337- 397 AD) – Exposition of the Christian Faith, Book IV
He is not alone, for whatsoever things the Father doeth, the same things doeth the Son also, in like manner. He is not weak, for though in the flesh He suffered weakness for our sins yet that was the chastisement of our peace upon Him, not lack of sovereign Power in Himself.

Ambrose of Milan (337- 397 AD) – Dogmatic Treatises, Ethical Works, and Sermons Book II
For Christ died for us, that we might live in His revived Body. Therefore not our life but our guilt died in Him, “Who,” it is said, “bare our sins in His own Body on the tree; that being set free from our sins we might live in righteousness, by the wound of Whose stripes we are healed.

Ambrose of Milan (337- 397 AD) – Exposition of the Christian Faith
As, then, He was made sin and a curse not on His own account but on ours, so He became subject in us not for His own sake but for ours, being not in subjection in His eternal Nature, nor accursed in His eternal Nature. “For cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree.” Cursed He was, for He bore our curses; in subjection, also, for He took upon Him our subjection, but in the assumption of the form of a servant, not in the glory of God; so that whilst he makes Himself a partaker of our weakness in the flesh, He makes us partakers of the divine Nature in His power.

Ambrose of Milan (337- 397 AD) – Exposition of the Christian Faith, Book IV
Here, indeed, our adversaries may perchance enquire: “How can the Father and the Son be One, if the Son at one time commands, at another entreats?” True, They are One; true also, He both commands and prays: yet whilst in the hour when He commands He is not alone, so also in the hour of prayer He is not weak. He is not alone, for whatsoever things the Father doeth, the same things doeth the Son also, in like manner. He is not weak, for though in the flesh He suffered weakness for our sins yet that was the chastisement of our peace upon Him, not lack of sovereign Power in Himself.

St. Cyril of  Jerusalem (313 – 386 AD) – Catechetical Lectures
He stretched forth human hands, who by His spiritual hands had established the heaven; and they were fastened with nails, that His manhood which bore the sins of men, having been nailed to the tree, and having died, sin might die with it, and we might rise again in righteousness.

St. John Chrysostom (349 – 407 AD) – Homilies on Gospel According to St. Matthew
After this He mentions also a prophecy, “For it is written, I will smite the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered abroad:” at once persuading them ever to give heed to the things that are written, and at same time making it plain that He was crucified, according to God’s purpose; and by everything showing He was no alien from the old covenant, nor from the God preached therein, but that what is done is a dispensation, and that the prophets all proclaimed all things beforehand from the beginning that are comprised in the matter, so that they be quite confident about the better things also.

St. John Chrysostom (349 – 407 AD), On the Epistle to the Hebrews
“To appear,” he says, “in the presence of God for us.” What is “for us”? He went up (he means) with a sacrifice which had power to propitiate the Father. Wherefore (tell me)? Was He an enemy? The angels were enemies, He was not an enemy. For that the Angels were enemies, hear what he says, “He made peace as to things on earth and things in Heaven.”( Col. i. 20.) So that He also “entered into Heaven, now to appear in the presence of God for us.” He “now appeareth,” but “for us.” Nor yet that He should offer Himself often, as the High Priest entereth into the Holy place every year with blood of others.” Seest Thou how many are the differences? The “often” for the “once”; “the blood of others,” for “His own.” Great is the distance. He is Himself then both victim and Priest and sacrifice. For if it had not been so, and it had been necessary to offer many sacrifices, He must have been many times crucified. “For then,” he says, “He must often have suffered since the foundation of the world.”

St. Augustine (354 – 430 AD) – Doctrinal Treatises, The Enchiridion
He does not say, as some incorrect copies read, “He who knew no sin did sin for us,” as if Christ had Himself sinned for our sakes; but he says, “Him who knew no sin,” that is, Christ, God, to whom we are to be reconciled, “hath made to be sin for us,” that is, hath made Him a sacrifice for our sins, by which we might be reconciled to God. He, then, being made sin, just as we are made righteousness (our righteousness being not our own, but God’s, not in ourselves, but in Him); He being made sin, not His own, but ours, not in Himself, but in us, showed, by the likeness of sinful flesh in which He was crucified, that though sin was not in Him, yet that in a certain sense He died to sin, by dying in the flesh which was the likeness of sin; and that although He Himself had never lived the old life of sin, yet by His resurrection He typified our new life springing up out of the old death in sin.

St. Augustine – DeTrin. xiii. 11
What means this, ‘reconciled by the death of His Son ?’ Is it, that when the Father was angry with us He looked on the death of His Son for us and was appeased? Had the Son, then, been so completely appeased already, that He even vouchsafed to die for us, but was the Father still so incensed that He would not be appeased unless the Son died for us ? And what is it, which the same teacher of the Gentiles says elsewhere; ‘ What then shall we say to these things ? If God be for us, who is against us ? He, who spared not His own Son but delivered Him up for us all, how has He not with Him given us all things ? Would the Father, unless He had been already appeased, deliver up His Son for us, not sparing Him? Do not these statements seem to contradict each other? In the former the Son dies for us, and the Father is reconciled to us by His death; but in the latter the Father, as though He first loved us, Himself does not spare His Son for our sakes, Himself delivers Him up to death for us. But I see that the Father loved us before also, not only before the Son died for us, but before He created the world, as the Apostle himself testifies, saying, ‘As He has chosen us in Him before the creation of the world.’ Nor was the Son delivered up, for us as it were, unwillingly when the Father spared Him not, since it is said of Him also, ‘who loved me, and gave Himself for me.’ The Father therefore, and the Son, and the Spirit of Both, work all things at the same time, equally and harmoniously; yet we are justified in the blood of Christ, and reconciled to God through the death of His on.” 

St. Cyril of Alexandria – Letter 41 (To Acacius, the Bishop Conerning the Scapegoat)
Thus Christ became a victim “for our sins according to the Scriptures.” For this reason, we say that he was named sin; wherefore, the all-wise Paul writes, “For our sakes he made him to be sin who knew nothing of sin,” that is to say, God the Father. For we do not say that Christ became a sinner, far from it, but being just, or rather in actuality justice, for he did not know sin, the Father made him a victim for the sins of the world. “He was counted among the wicked,”l having endured a condemnation most suitable for the wicked. And the divinely inspired prophet Isaiah will also vouch for this, saying, “We had all gone astray like sheep, each following his own way, but the Lord laid upon him the guilt of us all,” “yet it was on our behalf he suffers,” “and by his stripes we were healed. The all-wise Peter writes, “he bore our sins in his body upon the tree.’“‘Therefore, the lot of the necessary endurance of death hung over those on the earth through the transgression in Adam and through sin reigning from him until us.“ But the Word of God the Father, being generous in clemency and love of men, became flesh, that is, man, in the form of us who are under sin, and he endured our lot. For as the very excellent Paul writes, “By the grace of God he tasted death for all,” and he made his life be an exchange for the life of all. One died for all, in order that we all might live to God sanctified and brought to life through his blood, “justified as a gift by his grace.” For as the blessed evangelist John says, “The blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from all sin.”

St. Cyril of Alexandria (378 – 444 AD) – Commentary on St. Luke
He bore suffering that He might deliver us from sufferings: “He was despised and not esteemed,” as it is written, that He might make us honourable: He did no sin, that He might crown our nature with similar glory: He Who for our sakes was man submitted also to our lot; and He Who gives life to the world submitted to death in the flesh…for it is written, that “He was also numbered with the transgressors.” For our sake He became a curse, that is, accursed: for it is written again, that “Cursed is every one that hangs on a tree.” But this act of His did away with the curse that was upon us: for we with Him and because of Him are blessed. And knowing this, the blessed David says:“Blessed are we of the Lord, Who made heaven and earth:” for by His sufferings blessings descend to us. He in our stead paid our debts: He bore our sins; and as it is written, “in our stead He was stricken.” “He took them up in His own body on the tree:” for it is true that “by His bruises we are healed.” He too was sick because of our sins, and we are delivered from the sicknesses of the soul.

St. Cyril of Alexandria (378 – 444 AD) – On the Gospel According to John, Book XI, CHAPTER XII (John 18:22)
It had been foretold, by the mouth of the prophet, that with Christ this would come to pass: I gave My back to the scourge, and My cheeks to them that smite. He was being led on in truth to the end long ago foretold, to the verdict of Jewish presumption, which was also the abolition and determination of our deserved dishonour, for that we sinned in Adam first, and trampled under foot the Divine commandment. For He was dishonoured for our sake, in that He took our sins upon Him, as the prophet says, and was afflicted on our account. For as He wrought out our deliverance from death, giving up His own Body to death, so likewise, I think, the blow with which Christ was smitten, in fulfilling the dishonour that He bore, carried with it our deliverance from the dishonour by which we were burthened through the transgression and original sin of our forefather. For He, being One, was yet a perfect Ransom for all men, and bore our dishonour. But I think the whole creation would have shuddered, had it been suffered to be conscious of such presumption.

St. Cyril of Alexandria (378 – 444 AD) – Commentary on the Gospel of St. Luke
for it is written, that “He was also numbered with the transgressors.” For our sakes He became a curse, that is, accursed: for it is written again, that “Cursed is every one that hangs on a tree.” But this act of His did away with the curse that was upon us: for we with Him and because of Him are blessed. And knowing this, the blessed David says: “Blessed are we of the Lord, Who made heaven and earth:” for by His sufferings blessings descend to us.

St. Cyril of Alexandria (378 – 444 AD) – Commentary on the Gospel of St. John, Book XII
He was scourged unjustly, that He might deliver 
us from merited chastisement; He was buffeted and smitten, that we might buffet Satan, who had buffeted us, and that we might escape from the sin that cleaves to us through the original transgression. For if we think aright, we shall believe that all Christ’s sufferings were for us and on our behalf, and have power to release and deliver us from all those calamities we have deserved for our revolt from God. For as Christ, Who knew not death, when He gave up His own Body for our salvation, was able to loose the bonds of death for all mankind, for He, being One, died for all; so we must understand that Christ’s suffering all these things for us sufficed also to release us all from scourging and dishonour. Then in what way by His stripes are we healed, according to the Scripture? Because we have all gone astray, every man after his own way, as says the blessed Prophet Isaiah; and the Lord hath given Himself up for our transgressions, and for us is afflicted. For He was bruised for our iniquities, and has given His own back to the scourge, and His cheeks to the smiters, as he also says.

Leo the Great (390 – 461 AD) – Sermon 68, On the Passion, II
For the blessed Apostle says the Father “spared not His own Son, but gave Him up for us all;” and again, he says, “For Christ loved the Church, and gave Himself up for her, that He might sanctify it.”  And hence the giving up of the Lord to His Passion was as much of the Father’s as of His own will, so that not only did the Father “forsake” Him, but He also abandoned Himself in a certain sense, not in hasty flight, but in voluntary withdrawal.  For the might of the Crucified restrained itself from those wicked men, and in order to avail Himself of a secret design, He refused to avail Himself of His open power.  For how would He who had come to destroy death and the author of death by His Passion have saved sinners, if he had resisted His persecutors? 

Pope Leo (390 – 461 AD) – On the Passion, Sermon XVI
Hence it is that the Lord Jesus Christ, our Head, representing all the members of His body in Himself, and speaking for those whom He was redeeming in the punishment of the cross, uttered that cry which He had once uttered in the psalm, “O God, My God, look upon Me:  why hast Thou forsaken Me?” That cry, dearly-beloved, is a lesson, not a complaint. For since in Christ there is one person of God and man, and He could not have been forsaken by Him, from Whom He could not be separated, it is on behalf of us, trembling and weak ones, that He asks why the flesh that is afraid to suffer has not been heard.  For when the Passion was beginning, to cure and correct our weak fear He had said, “Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from Me:  nevertheless not as I will but as Thou;” and again, “Father, if this cup cannot pass except I drink it, Thy will be done.” As therefore He had conquered the tremblings of the flesh, and had now accepted the Father’s will, and trampling all dread of death under foot, was then carrying out the work of His design, why at the very time of His triumph over such a victory does He seek the cause and reason of His being forsaken, that is, not heard, save to show that the feeling which He entertained in excuse of His human fears is quite different from the deliberate choice which, in accordance with the Father’s eternal decree, He had made for the reconciliation of the world?

St. Severus of Antioch (465 – 538 AD) – Letter of St. Severus
He endured a death that was for our sake, he who for the sins of us all became one that is subject, he who knows not sin, for according to the prophet’s saying, “He came to death for the sins of my people, and for our sake he suffered pain, and was smitten, and he endured sickness for our iniquity“. So also Paul wrote to the Hebrews and said, “Christ was offered once, that he might bear the sins of many” , and he says that ‘by his sacrifice he hath been revealed once for all at the last for the doing away of sin’, and ‘he offered one eternal offering for our sins‘ : and Peter the eminent among the apostles said, «The same carried up our sins in his body on to the cross, that we, being freed from sins, might live in righteousness».

Salvian (400 – 490 AD) – On the Government of God
But the apostle also says: “God spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all. How hath he not with him also freely given us all things?” This confirms my former statement, that God loves us more than a father loves his son. It is clear that his love surpasses a man’s love for his sons, since for our sake he did not spare his own child. Nay, I add more, he did not spare his righteous Son, his only begotten Son, his Son who is himself God. What more can be said? And this was done for us, that is for wicked, unjust and most irreverent men. 

St. Gregory the Great (540 AD –  604 AD) – Morals on the Book of Job 
For it is hence that speaking by the Prophet He says, Then I restored that which I took not away…But we must consider how He is righteous and ordereth all things righteously, if He condemns Him that deserveth not to be punished. For our Mediator deserved not to be punished for Himself, because He never was guilty of any defilement of sin. But if He had not Himself undertaken a death not due to Him, He would never have freed us from one that was justly due to us. And so whereas ‘ The Father is righteous,’ in punishing a righteous man, ‘ He ordereth all things righteously,’ in that by these means He justifies all things, viz. that for the sake of sinners He condemns Him Who is without sin; that all the might rise up to the height  of righteousness, in proportion as He Who is above all underwent the penalties of our unrighteousness. What then is in that place called ‘ being condemned without deserving,’ is here spoken of as being ‘ afflicted without cause.’ Yet though in respect of Himself He was ‘ afflicted without cause,’ in respect of our deeds it was not ‘ without cause.’ For the rust of sin could not be cleared away, but by the fire of torment. He then came without sin, Who should submit Himself voluntarily to torment, that the chastisements due to our wickedness might justly loose the parties thereto obnoxious, in that they had unjustly kept Him, Who was free of them. Thus it was both without cause, and not without cause, that He was afflicted, Who had indeed no crimes in Himself, but Who cleansed with His blood the stain of our guilt

John of Damascus (676 -749 AD) – An Exact Exposition of the Orthodox Faith, Book III
Further, these words, My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me? He said as making our personality His own. For neither would God be regarded with us as His Father, unless one were to discriminate with subtle imaginings of the mind between that which is seen and that which is thought, nor was He ever forsaken by His divinity: nay, it was we who were forsaken and disregarded. So that it was as appropriating our personality that He offered these prayers

CONSTITUTIONS OF THE HOLY APOSTLES, BOOK I
For you imitate Christ the Lord; and as He “bare the sins of us all upon the tree” at His crucifixion, the innocent for those who deserved punishment, so also you ought to make the sins of the people your own. For concerning our Savior it is said in Isaiah, “He bears our sins, and is afflicted for us.” And again: “He bare the sins of many, and was delivered for our offences.”


Christ as Sacrifice and High Priest

Scriptural references>>

Isaiah 53:10 (Septuagint)
The Lord also is pleased to purge him from his stroke. If ye can give an offering for sin, your soul shall see a long-lived seed

Isaiah 53: 12
He bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors

John 12: 23-24
The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.

Romans 3:25
God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood–to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished

Romans 5:8-10
But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! 

Romans 6:3-7
Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection: Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. For he that is dead is freed from sin.

1 Cor 5:7
Get rid of the old yeast, so that you may be a new unleavened batch—as you really are. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed.

Ephesians 5:2
And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour.

Hebrews 2:17
Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.

Hebrews 7:27, 28
Unlike the other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself. For the law appoints as high priests men in all their weakness; but the oath, which came after the law, appointed the Son, who has been made perfect forever.

Hebrews 9:11-14
But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things to comeHe entered through the greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this creation; and not through the blood of goats and calves, but through His own blood, He entered the holy place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling those who have been defiled sanctify for the cleansing of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?

Hebrews 9:22
And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission.

Hebrews 9:26-28
For then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world: but now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.

Hebrews 10:4-10
It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. Therefore, when Christ came into the world, he said: “Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me; with burnt offerings and sin offerings you were not pleased. Then I said, ‘Here I am—it is written about me in the scroll—I have come to do your will, my God.’ ” First he said, “Sacrifices and offerings, burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not desire, nor were you pleased with them”—though they were offered in accordance with the law. Then he said, “Here I am, I have come to do your will.He sets aside the first to establish the second. And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

Hebrews 13:11-13
The high priest carries the blood of animals into the Most Holy Place as a sin offering, but the bodies are burned outside the camp. And so Jesus also suffered outside the city gate to make the people holy through his own blood. Let us, then, go to Him outside the camp, bearing the disgrace he bore.

1 Peter 2:24
“He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.”

1 John 1: 1-2
But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.

Revelation 7:14
And he said to me, These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.

When John the Baptist introduced Christ, he said “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the ‘sin of the world! (John 1:29)” The Forerunner’s emphasis was on removal of sin, not death. This is not because Christ didn’t also conquer death, but because the means by which Christ did so, was by taking away the sting of death, which is sin (1 Cor 15:56). But this is one of the weaknesses of the “Christus Victor” model; it fails to explain how Christ fundamentally conquered death by dealing with sin. In this section, we will discuss in more detail how Christ “ransomed” humanity as the eternal High Priest and Sacrifice, who takes away the sin of the world.

Old Testament sacrifices typified Christ’s Sacrifice of healing, mercy, and love (1 Pet 3:18). However, being the type and not the reality, they were severely lacking. They merely served as a reminder of sin and a temporary shadow of the true Sacrifice to come (Heb 10:3-4). They provided no remission, especially for sins committed deliberately against God (Num 15:30-31). For sins such as adultery, murder, breaking the Sabbath, etc, the Law of Moses required the sinner to be stoned without mercy. While the Law of Moses was righteous and provided guidance, it exposed sin, making sin even more “sinful” (Rom 7:12-13), but provided no means to attain the righteousness it demanded (Gal 3:21). The Law of Moses offered no means to renew man’s sinful nature, and offered no real solution for the remission of sin (Heb 10:4-5). Thus, there was need for a better Mediator and Sacrifice; a better Covenant built on better promises (Heb 9:15):

“the new covenant is established on better promises…I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people….(Heb 8:6,10)

Under the New Covenant, Christ would restore and sanctify the fallen humanity by His incarnation. Being in the “likeness” of sinful flesh, He would condemn sin in the flesh (Rom 8:3) and undo Adam’s disobedience by His own obedience (Rom 5:19), justifying through faith those who are born again from above (John 1:12,17). Moreover, the Holy Spirit would become the continued source of renewal and sanctification for those who are in Christ (Titus 3:5). No longer would they be children of Adam’s sinful nature, but children of God, and partakers of the Divine Nature in Christ (2 Pet 1:4).

Moreover, Christ Himself would become the better Sacrifice and Mediator of the new Covenant. This is why God promised to “forgive their wickedness” and “remember their sins no more” (Heb 8:12).

And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body. And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; For this is my blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins. (Matthew 26: 26-28)

How was Christ the Sacrifice for sins? He “bore our sins” in His body on the cross (1 Pet 2:24). Christ was made to be sin (and curse) for us to free us from both the sin and curse (2 Cor 5:21). But what does it mean to “bear” sin? Let’s look at an OT example:

Whoever curses his God shall bear his sinHe who blasphemes the name of the Lord shall be put to death; all the congregation shall stone him…(Lev 24:15)

Thus, to “bear sin” is to assume the guilt and punishment of sin (Romans 6:23). Likewise, since Christ bore our sins, He assumed the guilt, penalty, and consequence of those sins. This understanding is confirmed by St. Athanasius:

St. Athanasius (296 – 373 AD) –  Letter to Marcellinus     
For He did not die as being Himself liable to death: He suffered for us, and bore in Himself the wrath that was the penalty of our transgression, even as Isaiah says, Himself bore our weaknesses.

Likewise, St. Cyril explained that in order to abolish sin, Christ “bore our sins” and paid in Himself the “penalties for the charges of sin against us”:

St. Cyril of Alexandria (378 – 444 AD) – Exposition of Old Testament Law
The Only-begotten was made man, bore a body by nature at enmity with death, and became flesh, so that, enduring the death which was hanging over us as the result of our sin, he might abolish sin; and further, that he might put an end to the accusations of Satan, inasmuch as we have paid in Christ himself the penalties for the charges of sin against us: ‘For he bore our sins, and was wounded because of us’, according to the voice of the prophet.

Christ bore our sins. This is also expressed in the rites of the Eucharist:

Christ carried our sins within His Body on the cross as He offered Himself as a Sacrifice for sin, so the bread offered in the Holy Liturgy should be made with yeast to symbolize these sins that Christ bore.” (Liturgy, Agpeya and Praises – Coptic Orthodox Diocese of Southern U.S.)

“We return to the rite of choosing the Lamb. The presbyter lays his hand on the oblations and crosses them in the shape of the cross; this action reminds us of the priest in the Old Testament, who laid his hands upon both the sacrifice and the sinner announcing that the sin had been transferred from the sinner to the sacrifice.” (Fr. Tadros Malaty – Christ in the Eucharist)

Bearing our sins as Sacrifice and High Priest, Christ did not enter repeatedly into a Holy of Holies made with hands. He also did not do so with blood of animals that could not forgive sins. He entered into Heaven itself to do away with sin, once and for all sins, by the sacrifice of Himself (Heb 9:24, 26). Thus, He liberated us from the sting of death, and the power of the Law (1 Cor 15:56). He ransomed and justified us by His blood (Rev 7:14). As St. Severus explains, Christ freed us from sin that we might live in righteousness:

St. Severus of Antioch (465 – 538 AD) – Letters of St. Severus
So also Paul wrote to the Hebrews and said, “Christ was offered once, that he might bear the sins of many”, and he says that ‘by his sacrifice he hath been revealed once for all at the last for the doing away of sin’, and ‘he offered one eternal offering for our sins’: and Peter the eminent among the apostles said, “The same carried up our sins in his body on to the cross, that we, being freed from sins, might live in righteousness

St. Cyril confirms the same again, and explains that Christ offered Himself to the Father:

St. Cyril of Alexandria (378 – 444 AD) – Commentary on the Gospel of St. John, Book VIII
And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto Myself. Howbeit, after that Christ had given Himself unto the Father for our salvation as a Spotless Victim, and was now on the point of paying the penalties that He suffered on our behalf, we were ransomed from the accusations of sin. And so, when the beast has been removed from our midst, and the tyrant is deposed, then Christ brings unto Himself the race that had strayed away, calling not only Jews but all mankind as well unto salvation through the faith that is in Him.  

And again, Christ justified us and reconciled us to God by offering us by and in Himself to God the Father (2 Cor 5:19):

St. Cyril of Alexandria (378 – 444 AD) – Gospel of St. Luke
Turtles, therefore, and doves were offered, when He presented Himself unto the Lord, and there might one see simultaneously meeting together the truth and the types. And Christ offered Himself for a savor of a sweet smell, that He might offer us by and in Himself unto God the Father, and so do away with His enmity towards us by reason of Adams transgression, and bring to nought sin that had tyrannized over us all.

Because Christ is our eternal atoning Sacrifice (propitiation) with the Father (1 John 2: 1-2), He did away with our enmity with God because of sin (Rom 5:10, Luke 23:45):

St. Irenaeus (130 – 202 AD) – Against Heresies, Book 5, Chap 17
Now this being is the Creator (Demiurgus), who is, in respect of His love, the Father; but in respect of His power, He is Lord; and in respect of His wisdom, our Maker and Fashioner; by transgressing whose commandment we became His enemies. And therefore in the last times the Lord has restored us into friendship through His incarnation, having become “the Mediator between God and men;” propitiating indeed for us the Father against whom we had sinned, and canceling (consolatus) our disobedience by His own obedience; conferring also upon us the gift of communion with, and subjection to, our Maker.

Through baptism, we are buried and resurrected with Christ to a new birth and heavenly citizenship (Phil 3:20). Through repentance, we die with Christ to sin daily, as our sins are remitted by the blood of the Lamb. Thus, we are justified and freed from the accusations and condemnation of sin and the Law (Rom 8:1-2).We are no longer slaves of sin and enemies to God, but beloved children by adoption and co-heirs with Christ (Gal 4:6-7). Reconciled to God through Christ, the Father gives us of His Holy Spirit Who renews our fallen image to the holiness and glory of the image of Christ (Titus 3:5). He writes the laws of God on our hearts, and makes us partakers of the Divine Nature (2 Pet 1:4). St. John Chrysostom makes a beautiful comparison of the fire that came down from Heaven upon Old Testament sacrifices (1 Kings 18:38) with the present day Holy Spirit, Who descends upon the Sacrifice in the Eucharist. The Spirit enlightens the believers and purifies them as with fire:

St. John Chrysostom (349 – 407 AD) – Treatise Concerning the Christian Priesthood
There stands the priest, not bringing down fire from Heaven, but the Holy Spirit: and he makes prolonged supplication, not that some flame sent down from on high may consume the offerings, but that grace descending on the sacrifice may thereby enlighten the souls of all, and render them more refulgent than silver purified by fire.

Thus, we are under the Law of the Spirit and life, and have died in Christ to the Law of sin and death (Romans 6:4). Thus, spiritual death is abolished; this is the first resurrection (John 5:25). This is also why the second (eternal) death is destroyed (Rev 20:6). As St. Cyril explains, “The root [sin] dying, how could the shoot [death] yet survive?” This then, was how Christ saved us from death:

St. Cyril of Alexandria (378 – 444 AD) – Commentary on the Gospel of St. John
“the very Lamb, the spotless  Sacrifice, is led to the slaughter for all, that He might drive away the sin of the world…But sin being destroyed, how could it be that death which was of it and because of it should not altogether come to nothing? The root dying, how could the shoot yet survive? Wherefore should we yet die, now that sin hath been destroyed? Therefore jubilant in the Sacrifice of the Lamb of God we say: O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is they victory? For all iniquity as the Psalmist sings somewhere, shall stop her mouth, no longer able to accuse those who have sinned from infirmity. Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us, that we might escape the curse from transgression.”

As a result, we chant in the Midnight Praises, the Father then“lifted up the sins, of the people” and “opened the gate, of Paradise, and restored Adam, to his authority”:

There was a high priest, in the tabernacle, offering sacrifices, on account of the people’s sins. When the Pantocrator, smelled the aroma, He lifted up the sins, of the people…They likened the high priest, to our Savior, the true sacrifice, for the forgiveness of sins. He who offered Himself as an acceptable sacrifice upon the Cross, for the salvation of our race. His Good Father, smelled Him, in the evening, on Golgotha. He opened the gate, of Paradise, and restored Adam, to his authority. (Midnight Praises – Sunday)

Through His death, Christ also disarmed the powers and authorities, triumphing over them by the cross (Colossians 2:15). He preached to those who were imprisoned in hades, releasing them from the captivity of the One who held the power of death, that is the devil (Hebrews 2:14). Thus Christ shone with His glory on all, not only on the living but on those in the graves. The people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned (Isaiah 9:2). By His resurrection, He overcame the corruption of death and raised us with him. United with our humanity, He ascended to Heaven and continues to make intercession for us in Heaven as our eternal propitiation for sin before God (Rom 8:34, Isa 53:12)At His second coming, those who are in Christ, will be raised from physical death to incorruption and eternal life (Phil 3:21), to share with Christ in His eternal glory (2 Thes 2:14). Physical death will be the last enemy to be destroyed (1 Cor 15:26). This will be the second resurrection (1 Cor 15:42-43).

Thus, Scripture, Apostolic Tradition, patristic consensus, and Church hymnology all confirm that Christ is the Archetype of Old Testament sacrifices, and our eternal High Priest and Sacrifice. He is our eternal “propitiation” and Mediator with the Father. He is the Lamb of God who bore our sins (Rev 5:12), and was slain “in our stead”. What else does “He took what is ours and gave us what is His” mean? He bore in Himself our weaknesses, ailments, sins (and the chastisement for sin), curse, condemnation, and death that we deserved. In exchange, He gave us His healing, remission of sin, justification, reconciliation, freedom, victory, resurrection, life, and immortality. Thus, He renewed and “deified” humanity in Himself, in order for us to share in His perfect Holiness and glory. Was this not all a result of God’s inexpressible grace and love through Christ?

More quotes>>

Origen (185 -254 AD) – Commentary on Gospel of John
But none of the names we have mentioned expresses His representation of us with the Father, as He pleads for human nature, and makes atonement for it; the Paraclete, and the propitiation, and the atonement

Origen (185 -254 AD) – Commentary on Gospel of John
And in his Catholic Epistle John says that He is a Paraclete for our souls with the Father, as thus: “And if any one sin, we have a Paraclete with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous,” and he adds that He is a propitiation for our sins, and similarly Paul says He is a propitiation: “Whom God set forth as a propitiation through faith in His blood, on account of forgiveness of the forepast sins, in the forbearance of God

St. Cyprian (200 -258 AD) – Epistles of Cyprian
St. John hath also declared, that Jesus Christ our Lord is an advocate and intercessor for our sins, saying; My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not: and if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous, and he is the propitiation for our sins. And the apostle St. Paul, in his epistle, hath thus argued: If when we were yet sinners Christ died for us, much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. We should therefore call to mind his tender affections towards us, and should not be rigorous and hard hearted to our brethren…

St. Cyprian (200 -258 AD) – Epistles of Cyprian
John also proves that Jesus Christ the Lord is our Advocate and Intercessor for our sins, saying, “My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the Supporter: and He is the propitiation for our sins.” And Paul also, the apostle, in his epistle, has written, “If, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us; much more, being now justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him.”

St. Athanasius (296 – 373 AD) – On the Incarnation of the Word
But on this one point, above all, they shall be all the more refuted, not at our hands, but at those of the most wise Daniel, who marks both the actual date, and the divine sojourn of the Savior, saying: “Seventy weeks are cut short upon thy people, and upon the holy city, for a full end to be made of sin, and for sins to be sealed up, and to blot out iniquities, and to make atonement for iniquities, and to bring everlasting righteousness, and to seal vision and prophet, and to anoint a Holy of Holies…

St. Athanasius (296 – 373 AD) – Discourses Against the Arians
Since then the Word, being the Image of the Father and immortal, took the form of the servant, and as man underwent for us death in His flesh, that thereby He might offer Himself for us through death to the Father; therefore also, as man, He is said because of us and for us to be highly exalted, that as by His death we all died in Christ, so again in the Christ Himself we might be highly exalted, being raised from the dead, and ascending into heaven…

St. Athanasius (296 – 373 AD) – Discourses Against the Arians, Discourse II
‘Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession Jesus, who was 
faithful to Him that made Him.’when became He ‘Apostle,’ but when He put on our flesh? and when became He ‘High Priest of our profession,’ but when, after offering Himself for us, He raised His Body from the dead, and, as now, Himself brings near and offers to the Father those who in faith approach Him, redeeming all, and for all propitiating God?

St. Basil the Great (330 – 379 AD) –  Letter 260
The Lord was bound to taste of death for every man—to become a propitiation for the world and to justify all men by His own blood.

St. Gregory of Nyssa (335 -394 AD)
For in that passage too, in giving the name of High Priest to Him Who made with His own Blood the priestly propitiation for our sins…For Jesus, the great High Priest (as Zechariah says), Who offered up his own lamb, that is, His own Body, for the sin of the world;

St. Ambrose (337- 397 AD) – Exposition of the Christian Faith
…this High Priest was indeed bound to make passage and entry into the holy of holies in heaven through His own blood, in order that He might be the everlasting propitiation for our sins. Priest and victim, then, are one; the priesthood and sacrifice are, however, exercised under the conditions of humanity, for He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, and He is a priest after the order of Melchizedek.

St. John Chrysostom (349 – 407 AD) – Homilies on First Corinthians
“For if He was not raised, neither did He die; and if He died not, neither did He take away sin: His death being the taking away of sin. “For behold,” saith one, “the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.” (John i. 29.) But how “taketh away?” By His death. Wherefore also he called him a Lamb, as one slain.

St. John Chrysostom (349 – 407 AD) – Homilies on First Corinthians
For if He was not raised, neither did He die; and if He died not, neither did He take away sin: His death being the taking away of sin. “For behold,” saith one, “the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.” (John i. 29.) But how “taketh away?” By His death. Wherefore also he called him a Lamb, as one slain…And besides, death remains immortal, if He did not arise.


St. John Chrysostom (349 – 407 AD) – Homilies on Epistle to the Hebrews
Accordingly he added, “in things pertaining to God,”—that is, for the sake of things in relation to God. We were become altogether enemies to God, (he would say) condemned, degraded, there was none who should offer sacrifice for us. He saw us in this condition, and had compassion on us, not appointing a High Priest for us, but Himself becoming a High Priest.

St. John Chrysostom – Homilies on the Epistle to the Hebrews
“And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this, the Judgment.” He next says also why He died once [only]: because He became a ransom by one death. “It had been appointed” (he says) “unto men once to die.” This then is [the meaning of] “He died once,” for all. (What then? Do we no longer die that death? We do indeed die, but we do not continue in it: which is not to die at all. For the tyranny of death, and death indeed, is when he who dies is never more allowed to return to life. But when after dying is living, and that a better life, this is not death, but sleep.) Since then death was to have possession of all, therefore He died that He might deliver us.

St. Augustine (354 – 430 AD) – A Treatise Against Two Letters of the Pelagians
This, the catholic faith has known of the one and only mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus, who condescended to undergo death—that is, the penalty of sin—without sin, for us. As He alone became the Son of man, in order that we might become through Him sons of God, so He alone, on our behalf, undertook punishment without ill deservings, that we through Him might obtain grace without good deservings. Because as to us nothing good was due so to Him nothing bad was due.

St. Augustine (354 – 430 AD) – On the Holy Trinity
Therefore “God commendeth His love towards us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified in His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him.” Justified, he says, in His blood,—justified plainly, in that we are freed from all sin; and freed from all sin, because the Son of God, who knew no sin, was slain for us. Therefore “we shall be saved from wrath through Him;” from the wrath certainly of God, which is nothing else but just retribution. For the wrath of God is not, as is that of man, a perturbation of the mind; but it is the wrath of Him to whom Holy Scripture says in another place, “But Thou, O Lord, mastering Thy power, judgest with calmness.” If, therefore, the just retribution of God has received such a name, what can be the right understanding also of the reconciliation of God, unless that then such wrath comes to an end? Neither were we enemies to God, except as sins are enemies to righteousness; which being forgiven, such enmities come to an end, and they whom He Himself justifies are reconciled to the Just One...And not only so,” he says, “but we also joy in God, through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement.” “Not only,” he says, “shall we be saved,” but “we also joy;” and not in ourselves, but “in God;” nor through ourselves, “but through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement,” as we have argued above.

St. Augustine (354 – 430 AD) – Lectures on the Gospel According to St. John
The separating medium is sin, the reconciling Mediator is the Lord Jesus Christ…To take then away the separating wall, which is sin, that Mediator has come, and the priest has Himself become the sacrifice. And because He was made a sacrifice for sin, offering Himself as a whole burnt-offering on the cross of His passion, the apostle, after saying, “We beseech you in Christ’s stead to be reconciled unto God

St. Augustine (354 – 430 AD) – Writings in Connection with the Manichaen Controversy
As regards animal sacrifices, every Christian knows that they were enjoined as suitable to a perverse people, and not because God had any pleasure in them. Still, even in these sacrifices there were types of what we enjoy; for we cannot obtain purification or the propitiation of God without blood. The fulfillment of these types is in Christ, by whose blood we are purified and redeemed. In these figures of the divine oracles, the bull represents Christ, because with the horns of His cross He scatters the wicked; the lamb, from His matchless innocence; the goat, from His being made in the likeness of sinful flesh, that by sin He might condemn sin.

Christ did not die “with us”. He died “for us”:
St. Cyril of Alexandria (378 – 444 AD) – Five Tomes Against Nestorius, TOME III
Hence, if He have offered sacrifice, both for us and moreover for Himself too, He surely hath needed it, even as we too who are under the yoke of sin: convict Him therefore of sin; if He hath offered sacrifice with us, shew Him co-sinner with us. Being the Good Shepherd, for whom hath He laid down His Life, for Himself rather or for the sheep?…Every one who has become guilty of sin needs therefore sacrifice for his own transgressions: and Christ hath offered Himself for His kin according to the flesh, i. e., for us; but for Himself not a whit, being superior to sin, as God. For if He have been sacrificed for Himself, not WE alone have been bought by His Blood according to the Scriptures but Himself too will have been co-bought with us, no longer according to Isaiah’s voice did the Lord give Him up for our sins, but He has been given rather for His own. For where is at all sacrifice and offering, there surely is also remission of sins. The Divine-uttering Paul therefore hath beguiled those throughout all under heaven by writing regarding Him, For such an High Priest became us, holy harmless undefiled, separated from sinners and made higher than the heavens, Who needeth not daily as the high priests to offer up sacrifice, first for his own sins then for the people’s, for this He did once when He offered up Himself: for the Law maketh men high priests which have infirmity, but the word of the oath which was since the Law, the Son Who hath been perfected for evermore.  

St. Cyril of Alexandria – Five Tomes Against Nestorius, Tome III
The God of all uttered the Law to them of old, Moses being mediator. But there was not in the Law the power of achieving good without any blame, to those who wished it (for it hath perfected nothing). But neither was the first covenant found faultless, but the all-wise Paul called it the ministry of condemnation. I hear him say, We know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped and all the world may become under sentence before God, because by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in His sight, (for the Law worketh unto wrath, and the Letter killeth), and as himself somewhere saith, He that despised Moses’ law dieth without mercy under two or three witnesses. Seeing therefore that the Law condemneth them that sin and decreeth sometimes the uttermost punishment to them that disregard it, and in no wise pitieth, how was not the manifestation to them on the earth of a Compassionate and truly Merciful High Priest necessary? of One Who should make the curse to cease, should stop the condemnation and free sinners with forgiving grace and with the bending of clemency? for I (He says) am He that blotteth out thy transgressions and will not remember. For we have been justified by faith and not out of the works of the Law, as it is written…but if we believe that He That suffered in the flesh is God, Who hath been made also our High Priest, we have no ways erred, but acknowledge the Word out of God made Man: and thus is required of us faith God-ward, Who putteth out of condemnation and freeth from sin those that are taken thereby. For the Son of man hath authority on the earth also to forgive sins, as Himself too saith. Contrasting therefore with the salvation and grace that is through Christ the harshness (so to speak) of the law’s severity, we say that Christ was made a Merciful High Priest. For He was and is God Good by Nature and Compassionate and Merciful always, and hath not become this in time but was so manifested to us.

St. Cyril of Alexandria (378 – 444 AD) – Commentary on the Gospel of St. Luke
For the law, which the all-wise Moses ordained, was for the reproof of sin, and the condemnation of offences: but it justified absolutely no one. For the very wise Paul writes, “Whosoever rejected the law of Moses, was put to death without mercy at the mouth of two or three witnesses.” But our Lord Jesus Christ, having removed the curse of the law, and proved the commandment which condemns to be powerless and inoperative, became our merciful High Priest, according to the words of the blessed Paul. For He justifies the wicked by faith, and sets free those held captive by their sins.

St. Cyril of Alexandria (378 – 444 AD) – Five Tomes Against Nestorious
For He has been sacrificed not rather for Himself, as THOU sayest, but for the infirm, for whom the high priest according to the Law used to make supplication, that you may again understand Him That was made an Advocate for us, a High Priest undefiled and holy, separated from sinners. Since therefore our opponent is on all sides sick of uncomeliness of speech, we say that the Word out of God the Father was made the High Priest and Apostle of our confession when He was made Man, abasing Himself unto emptiness and in our condition: in order that having offered Himself to the Father for an odour of sweet smell in be half of all, He might win all under Heaven, might remove the ancient guilt, might justify by grace through faith, might render superior to death and decay, holy and hallowed and full well versed in every kind of virtue, confessing Him their Saviour…

St. Cyril of Alexandria (378 – 444 AD) – The Gospel According to John, Book XI, Chapter VIII
He once more mediates as Man, the Reconciler and Mediator of God and men; and being our truly great and all-holy High Priest, by His own prayers He appeases the anger of His Father, sacrificing Himself for us. For He is the Sacrifice, and is Himself our Priest, Himself  our Mediator, Himself a blameless Victim, the true Lamb Which takes away the sin of the world. The Mosaic ceremonial was then, as it were, a type and transparent shadowing forth of the mediation of Christ, shown forth in the last times, and the high priest of the Law indicated in his own person that Priest Who is above the Law. For the things of the Law are shadows of the truth. For the inspired Moses, and with him the eminent Aaron, continually intervened between God and the assembly of the people; at one time deprecating God’s anger for the transgressions of the people of Israel, and inviting mercy from above upon them when they were faint; at another, praying and blessing the people, and ordering sacrifices according to the Law and offerings of gifts besides in their appointed order, sometimes for sins, and sometimes thank-offerings for the benefits they felt that they had received from God. But Christ Who manifested Himself in the last times above the types and figures of the Law, at once our High Priest and Mediator, prays for us as Man; and at the same time is ever ready to co-operate with God the Father, Who distributes good gifts to those who are worthy. Paul showed us this most plainly in the words: Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ. He then prays for us as Man, and also unites in distributing good gifts to us as God. For He, being a holy High Priest, blameless and undefiled, offered Himself not for His own weakness, as was the custom of those to whom was allotted the duty of sacrificing according to the Law, but rather for the salvation of our souls, and that once for all, because of our sin, and is an Advocate for us: And He is the propitiation for our sins, as John saith; and not for ours only, but also for the whole world

St. Cyril of Alexandria (378 – 444 AD) – The Gospel According to John, BOOK IX, Chapter 1
Then desiring to put before us in a clear light the methods of the gathering in detail, at one time he said: For what the Law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God, sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: that the ordinance of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit; and at another again: Since then the children are sharers in flesh and blood, He also Himself in like manner partook of the same; that through death He might bring to nought him that had the power of death, that is the devil; and might deliver all them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. 

St. Cyril of Alexandria (378 – 444 AD) – That Christ is One
Yes, for we say that His are the human by an Economic appropriation, and along with the flesh that which is its: seeing that no other son beside Him is conceived of by us, but the Lord Himself hath saved us, giving His own Blood a ransom for the life of all; for we were bought with a price, not with things corruptible silver or gold but with the Precious Blood as of a Lamb Immaculate and without blemish, Christ, Who offered Himself in our behalf for an odour of a sweet smell to God the Father. And hereto will be our warrant Paul most learned in the law, who hath written, Be therefore imitators of God as beloved children, and walk in love as Christ too loved us and delivered Himself for us an offering and sacrifice to God for an odour of a sweet smell…For it beseemed God the Father because of Whom all things and through Whom all things, to perfect the Son Who had descended to emptying and become man, having taken bondman’s form, through sufferings in that He consecrates His own flesh a Ransom for the life of all. For Christ hath been sacrificed for us, the spotless Victim, and by One offering hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified, re-forming man’s nature into what it was in the beginning: for all things in Him are new. 

St. Cyril of Alexandria (378 – 444 AD) – On the Gospel According to John,  Book XI
For since He is the High Priest of our souls, insomuch as He appeared as Man, though being by Nature God together with the Father, He most fittingly makes His prayer on our behalf; trying to persuade us to believe that He is, even now, the propitiation for our sins, and a righteous Advocate; as John saith. Therefore also Paul, wishing us to be of this mind, thus exhorts us: For we have not a high priest that cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but One that hath been in all points tempted like as we are; yet without sin. Then, since He is an High Priest, insomuch as He is Man, and, at the same time, brought Himself a blameless sacrifice to God the Father, as a ransom for the life of all men, being as it were the firstfruits of mortality, that in all things He might have the pre-eminence, as Paul says; and He reconciles to Him the reprobate race of man upon the earth, purifying them by His own Blood, and shaping them to newness of life through the Holy Spirit; and since, as we have often said, all things are accomplished by the Father through the Son in the Spirit; He moulds the prayer for blessings towards us, as Mediator and High Priest, though He unites with His Father in giving and providing Divine and spiritual graces. For Christ divideth the Spirit, according to His own Will and pleasure, to every man severally, as He will.

St. Cyril of Alexandria (378 – 444 AD) – On the Gospel According to John, Book IV
I die (He says) for all, that I may quicken all by Myself, and I made My Flesh a Ransom for the flesh of all. For death shall die in My Death, and with Me shall rise again (He says) the fallen nature of man. For for this became I like to you, Man (that is) and of the seed of Abraham, that I might be made like in all things unto My brethren. The blessed Paul himself also, well nderstanding what Christ just now said to us says, Forasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He also Himself likewise took part of the same, that through death He might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil. For no otherwise was it possible that he that hath the power of death should be destroyed, and death itself also, had not Christ given Himself for us, a Ransom, One for all, for He was in behalf of all. Wherefore He says in the Psalms too, offering Himself as a spotless Sacrifice to God the Father, Sacrifice and offering Thou wouldest not, but a Body preparedst Thou Me. In whole burnt-offerings and offerings for sin Thou tookedst no pleasure: then said I, Lo I come (in the chapter of the book it is written of Me) to do Thy will, O God, was My choice. For since the blood of bulls and of goats and the ashes of an heifer sufficed not unto the purging away of sin, nor yet would the slaughter of brute beasts ever have destroyed the power of death, Christ Himself came in in some way to undergo punishment for all. For with His stripes WE were healed, as saith the Prophet, and His Own Self bare our sins in His Own Body on the tree; and He was crucified for all and on account of all, that if One died for all, all we might live in Him. For it was not possible that He should be holden by death, neither could corruption over-master that Which is by Nature Life. But that Christ gave His Own Flesh for the Life of the world, we shall know by His words also, for He saith, Holy Father keep them; and again, For their sakes I sanctify Myself. He here says that He sanctifies Himself, not aiding Himself unto sanctification for the purification of the soul or spirit (as it is understood of us), nor yet for the participation of the Holy Ghost, for the Spirit was in Him by Nature, and He was and is Holy always, and will be so ever. He here says, I sanctify Myself,for, I offer Myself and present Myself as a spotless Sacrifice for an odour of a sweet smell. For that which is brought to the Divine Altar was sanctified, or called holy according to the law. 

St. Cyril of Alexandria (378 – 444 AD) – COMMENTARY ON THE GOSPEL OF LUKE
Look not therefore upon Him Who was laid in the manger as a babe merely, but in our poverty see Him Who as God is rich, and in the measure of our humanity Him Who excels the inhabitants of heaven, and Who therefore is glorified even by the holy angels. And how noble was the hymn, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, and among men good will!” For the angels and archangels, thrones and lordships, and high above them the Seraphim, preserving their settled order, are at peace with God: for never in any way do they transgress His good pleasure, but are firmly established in righteousness and holiness. But we, wretched beings, by having set up our own lusts in opposition to the will of our Lord, had put ourselves into the position of enemies unto Him. But by Christ this has been done away: for He is our peace; for He has united us by Himself unto God the Father, having taken away from the middle the cause of the enmity, even sin, and so justifies us by faith, and makes us holy and without blame, and calls near unto Him those who were afar off: and besides this, He has created the two people into one new man, so making peace, and reconciling both in one body to the Father. For it pleased God the Father to form into one new whole all things in Him, and to bind together things below and things above, and to make those in heaven and those on earth into one flock. Christ therefore has been made for us both Peace and Goodwill…  

St. Cyril of Alexandria (378 – 444 AD) – On the Gospel According to John, Book XI, Chap X
For He brought Himself as a Victim and holy Sacrifice to God the Father, reconciling the world unto Himself, and bringing into kinship with Him that which had fallen away therefrom, that is, the race of man. For He is our Peace, according to the Scripture. And, indeed, our reconciliation to God could no otherwise have been accomplished through Christ that saveth us than by communion in the Spirit and sanctification. For that which knits us together, and, as it were, unites us with God, is the Holy Spirit; Which if we receive, we are proved sharers and partakers in the Divine Nature, and we admit the Father Himself into our hearts, through the Son and in the Son...For the Only-begotten sanctified Himself for our sins; that is, offered Himself up, and brought Himself as a holy Sacrifice for a sweet-smelling savour to God the Father; that, while He as God came between and hedged off and built a wall of partition between human nature and sin, nothing might hinder our being able to have access to God, and have close fellowship with Him, through communion, that is, with the Holy Spirit, moulding us anew to righteousness and sanctification and the original likeness of man.

St. Cyril of Alexandria (378 – 444 AD) – The Gospel According to John
For He, being a holy High Priest, blameless  and undefiled, offered Himself  not for His own weakness, as was the custom of those to whom was allotted the duty of sacrificing according to the Law, but rather for the salvation of our souls, and that once for all, because of our sin, and is an Advocate for us: And He is the propitiation for our sins… For the Only-begotten  sanctified Himself for our sins; that is, offered Himself up, and brought Himself as a holy Sacrifice for a sweet-smelling savor to God the Father

Pope Leo I (390 – 461 AD) – SERMON XXIII, ON THE FEAST OF THE NATIVITY
A Victim had to be offered for our atonement Who should be both a partner of our race and free from our contamination, so that this design of GOD whereby it pleased Him to take away the sin of the world in the Nativity and Passion of Jesus Christ, might reach to all generations: and that we should not be disturbed but rather strengthened by these mysteries, which vary with the character of the times, since the Faith,whereby we live, has at no time suffered variation.

Pope Leo I (390 – 461 AD) – Letters and Sermons, To Anatolius, Bishop of Constantinople
For otherwise in the Church of God, which is Christ’s Body, there are neither valid priesthoods nor true sacrifices, unless in the reality of our nature the true High Priest makes atonement for us, and the true Blood of the spotless Lamb makes us clean. For although He be set on the Father’s right hand, yet in the same flesh which He took from the Virgin, he carries on the mystery of propitiation, as says the Apostle, “Christ Jesus Who died, yea, Who also rose, Who is on the right hand of God, Who also maketh intercession for us.

Pope Leo I (390 – 461 AD) – On Whitsuntide, III.
For if man, made after the image and likeness of God, had retained the dignity of his own nature, and had not been deceived by the devil’s wiles into transgressing through lust the law laid down for him, the Creator of the world would not have become a Creature, the Eternal would not have entered the sphere of time, nor God the Son, Who is equal with God the Father, have assumed the form of a slave and the likeness of sinful flesh. But because “by the devil’s malice death entered into the world,” and captive humanity could not otherwise be set free without His undertaking our cause, Who without loss of His majesty should both become true Man, and alone have no taint of sin, the mercy of the Trinity divided for Itself the work of our restoration in such a way that the Father should be propitiated, the Son should propitiate, and the Holy Ghost enkindle. 

Theodoret  (393 – 457 AD)
But no one holding the right faith would call the unmade the uncreate, God the Word coeternal with the Father, a creature; but on the contrary, Him of David’s seed Who being free from all sin was made our high priest and victim, after Himself offering Himself on our behalf to God having in Himself the Word, God of God, united to Himself and inseparably conjoined.

St. Gregory the Great (540 AD –  604 AD) – Book of Pastoral Rule
He took blows on the face from insulting men; that, while washing us with the water of salvation, He hid not His face from the spitting of the faithless; that, while delivering us by His advocacy from eternal punishments.

John Damascene (676 – 749) – On Holy Images
From the time that God the Word became flesh He is as we are in everything except sin, and of our nature, without confusion. He has deified our flesh or ever, and we are in very deed sanctified through His Godhead and the union of His flesh with it. And from the time that God, the Son of God, impassible by reason of His Godhead, chose to suffer voluntarily He wiped out our debt, also paying for us a most full and noble ransom. We are truly free through the sacred blood of the Son pleading for us with the Father. And we are indeed delivered from corruption since He descended into hell to the souls detained there through centuries and gave the captives their freedom, sight to the blind, and chaining the strong one. He rose in the plenitude of His power, keeping the flesh of immortality which He had taken for us. And since we have been born again of water and the Spirit, we are truly sons and heirs of God.

Liturgy, Agpeya and Praises – Coptic Orthodox Diocese of Southern U.S. (Quoting H.G. Bishop Mettaous, The Spirituality of the Rites of the Holy Liturgy in the Coptic Orthodox Church)
Since our Master, Jesus Christ carried our sins within His Body on the cross as He
offered Himself as a sacrifice for sin, so the bread offered in the Holy Liturgy should be made with yeast to symbolize these sins that Christ bore. The Coptic Orthodox Church, led by the Holy Spirit, makes its holy bread with yeast, which should then be baked so that the yeast perishes just as sin perished in the Resurrected Body of Christ. The yeast is still present in the bread but is dead because of the fire. As the fire spoiled the effect of the yeast, so Christ had ended the effect of sin through offering His Body as a sacrifice; “God…by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh on account of sin, He condemned sin in the flesh” (Rom.8:3).

Father Athanasius Iskander – Understanding the Liturgy
In the Old Testament sacrifice of the day of atonement, as in other sin sacrifices, the high priest had to lay his hands on the sacrificial animal, then make an atonement for himself and for the sins the people committed in ignorance. The laying on of hands signifies transfer of the sins to the sacrificial animal. The animal is then killed. Rubbing the Lamb may represent the old Testament’s laying on of hands, while uttering the words, “Grant O Lord that our sacrifice may be accepted in Thy sight for my sins and for the ignorance of Thy people…” reminds us of the atonement that the high priest made for his own sins and for the sins the people made in ignorance.

Fr. Tadros Malaty, Commentary on the First Epistle of St. Peter
St. Peter, as an eyewitness to the sufferings of the Lord Jesus, saw Him as an example for enduring suffering. He heard Him saying: “My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even unto death.” He entered the garden of Gethsemane to carry the sins of all humanity and to crucify them on the cross. St. Paul talked about the Lord Jesus as an example for enduring death on the cross. St. Peter reveals the concept of the sufferings of the cross. It does not center around mere courage or the ability to endure but rather love and sacrifice. For He wanted His stripes, that is His wounds, to heal our wounds. He bent His back willingly to carry our sins in His body. “Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many” (Heb. 9:28). “He poured out His soul unto death, and He was numbered with the transgressors, and He bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors” (v.12). Through the sufferings of His love, He demonstrated to us His extreme caring nature and that He is the Shepherd and Overseer of our souls, who seeks every sick soul, opening His arms to every one who goes astray! He chose death on the cross. This was not coincidence, but as St. Athanasius the Apostolic said: “It was not appropriate for the Lord to be sick and He is the One who heals others. He came as the Savior not to die Himself, but to die instead of others. If His death was in secret, it would not have witnessed the resurrection. He became a curse for us. (Gal. 3:13), and this is the cross. How can He call us (the Gentiles) if He were not crucified stretching His arms to call us? Since the cross was the worst kind of death and the most brutal punishment, therefore the Lord Jesus endured the cross, willingly, through His humanity, redeeming all human beings from the worst punishment of death.

H.E. Metropolitan Bishoy – The Dogma Of Atonement And Redemption 
In order to save us from the results of sin, God “sent His Son to be the propitiation (atonement) for our sins” (1 John 4:10). He condemned sin as Saint Paul the Apostle said: “God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh” (Rom. 8: 3). “Condemned sin in the flesh” means that sin was judged upon the cross. God “did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all” (Rom. 8: 32). He didn’t pity His Son when He carried our sins in His flesh but announced His wrath against sin so that sin would receive a fair judgement. Here God as holy and as a rejecter of sin is justified. God wants to announce His vengeance and wrath against the sin of man. The one accepting that our Lord Jesus Christ carries his sins and is moved by the love of Christ, would watch sin by his own eyes nailed upon the cross. He would thus know that his sins were forgiven. He would see by his own eyes that sin was judged fairly. Thus Saint Paul says: “Having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross” (Col. 2: 14).

Fr. Tadros Malaty –Commentary on Exodus
As the people could not have quenched their thirst from that rock, unless it is struck by the rod; likewise, we would have not enjoyed the limitless wells of God’s love, and the Holy Spirit in us, unless the Lord Christ is struck, to bear on the cross, through the divine justice, the price of our sins. And as the rock was publicly struck once, so also the Lord Christ was visibly lifted up on the cross, and offered up Himself, once, for all (Hebrew 7: 27), and from Him a flow of blood and water came out (John 19: 34), as atonement and purification for all who believe in Him.

Fr. Tadros Malaty –Commentary on Isaiah
He washed our filth in the water of Baptism, in the worthiness of His blood; and is still washing all our weaknesses by His blood that flowed from his stabbed side, mingled with water. If our hands got spoiled with blood  through our sins, He offers His blood as atonement  for  our  sake,  to  set  us  a  glorious Church, with no defilement or wrinkles, but in every respect sanctified. That  washing  or  purification  is  realized  “by  the  spirit  of  judgment and by the spirit of burning.” As to the spirit of Judgment, it has been realized by His being nailed on the Cross, to bear the price of our sins in His body, consummating divine justice what we due on Him. As to the spirit of burning, it refers to what has been proclaimed by the law in the Book of Leviticus, concerning the ‘burnt offering,’ where the sacrifice is wholly burnt, as a reference to complete love.


Fr. Tadros Malaty –Commentary on Daniel
These were all fulfilled by the coming of the Lord Jesus: To finish the transgression: that is to erase sins from the eyes of God, by preaching the Gospel of salvation and enjoying the gift of the Holy Spirit, which God granted to His church through the worthiness of the precious blood. The captivity was considered a chastisement for the sins of Israel and Judah, but it was not a just punishment for captivity cannot forgive sins, therefore, the sacrifice of the cross was a must, where the Lord Jesus offers Himself on the cross as a propitiation for the sins of the whole world. (1John 2:1) To make an end of sins: When the Lord Jesus offered Himself, who is without blemish, a Sacrifice for sin, one time for the whole world, He put an end to sin. To make reconciliation of iniquity: This means that the sacrifice for reconciliation or atonement has to be offered.

St. Basil Liturgy Reference Book  (CopticChurch.net, Edited by Fr. Abraam D. Sleman)
“The bread is pierced in five places around the central crosses in reference to the 3 nails that hold Jesus on the cross, the crown of thorns and the spear that pierced His side. The bread is made from pure wheat, leavened but unsalted, because Jesus Christ is the salt of the world. The leaven symbolizes our Sins which the Lord Jesus Christ bore for us. The bread must be freshly baked. …During choosing the lamb, The priest lays his hands on the oblations in the shape of the cross as the priest of the old testament, who lays his hand on the sacrifice while the sinner confesses his sins. This declares that Jesus Christ, The Lamb of God has carried our sins on His shoulders.” 

Fr. Tadros Malaty –The Book of Revelation
And He treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of God, for He alone is the Almighty God who can bear the wage of sin in His body. Thus He dies on our behalf, and He lifts us up, out of our death. On the cross, He carried our sins that makes the Father hid His face from us, for He can’t bear them. Through His resurrection we are victoriously risen

Fr. Tadros Malaty –Ezekiel
There was no being who could bear the wrath of God on the land, and intercede on its behalf. That is why He sent His Only-Begotten Son, as a Son of Man; who, alone, can stand in the gap, bear the divine wrath in His body for our sake; and intercede for us by His pure blood; and bring us back to the bosom of the Father.

Fr. Tadros Malaty – Patristic Commentary on the Book of Deuteronomy
Moses stood as an intercessor between God and His people, as we saw in Deuteronomy 5:5. Whereas the Lord Christ was, being the Mediator who is One in essence with the Father, He carried us as members in His body, and reconciled us with His Father. “For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time” (1 Timothy 3:5, 6). But there is a great difference between the two mediations: The first was a mediator to gain the divine promise through the ministry of  the copy and shadow of the heavenly things; whereas the second has brought us into heaven itself.

Fr. Tadros Malaty – School of Alexandria, Part 2
Origen interprets Christ’s death as an act of vicarious subtitution or propitiatory sacrifice. He argues that, as the Leader of the Church, Jesus is the head of a body of which we are members; He has taken our sins upon Himself, has borne them and has suffered freely for us. As a true priest, He has offered the Father a true sacrifice in which He is Himself the Victim, thereby propitiating the Father. The Son offers the Christians’ own gifts of pity, justice, piety, peace. He offers the lives of transformed believers.

Fr. Tadros Malaty – Patristic Commentary on Second Book of Samuel
The Psalmist David says: “For His anger is but for a moment; His favor is for life”;
referring to the divine wrath, as Uzza was struck dead before the ark, when he dared to touch it. That was only for a moment; Yet, the people, through that ark, enjoyed life, as they gained the pleasure of God. That was a symbol of what happened with Jesus, the Lord of Glory, as He bore the divine wrath on the cross; it was said: “It pleased the Lord to bruise Him; He has put Him to grief, when You make His soul an offering for sin. … For He shall bear the iniquities of many” (Isaiah 53: 10, 12). As His wrath was only for a moment, as our iniquities were put on Him; He rose and caused us to rise with Him, granting us life in His pleasure.


To Whom Was the Ransom Paid?

Scriptural References>>

Matthew 6:12
And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.

Matthew 18: 23-27
Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand bags of gold was brought to him. Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt. At this the servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go.

Colossians 2:13-14
And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. 

Ephesians 5:2
And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour.

Hebrews 9:14
How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?

We know that Christ as the High Priest offered His life as sacrifice to God. We also know that He gave His life a ransom for all. If we consider the “ransom” to be something other than Christ’s sacrifice, we would have to acknowledge that Christ died twice–once as sacrifice, and a second time as a “ransom”. Of course this would be absurd. Thus, Christ’s “ransom” is non other than His Sacrifice which was offered to God. To confirm this understanding and answer the question to whom was the “ransom” paid, we must first answer the question to whom was the “ransom” owed? For this, St. Irenaeus helps us:

St. Irenaeus (130 – 202 AD) – Against Heresies (Book V, Chapter 16, 17)
For we were debtors to none other but to Him whose commandment we had transgressed at the beginning…”He has destroyed the handwriting” of our debt, and “fastened it to the cross;” so that as by means of a tree we were made debtors to God, [so also] by means of a tree we may obtain the remission of our debt…For this reason also He has taught us to say in prayer, “And forgive us our debts;” since indeed He is our Father, whose debtors we were, having transgressed His commandments.

Since Christ presented Himself as an offering for sin (Is 53:10), and sin offerings are offered only to God, the Book of Hebrews makes it clear that as High Priest, Christ offered His Sacrifice to God (Heb 9:14). St. Cyril affirms this understanding by anathematizing anyone who says otherwise:

St. Cyril of Alexandria (378 – 444 AD) – Anathemas in Opposition to Nestorius
Holy Scripture states that Christ is High Priest and Apostle of our confession, and offered Himself on our behalf for a sweet-smelling savor to God and our Father. If, then, any one says that He, the Word of God, was not made our High Priest and Apostle when He was made flesh and man after our manner; but as being another, other than Himself, properly man made of a woman; or if any one says that He offered the offering on His own behalf, and not rather on our behalf alone; for He that knew no sin would not have needed an offering, let him be anathema.

St. Cyril explains even more clearly that Christ offered his Sacrifice “to God the Father, as a ransom for the life of all”:

St. Cyril of Alexandria (378 – 444 AD) – On the Gospel According to John,  Book XI
Therefore also Paul, wishing us to be of this mind, thus exhorts us: For we have not a high priest that cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but One that hath been in all points tempted like as we are; yet without sin. Then, since He is an High Priest, insomuch as He is Man, and, at the same time, brought Himself a blameless sacrifice to God the Father, as a ransom for the life of all men…

St. Athanasius explains that when the “Father willed that ransoms should be paid”, Christ offered Himself “to the Father” to cleanse us from sin:

St. Athanasius (296 – 373 AD) – Against the Arians
Thus then the Lord also, ‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God;’ but when the Father willed that ransoms should be paid for all and to all, grace should be given, then truly the Word, as Aaron his robe, so did He take earthly flesh, having Mary for the Mother of His Body as if virgin earth, that, as a High Priest, having He as others an offering, He might offer Himself to the Father, and cleanse us all from sins in His own blood, and might rise from the dead.

St. Basil confirms that Christ offered Himself as a propitiatory sacrifice to God, as the “price of redemption for our soul”:

St. Basil the Great (330 – 379 AD) – Homily on Psalm xlviii
Seek not to have thy brother for thy redeemer, but to have One who transcends thine own nature; neither a mere man, but the God-Man, Jesus Christ, who alone can offer to God a propitiatory Sacrifice for all of us, because “God appointed Him as a propitiation through faith in His Blood.” For what can a man find that is so valuable as that he can offer it for the redemption of his soul? But there was found one thing, equal in value to all men put together, which was given as the price of redemption of our soul,—even the holy and most precious Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, which He shed for us all; therefore were we “bought with a price.”…For He had no need to offer to God an atonement for Himself, nor to redeem His own soul, seeing that “He did no sin, neither was guile found in His mouth.”…He who will not give to God an atonement for Himself, but for the whole world. For He needs no propitiation: He is a Propitiation Himself. 

John of Damascus explains that the Father received the ransom for us because we sinned against Him:

John of Damascus (676 -749 AD) – Exact Exposition of the Orthodox Faith
He dies, therefore, because He took on Himself death on our behalf, and He makes Himself an offering to the Father for our sake. For we had sinned against Him, and it was meet that He should receive the ransom for us, and that we should thus be delivered from the condemnation. God forbid that the blood of the Lord should have been offered to the tyrant.

Hippolytus and St. John Cassian confirm that He offered Himself to the Father:

Hippolytus (170 -235 AD) – Extant Works and Fragments
Yet there is the flesh which was presented by the Father’s Word as an offering, — the flesh that came by the Spirit and the Virgin, (and was) demonstrated to be the perfect Son of God. It is evident, therefore, that He offered Himself to the Father.

By offering Himself to the Father, Christ atoned from the sins of mankind:

St. John Cassian (360 – 435 AD)
But at the sixth hour the spotless Sacrifice, our Lord and Savior, was offered up to the Father, and, ascending the cross for the salvation of the whole world, made atonement for the sins of mankind, and, despoiling principalities and powers, led them away openly; and all of us who were liable to death and bound by the debt of the handwriting that could not be paid, He freed, by taking it away out of the midst and affixing it to His cross for a trophy.

To Augustine, it is “clear as day” that sacrifices may be offered to none other than God:

St. Augustine (354 – 430 AD) – City of God
but what need to collect and apply to my argument the proofs which are thickly sown and obvious, and by which it appears clear as day that sacrifice may be paid to none but the supreme and true God?

There are some who attempt to use the following quote by St. Gregory Nazianzen to deny the necessity of Christ’s sacrifice as a sin offering to God, as well as to deny the substitutionary/exchange nature of the sacrifice:

“To Whom was that Blood offered that was shed for us, and why was It shed?…If to the Evil One, fie upon the outrage!…But if to the Father, I ask first, how?…On what principle did the Blood of His Only begotten Son delight the Father…Is it not evident that the Father accepts Him, but neither asked for Him nor demanded Him…”

However, St. Gregory’s quote cannot be used to support the above mentioned argument(s) for the following reasons:

  • St. Gregory was explaining that a ransom consisting of God was offered to the Father, not the devil.
  • God substituted Isaac for an animal sacrifice. Thus, God still commanded that animal sacrifices to be offered to God. These sacrifices were a type of Christ.
  • St. Athanasius clarifies that God did not accept Isaac as sacrifice, not because a sacrifice was not necessary, but because Isaac was only the type of Christ and the type could not save the world:

St. Athanasius – Festal Letters, Letter 6
And, being restrained from sacrificing Isaac, he saw the Messiah in the ram, which was offered up instead as a sacrifice to God…Thus God accepted the will of the offerer, but prevented that which was offered from being sacrificed. For the death of Isaac did not procure freedom to the world, but that of our Saviour alone, by whose stripes we all are healed.

  • The ram symbolized Christ. Isaac represented humanity. Thus, Isaac (humanity) was spared because of the substitutionary sacrifice of the ram (Christ).
  • Whether the Father “demanded” the ransom or merely “accepted” it, has no bearing on to Whom the sacrifice was offered or the necessity of the sacrifice.
  • The Father did not “demand” but “willed” the sacrifice of Christ. (Hebrews 10:7, John 3:16). 
  • The quote merely confirms that Christ offered Himself willingly to the Father (John 10:18) as an offering for sin.

Thus, scripture and patristic consensus undeniably confirm that Christ offered Himself as a Sacrifice for sin on behalf of humanity, to God. (1 Peter 3:18).

More patristic quotes>>

St. Cyprian (200 -258 AD), Epistle 62
For if Jesus Christ, our Lord and God, is Himself the chief priest of God the Father, and has first offered Himself a sacrifice to the Father, and has commanded this to be done in commemoration of Himself, certainly that priest truly discharges the office of Christ, who imitates that which Christ did; and he then offers a true and full sacrifice in the Church to God the Father, when he proceeds to offer it according to what he sees Christ Himself to have offered.

St. Victorinus (250 – 303 AD) –  Commentary on Apocalypse
And when for man’s salvation He was made man to overcome death, and to set all men free, and that He offered Himself a victim to the Father on our behalf, He was called a calf. And that He overcame death and ascended into the heavens, extending His wings and protecting His people, He was named a flying eagle.

Eusebius Pamphilus  (263 -339 AD) – Life of the Blessed Emperor Constantine
I may allege yet a third cause of the Saviour’s death. He was the victim offered to the Supreme Sovereign of the universe for the whole human race…But forasmuch as he was the great high priest, consecrated to the Supreme Lord and King, and therefore more than a victim, the Word, the Power, and the Wisdom of God; he soon recalled his body from the grasp of death, presented it to his Father as the first-fruit of our common salvation, and raised this trophy, a proof at once of his victory over death and Satan, and of the abolition of human sacrifices, for the blessing of all mankind.

St. Athanasius (296 – 373 AD) – Festal Epistles, Letter X
This is the Lord, Who is manifested in the Father, and in Him also the Father is manifested; Who, being truly the Son of the Father, at last became incarnate for our sake, that He might offer Himself to the Father in our stead, and redeem us through His offering and sacrifice. This is He Who once, in old time, brought the people out of Egypt; but Who afterwards redeemed all of us, or rather the whole race of men, from death, and brought them up from the grave. This is He Who, in old time, was sacrificed as a lamb, having been typified in the lamb; but Who afterwards was slain for us, for Christ, our Passover, is sacrificed.

St. Hilary of Poitiers (310 – 367 AD) – Homilies on Psalms
Thus He offered Himself to the death of the accursed that He might break the curse of the Law, offering Himself voluntarily a victim to God the Father, in order that by means of a voluntary victim the curse which attended the discontinuance of the regular victim might be removed. Now of this sacrifice mention is made in another passage of the Psalms: Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body hast thou prepared for Me; that is, by offering to God the Father, Who refused the legal sacrifices, the acceptable offering of the body which He received.  

St. Cyril of Alexandria (378 – 444 AD) – Commentary on Gospel of St. John
For not by the violence of the Jews, but of His own Will did He come to the Cross for our sakes and on account of us. Wherefore also He saith, averting the reproach of seeming powerlessness, No man taketh My life from Me, I lay it down of  Myself: I have power to lay it down, and again I have power to take it. For as we have already before said, He bare no unwilling Cross for us. For He hath offered Himself as a Holy Sacrifice to God the Father, purchasing the salvation of all men by His Own Blood. Wherefore He also said in the Gospel preachings, For their sakes do I sanctify Myself. But sanctify He here says for “offer,” and “consecrate;” for that which is offered in sacrifice to God is holy. But that He accepted being the Sacrifice for all free from all violence from any, we shall know when we hear Him saying in the Psalms to God the Father, Sacrifice and, offering Thou wouldest not, but a Body preparedst

Thou Me: in whole burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin Thou tookest no pleasure: then I said, Lo I come, in the chapter of the book it is written of Me, to do Thy will, O God.  

St. Cyril explains that the Son offered Himself through love of His Father:

St. Cyril of Alexandria (378 – 444 AD) – The Gospel According to St. John
He willed that His own Son, though of like fashion with Himself and distinguished by His perfect equality with Him should descend to such humiliation as to take the form of man for our sake, and not shrink from death to save the world. This the Son did through love of His Father, Who is said to have ordered Him by His own powerto suffer death in His fleshly nature, and to destroy the power of corruption, and to quicken the dead, and to restore them to their ancient state.

Ambrose (337- 397 AD) –  Selected Works and Letters
The father offered indeed his son, but God is appeased not by blood but by dutiful obedience. He showed the ram in the thicket in the stead of the lad, that He might restore the son to his father, and yet the victim not fail the priest. And so Abraham was not stained with his son’s blood, nor was God deprived of the sacrifice. The prophet spoke, and neither yielded to boastfulness nor continued obstinate, but took the ram in exchange for the lad. And by this is shown the more how piously he offered him whom he now so gladly received back. And thou, if thou offer thy gift to God, dost not lose it. But we are tenacious of our own; God gave His only Son for us, we refuse ours. Abraham saw this and recognized the mystery, that salvation should be to us from the Tree, nor did it escape his notice that in one and the same sacrifice it was One that seemed to be offered, Another which could be slain.

St. Cyril of Alexandria (378 – 444 AD) – On the Gospel According to John, Book V
The most wise Evangelist profitably makes plea in behalf of the saving Passion and shews that the Death on the Cross was not of human necessity, nor did Jesus suffer death against His will from the tyranny of another, but rather did offer Himself for us a spotless Sacrifice to God the Father by reason of His inherent love for us. For since He must needs suffer (since thus would the imported corruption and sin and death be overturned), He hath given Himself a Ransom for the life of all.

St. Cyril of Alexandria (378 – 444 AD) – On the Gospel According to John, Book III
The Law then appointed to the children of Israel to give to every man a ransom for his poll, half a didrachm. But one stater contains a didrachm. Yea and herein again was shadowed out to us Christ Himself, Who offered Himself for all, as by all, a Ransom to God the Father, and is understood in the one drachma, but not separately from the other, because that in the one coin, as we said before, two drachmae are contained. Thus may both the Son be conceived of in respect of the Father, and again the Father in respect of the Son, Both in One Nature, but Each Separate in part, as existing in His own Person, yet not wholly severed, nor One apart from the Other. And as in the one coin were two drachmae, having equal bulk with one another, and in no ways one less than the other; so shalt thou conceive of the in nought differing Essence of the Son in respect of God the Father, and again of the Father in respect of the Son, and thou shalt at length receive wholesome doctrine upon all points spoken of concerning Him.

Eusebius of Caesarea (263 -339 AD) –  Demonstratio Evangelica, BOOK IV 
For firstly, the Word teaches by His death that He is Lord both of dead and living; and secondly, that He will wash away our sins, being slain, and becoming a curse for us; thirdly, that a victim of God and a great sacrifice for the whole world might be offered to Almighty God; fourthly, that thus He might work out the destruction of the deceitful powers of the daemons by unspeakable words… 

St. Severus of Antioch (465 – 538 AD) – Letters of St. Severus, TO EUPRAXIUS THE
CHAMBERLAIN 
This therefore was thus performed in the case of the two goats also, that the one was slaughtered and the other dismissed. We clearly see the hidden meaning which relates to the Cross: for the type denotes that the same one Christ suffered in the flesh, but remained without suffering in that he is considered to he true God. For the same person both is separated by lots to the Lord and slaughtered (for ‘he delivered himself for our sake as an offering and a sacrifice to God the Father for a sweet savour’ ), and goes away without suffering bearing the sins of all Israel, which in the type of Aaron were confessed over the head of the goat: for he clearly displays himself as being himself true God, over whom we confess our sins according to law; for “I will make confession”, he saith, “unto thee, Lord, concerning my sins, and thou wilt forgive the wickedness of my heart”; for, though ‘he was led as a lamb to the slaughter’, yet, ‘who shall tell his generation, because his life is taken away from the earth?’…Accordingly the lamb is the type of the righteous, and the goat of sinners; for the righteous stand as lambs on the right hand, and the sinners as goats on the left. Let no one think- that through the symbol of the two goats he shows us two Christs, one passible and the other impassible, but one and the same, passible in the flesh, but impassible in his Godhead. 

Church Midnight Praises – Sunday Theotokia
You are the Censer; made of pure gold, carrying the blessed and live coal; which is taken from the Altar; to purge the sins and take away the iniquities; which is God the Logos, Who was incarnate of you and offered Himself to God, His Father, as incense.  

Fr. Tadros Malaty – Interpretation of the Book of Genesis
Abraham saw the true Lamb, “Jesus Christ”, to be offered, not as a ransom for Isaac alone but  for the whole world. In his saying, “God will provide”, Abraham proclaimed his complete trust in God’s salvation plan, that is not the work of man but a divine ordainment; God, alone, would provide, by His own exalted means.

Fr. Tadros Malaty – A Patristic Commentary on the Book of Isaiah
The Savior has paid the price. The early Church considered the blood shed on the cross, as a payment for the debt that we owe the Father, and a ransom from the hand of the devil who bought us as slaves. That is the work of the Holy Savior, to sanctify us and to set us free from his servitude. That is why He says, “For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior. I give Egypt for your ransom, Ethiopia and Seba in your place.” (Is. 43: 3)


Conclusion:

This article merely analyzed the language and understanding of the early Church fathers with regard to the atonement. It did not attempt to present a complete patristic view on salvation as a whole. Though the early Church father spoke of Christ’s victory over sin, death, and the devil, they did not constrain Christ’s redemptive work to any exclusive “model” or “theory”, certainly not any model called “Christus Victor”.  There is no shortage of evidence to show that the early church understood and expounded Christ’s redemption in terms of a ransom/debt paid, penalty/sentence satisfied, and a substitution/exchange. Early church fathers spoke clearly of both God’s mercy and truth; of both his love and judgment. They explained that Christ “bore our sins”, that He became sin and a curse for us, and died to fulfill the just requirement of the Law, and so free us from condemnation. They spoke unequivocally and with consensus of an atoning sacrifice for sin offered by Christ to the Father “in the stead of” and as a “substitute” for humanity. Through His Sacrifice as both “Victim” and “High Priest”, sins were remitted and humanity was reconciled to God. Humanity was renewed and justified By Christ’s redeeming blood, Satan’s accusations were silenced, the gates of Paradise were opened, and the power of death was annulled. While the term “Christus Victor” is not foreign to the church, it is foreign to the Church as an atonement “theory”, prior to the 20th Century.  

In His redemption of humanity, Christ took what is ours and gave us what is His. He became man so that in Him, man would become God. He hungered to nourish us with the Manna from Heaven. He thirsted to quench us with the Spirit of life, Who renews our fallen nature to the holiness of the image of the King of Glory. He took our infirmities upon Him to heal us; our insult and humiliation to give us his dignity and glory. He was despised and dishonored as a servant, so that we may be esteemed and honored as kings and priests to God. He became weak so that He can be our unfailing refuge from the power of the enemy. He was bound with chains so that He can liberate us from the captivity of sin and the fear of death. He accepted the shame of spitting so that we can behold his unfathomable humility and fountain of compassion. He was reviled and mocked, but did not open His mouth so that in His denial of justice, the mercies of God would abundantly be bestowed upon sinners. He was acquainted with grief so that we can be acquainted with His ineffable joy; He became familiar with suffering so that He can wipe away every tear from our eyes. He was sentenced as a criminal so that in Him, our acquittal can be eternal; He was condemned as one who is guilty so that our innocence would be beyond reproach. He carried our cross as the Good Shepherd carries His staff so that He can shepherded us to His heavenly pasture, and so that the chastisement he endured on our behalf would bring us eternal peace. He bore our sins and was lifted up to the cross naked to cover the shame of our nakedness. He was pierced for our transgression so that his righteous Blood would cleanse us from the venom of the sting of death. He became a curse for us so that He can bestow upon us everlasting blessings, and ransom us from the curse of the Law. He was pierced with our nails to that He can nail the handwriting of our rebellion to the cross on which He was condemned. He drank our bitter vinegar so that we can taste the sweet wine of knowing Him. He was counted among the transgressors so that we may be counted among the righteous. He was forsaken by all so that we may be eternally united to Him.

He opened His arms wide on the cross to call prodigal sons to His paternal forgiveness and loving embrace. Blood and water poured from His wounded side; blood to cleanse us from the stain of sin, and water to quench our thirst for Him. He poured out His life like a Lamb to the slaughter, to restore life to our dead souls and consciences. He gave us His own Body and Blood as healing medicine for our souls, and to unite us eternally with Him. He breathed His last on the cross to breathe in us the life-giving Spirit of the Father. He died and was buried so that he may redeem us from the power of the grave and to bind the One who held the keys of Hades. He was resurrected to raise us from corruption and mortality, and to restore us to the Paradise of joy. The pain and agony He endured was for the joy set before Him to reclaim us eternally as His Own, never again to be separated from His Pasture. With our sinful nature renewed, our sins remitted, our death conquered, our enemies crushed, He ascended to His Heavenly glory, seated at the right hand of the Father, united inseparably with our humanity as the Bridegroom is forever united to His bride, until He appears again to Shepherd her to everlasting glory.

He turned our disobedience to obedience; our wickedness to righteousness, our shame into honor; our curse to countless blessings; our punishment into salvation; our mourning to joy; our despair to confident hope; our fear to consolation; our lowliness into exaltation; our poverty into wealth; our defeat to victory; and the fear of death to everlasting joy and life. This is the story of our redemption. What “atonement theory” can possibly do justice to all the dimensions of His infinite and inexpressible love?


Related:

Verses on Atonement
Atonement in the Eastern Orthodox Church
Questions and Answers on Atonement

10 thoughts on “Atonement in the Early Church”

  1. Awesome! Its genuinely remarkable piece of writing,
    I have got much clear idea concerning from this paragraph.

  2. The language is called rhetoric, it’s meant to add weight, it doesn’t connect to penal concepts you push… Christus Victor is the soteriology of the Church, also articulated through a concept of Ransom which is attached to the deception of Satan by which he was destroyed…. 5 minutes of Pascha makes this obvious the fact copts perpetuate this…is mind boggling…

  3. This has nothing to do with Copts. It’s about what the early church fathers said extensively, as evidenced by the research. No one is denying that Christ overcame death by His death and resurrection and that He “paid” a ransom to deliver humanity. The question is how He did it and why, and to Whom He offered His sacrifice? This is what this article answers. Moreover, the early church father didn’t use one single “model” to expound our redemption. They expounded various dimensions and didn’t constrain God’s love to “models”

  4. This prooftexting approach to the Fathers seems to draw from the same methodology as modern Protestants’ use of prooftexting from the Scriptures (a very modern approach?). What you don’t seem to address is the overall context within which to hear and understand these words of the Fathers. Perhaps you might at least agree one who is raised in a Reformed Protestant church will certainly not understand the implications of these words of the Fathers in the way an Eastern Orthodox Saint would (as would be demonstrated from looking at their respective general ways of life and talking about the things of God).

    As one who spent more than three decades of my adult life in a Protestant Evangelical context and has been an Eastern Orthodox Christian now for more than ten years, I can tell you that how I understand the words of these Fathers about Christ’s “punishment” in the context of the ancient Orthodox Liturgy is worlds away from how I understood them as an Evangelical influenced by the Reformers’ false teachings (especially John Calvin’s “Penal Substitution” Atonement theory). The overarching paradigm and context within which we hear the words of the Fathers or the Scriptures makes a world of difference to how they affect our spiritual life and whether they draw us into communion with Christ and His Church or plunge us deeper into spiritual delusion. My experience is flirting with Reformation notions of Atonement and modern interpretations of the OT sacrificial system as an “innocent” animal being “punished” in place of the guilty (rather than simply as a gift being offered to God)–a description of the nature of these sin offerings that is nowhere found about them either in the OT itself or on the lips of Christ (the only true Interpreter and interpretation of the OT)–is spiritually deadly.

  5. Thanks for your feedback. There is no prooftexting in these quotes. Feel free to look up the context. I have never been Protestant and have no need to defend Protestant theology. To your point though, the article does point out that Christ’s salvific work was not limited to the cross. But it would be imbalanced (not to mention unpatristic) to deny the substitutionary elements in the cross, in terms of curse for sin. I challenge you to present patristic quotes to prove a contrary point. You will not find any. O.T. Sin and guilt offerings were not “simply a gift offered to God”. Peace offerings and other sacrifices served that purpose. Sin/guilt offerings were intended to atone for the life of the sinner (“For the life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls…” (Lev 17:11). Please reread the section in the article on Old Testament sacrifices, including all the patristic quotes.

  6. Forgive me, Maged, for being less than clear. I do not wish to deny the substitutionary elements in the Scriptural and patristic language about the Cross. Further, I would not even deny Christ was punished on the Cross on account of our sin. In distinguishing what I view as an erroneous assumption in your language about sin offerings as an innocent being punished in place of the guilty in one of your points from what Scripture actually says, I was not intending to infer that the reason for the offering (“gift”) in the case of a sin offering was no different than that of a thank offering, for example.

    My only real point and what I want to emphasize is that I know from my own experience that what many modern Christians reading your post (whose main influence is the teaching of various forms of Evangelical and/or Reformed Protestantism) conceptualize in the wake of the Western Medieval and late Medieval theories of Anselm and Calvin of the nature, source and reason for Christ’s punishment on the Cross is radically different in certain important respects than that of the Fathers you quote (as evidenced by the Orthodox Liturgy they helped to shape). I am here commenting just to serve as a witness to the unwary or uninformed reader that this is the case, because I feel (perhaps through no fault of your own) this post could be misleading. It seems to me there are those who would point to it as evidence that the heretical Calvinist and at-best syncretistic view of the Atonement they have been taught is compatible with the fullness of classical patristic Christian faith (full Orthodoxy)–it most assuredly is not.

  7. Hi Karen. Thanks for the clarifications. It is good that you don’t deny the substitutionary/penal elements of the cross as they are evident in scripture and patristics. As mentioned, I didn’t research and write this artilce to prove “Penal Substitution” or to defend any form of Protestant theology or expression of it. Purpose was to ascertain the truth in regards to the fundamental elements of our salvation which unfortunately many Orthodox Christians today seem to deny. Take for example the following quotes about “wrath”:

    St. Athanasius’ Letter to Marcellinus
    “… again speaking in the Lord’s own person, tell us further that He suffered these things, not for His own sake but for ours. Thou has made Thy wrath to rest upon me, says the one; and the other adds, I paid them things I never took. For He did not die as being Himself liable to death: He suffered for us, and bore in Himself the wrath that was the penalty of our transgression, even as Isaiah says, Himself bore our weaknesses.”

    St Cyril of Jerusalem
    If the first man formed out of the earth brought in universal death, shall not He who formed him out of the earth bring in eternal life, being Himself the Life? If Phinees, when he waxed zealous and slew the evil-doer, staved the wrath of God, shall not Jesus, who slew not another, but gave up Himself for a ransom, put away the wrath which is against mankind?

    St. John Chrysostom – Homilies on the Gospel of St. John
    That Lamb of Moses took not at once away the sin of any one; but this took away the sin of all the world; for when it was in danger of perishing, He quickly delivered it from the wrath of God.

    Cyprian – Epistles of Cyprian
    And Paul also, the apostle, in his epistle, has written, “If, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us; much more, being now justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him.”

    So we see that “wrath” is not of the Father, but wrath of God (Trinity) for sin. The emphasis is more that the Son offered Himself willingly in harmony with the will of the Father and the Spirit to redeem mankind. I’m not sure how I can modify this article to make sure it isn’t used to justify wrong theology or expression of theology. But I’m open to your suggestions.

    You may wish to reread the section on “Christ as Sacrifice and High Priest”. I’ve rewritten it to make it a little more balanced (to explain there is more to redemption than just the cross).

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