Imaging Salvation: An Inquiry into the Function of Metaphor in Christian Soteriology, with Application to Mark 10:45 and the Metaphor of Ransom

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This dissertation undertakes a methodological exploration of the function of metaphors in Christian soteriology by considering two specific aspects of the way in which biblical metaphors for the death of Christ are used to formulate presentations of Christian understandings of atonement and by exploring the ransom metaphor of the atonement.

The first of these addresses the historical and cultural character of the biblical metaphors for atonement and attempts to develop a working model for how these culturally-embedded metaphors can speak in an ongoing way to communities that are far removed from the time and place in which they were originally written. It does this by critically engaging Wolfhart Pannenberg's theological proposal that Christology ought to be undertaken "from below to above."

The second aspect to be addressed is a consideration of how the biblical soteriological metaphors function as metaphor—that is, as comparisons between the human social and cultural experiences of the battlefield, the marketplace, social roles, the law court, etc., which are then used to describe the nature of the saving work of Christ. This section examines the linguistic function of metaphor in general, but with special attention to the ways in which metaphors operate in theological discourse. A feminist critique of traditional atonement models serves as a starting point for the chapter, and the metaphorical theology of Sallie McFague and Janet Martin Soskice are engaged to develop a critical realist approach to the use of metaphors in soteriology.

In the third part of the dissertation, the image of Jesus giving his life as a "ransom for many" as it is found in Mark 10:45 is examined as an application of the methodology developed in the earlier sections. One chapter is devoted to a detailed study of the linguistic background of the ransom saying, and another to an exploration of the meaning of the ransom saying within the context of the Gospel of Mark.

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PHD in Theology

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Brown, Colin

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Metaphor, Christian Reformed Church, Salvation, Atonement, Ransom


Missions and World Christianity


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