Throughout the New Testament, the language of money is used to discuss sin and the gospel: words like debt, forgiveness, redeem, and impute.

For example, Colossians 2 explains forgiveness of trespasses as cancellation of debt. This brings in both the metaphor of a trespass as a debt and the concept that such a debt can be cancelled or "set aside" as part of regeneration by "nailing it to the cross".

In Romans 3, those who are "justified by his grace" are said to be done so "as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus." Here justification (or righteousness) is made to be something that can be given as a gift, and it is done so by redeeming one as from bondage. Redemption (ἀπολύτρωσις here) language is often connected with paying the debt of someone else; often someone who has been made a slave to the creditor.

Finally, the language of "imputation" is sometimes used, in which funds are "transferred" from one account to another, at least on paper. I use the quotes and qualification to point out that there is no physical transference of monies, but rather, the funds are "counted" or "imputed" to the other account. This is not especially difference from the electronic transactions we have today. Romans 4 uses this language as a way of explaining how God gives righteousness to those who have faith in Jesus: "And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness." Other translations here say that faith is "credited" is righteousness, or "reckoned" or "accounted", or can be translated "imputed". The Greek word here is λογίζεται, and these are all accounting terms with this same meaning in this context.

So my question is two-fold:

  1. Does the Old Testament use this sort of language to refer to sin and righteousness?
  2. In these Old Testament usages of monetary/accounting language, is such a concept of a transaction included, whereby sin is taken on by God, or that man is redeemed, his sin-debt forgiven, or righteousness granted?
  • I think to answer this question, we need to look at the actual words in the NT. Many are not financial terms at all. I know (because last week's sermon was on this topic) that one word for 'forgiveness' in the NT is the same word Christ used when he commanded his disciples to leave their nets and follow him. IOW, the word translated as forgiveness was already metaphorical--and of an entirely non-financial metaphor. (I'd post a link to the sermon, but my church's web site is down at the moment.)
    – Flimzy
    May 13, 2012 at 4:39
  • That's a good point. Forgive is translated primary from two words, ἀφίημι and χαρίζομαι; the latter being financial language, and the former not. It looks like where "forgive" and "sins" are connected, it is ἀφίημι. I'm removing that section of the question.
    – Ray
    May 13, 2012 at 13:07

1 Answer 1


1. Accounting Language

It is of course a different language, but yes, the same sort of language is present in the OT as well.

Repayment - for good and for evil

For the LORD is a God of recompense, He will fully repay Jeremiah 51:56

Therefore the LORD has recompensed me according to my righteousness, According to the cleanness of my hands in His eyes. Psalm 18:24

Requite them according to their work and according to the evil of their practices; Requite them according to the deeds of their hands; Repay them their recompense. Psalm 28:4

Our Redeemer

As for me, I know that my Redeemer lives, And at the last He will take His stand on the earth. Job 19:25

Do not fear, you worm Jacob, you men of Israel; I will help you,” declares the LORD, “ and your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel. Isaiah 41:14

Seeking true profit

Riches do not profit in the day of wrath, But righteousness delivers from death. Proverbs 11:4

Thus says the LORD, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel, “I am the LORD your God, who teaches you to profit, Who leads you in the way you should go. Isaiah 48:17

How blessed is the man who finds wisdom and the man who gains understanding. For her profit is better than the profit of silver and her gain better than fine gold. Proverbs 3:13-14


The one who despises the word will be in debt to it, But the one who fears the commandment will be rewarded. Proverbs 13:13


But You are a God of forgiveness, Gracious and compassionate, Slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness Nehemiah 9:17

2. Transaction / Imputation

Yes, the concept of transaction is also present in the Old Testament. The words aren't used explicitly, but the transaction should be apparent from the text:

Surely our griefs He Himself bore, And our sorrows He carried; Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, Smitten of God, and afflicted. But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, And by His scourging we are healed... the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all To fall on Him. Isaiah 53

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