Salvation history

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The expression salvation history (also salvation economy ) was coined in Christian theology around the middle of the 19th century. It is used differently in different contexts and has been controversial from the start because of its theological implications. What is meant is the entire past and future history of mankind, insofar as it is viewed and interpreted eschatologically from the point of view of an expected salvation (see also soteriology ). From this perspective, history appears as a meaningful, systematic sequence of divine actions that ultimately aim at the completion of the salvation promised in Revelation. The term is mainly used in a Christian context. A transfer to other religions of salvation , in which analogous ideas exist, is possible and is practiced.

History of the term

The term “salvation history” was introduced around the middle of the 19th century. In the middle of the 20th century, it became a central concept and interpretation of theology in general, as the theological compendium Mysterium Salutis shows.

Thinking about the history of salvation forms the basis of all Christian art in the West. As a Judeo-Christian influence, religious or secularized , it also shaped modern philosophical thought ( Joachim von Fiore , Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel , Karl Marx and others) and, as a belief in progress, has become part of the mass consciousness. Modern critics see this as one of the causes for the alienation of humans from nature, which lives in cycles . In the Anglo-Saxon world, the Scofield Bible with salvation history notes and chains of references by Cyrus I Scofield was a new impetus for salvation history thought. According to the Reformed understanding, God's salvation history describes saving and redeeming work for the benefit of his people. It goes hand in hand with God's progressive self-revelation . Whenever an important event in salvation history came up, it was accompanied by the revelations and the signs of great prophets. Of particular importance are Moses at the conclusion of the covenant on Sinai , Elijah as the harbinger of the Messiah, Jesus Christ as Messiah and the apostles at the introduction of the church . The Reformation view differs from the dispensationalist view primarily in that God's action is seen as progressive. Discontinuity is deliberately rejected (often with reference to the principle of being).


Valentin Raymann (1795–1857), teacher at Marienwerder high school , had converted from Catholicism to the Protestant Church. In his scientific supplement on "Naephaesch and Ruach" added to the school program in 1855, he described "with very fine words the entire Christian history of salvation":

“When in the course of time evil and sin (the Ruach Ragh) took root and deeper and humanity was in the highest degree in need of redemption, the promised Messiah, the world savior Jesus Christ, stepped among them in divine-human unity, as Son of man (Ben Adam, Ecce homo) and as the only begotten Son of God (Ben Aelohim), his father, and lived in this unity the above-mentioned double life of the human soul in its highest possible perfection on earth as an example to all of humanity and redeemed through his suffering and As mediators, humanity die from bondage to the freedom of God's children. Therefore he lived through and suffered all the torments and struggles of the human Naephaesch, from which he emerged as hero and victor in triumph, only to reign after going home to his father as one with him again, as from eternity, in omnipotence and glory and there, at the right hand of the Father, to prepare the place for the souls of men who belong to him. In him the whole fullness of the Holy Spirit, the Ruach Aelohim, which he received from the Father and from himself, according to the promise, on the day of Pentecost under a mighty roar of wind and in the image of fiery tongues, was revealed as in a holy fire that shines there , warms, purifies, transfigures and is communicated to everything that approaches him, poured out on the apostles waiting in prayer in Jerusalem. So the divine world savior fulfilled and completed the Old Testament and gave mankind a new one. "

- Valentin Raymann


In Christian theological representations, the middle of salvation history (“Fulness of Time” Gal. 4,4; Eph. 1,10) is usually seen in the first decades of the Christian era : life and work, death on the cross and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth as Jesus Christ . The story of creation in the Bible with the fall of man is considered to be its announcement and preparation . The story after Christ is considered the “last time” or “ end time ” in which the gospel penetrates all peoples until the number of the saved will be full and the Christian Messiah Jesus Christ will arrive in glory for the second time.

Abstract illustration

A dispensationalistic representation of salvation history can take place in “manifestations of the kingdom of God”. The criterion for such a representation is where the King , Jesus Christ as Messiah of the Kingdom of God, is:

  1. in the Old Testament: here, according to Christian interpretation, the king is only promised
  2. in the Gospels: the King is present in the person of Jesus Christ
  3. In the church time: the king is represented in the community of believers by the Holy Spirit
  4. in the 1000-year kingdom : the king is on earth in the person of the returned Jesus Christ
  5. in the newly created kingdom of God: the constant presence of the king face to face


  • Jörg Frey, Stefan Krauter, Hermann Lichtenberger (eds.): Salvation and history. The historical relevance of salvation and the problem of salvation history in the biblical tradition and in theological interpretation (= Scientific investigations on the New Testament, vol. 248). Mohr Siebeck, Tübingen 2009.
  • Günter Lanczkowski u. a .: history / historiography / philosophy of history . In: Theologische Realenzyklopädie , Vol. 12, pp. 565-698.
  • Alfons Weiser among others: Salvation history . In: Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche , 3rd edition, Vol. 4, Sp. 1336-1344
  • Karl Löwith: World history and salvation events: the theological requirements of the philosophy of history

Web links

  • Gottfried Hagen: Heilsgeschichte , in: Ralf Elger / Friederike Stolleis (eds.): Kleines Islam-Lexikon . History - everyday life - culture, Beck, Munich 2001 / licensed edition of the Federal Agency for Civic Education , Bonn 2002, online version


  1. ^ A b Karl Gerhard Steck: Evangelical Church Lexicon . Ed .: Heinz Brunotte, Otto Weber. 2nd Edition. Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen and Zurich 1962, Heilsgeschichte, p. 87-88 : "Salvation history, as an independent term in the 19th century, factually rooted in the Bible and church doctrine, is itself ambiguous as a means of interpreting the divine act of revelation."
  2. ^ For example in Karl Wulff: Threatened Truth. Islam and the modern natural sciences , Munich 2010, p. 41: Islamic salvation history .
  3. ^ Hans Dühring : The Marienwerder high school. From cathedral school to high school . East German contributions from the Göttingen working group , Vol. XXX. Hölzner Verlag, Würzburg 1964, p. 113.