(Greek: kolos, whole; kaustos, burnt)
An offering entirely consumed by fire, in use among the Jews and some pagan nations of antiquity.
Only animals could be offered in holocaust, which was regarded as the highest and most complete expression of man's reverence to God.
There were two general kinds, according as to whether the offering was prescribed by the Law or the result of a private vow or devotion.
The chief purpose of the holocaust was
- to recall vividly to the Hebrews of old the supreme dominion of God over His creatures;
- a means of atonement for sin; and
- to foreshadow the sacrifice which Jesus Christ, the true Lamb of God, was to offer in fulfilment of all the bloody sacrifices of the first covenant (Hebrews 9).
New Catholic Dictionary