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Bible Dictionaries

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament

Burnt-Offering

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BURNT-OFFERING is a word of rare occurrence in NT (Mark 12:33, Hebrews 10:6; Hebrews 10:8). This is probably due to the fact that the more generic word for sacrifice (θυσία) is commonly used, since the distinctions of the Old Covenant, which was vanishing away, did not require to be perpetuated in the NT Canon. It is probable, however, from the train of thought, that in some instances the sacrifice which was prominently before the mind of the writer was the burnt-offering (Romans 12:1). And though not named, it is latent in certain passages (see below). It is known in the OT as the עֹלָה ‘ôlâh: more rarely and partly in poetical passages as the בָלִיל; in Psalms 51:19 both terms are used. The most common LXX Septuagint rendering is ὀλακαύτωμα, and in this form it appears in the NT. The ‘ôlâh is connected with a root meaning ‘to ascend,’ the idea being, probably, that the essence of the sacrifice ascended to heaven in the smoke; kâlîl, with a root meaning ‘to be complete,’ an idea reproduced in the LXX Septuagint translation. Details of the rite may be found in Leviticus 6:8-13; Leviticus 8:18-21. Unlike most sacrifices, it was to be wholly burnt (Leviticus 1:8), the skin only falling to the priest as his perquisite.

The burnt-offering was the principal sacrifice of the Mosaic dispensation, and continued as such till the destruction of the Temple by Titus. It was offered, the victim being a male yearling sheep, every morning and evening (Exodus 29:38-42); hence its Mishnic name tâmîd, the perpetual offering. In addition, on Sabbaths, new moons, the first day of the seventh month, the three great feasts, and the Day of Atonement, other victims were offered (Numbers 28 f.). Burnt-offering was associated with other sacrifices (Leviticus 9:3-4; Leviticus 15:15), could be offered for individuals, even Gentiles, and even for the Roman emperor (Josephus Wars, ii. xvii. 2). The altar stood in the court of the priests in front of (eastward of) the Temple building. The offering was made publicly, in the presence not merely of the large group of ministering priests, but also of ‘the men of station,’ representatives of what may be called the Jewish laity.

Although the word is nowhere recorded as being spoken by Christ, and only once as spoken to Him, it must be remembered that His connexion with burnt-offering was, of necessity, more intimate than the mere occurrence of the word suggests. As a Jew, acquainted with the OT, He could not have been unacquainted with the Pentateuchal legislation on this point; nor is it conceivable that as a visitor to the Temple He failed to be a witness of this rite. The altar on which burnt-offering was offered, from its great size, its frequent use, and its standing visibly in the court of the priests, was emphatically ‘the altar,’ and it was before this that He directed the offending brother to leave his gift (Matthew 5:23). At the Presentation in the Temple (Luke 2:24, cf. Leviticus 12:6-8) the second of the turtle doves was intended for a burnt-offering (the other bird forming the usual sin-offering at such a time); it was the offering of the poor, and the ritual is described in Leviticus 1:15-17. The Temple tax to which He contributed was in part used for the provision of burnt-offerings (Matthew 17:24).

The two occasions on which, in NT, the burnt-offering is referred to, emphasize the imperfect and transitory character of the OT sacrificial system, and the spiritual, perfect, and abiding character of that which superseded it. In Mark 12:33 the scribe inferred from our Lord’s teaching as to the first commandment, that to love God with all the heart and one’s neighbour as oneself was ‘much more than all whole burnt-offerings and sacrifices,’ and was for this commended as ‘not far from the kingdom of God.’ In Hebrews 10:6; Hebrews 10:8, where only besides the word occurs, while the writer dwells on many points of the Temple, its furniture, and its service, he fails to apply the burnt-offering very closely to the redeeming work of Christ. But he quotes Psalms 40:6 as declaring that the Divine pleasure lies not in ‘victim and Minhah’ (Delitzsch, in loc.), and infers the superiority of Christ’s obedience to any expiatory sacrifice (sin-offering) or dedicatory sacrifice (burnt-offering) presented by means of an animal victim. His obedience is the burnt-offering that has enduring value and needs no repetition.

Literature.—Articles on ‘Burnt-offering’ and ‘Sacrifice’ in Bible Dictionaries of Hastings, Smith, and Encyc. Bibl.; Bible Archœology of Keil, Nowack; Kurtz, Sacrificial System of OT; OT Theology of Schultz, Oehler; Cave, Scriptural Doctrine of Sacrifice; Edersheim, The Temple: its Ministry, etc.; Girdle-stone, Synonyms of OT; Schürer, HJP [Note: JP History of the Jewish People.] ii. i. 278 ff.

J. T. L. Maggs.

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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Burnt-Offering'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/eng/hdn/b/burnt-offering.html. 1906-1918.

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