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SACRIFICE, OLD TESTAMENT

As described in the books of the Old Law, sacrifice essentially meant honoring God by offering him some of the creatures that are precious to human beings, in acknowledgment of God's sovereignty and human dependence on the Creator. Two kinds of sacrifice are recognized and required of humanity, the bloody and the unbloody. Four kinds of bloody sacrifices are described: 1. holocaust was the most perfect, also called the whole-burnt offering; the animal or other object was completely consumed by fire, and as the "perpetual sacrifice" it was offered twice daily, morning and evening; 2. sin offering was to expiate misdeeds committed through ignorance or inadvertence; the kind of victim depended mainly on the dignity of the person offended; 3. guilt offering was especially prescribed for sins demanding restitution; 4. peace offerings were either in gratitude or in fulfillment of a vow, or simply voluntary; part of the ceremony of this kind of sacrifice was that part of what was offered was returned to the one offering, to be eaten in a sacrificial meal.

Unbloody sacrifices were really oblations and, with the exception of incense, were offerings of articles of solid or liquid food. These food offerings accompanied every holocaust and peace offering, but never sacrifice for sin or guilt, except at the cleansing of a leper.

All items in this dictionary are from Fr. John Hardon's Modern Catholic Dictionary, © Eternal Life. Used with permission.

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