Dear Pastor, I have read where you have said, “The only true holocaust is the death of Jesus Christ on the Cross. Any other use of the word is sacrilegious.” Now, Pastor according to my dictionary the word holocaust means, “destruction or slaughter on a mass scale” Granted, the Crucifixion was death and destruction at its most massive (as well as a part of victory on its grandest scale). But are you really proposing that it is sacrilege to acknowledge that there was ever any other instance of slaughter on a mass scale? Marcia Whittum Woodward
Dear Marcia, Thank you for a very good question. In Leviticus 4:7 we read,
7And the priest shall put some of the blood on the horns of the altar of fragrant incense before the LORD that is in the tent of meeting, and all the rest of the blood of the bull he shall pour out at the base of the altar of burnt offering that is at the entrance of the tent of meeting.
What is being taught here and what is taught throughout the Old Testament is that there was to be no approach to God but by way of Atonement. The claim of the altar had to be met first before God could be approached. The offering required that was to be given had to be given totally to God. The ancient term for this offering, much used in earlier centuries is “holocaust.” Indeed, that word was used by the ancients because in earlier translations of the Bible it was referred to as the “Holocaust offering.” Today our Bibles typically translate it as “burnt offering.” It is a offering wholly given to God and setting forth full devotedness. The only true holocaust thus, is the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ on the cross. Paul, in Ephesians 5:1-2 refers to Jesus Christ as a wholly given offering – a holocaust offering – on our behalf.
[verse] Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. 2And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. [/verse]
Paul’s phrase here in Ephesians 5 for the offering of Jesus Christ is the same as the Greek word used in the Septuagint for Leviticus 1:9 where we find the world “holocaust.” Since the word originally had to do with sacrifice and offering and was used in the context of worship and specifically is associated with the death of the Lord Christ on the Cross I would say that any other use of the word “holocaust” demeans that word’s original meaning and is a move to try to compare matters which can not be compared. The death of any people group in no way compares to the death of Christ on the cross and because that is true the use of the word “holocaust” to describe anything but the offering of Christ ends up diminishing the work of Jesus Christ by suggesting that others have experienced what He alone could and did experience. Let the word “genocide” be used instead of “holocaust.” “Holocaust” belongs to Christianity and the cross. One wonders if the translators changed the translation in order to be sensitive to the Jews, but I would contend that sensitivity to the Jews on this issue means that their sensitivities are being prioritized over the nature of reality. The reality is that Jesus Christ is the holocaust offering and no other holocaust can remotely compare to the holocaust offering of the Lord Christ. The Jews have for some time insisted that they themselves, as Israel, are the “suffering servant” of Isaiah 53. By yielding the word “holocaust” to the Jews to describe their suffering they advance their idolatrous status seeking and make themselves their own Messiah. Jesus Christ alone was our holocaust offering.