What does the Bible
say about cremation?

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QUESTION:  What does the Bible say about cremation?

ANSWER:  Before we see what the Bible says about this topic, let us first get a dictionary definition. Cremation is the act of reducing a dead body to ashes or consuming it with fire. God's word does not have anything directly to say about the issue and, in general, on how to handle a dead body. It does, however, does give some examples of the burning of dead bodies. At the very least, there certainly does not seem to be any text that directly condemns the practice.

It should be noted, however, that some believers are against cremation. They believe that the burning of a dead human is a pagan ritual that disrespects the body God gives to each human being. While this Web site respects the consciences of fellow believers regarding this issue, it offers this short article as something to consider.

The Greeks were known to practice cremation. People in the Near East who also practiced this means of disposing of a dead body were the Hittites and the Mitanni. The practice of the patriarchs was not cremation but burial, such as Jacob's burial with his ancestors in a cave that his grandfather Abraham had bought (Genesis 49:29 - 33). The burial of Jesus' body, wrapped with aromatic spices, took place in a tomb after His crucifixion (Luke 23:52 - 56; John 19:38 - 42).

Interestingly, if a person accepted the Nazarite vow, that person was forbidden to touch any dead body, even one of a close family member (Numbers 6:6 - 7).

The word of God does give a few examples where bodies were burned after death. The children of Israel, under the leadership of Joshua, convicted a man name Achan of a grievous sin against God. Their punishment was to stone him to death then to burn his body completely (Joshua 7).

After the Philistines killed King Saul, Israel's first human king, and his sons in battle, they took their bodies and nailed them to the wall of Bethshan. Valiant men of Jabeshgilead heard what happened, retrieved the bodies off the wall, then burned them (1Samuel 31:11 - 12).

King Josiah of Israel, after executing several pagan priests who served at the altars of false gods, had their bodies burned (2Kings 23:19 - 20). This act was a fulfillment of a prophecy given by God through a prophet of Judah (1Kings 13:2).

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The Apostle Paul made a statement that implies that to offer one's body to be burned, like a cremation, is not sinful but actually highly self-sacrificing (1Corinthians 13:3). In the end, the burning of a body turns it to dust just as burial does. God is powerful enough to resurrect a person when He chooses and how He chooses regardless of where their physical remains are located (see Ezekiel 37:1 - 14).

The Bible does not concern itself on the handling of our dead bodies whether by cremation or other means. It rather focuses on the life we lead when are bodies are ALIVE. In conclusion, each Christian must make any decisions involving the disposal of a loved one's body, or their own, based on prayerful consultation with the God of us all. I hope this short article offers some things to consider.

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