Cremation or burial, what does the Bible say ?
Over the years, cremation has risen in popularity, with about a third of the United States choosing to be burned after death rather than buried.
It may come as no surprise that the more liberal-minded states in the North choose cremation more than the more conservative-minded South. It eventually boils down to a religious issue. But what does the Bible say about cremation?
First, a little history. Cremation was one of the earliest forms of disposing of a body, but burial was equally popular. You know of course that mummies existed in ancient Egypt and China and in ancient Israel sepulchers (tombs or vaults) were used for burying bodies.
The early Christian church outright rejected cremation because to them, it was too closely associated with the Pagan practices of Greece and Rome. So, Christians buried their dead in catacombs. In fact, when Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire, burial was the only permitted form of body disposal allowed throughout Europe.
But what does the Bible actually say? First, the Old Testament is rife with cremations, but only of God’s enemies or as a way to punish people, if they became a prositute, for example. But nothing outright condemns cremation, either. That’s right – no where in the Bible does it say that cremation is a sin.
However, the Bible does say plenty about burial. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Joshua, John the Baptist and even Jesus were buried (of course, Jesus rose from the dead, so that one may not count.) To be denied a proper burial was considered a great tragedy and dishonor, and it was used as threat or punishment, as you can read in 1 Kings 13:22 or Jeremiah 16:6.
But otherwise, the Bible really doesn’t tell us if cremation is wrong or right. Cremation has a few benefits, such as being more economical so that survivors are left with more money and don’t need to worry about perpetually caring for tombstones or gravesites. It also benefits people who prefer not to have their body decay slowly over time (to turn to dust) and prefer a direct route to ashes in the afterlife. Either way, your body will end up in the same state. At least with cremation, your ashes can be spread somewhere of personal significance to you.
The final word is that most modern Christian groups now take a neutral stance on cremation. In the end, it’s all up to you.
About the author: Luke Aaron Miller works at a Catholic church in Florida and went to Oral Roberts University in Tulsa. He also maintains the website Comcast Tallahassee.