Sunday, March 31, 2024

What Does the Bible Say About Cremation?

By Bob Prichard

    Cremation refers to disposing of the body of the deceased by burning to ashes. In ancient times, it involved either burning the whole body, or the burning of all but the bones, which were then buried. Cremation was practiced by the Greeks and Romans, but rarely by the Hebrews and early Christians. Achan was burned because of his sin (Joshua 7:25). The bodies of King Saul and his sons were burned, apparently to prevent the Philistines from molesting the bodies. Their bones were then buried (1 Samuel 31:11-13). The Jews buried or placed the body in a sepulchre, believing in the resurrection of the body. From a practical standpoint, fuel for cremation was scarce, while caves for burial were plentiful. The worst of indignities was for the body to be exposed and not receive proper burial.
    Man was formed of the dust of the earth (Genesis 2:7), and as soon as he dies, his body begins to return to dust. The Egyptians embalmed the body (the Hebrews did not) in attempts to prevent the natural decay. Modern embalming, caskets, vaults, etc. also slow this decay, but do not prevent it. Cremation hastens that return to the elements which happens naturally upon burial. The human body is described as the “temple of the Holy Spirit” (1 Corinthians 6:19), and must be treated with dignity in life and in death. Some feel that cremation is disrespectful, but it is not clear that cremation is any more disrespectful to the body than are embalming and burial. In either case, a memorial service may be held, and the remains my be interred respectfully. Cremation is frequently chosen today because of the lower expense, and the lack of burial places in some large urban areas.
    Cremation raises questions relating to resurrection of the body. The “resurrection body” will be like our natural body in some ways, but in some ways different. “It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption:  It is sown in dishonour; it is raised in glory: it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power: It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body” (1 Corinthians 15:42-44). Since the natural body is a corruptible body, it really makes no difference (so far as the incorruptible resurrection body is concerned), whether the body is buried, cremated, or eaten by a wild animal. God will certainly give His children the new resurrection bodies they need.
    Cremation may be used to escape the reality of death, or may be more traumatic to the family. Viewing the body and the traditional funeral service are often helpful to the family as they deal with grief. What the family believes is best should be chosen, maintaining respect for the body.

No comments:

Post a Comment