Is cremation Biblical? Are there any Scriptures about cremation?
Well this is one of those subjects that the Bible does not clearly define and yet you will find MANY of our brethren who insist the answer is PLAIN and CLEAR for all those who seek the truth as they do.
I never cease to be amazed at how dogmatic we are towards each other about things that God Himself is not dogmatic about.
So I will attempt to point out what the Bible implies about the subject (in no particular order), and refute a couple of poor arguments. I pray you will ask God for wisdom (James 1.5) on the matter:
- Cremation, while practiced in Biblical times, was not commonly practiced among Israelites. It was considered historically to be a “pagan” practice.
- Some Christians believe that the destruction of the body will hinder the bodily resurrection that will occur (1Cor 15:35-58; 1Thes 4:16) which is hard to justify because you have a whole lot of bodies that are destroyed against their will. As well, given enough time, each and every body decomposes to dust (Gen. 3.19).
Holding to this idea that “a body must exist” limits God’s power tying His ability to the existence of a “body”. So while there may be other arguments against cremation, this one just doesn’t stand up (pun intended).
Cremation is nothing more than an accelerated “return to dust” when it gets down to it.
- There is no Scriptural prohibition against cremation, particularly in the New Testament for New Covenant Christians.
- There are plenty of examples in the Bible, as well as in secular history of God’s people burying their dead, not cremating:
- “And thou shalt go to thy fathers in peace; thou shalt be buried in a good old age” (Genesis 15:15)
- Abraham buried Sarah (Genesis 23:19)
- Abraham was buried (Genesis 25:9,10) as well as Rachel, Leah, Isaac, Rebekah, Jacob, Miriam, Aaron, Joshua, Gideon, Samson, Samuel, David, Solomon, Elisha, and many others.
- Joseph was buried – “So Joseph died, being an hundred and ten years old: and they embalmed him, and he was put in a coffin in Egypt.” (Genesis 50:26).
- God buried Moses (Deuteronomy 34:5,6).
- John the Baptist was buried (Matthew 27:58-60) although if you hold to the “resurrected body” argument, his missing head could be a problem! (John 19:38-41)
- Verses such as these probably make the best support for burial over cremation
- A verse in Amos is often used to support a prohibition against cremation: “Thus saith the Lord; for three transgressions of Moab, and for four, I will not turn away the punishment thereof: because he burned the bones of the king of Edom into lime.” (Amos 2:1)
But reading in historical, the context shows that God’s displeasure was over the disrespect and descretion of the Moabites was the cause of God’s anger (by digging up the Edomite dead, specifically royal graves, and burning them in contempt) – not a violation of a prohibition concerning cremation.
- This verse is also used as an example that God opposes cremation:
Ecclesiastes 6:3 If a man begets a hundred children and lives many years, so that the days of his years are many, but his soul is not satisfied with goodness, or indeed he has no burial, I say that a stillborn child is better than he— (NKJV)
This is supposedly a CLEAR reference against cremation because “no burial” was worse than being stillborn.
However, this is a case of gross prooftexting, and horrible Biblical interpretation. In context of the Scripture, the Teacher (Solomon) is proclaiming that to DIE ALONE after living a selfish or destructive life, is worse than ever having been born and has nothing to do with stating God’s opinion on cremation OR burial rites.
- Another unfortunate butchering of Scripture concerns Matthew 27.53 where it says after Christ’s crucifixion bodies of the saints “came out of the graves” (Matthew 27:53). This supposedly “proves” that whan the BODY is resurrected to glory, a bodily remains (or a “place” where they were laid) is required. Too bad for all the poor Christian martyrs who sealed their faith chained to a stake and burned to ashes. I guess they just lose out on the resurrection (according to this logic).
It amazes me the amount of ridiculous prooftexting that is used to prove an already predetermined opinion!
My personal opinion, worthless as it is, is the dead body that returns to the dust of this sin cursed world is irrelevant in all aspects to the resurrection. All things will be made new (Rev 21), including our bodies and the earth, and the “former” will be gone forever.
However the burial (or cremation) of the dead is handled, is a matter of personal choice, clear conscience and respect. God has left us with liberty in this area.
(another refusal on my part to be dogmatic where Scripture is not; let the beatings begin….)