What does the Bible say about burial versus cremation, if anything?

I don’t expect this to be controversial but the subject has come by in my house. I can tell you that I had a preacher give a series of sermons on the importence of being buried in the traditional modern way. I thought he made some good points but that was 30 years ago. I am not sure that it is that important anymore.
Would appreciate the communities input particularly if you can support your point with scripture.

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I have been doing some thinking on this topic recently. It started when I came across these verses and it appears to indicate that our natural body is not the one which will be raised:

35 But some man will say, How are the dead raised up? and with what body do they come?

36 Thou fool, that which thou sowest is not quickened, except it die:

37 And that which thou sowest, thou sowest not that body that shall be, but bare grain, it may chance of wheat, or of some other grain:

38 But God giveth it a body as it hath pleased him, and to every seed his own body.

1 Corinthians 15:35-38

I am wondering how this jives with Christ’s bodily resurrection. Perhaps our physical bodies are changed (as indicated in verses 52-54) into something else entirely? But, the physical is the seed for this transformation? In that case, does it matter in what state our physical body is in at the time of the resurrection if it is going to undergo a change anyway? The only physical remains that are preserved after death are bones in a traditional burial. There will have to be some reconstitution of some sort, do we believe God is limited in his ability to piece a body back together, if that is in fact what happens? Can someone who has been cremated not be resurrected? What of those martyrs who were burned at the stake? Are they, then, no longer eligible for resurrection?

It seems to be a bit of a mystery. Personally, I do not think our method of “burial” is that important in regards to resurrection. Therefore, I do not believe the method of burial is that important in the big picture.

Would love to hear others thoughts.

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Maybe this is a carry over from the Jewish faith? They have very specific burial rights, how a body should be prepared etc. Cremation is never an option. It is fascinating reading if you have time.

Following the same line of thought that Joshua started, I wonder how we could explain all the many deaths in history where a body was not recovered do to fire etc.? I agree too, that this makes it sound like God is limited in His regenerative capabilities. Let’s not detract from His power for the sake of traditions that are not necessarily biblical.

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Hi @Jimmy_Sellers

I’ll just piggyback on @Joshua_Hansen’s answer. The answer is pretty direct actually, in light of the context of the verse Joshua brought up. Verse 44 states that when the natural body is buried, the spiritual body is raised. So, I wouldn’t be too worried about the burial, for it won’t be raised the same anyway. And God is not so powerless that He will fail to give us a transfigured body, because we failed to bury properly. I pity people living in countries like Japan, where it is so expensive to acquire a burial land, so their dead bodies get cremated instead.

But it will be interesting to learn any counter thoughts too from others.

Blessings

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Great questions, and some that I have wrestled with over the years as well. Ultimately, our bodies decay and turn back into dirt, whether we are cremated or buried some other way. And then they are actually used by grass or trees or whatever God has to keep His natural world going. And it’s a good thing! We would be unable to live well with all of the bodies of people who have died over the millennia stacking up left and right. :slight_smile: And I agree with @Joshua_Hansen and @RoySujanto – our bodies are not left to a powerless God. As the Creator, this is no challenge for Him in any way. There is great comfort in that! In America, as with pretty much everything else it seems, burials have become incredibly expensive and for no good reason.

Interesting question, and I will be following to learn from what others post as well.

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Hi @Cindi1, great input. Reading your statement of dead bodies stacking up left and right, reminded me of something I forgot to point out in my post earlier, so allow me to add to this thread.

What about those who died with mutilated bodies or handicapped (as in body parts missing), and those who were, using military term FUBAR, messed/fouled up beyond any recognition, in their death? Or those fire victims who was burnt to death. It will not make a difference if they were buried or cremated.

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All this talk of what to do with the skin tents after we vacate took me to church history and the catacombs. I found some interesting facts worth sharing as they do relate to the attitude towards the dead…

Being mostly of Jewish and Oriental descent, the Roman Christians naturally followed the Oriental custom of cutting their tombs in rocks, and constructing galleries. Hence the close resemblance of the Jewish and Christian cemeteries in Rome. The ancient Greeks and Romans under the empire were in the habit of burning the corpses (crematio) for sanitary reasons, but burial in the earth (humatio), outside of the city near the public roads, or on hills, or in natural grottos, was the older custom; the rich had their own sepulchres (sepulcra)

Schaff, P., & Schaff, D. S. (1910). History of the Christian church (Vol. 2, pp. 290–291). New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons.

After Constantine, when the temporal condition of the Christians improved, and they could bury their dead without any disturbance in the open air, the cemeteries were located above ground, especially above the catacombs, and around the basilicas; or on other land purchased or donated for the purpose.

Schaff, P., & Schaff, D. S. (1910). History of the Christian church (Vol. 2, p. 291). New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons.

Another prominent feature of the catacombs is their hopeful and joyful eschatology. They proclaim in symbols and words a certain conviction of the immortality of the soul and the resurrection of the body, rooted and grounded in a living union with Christ in this world. These glorious hopes comforted and strengthened the early Christians in a time of poverty, trial, and persecution. This character stands in striking contrast with the preceding and contemporary gloom of paganism, for which the future world was a blank, and with the succeeding gloom of the mediæval eschatology which presented the future world to the most serious Christians as a continuation of penal sufferings. This is the chief, we may say, the only doctrinal, lesson of the catacombs.

Schaff, P., & Schaff, D. S. (1910). History of the Christian church (Vol. 2, p. 309). New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons.

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One alternative that I don’t think has been brought up yet is the ossuary. During the Second Temple period (the time during which Jesus lived), this was a very common approach to burial for the Jews. Essentially, the body would first be laid on a burial bed in a tomb and left for a few years to let the flesh decompose; the bones would then be gathered up and placed in a niche of the tomb or a box known as an ossuary. The practice remained popular with the Eastern Orthodox Church, and has also been practiced among Catholics. Sometimes, whole buildings, known as charnel houses, were used as ossuaries. In some cases, the bones have been used to make rather elaborate decorative displays (look up the Sedlec Ossuary).

Historically, the Church tended to prefer burial based on it’s understanding that our bodies are temples to the Holy Spirit that will be resurrected (though burning might be employed if there were a large number of bodies that needed to be disposed of quickly); real opposition to cremation was largely the result of its endorsement by classicists and rationalists, who consciously utilized cremation out of rejection of the doctrine of the resurrection. Personally, though, I wouldn’t worry about cremation in the absence of such motives. Our bodies, like Christ’s body, will be resurrected in glory when Christ returns and brings about the New Heavens and New Earth, and given that the loss and recycling of at least some of the body’s material is inevitable, I don’t see that it’s necessary to keep the body as preserved as possible to ensure its resurrection. God formed us from the dust, returns us to dust, and is just as capable of resurrecting us from dust. If we avoid cremation on the basis that it is pagan in origin, I daresay that we would need to do the same with embalming, since it was part of Egyptian funeral rites.

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Well written, Micah. The other opposition I heard was that in Scripture, at least in the OT, witches were burned. I think it is quite a leap to say that it was a curse to be burned. I believe witches/mediums were burned alive, as were others who sinned in Scripture, (Numbers 11; Joshua 7, etc.) but nowhere that I have read and remember does it spiritually condemn anyone who is burned to death or after death just for that manner of death or disposal.