Should Christians prefer cremation over the traditional funeral that involves burial plots and caskets? Does the Bible forbid cremation? Here we’ll discuss this topic in detail to help you find correct answers.
Cremation is a procedure in which the body of the deceased is placed in a chamber with intense fire. The fire transforms the body into ashes/bone fragments, which are transferred to a specialized processor to turn them into fine powder.
Then, these cremated remains are placed in a cremation urn and returned to the family. This practice is becoming increasingly popular and the rate of cremation is expected to exceed 50 percent by the year 2035 in the United States, according to the National Funeral Directors Association.
However, many people show concerns about the legitimacy of the cremation process. That’s why we have come up with this guide that contains everything you need to know about what the Bible says about cremation.
Cremation In The Bible
Surprisingly, the Bible doesn’t contain anything specific about cremation. While there are no particular directions, you will find some instances in the book that mention the cremation process.
During biblical times, people used to follow a proper burial procedure for the body of the deceased, as it’s evident in the Bible. In most cases, people used to bury their loved ones in tombs and caves.
Cremation In The Old Testament
You will find words, like “ashes to ashes and dust to dust” in the first book of the Bible, Genesis. Many people consider these words as biblical license and believe that it allows them to burn the dead body of the deceased instead of burying it in the ground.
However, some people believe that the true meaning of these words is that the body of every person will turn into dust and ashes after death.
“1 Samuel 31: 11-13” is the very first mention of the cremation procedure in the Bible. It’s about the battle in which the Philistines defeated Saul and his sons and inflicted terrible ravages on their bodies.
When Jabesh-Gilead got the news about the battle, all the valiant men stood up and collected the bodies of Saul and his sons from the Beth-Shan wall.
They took the bodies to Jabesh where they burned them and buried the bone fragments under the tamarisk tree. It’s believed that their bodies were burned because of sanitary reasons instead of religious ones.
The Old Testament also contains another passage that explains how the cremation act desecrated the altar. It’s mentioned in “2 Kings 23:16-20” that Josiah collected the bones from the tomb and took them to the altar. Then he burned the bones and defiled the altar as well.
It’s important to note that the Bible doesn’t mention that you can’t cremate the deceased. Additionally, there are also no judgments associated with people who have been cremated.
Cremation In The New Testament
Just like the Old Testament, the New Testament doesn’t contain any verses regarding cremation either.
However, some verses talk about how the bodies of all humans will be resurrected at the end of time and how this process will change the mortal bodies to reunite them with the spirits they belong to.
It means that the Holy book doesn’t promote or ban cremation. Therefore, many Christians believe that it’s not sinful.
Cremation In King James Bible Version
There are many references to cremation in the King James Bible version as well. One of the most popular is mentioned in Genesis 3:19.
“In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.”
The easiest translation of this passage is, “ashes to ashes, dust to dust.”
This passage basically explains the cyclic nature of the human or any other life. It says that God created life from the earth, and all will return to it after death.
Many people who prefer cremation use this passage as their base. They find comfort in knowing that the cremation process will turn the body of their loved one into “ashes” and “dust” and help it become a part of the natural cycle of life.
The following is another reference in the King James Bible version mentioned in Corinthians.
In “1 Corinthians 13:3”, Paul, an apostle, writes the following:
“And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.”
It’s important to note the cremation process isn’t frowned upon in this passage. It simply focuses on the way the human body is treated after death. The passage also explains that the only thing that matters after death is what good deeds you performed during your lifetime.
The Catholic Church And Cremation
The Catholic church banned the burning of dead bodies for Catholics for much of its history to counter Roman pagan beliefs. However, the church approved cremation in 1963 and allowed people to use this procedure.
In 1997, the church also allowed people to use the cremated remains in funeral services. Today, the Catholic church believes that the human body is a holy temple. At the end of time, the soul of each person will rise even if the body is cremated.
Is Cremation A Sin?
As mentioned above, there isn’t any explicit scriptural command that goes against cremation. Although there are verses that see the cremation process as a necessity but only in dire times, the entire book doesn’t have a single passage that condemns it directly.
Many Christians are concerned about this practice as they wonder whether or not their bodies will be resurrected and turned into spiritual bodies when Jesus Christ returns.
But since the first centuries, most bodies buried in the ground have already become dust. God has the power to resurrect the entire world and can transform the dust and ashes into a spiritual body.
While the Church still advised people to follow the pious custom to bury dead bodies, it has now allowed people to opt for cremation. It doesn’t consider this practice contrary to the Christian doctrine. Therefore, it can be used as an alternative to normal burial practices, and it’s not a sin.
Why Choose Cremation?
You can consider cremation for your loved one who has passed away as it offers many benefits over the traditional burial process. We have listed some of the most important ones down below:
One of the biggest advantages of cremation is its affordability. If you have even conducted a traditional funeral, you would already know that it can cost a whole lot of money as it involves the following:
- Embalming or public viewing of the body
- Rent for the facilities for the public viewing and visitation
- A burial vault and casket
- A crypt or a burial plot
- A grave liner and headstone
You can avoid all these expenses by opting for the cremation process. It doesn’t usually involve embalming, and you’ll only need to buy an urn, which is a lot cheaper than a casket.
Our society has become transient, which means more and more people are now living (and dying) away from their homes. So, you’ll also need to pay for the transportation.
But direct cremation, where the body will be turned into ashes at the place of death, can help avoid this. Then, it’ll be easy and cheap to transport the remains back home.
Simplicity And Time-Saving
Planning a traditional burial can be extremely stressful, and you’ll need to go through all of that while having the big burden of losing your loved one.
Cremation provides family and friends of the deceased with time to make correct decisions to plant and attend funeral services easily.
If the deceased was concerned about the environment, you can honor them by opting for the cremation process. It doesn’t involve the chemicals used in embalming that can damage the environment and also uses fewer land resources.
Where Does the Bible Talk about Cremation?
The Bible talks about cremation in several places such as “1 Samuel 31: 11-13”, “2 Kings 23:16-20”, “Genesis 3:19”, and “1 Corinthians 13:3”. The cremation process isn’t frowned upon in any of these references, and there are no verses in the entire book that condemn it.
Is It against Christianity To Cremate?
No, it’s not against the Christian doctrine to cremate the deceased. While the church still advises people to follow normal burial practices, it allows them to cremate their loved ones and considers it a dignified process.
God is omnipotent and has the power to resurrect human bodies from ashes and dust. So, all human bodies will be resurrected at the end of time whether they were buried or cremated.
We hope this guide helped you understand what the Bible says about cremation to decide whether or not it’s the right option for your loved one.