What does the Bible say about cremation? Can Christians be cremated? While I wouldn’t say cremation is a sin, there are good reasons Christians should choose burial over cremation.
Table of contents
- Nine Reasons the Bible Implies Christians Should Choose Burial Over Cremation
- First, cremation was the practice of pagans
- Second, burial was the practice of God’s people in the Old Testament
- Third, burial is presented as a reward in the Old Testament
- Fourth, reject cremation because the Old Testament presents burning bodies negatively
- Fifth, lack of burial was a common punishment in the Old Testament
- Sixth, the New Testament speaks positively of Old Testament burials
- Seventh, God’s people practiced burial in the New Testament
- Eighth, reject cremation because “Ashes to ashes” isn’t in Scripture
- Ninth, burial is at the center of the Gospel
I’ve been asked whether Christians can practice cremation. While many practices are not explicitly forbidden, the Bible gives us enough information to help us make the best decision.
Nine Reasons the Bible Implies Christians Should Choose Burial Over Cremation
First, cremation was the practice of pagans
Cremation began as early as 3000BC, making it a common practice around the nation of Israel in the Old Testament. Rome embraced cremation around 600BC, making it a common practice around the church in the New Testament. But we never see cremation practiced by God’s people in the Old or New Testaments even though they had great familiarity with it.
When something is common among pagans and heathens, but never God’s people, this alone should be instructive.
Second, burial was the practice of God’s people in the Old Testament
For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.2 Corinthians 5:1
Paul describes our bodies as tents that are vacated upon death and then destroyed over time. Some read this and say, “So whatever happens to our bodies is irrelevant!” The problem with this thinking is two-fold.
- God has a future plan to resurrect our earthly bodies (1 Corinthians 15:35-38, 1 Thes 4:16).
- Godly people in the Old Testament should serve as examples for us (1 Corinthians 10:6, 11; Romans 15:4) and some of them sought to be buried…
Twice Jacob asked to be buried:
- Genesis 47:29-30 When the time drew near that Israel must die, he called his son Joseph and said to him, “Now if I have found favor in your sight, please put your hand under my thigh, and deal kindly and truly with me. Please do not bury me in Egypt, but let me lie with my fathers; you shall carry me out of Egypt and bury me in their burial place.” And he said, “I will do as you have said.”
- Genesis 49:29-31 [Jacob] charged [his sons] and said to them: “I am to be gathered to my people; bury me with my fathers in the cave that is in the field of Ephron the Hittite, in the cave that is in the field of Machpelah, which is before Mamre in the land of Canaan, which Abraham bought with the field of Ephron the Hittite as a possession for a burial place. There they buried Abraham and Sarah his wife, there they buried Isaac and Rebekah his wife, and there I buried Leah.
Joseph sought to see his father and his own remains buried:
- Genesis 50:4-5 Now when the days of his mourning were past, Joseph spoke to the household of Pharaoh, saying, “If now I have found favor in your eyes, please speak in the hearing of Pharaoh, saying, ‘My father made me swear, saying, “Behold, I am dying; in my grave which I dug for myself in the land of Canaan, there you shall bury me.” Now therefore, please let me go up and bury my father, and I will come back.’”
- Genesis 50:25 Then Joseph took an oath from the children of Israel, saying, “God will surely visit you, and you shall carry up my bones from here.”
Joseph’s burial was so important the fulfillment of it is recorded twice:
- Exodus 13:19 And Moses took the bones of Joseph with him, for he had placed the children of Israel under solemn oath, saying, “God will surely visit you, and you shall carry up my bones from here with you.”
- Joshua 24:32 The bones of Joseph, which the children of Israel had brought up out of Egypt, they buried at Shechem, in the plot of ground which Jacob had bought from the sons of Hamor the father of Shechem for one hundred pieces of silver, and which had become an inheritance of the children of Joseph.
Third, burial is presented as a reward in the Old Testament
Godly people were honored with burials, sometimes even extravagant ones:
- Genesis 23:19 And after this, Abraham buried Sarah his wife in the cave of the field of Machpelah, before Mamre (that is, Hebron) in the land of Canaan.
- Genesis 35:19 So Rachel died and was buried on the way to Ephrath (that is, Bethlehem).
- When Joseph buried Jacob, he took his brothers, their families, and even Pharaoh’s officials: Genesis 50:6-9 And Pharaoh said, “Go up and bury your father, as he made you swear.” So Joseph went up to bury his father; and with him went up all the servants of Pharaoh, the elders of his house, and all the elders of the land of Egypt, as well as all the house of Joseph, his brothers, and his father’s house. Only their little ones, their flocks, and their herds they left in the land of Goshen. And there went up with him both chariots and horsemen, and it was a very great gathering.
- 1 Kings 14:13 And all Israel shall mourn for [Jeroboam’s son] and bury him, for he is the only one of Jeroboam who shall come to the grave, because in him there is found something good toward the Lord God of Israel in the house of Jeroboam.
- 2 Chronicles 16:14 They buried [Asa] in his own tomb, which he had made for himself in the City of David; and they laid him in the bed which was filled with spices and various ingredients prepared in a mixture of ointments. They made a very great burning for him.
- 2 Chronicles 32:33 Hezekiah rested with his ancestors and was buried on the hill where the tombs of David’s descendants are. All Judah and the people of Jerusalem honored him when he died.
Fourth, reject cremation because the Old Testament presents burning bodies negatively
In the Old Testament cremation was a punishment for sin:
- Leviticus 20:14 If a man marries a woman and her mother, it is wickedness. They shall be burned with fire, both he and they, that there may be no wickedness among you.
- Leviticus 21:9 If a priest’s daughter defiles herself by becoming a prostitute, she disgraces her father; she must be burned in the fire.
- Even though Judah was acting hypocritically when he learned Tamar “played the harlot,” in Genesis 38:24b he said, “Bring her out and let her be burned!”
- Following Achen’s sin he and his family were cremated: Joshua 7:25 And Joshua said, “Why have you troubled us? The Lord will trouble you this day.” So all Israel stoned him with stones; and they burned them with fire after they had stoned them with stones.
Zimri was an evil king of the northern kingdom of Israel, and it’s hard to find anything from his life worth emulating, including his death:
When Zimri saw that the city was taken, that he went into the citadel of the king’s house and burned the king’s house down upon himself with fire, and died.1 Kings 16;18
King Josiah was one of the godliest kings in the Old Testament and he made two contrasting decisions that can be informative. First, the burning of human bones on an altar desecrated it. Second, the remains of a man of God were to be left buried:
As Josiah turned, he saw the tombs that were there on the mountain. And he sent and took the bones out of the tombs and burned them on the altar, and defiled it according to the word of the Lord which the man of God proclaimed, who proclaimed these words. Then he said, “What gravestone is this that I see?”
So the men of the city told him, “It is the tomb of the man of God who came from Judah and proclaimed these things which you have done against the altar of Bethel.”
And he said, “Let him alone; let no one move his bones.” So they let his bones alone, with the bones of the prophet who came from Samaria.
Now Josiah also took away all the shrines of the high places that were in the cities of Samaria, which the kings of Israel had made to provoke the Lord to anger; and he did to them according to all the deeds he had done in Bethel. He executed all the priests of the high places who were there, on the altars, and burned men’s bones on them; and he returned to Jerusalem.2 Kings 23:16-20
Fifth, lack of burial was a common punishment in the Old Testament
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.Ecclesiastes 6:3
A poor burial (or worse no burial) was a common punishment for evil people:
- Psalm 79:3 Their blood they have shed like water all around Jerusalem,
And there was no one to bury
- Isaiah 5:25 Therefore the anger of the Lord is aroused against His people;
He has stretched out His hand against them
And stricken them,
And the hills trembled.
Their carcasses were as refuse in the midst of the streets.
- 2 Kings 9:10 The dogs shall eat Jezebel on the plot of ground at Jezreel, and there shall be none to bury.
- 2 Chronicles 21:20 [Jehoram] was thirty-two years old when he became king. He reigned in Jerusalem eight years and, to no one’s sorrow, departed. However they buried him in the City of David, but not in the tombs of the kings.
- 2 Chronicles 24:25 And when they had withdrawn from [Joash] (for they left him severely wounded), his own servants conspired against him because of the blood of the sons of Jehoiada the priest, and killed him on his bed. So he died. And they buried him in the City of David, but they did not bury him in the tombs of the kings.
- 2 Chronicles 28:27a So Ahaz rested with his fathers, and they buried him in the city, in Jerusalem; but they did not bring him into the tombs of the kings of Israel.
- Jeremiah 14:16 And the people to whom they prophesy shall be cast out in the streets of Jerusalem because of the famine and the sword; they will have no one to bury them—them nor their wives, their sons nor their daughters—for I will pour their wickedness on them.’
- Jeremiah 16:4, 6 “They shall die gruesome deaths; they shall not be lamented nor shall they be buried, but they shall be like refuse on the face of the earth. They shall be consumed by the sword and by famine, and their corpses shall be meat for the birds of heaven and for the beasts of the earth…Both the great and the small shall die in this land. They shall not be buried; neither shall men lament for them, cut themselves, nor make themselves bald for them.
- Jeremiah 22:19 [Jehoiakim] shall be buried with the burial of a donkey, Dragged and cast out beyond the gates of Jerusalem.
- Jeremiah 25:33 And at that day the slain of the Lord shall be from one end of the earth even to the other end of the earth. They shall not be lamented, or gathered, or buried; they shall become refuse on the ground.
- Jeremiah 36:30 Therefore thus says the Lord concerning Jehoiakim king of Judah: “He shall have no one to sit on the throne of David, and his dead body shall be cast out to the heat of the day and the frost of the night.
God punished people by removing their remains and spreading them out above ground:
“At that time,” says the Lord, “they shall bring out the bones of the kings of Judah, and the bones of its princes, and the bones of the priests, and the bones of the prophets, and the bones of the inhabitants of Jerusalem, out of their graves. They shall spread them before the sun and the moon and all the host of heaven, which they have loved and which they have served and after which they have walked, which they have sought and which they have worshiped. They shall not be gathered nor buried; they shall be like refuse on the face of the earth.Jeremiah 18:1-2
Sixth, the New Testament speaks positively of Old Testament burials
In Stephen’s speech before the religious leaders he recounted important events in Israel’s history, including even burials:
Then Joseph sent and called his father Jacob and all his relatives to him, seventy-five people. So Jacob went down to Egypt; and he died, he and our fathers. And [their bodies] were carried back to Shechem and laid in the tomb that Abraham bought for a sum of money from the sons of Hamor, the father of Shechem.Acts 17:14-16
The author of Hebrews spoke positively of Joseph desiring a burial:
By faith Joseph, when he was dying, made mention of the departure of the children of Israel, and gave instructions concerning his bones.Hebrews 11:22
Seventh, God’s people practiced burial in the New Testament
The point of the following verses isn’t to imply they command burial, but simply that they present burial as the common New Testament practice among God’s people.
- Matthew 14:12 Then his disciples came and took away [John that Baptist’s body] and buried it, and went and told Jesus.
- Three times John 11 makes mention of Lazarus being buried in a tomb:
- 17 So when Jesus came, He found that he had already been in the tomb four days.
- 31 Then the Jews who were with her in the house, and comforting her, when they saw that Mary rose up quickly and went out, followed her, saying, “She is going to the tomb to weep there.”
- 38 Then Jesus, again groaning in Himself, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it.
- Jesus saw burial as the expected treatment of a body: Matthew 8:21-22 Then another of His disciples said to Him, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.”
- But Jesus said to him, “Follow Me, and let the dead bury their own dead.”
- The Jews thought so much of burial they purchased fields for burying even Gentiles: Matthew 27:7 They consulted together and bought with them the potter’s field, to bury strangers in.
The most famous burial is Jesus’ (even though cremation would’ve made His resurrection on the third day more dramatic!). When He was anointed in Matthew 26:12 He said, “For in pouring this fragrant oil on My body, she did it for My burial” as opposed to saying, “…for My death.” In the account of Jesus’ burial, the tomb is emphasized, being mentioned five times in seven verses:
Now when evening had come, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who himself had also become a disciple of Jesus. This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate commanded the body to be given to him. When Joseph had taken the body, he wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, and laid it in his new tomb which he had hewn out of the rock; and he rolled a large stone against the door of the tomb, and departed. And Mary Magdalene was there, and the other Mary, sitting opposite the tomb.
On the next day, which followed the Day of Preparation, the chief priests and Pharisees gathered together to Pilate, saying, “Sir, we remember, while He was still alive, how that deceiver said, ‘After three days I will rise.’ Therefore command that the tomb be made secure until the third day, lest His disciples come by night and steal Him away, and say to the people, ‘He has risen from the dead.’ So the last deception will be worse than the first.”
Pilate said to them, “You have a guard; go your way, make it as secure as you know how. “So they went and made the tomb secure, sealing the stone and setting the guard.Matthew 27:57-66
Eighth, reject cremation because “Ashes to ashes” isn’t in Scripture
The phrase, “ashes to ashes, dust to dust” comes from the Anglican Book of Common Prayer, and it has undoubtedly become more well-known with the increased popularity of cremation; however, the phrase isn’t found in the Bible:
- Job said, “He has cast me into the mire, and I have become like dust and ashes” (Job 30:19). He said this because he “sat in the midst of ashes” (Job 2:8). Job 42:6 makes this clear: “Therefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.”
- In Genesis 18:27 Abraham said, “Indeed now, I who am but dust and ashes have taken it upon myself to speak to the Lord.” The Cambridge Bible says “dust and ashes” are “two alliterative words in the Hebrew, which defy reproduction in English”; therefore, it shouldn’t be taken literally that Abraham thought he was ashes.
Instead, the Bible says:
- Genesis 3:19 In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread
Till you return to the ground,
For out of it you were taken;
For dust you are,
And to dust you shall return.”
- Ecclesiastes 3:20 All go to one place: all are from the dust, and all return to dust.
Ninth, burial is at the center of the Gospel
Let me be clear about what I’m NOT saying:
- You have to be buried to embrace the Gospel.
- Being cremated is rejecting the Gospel.
Instead, I’m simply saying the heart of the Gospel is Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection, which puts burial at the center of Christianity:
- Romans 6:4 Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.
- 1 Corinthians 15:1a, 3-4 Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you…For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures.
- Colossians 2:12 [We were] buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead.
So, what does the Bible say about cremation? Can Christians be cremated? Hopefully you can answer these two questions now.
Burial was the practice of Israel win the Old Testament and Christians in the early church. While pagans and heathens practiced cremation, the only time God’s people performed it was as a form of punishment.
My name is Joanie, I worked with a girl who worked in a Crematorium before she came to work in the factory I was working in. She told me that working there made her make the decision that she would never be cremated. She told me of the smelling of burning hair and body and also when done, it isn’t all ashes, there are bones left that they put in a giant grinder or osterizer and pulverize to ashes. There is more to it than people realize.
Thank you for sharing this testimony. Even from a physical, secular perspective there are reasons to avoid cremation. I agree that there is more to it than most people think.
Well, I really enjoyed studying what you wrote about burial versus cremation. This article provided by you is very useful in helping people figure out how to plan for their death and the death of their loved ones.
Thank you for letting me know. I’m glad my post helped you.
I have regrets about having my bus and cremated. I have guilt over it. I didn’t have time to really think about it. He died unexpectedly, and we never discussed it beforehand. There were a lot of funerals going on at the time, she ws very busy and we had to make up our mind the second day after he died.
A nd the director didn’t even tell us the difference or costs between the two types of funerals. My son went with the cremation, and asked me if it was ok, I just didn’t or couldn’t think properly and agreed. Now I think of it all the time and wish that I could have had a few more days to think. I’m so sad most of the time, and very depressed, the regret is so profound, that I’m overcome with sadness when I think of him being burned up. Demand some time to think it over. My heart aches over the decision.
We all have regrets over decisions we’ve made and sins we’ve committed. Although we often can’t do anything to fix what we’ve done, we can allow this to make us more thankful for Christ. It wouldn’t be too much to say that we need him, because of what we have done wrong that we can’t undo.
If it encourages you at all you shouldn’t “think of him being burned up,” because it wasn’t him. It was only his body, which his soul left at the point of death. In a sense, that body was no more him than the chair across the room. If he was a believer, you will see him again. And at the resurrection God will unite his soul with a glorified body.
Just adding fuel to the fire…no pun intended…regarding funeral expenses versus cremation. My husband had decided to be cremated, much to my surprise and dismay. After much discussion, he agreed that we would choose burial and a final resting place. Unbeknownst to me, he plowed right in, preplanning his funeral, choosing the funeral home, the casket, etc., and made payments so it would all be “done” in order to relieve his family of the burden, both financially and emotionally. When he passed away, the funeral home treated our family very poorly on the day of the service. They arranged it so friends could not greet us after the service, rushed us at the cemetery, refused to let the pallbearers move the casket, then buried him without us (as they told us to wait to be summoned to the burial plot). It was the most traumatic event our family has ever faced. Not only had we paid this ‘company’ -as believe me when I say it is a business-around $16,000.00 (including the cemtery plots) they robbed us of our final goodbyes. With that said, I’ve given them a million dollars worth of free advertising since that time. Buyer beware! I would advise everyone to have a church service rather than using a funeral chapel, to have one family person who oversees the funeral director at all times, and to slash your costs by PLANNING far in advance regarding casket purchase (you don’t have to purchase from funeral home). Lastly, you don’t even need a church or a funeral home, nor does one need to be embalmed (closed casket). (Check your state for all legalities.) I’ve told my children that I simply want a pine box, a celebration of my life at one of their homes or simply a graveside service. Once you purchase a burial plot, you will likely incur a cemetery fee for the opening and closing of the grave, so you eliminate all the other hassles as well as cold funeral home personnel who can cause you unforseen grief and trauma that you can never imagine. Our family has never gotten over it but by God’s grace, we have made sure they will not be able to do this to anyone else.
I’m glad to hear that about your husband, but I’m sorry to hear about the way the funeral home treated you.
You said they robbed you of your final goodbye, but if your husband was a believer, and you are believers, you will see each other again.
Thank you for providing all the counsel on burials.
Mr. Lapierre: Could you please discuss the recent practice of people, even Christians wearing a deceased person’s ashes on their person?? Jewelry such as necklaces and bracelets??.I honestly find this very troubling…
I’m not sure that I’m familiar with this recent practice. In other words, I didn’t know that people were wearing people’s ashes on jewelry. Yes, I find that disturbing as well. I can’t find any verses to support the practice, and the verses in the Bible that deal with people’s remains are similar to the point of this post: they belong in the ground.
My younger brother unexpectedly died 5 weeks ago. When my mom told me she was going to have him cremated I was upset. I told her I thought burial was biblical and was the practice of the Bible. I told her Jesus was buried. Her response was “ashes to ashes and dust to dust.” She and another Christian family member basically told me it wasn’t my decision. So I let it go.
I later told my husband I hate the thought of my brother’s body being set on fire. Maybe my mom didn’t want the image of her son buried beneath the ground, but I now bear the image of his body being burned and melting away in flames. It makes me sick.
I was allowed to see his body before cremation so that was a blessing, but from that time until the funeral all I could think about was they were going to set his body on fire. To me, cremation is horrific.
Another perspective, I’m a veteran and my job in the military had me part of many funerals of veterans and service members. I was the bugler playing Taps. I even performed at a funeral for an Air Force veteran whose remains had been found 50 years later. His family had a full honors funeral with his remains. In the military, fallen soldiers are treated with the utmost respect. Service members don’t go to battle, get killed, and then their fellow soldiers say “Well they’re dead anyway, so let’s just set their bodies on fire so we don’t have to make such a fuss and bring their bodies back.”
God gave us our bodies and called them good. They do matter. Even after death, how we treat our bodies is a testimony to the world.
The other night, I told my husband since I have a good life insurance policy, if anything should happen to me, please do not have me cremated.
Now I live with the grief of losing my brother, but also the image of his body being destroyed. If anyone is on the fence about it, please pray about it, and think long and hard before you cremate your family members.
I’m sorry to hear about your brother’s passing. I want to respond to you, but I don’t want to repeat what I wrote in the post. I do hope the post encouraged you.
I agree with what you wrote.
Also, if your mother chooses to cremate you brother, I will say that I don’t think it’s a grievous sin, but even if it was God would not hold you responsible for something your mother did after you objected.
So sorry on the loss of your beloved brother. I too lost my baby brother who died unexpectedly at age 60. Sadly, I was not even allowed to see my brother as my sister-in-law quickly had his body sent for cremation before any family could arrive. In addition, his siblings all agree that he would’ve never wanted to be cremated. I too think cremation is horrific. I think the body should be honored, not burned up in favor of saving a dollar, the argument that it is “no longer needed,” or the argument that it takes up space. God’s world is big enough for the dead to be honored in a burial plot. And for those who are all about cremation, I pray they stumble across this page.
Thank you for reaching out to Alicia to encourage her, even if doing so involves sharing a painful story from your life. I’m sorry to hear about what happened to your brother’s body.
I want burial to become more affordable . I don’t want this country to have a government that will force cremation on those who don’t want it! I am so sick and tired of cremation being shoved down our throats and so many Americans acting like it is such .a wonderful thing. There is such thing as a green eco.friendly burial. Some religions are still anti cremation.
I understand. Many people have made the same point. It is probably the biggest obstacle to burial.
Unfortunately the whole process of death and dealing with funeral arrangements are appalling.
I had my husband cremated due to financial constraints. I know there are some things that could have been done to save money, but when a no frills burial costs more than most basic life insurance policies pay out, something needs to change.
I didn’t want to cremate my loved one, but I really had no choice. The Funeral Industry preys on families at a time when they are at their most vulnerable. These people know that the families emotions are going to influence their decision. They will move Heaven & Earth to give their loved ones the kind of burial befitting their transition from this life to the next, the bigger the better. That in turn means shelling out several thousands of dollars.
As I said, it’s a crying shame the funeral industry is more about profit than not making families have to decide to cremate their family members just to save money.
I’m sorry about what you’ve gone through. I heard about others having similar experiences. I definitely understand that finances is one of the major considerations. I don’t judge anyone who doesn’t have the money to perform a burial. I believe you desired to perform a burial and God knows that was in your heart.
I had someone cremated being told it was cleaner, better for the environment and that I hadn’t done any harm. I have nothing but regrets. I am horrified by what I have done.
I’m sorry to hear about your regret, but as I shared in the post, since it’s not spelled out in scripture I don’t see it as a grievous sin.
I hope that might encourage you as you repent and look to the future.
I feel it is a grievous sin.
Do you mean you believe cremation is a grievous sin? Would you care to elaborate any more why you feel this way?
Before body was completely annihilated,. No respect given. Nowhere to go and pay respects.
Thank you for elaborating, that makes sense!
Burial is calm and quiet, comforting, on the other hand cremation is violence, unnatural and a forced process, it takes hours, it can cause grief to be magnified, because some family members find it horrifying.
When my Dad died, my bossy disrespectful cousin was trying to force cremation. She insisted about something that was none of her business, she was angry about us not listening to her, she even added a cremation society website to her Facebook page, saying, “I have two family members stuck back 100 years ago.” I don’t think she wanted to help, she wanted control, she even wanted Power of Attorney.
I closed all doors to her both legally and personally, she became vindictive and spiteful.
People need to have their wishes prevail, they need to be weary of relatives, they need to be proactive in writing and protecting their will.
I stand with what God wants. The plans of humans are often evil,stand with God’s will!
Thanks for reading and commenting.
I hadn’t thought of some of those points before, but it makes sense, and further convinces me that burial is the best approach for God’s people.
Thank you for sharing your personal testimony.
I just feel that if Jesus died, was buried and rose from the dead that we are suppose to follow his example. I know many Christians who plan to be cremated because it’s cheaper. I feel that being buried is what God intended and if he had intended for us to be cremated, he would have had his son cremated. People say that Jesus will still bring you from the dead even if your ashes are spread all over the place. They justify this by saying that your body decomposes anyway. But I say that your bones are still there. People have been buried in soil and their bones are still there after many years. Many murders have been solved from finding a person’s bones and doing DNA testing to prove their identity and possibly who committed the murder. If the person had been cremated there would be no bones. Even in house fires, the person’s bones do not completely burn and most of the time their bodies can be identified. Also burning in fires is accidental and it’s not something you plan like cremation. Once you’re cremated there is nothing left. I’ve heard of people spreading their ashes in the woods and they are eaten by the wild animals. I know that eventually the body does decompose in a normal burial but your body can always be exhumed at some time in the future and the basic bones and body structure are still there. I don’t believe that Jesus wants us to burn. People don’t want to go to hell yet they want to burn their bodies to ashes, which I’ve never understood. If you wait all your life to die and go be with Jesus why would you completely destroy your body with fire which is what Hell is suppose to be. We are suppose to respect our bodies and I believe that cremation is destroying the body that was made in God’s image. I believe that people choose cremation because it’s cheaper. I believe in burial and that we should follow the example of Jesus not only in our daily lives but in our death as well. Besides we should give the Lord a break. When he comes back, do you really want him to have to do all that work of putting people’s ashes back together?
Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts.
Yes, price is probably the biggest obstacle for many people.
I never made any connection between Hell and cremation, but that is an interesting consideration.
It would be wonderful if burial were more affordable. Just before we moved from the LaCenter Highlands, we learned that LaCenter residents can buy a plot in the
Cemetary for under $400. I know of no other cemetary that is the reasonable. My Mother, who was cremated, spent $10,000 dollars for a ROCK where her cannister of ashes (and her second husband’s) were placed. Crazy!!
Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts. If you read the other comments, you’ll see many people mention the price as a deterrent to burial…which is understandable! You’re bringing up the point that cremation can be equally expensive for people too. Yes, that price is crazy!
Some of these verses speak of customs of the time. Some have to do with OT punishment because of sin. Some have to do with Jewish customs. None of them specifically forbid cremation. If we assume that it did, it could also rule out embalming, using secular-owned cemeteries, etc.
As a pastor, I know that the reason many choose cremation is because of the cost of a traditional funeral (casket, vault, embalming, use of a funeral home for visitation, etc.) Even a modest funeral service can cost over $5000. Just some food for thought.
Hi Pastor David,
Nice to hear from a pastor! Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts.
You’re completely right that some of the verses speak of customs of the time, but they involved the destruction of the body by fire, and we get to see God’s thoughts on the custom; therefore, does it really matter that it’s a custom?
You’re also right that there are no verses specifically forbidding cremation. If there were, there would only need to be one reason instead of nine: “Choose burial, because the Bible forbids cremation” :).
Do you agree we can glean principles from the insights in God’s Word to help us make wise decisions, even when God’s Word hasn’t specifically addressed a topic?
You’re also correct about the cost, and that’s probably the part of this post that bothered me the most. I don’t like putting that sort of burden on people.
Thanks again for reading and sharing!
I have been trying to find the answer to this myself, and have asked a number of people, especially after I heard a couple pastors say that cremation is essentially a sin! I don’t believe it is because most of the prohibitions are in the OT and we don’t live under that covenant. My personal interest in the topic is fueled my wanting to make end-of-life plans. I’m no where near old age, but I want my wishes known. What I find very upsetting is that I might be planted somewhere with a headstone and my kids would go there to mourn! I’ve always told them, I won’t be there, I’ll be with Jesus. I love the idea of being cremated and scattered. However, as much as I can leave my wishes with them, they will have to decide. Also, traditional funerals are so incredibly expensive! If I have to be buried, because that’s what my kids do, I hope they choose a simple pine box! I’d rather spend the money now than have it put in the ground to moulder away!
I agree with you and would not say cremation is a sin.
As far as people mourning at grave sites, I have thought of that before too. I appreciate the counsel you’ve given to your family members.
Yes, you’re right, funerals can be very expensive. That’s probably the most common concern I’ve heard from people regarding burial, and as frugal as I am I can definitely sympathize :).
No way I would be cremated. Fire is associated with punishment in the bible. I’ve prepaid my funeral. I’m not going to be buried underground but my casket will be stored in a multi roomed crypt at the cemetery.
Thanks for reading and commenting.
I believe this could be controversial, but I believe we must use our Christian Liberty. The Bible is not explicit about one view being right and the other wrong. I certainly have my own conviction for burial over cremation. It sure was the conviction of the people of God to bury their dead, and for pagans to burn them. Now, I’m not calling anybody a pagan because you choose cremation. Of its a matter of finances, there are very reasonable costs for coffins and everything else. I read an article awhile ago in the Oregonian about this issue, and I even read of people choosing to be buried in their own property if they have a few acres. Hey, that’s an option, I wouldn’t mind helping with the flowers ?.
Yes, I expected it to be controversial, and that’s understandable because like I said at the beginning it’s not explicit in Scripture. Anything requiring inference or discernment will often invoke strong responses from people.
You’re one of a number of people to mention cost. In my studying, it became clear that for many people finances are the deciding factor.
Thanks for reading and commenting Brother!
After my dad died, and all the studying we had done together as a family prior to his death(not even knowing he would be passing so soon), and being the one to decide what to do with my dad’s body….much of what you have written here is why I chose burial for him. Cris and I have also talked about this very thing together and we both desire burial. This isn’t talked about much. Thank you for writing this post, it was well done.
I’m glad to read your words – not so much because you agreed with my post – but because you studied this out for yourself.
I’d rather see someone disagree after studying, than agree without studying.
Hope you and Cris are doing well. Nice to see you all at Christian Heritage!
Joshua 4. We have wondered if it might be similar in nature to this topic in regard to principle. We are studying it.
I’m sorry, but I’m a little confused by your mention of Joshua 4?
It is a different issue than your post, but something not talked about much. Is there value in Christians following the example of making memorials to remind us of what God has done. Just like the importance of certain traditions. Hard to explain in text, and it may not make sense the way I’m writing it.
Ah, gotcha. Obviously under the New Covenant the memorial is the Lord’s Supper, but this doesn’t mean there can’t/shouldn’t be others.
Memorials served as tangible reminders of God’s faithfulness, like Jacob’s in Gen 28. The physical monument in Joshua 4 was meant to serve as a teaching aid to future generations.
Both of these examples can be good – although not commanded – examples for us.
Scott, good job. These are good and important things to think through. The matter of the resurrection (both of Jesus and the Christian) carries huge theological force in the NT. If our bodies are temples of the HS now, I don’t think it’s possible to overestimate the importance of the body (in its resurrected state) in the life to come. As image-bearers what we do with and to our bodies says something about our stewardship of this mortal coil, and it says something directly to our regard for God as the author and giver of life.
Dan, your thoughts are fantastic. Thank you!
Your comment moves beyond any of the reasons I discussed by mentioning stewardship and bearing the image of God. I hope anyone who reads the post sees what you said. That could be reason 10 or 10 and 11!
Glad I am in the New Covenant, it is surely not forbidden!!
Burial practices of the Old Covenant will in modern day run you bare-bones, $3000, not including plot (another $1000 at least) vs. cremation minimum $500. Cremation only speeds up the natural decaying process, so any argument that Jesus would have trouble resurrecting the dead if they are cremated is silly. Our untold number of brothers and sisters that have been burned at the stake for not denying Jesus would be in sorry shape if that held any credence.
I have had to plan funeral and deceased body arrangements for 2 parents, cremation was the obvious choice for our pocketbook. I did not even want a minister at my Dad-in-loves service since they often want remuneration. Bob was fit to give of a good word and scripture reading, keeping our out-of-pocket at minimum.
We looked into private burial, the legalities are ridiculous and ones property must be open to the public for graveside visitation during certain hours daily etc.
Thanks for your thoughts Betsy.
Hope you’ll check out Part II which will have a greater focus on the New Testament/Covenant.
As you are a teacher of many, I would caution that extrabiblical conviction should be sufficiently specified as such. I always appreciate Paul doing that when speaking by permission and not command.
I don’t plan to be here long enough to even need cremation. But in case of necessity, I have provision for just that, no rockstar priced burial plan for this plain girl!
I will be in the presence of Lord Jesus because of what He did and not care a speck what is done with this shell I am housed in now and neither will He
You said, “I would caution that extrabiblical conviction should be sufficiently specified as such. I always appreciate Paul doing that when speaking by permission and not command.”
I hoped to accomplish that in my introduction. In particular notice the words “I wouldn’t say cremation is a sin” and “allowing a principle to be inferred” as opposed to saying, “allowing a command to be inferred.”
This manner of speaking lends to questions rather than simple faith. God’s Spirit has plenty to do with the attitudes of our hearts. Troubling people with inferred ‘principles of burial’ is just that, troublesome. My husband had a burial ‘principle’ until it hit his pocketbook. Now even in planning for himself he sees wiser uses for money than throwing it in a hole with dust. And just saying, ‘principled living’ left me a sinner until well into adulthood. I now avoid it like the plague, so I probably should not have commented in the first place. 🙂
I appreciate your comments, but I’m sorry you disregard biblical principles when they hit your pocketbook.
It is NOT a biblical principle! There is no stretching the law of the Spirit to cover burial practices. It is just NOT in there!! This time of being able to be saved by God’s grace, through faith in His finished work is special. We walk by the Spirit of God not traditions of men, even if they were godly men. Christ IS our principle, walking in His Holy Spirit is our fundamental source. There is no requirements in this time for specific burial. There are actually very few commands that govern our physical beings in the New Covenant.
As our #1 job here is to win souls, extracting ‘inferred principles’ and teaching them is a rabbit trail leading to danger.
Bob’s change was dropping a very costly extrabiblical principle/tradition of men, not disregarding God’s Spirit’s work in his life. Following his former ‘conviction’ would have us begging or borrowing money. God did not provide funds for rich mans practice of burial, We had $1000 in savings, enough for cremation and a sweet remembrance in the newspaper. You bury your dead your way, kudos for having 5-10k $ for each loved one. It is a rudimentary choice, there is no principle to follow on this matter in this time period.
Great post! This is a topic I’ve talked over with my mother a number of times. Cremation seems to be the standard in our family, but I’m not a fan…
Looking forward to the next one!
Hopefully you can be the start of a different practice for generations to come!
It’s a good thing they didn’t try to cremate Jesus! 😉
Amanda, I’ll mention Jesus’ burial in the next post – and while I say this loosely – it is interesting Jesus wasn’t cremated even though that obviously would’ve made His resurrection that much more dramatic!