“Is Cremation Against the Bible?”

image_pdfimage_print

I have become curious as to why certain Christian denominations claim cremation to be against the Bible. Is it?

 
 
Thanks for your e-mail. Although many Christian and Jewish groups DO permit the bodies of the deceased to be cremated, this is not the usual manner of disposing of the body. Furthermore, there are some groups who are strongly opposed to cremating a body. For instance, The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church states, “Cremation is normally forbidden in the Orthodox Church.” But WHY are some opposed to cremation? Is this practice unbiblical? These are good questions.

The Oxford Dictionary of the Jewish Religion states that some rabbis are persuaded, on the basis of Deuteronomy 21:23, that interment is a positive biblical command. This would make cremation an unbiblical practice. In addition, some rabbis argued that cremation was disrespectful to the deceased; others that it implied a denial of belief in the doctrine of physical resurrection. There is one clear biblical account of a cremation. In 1 Sam. 31:9-13, the men of Jabesh-gilead are said to have “burned” the bodies of Saul and his sons. Afterward, they buried their bones. Thus, The Oxford Dictionary of the Jewish Religion states that “in spite of the general prohibition against cremation”, most branches of Judaism permit it (even if somewhat reluctantly).

The situation today is similar for most (but not all) Christian denominations. The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church states, “Belief in the resurrection of the body made cremation repugnant to the early Christians.” The article goes on to point out that the practice was “revived in the 19th century, largely in free-thinking circles, though among some Christians it has now come into favour.” The Roman Catholic Church permits, but does not recommend, cremation. The Orthodox Church typically forbids it. Others sanction it, though somewhat cautiously.

In my opinion, there is no clear biblical command prohibiting cremation of the deceased. Traditionally, however, both Jews and Christians have been a little wary of disposing of a body in this fashion. There seems to be at least a twinge of conscience about whether it’s really acceptable, or properly respectful (whether to God or the deceased), to cremate the dead. I can certainly understand this feeling (and even share it to a degree), but I do NOT think the Bible forbids it.

Furthermore, I do not think it creates any problems for the doctrine of a physical resurrection. Many people throughout history have been burned at the stake, eaten by wild animals, etc. Many of those who have received a traditional burial have already completely decomposed. The doctrine of physical resurrection does not require that the same atoms which once composed a body also compose the resurrection body. Indeed, if those scientists are correct who tell us that the entire atomic content of the human body changes every seven years or so this would clearly be absurd anyway. Whatever the precise nature of the resurrection body, the God who can create an entire universe ex nihilo (i.e. out of nothing) will obviously not be hindered in resurrecting the bodies of all men and women (cremated or otherwise) and assigning them to their eternal destination.

Shalom,

Michael Gleghorn
Probe Ministries

Dr. Michael Gleghorn

Dr. Michael Gleghorn is a research associate with Probe Ministries. He earned a B.A. in psychology from Baylor University, a Th.M. in systematic theology from Dallas Theological Seminary, and a Ph.D. in Theological Studies (also from Dallas Theological Seminary). Before coming on staff with Probe, Michael taught history and theology at Christway Academy in Duncanville, Texas. Michael and his wife Hannah have two children: Arianna and Josiah. As a family, they attend Frisco Bible Church, where Michael and Hannah are involved in various ministries. His personal website is michaelgleghorn.com.

What is Probe?

Probe Ministries is a non-profit ministry whose mission is to assist the church in renewing the minds of believers with a Christian worldview and to equip the church to engage the world for Christ. Probe fulfills this mission through our Mind Games conferences for youth and adults, our 3-minute daily radio program, and our extensive Web site at www.probe.org.

Further information about Probe's materials and ministry may be obtained by contacting us at:

Probe Ministries
2001 W. Plano Parkway, Suite 2000
Plano TX 75075
(972) 941-4565
info@probe.org
www.probe.org

Copyright/Reproduction Limitations

This document is the sole property of Probe Ministries. It may not be altered or edited in any way. Permission is granted to use in digital or printed form so long as it is circulated without charge, and in its entirety. This document may not be repackaged in any form for sale or resale. All reproductions of this document must contain the copyright notice (i.e., Copyright 2018 Probe Ministries) and this Copyright/Limitations notice.

5 Comments
  1. Harry Alino 3 months ago

    My question is regarding about cremation, we know that Jesus Christ is the pattern to all who believed in Him.In the Jewish pattern when they die they wrapped it and put it into the grave, like what Lazarus account in the book of John 11: Now here in our place in Japan there are three kinds of cremation 1), the body only will turn to ashes and the other one is 2). the bone will reamain and the third, both body and bones will turn to ashes Is it possible that when the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ the bone is the important character? like what the bones of Joseph, when they moved from Egypt going to the land of promise, they carry it and put it into the grave of his father ,Isaac ,and Abraham, in the same way in the account of Matthew 27:50-53 When His last breath all the graves were opened and all the the Saints fallen asleep were raised up Is it Possible that the important object is the bone when you burn it you will not be raised?

  2. Dr. Michael Gleghorn Author
    Dr. Michael Gleghorn 3 months ago

    Hello Harry,

    Thanks for your question. The bones were certainly an important component of Jewish burial processes, typically being preserved in an ossuary. According to Wikipedia, however, “The custom of secondary burial in ossuaries did not persist among Jews past the Second Temple period nor appear to exist among Jews outside the land of Israel” (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ossuary).

    Regardless of the practice, however, the testimony of Scripture is that God will raise the dead (see Daniel 12:2; John 5:28-29). In this respect, I think that the last paragraph of my response to this issue above is still on target. There I wrote the following:

    “Furthermore, I do not think it creates any problems for the doctrine of a physical resurrection. Many people throughout history have been burned at the stake, eaten by wild animals, etc. Many of those who have received a traditional burial have already completely decomposed. The doctrine of physical resurrection does not require that the same atoms which once composed a body also compose the resurrection body. Indeed, if those scientists are correct who tell us that the entire atomic content of the human body changes every seven years or so this would clearly be absurd anyway. Whatever the precise nature of the resurrection body, the God who can create an entire universe ex nihilo (i.e. out of nothing) will obviously not be hindered in resurrecting the bodies of all men and women (cremated or otherwise) and assigning them to their eternal destination.”

    So no, I do not think that even if a person’s bones are disintegrated or vaporized or consumed by wild animals, etc., that this will in any way inhibit God’s ability to raise them from the dead.

    • HARRY ALINO 3 months ago

      This is my last question, Dr, Michael Gleghorn,Since Jesus Christ is Our pattern I, will only quote John 19: 34-36, and was quoted in the book of Psalm 34:20 That the Scripture should be fulfilled not one of HIS bones shall be broken is it the correct analyzation that there is a means that the bone is very important? because the wife of Adam, Eve, coming from his bones? is that the way or not? pardon me if I am mistaken thank you God bless to your ministry, SHALOM

      • Dr. Michael Gleghorn Author
        Dr. Michael Gleghorn 3 months ago

        Hello Harry,

        I’m not entirely sure. I understand Jesus to be a “pattern” for us both morally and spiritually. Christians are called upon to “imitate” Christ (1 Cor. 11:1). And God predestined us to be “conformed to the image of His Son” (Rom. 8:29). Additionally, Jesus’ resurrection body is a pattern for the resurrection body of believers (Phil. 3:20-21).

        Concerning the creation of Eve from Adam’s side, I take it that this indicates that Eve (unlike the animals) is a suitable “helpmate” for Adam. She is like him in her humanity, having been created from Adam’s side. She is “bone of his bones and flesh of his flesh” (Gen. 2:23). But I don’t think that we should focus on the issue of “bones” here any more than we should focus on “flesh.” The text is telling us (I think) that Adam and Eve, while different sexually, are alike in their humanity. Eve is thus the perfect “helpmate” for Adam, both socially and sexually.

        Of course, Paul applies this passage to Christ and the church in Ephesians 5:21-33. This is designed to show the sort of union which exists between Christ and His church. Believers have been baptized by the Holy Spirit into the body of Christ (Rom. 6:3; 1 Cor. 12:13). We are thus “in Christ” and “members of his body” (Eph. 5:30). But I don’t think we should focus too exclusively on the concept of bones. Still, I will admit that Scripture contains many mysteries and intricate inter-relationships, so it’s possible that I might be missing something here. But this is basically the way in which I would understand this issue at the present time.

  3. Harry Alino 3 months ago

    Thanks to the knowleged that you shared to me regarding cremation,not far beyond my expectation, You Just pray that I can answer all the questions regarding cremation to my Bible study , shalom,

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*

Protected with IP Blacklist CloudIP Blacklist Cloud

CONTACT US

We're not around right now. But you can send us an email and we'll get back to you, asap.

Sending

©2018 Probe Ministries | Designed by Dream Casters Marketing, Website Design Dallas

Log in with your credentials

Forgot your details?