“What does the Bible say about cremation? Is it wrong to cremate a person’s body?”Answer: The Bible does not give any specific teaching about cremation. There are occurrences in the Old Testament of people being burned to death (1 Kings 16:182 Kings 21:6) and of human bones being burned (2 Kings 23:16-20), but these are not examples of cremation. It is interesting to note that in 2 Kings 23:16-20, burning human bones on an altar desecrated the altar. At the same time, the Old Testament law nowhere commands that a deceased human body not be burned, nor does it attach any curse or judgment on someone who is cremated.Cremation was practiced in biblical times, but it was not commonly practiced by the Israelites or by New Testament believers. In the cultures of Bible times, burial in a tomb, cave, or in the ground was the common way to dispose of a human body (Genesis 23:1935:42 Chronicles 16:14Matthew 27:60-66). While burial was the common practice, the Bible nowhere commands burial as the only allowed method of disposing of a body.Is cremation something a Christian can consider? Again, there is no explicit scriptural command against cremation. Some believers object to the practice of cremation on the basis it does not recognize that one day God will resurrect our bodies and re-unite them with our soul/spirit (1 Corinthians 15:35-581 Thessalonians 4:16). However, the fact that a body has been cremated does not make it any more difficult for God to resurrect that body. The bodies of Christians who died a thousand years ago have, by now, completely turned into dust. This will in no way prevent God from being able to resurrect their bodies. He created them in the first place; He will have no difficulty re-creating them. Cremation does nothing but “expedite” the process of turning a body into dust. God is equally able to raise a person’s remains that have been cremated as He is the remains of a person who was not cremated. The question of burial or cremation is within the realm of Christian freedom. A person or a family considering this issue should pray for wisdom (James 1:5) and follow the conviction that results.Recommended Resource: In His Image by Brand & Yancey.
Does the Bible Prohibit Cremation?
Selected ScripturesCode: QA177
Scripture says nothing about a required mode of burial for either believers or non-believers. However, burying the body was the standard practice among the Israelites in the Old Testament and Christians in the New. There were some exceptions: the people decided to cremate Saul and Jonathan and then bury their ashes because their bodies had been mutilated by the Philistines (1 Sam. 31:8-13). In another instance, Achan and his family were cremated after being executed for sinning against Israel (Josh. 7:25).
Obviously any buried body will eventually decompose (Eccles. 12:7). So cremation isn’t a strange or wrong practice-it merely accelerates the natural process of oxidation. The believer will one day receive a new body (1 Cor. 15:42-491 Thess. 4:13-18Job 19:25-26), thus the state of what remains of the old body is unimportant.
The imagery of Christ’s resurrection pictures burial and then a raising up from the dead (Rom. 6:3-51 Cor. 15:3-4). Because of that, many Christians prefer burial to cremation to maintain a likeness to Christ’s burial (although literally He was laid in state in a cave, not buried in the ground).
What we need to focus on as Christians is not how to dispose of our earthly bodies, but that one day new bodies will be fashioned for us like our Lord’s glorious resurrection body (see Phil. 3:21; cf. Luke 24:30-40John 20:19, 2621:1-14; and Acts 1:1-9 to get an idea of what to look forward to). That transformation will be eternal!