No OT support for cremation instead of burial
The OT does not record a single instance of God’s people cremating one of their own instead of burying him. Although it does have one passage that relates when some Israelites burned the bodies of some of their people when they died, a close examination of that account shows that it does not support cremation at all.
First Samuel 31 records the tragic end of the lives of king Saul and his three sons. When the Philistines decapitated them and fastened their bodies to a wall (1 Sam. 31:7-10), some inhabitants of Jabesh Gilead heard what had taken place and valiantly acted to attend properly to their bodies:
1Sa 31:11 And when the inhabitants of Jabeshgilead heard of that which the Philistines had done to Saul;
12 All the valiant men arose, and went all night, and took the body of Saul and the bodies of his sons from the wall of Bethshan, and came to Jabesh, and burnt them there.
Scripture provides no explanation for why these men burned the bodies of Saul and his sons. Regardless of why they did so, they did not cremate their bodies instead of burying them, as the next verse plainly states:
13 And they took their bones, and buried them under a tree at Jabesh, and fasted seven days.
This key statement reveals that the men did not burn the bodies of Saul and his sons until they became ashes and then dispose of the ashes in whatever way they thought was acceptable. Rather, they burned the bodies in a way that preserved their bones, and then they buried them.
First Samuel 31 does not provide any support for Christians cremating a loved one instead of burying him. In fact, it shows that cremating a dead Christian is not at all either a biblically acceptable form of burial or a biblically acceptable substitute for burial.
God’s condemnation of people who completely burned the bones of a person
Amos 2 relates God’s declaration of His fierce wrath upon the Moabites for what they did to the bones of the king of Edom:
Amo 2:1 Thus saith the LORD; For three transgressions of Moab, and for four, I will not turn away the punishment thereof; because he burned the bones of the king of Edom into lime:
2 But I will send a fire upon Moab, and it shall devour the palaces of Kerioth: and Moab shall die with tumult, with shouting, and with the sound of the trumpet:
3 And I will cut off the judge from the midst thereof, and will slay all the princes thereof with him, saith the LORD.
Because the Moabites burned the bones of the king of Edom to lime, God was going to judge them fiercely. C.F. Keil explains,
The burning of the bones of the king of Edom is not burning while he was still alive, but the burning of his corpse into lime, i. e. so completely that the bones turned into powder like lime . . . This is the only thing blamed, not his having put him to death (Keil-Delitzsch, 10:250).
This passage reveals God’s wrath on those who desecrated a man’s body after he had died by burning his bones until they became a powder. Based on this passage, Christians must not think that the Bible does not have anything to say against cremation.
No evidence of Christians ever cremating their own
The NT does not record a single instance of Christians cremating anyone after he had died. Furthermore, the account of the death of John the Baptist strengthens the case against cremation in a telling way.
Mark 6 records the horrific death of John the Baptist at the hands of wicked king Herod. Having had John beheaded, Herod had his head brought in a platter to the daughter of Herodias, who then gave it to her mother (Mark 6:27-28).
The disciples of John responded to the tragic murder of John by properly attending to his body:
Mar 6:29 And when his disciples heard of it, they came and took up his corpse, and laid it in a tomb.
A comparison of the accounts of the deaths of King Saul and John the Baptist reveals that the disciples of John did not first burn his decapitated body—they buried his body in a tomb. Any possible support that a believer could try to make for cremation from the account in First Samuel 31 is invalidated by this parallel account in Mark 6.
The disciples of John—who through progressive revelation knew even more about the ways of God than the people of Jabesh Gilead did in their earlier time—did not employ any kind of burning in dealing with the decapitated body of John the Baptist. Mark 6 compared with First Samuel 31 shows that there is no New Testament support for God’s people even in an extreme circumstance to use some form of cremation prior to or in place of burial.
Cremation is not a biblically acceptable form of burial nor is it a biblically acceptable substitute for burial. Christians should not cremate their own.
Copyright © 2011-2024 by Rajesh Gandhi. All rights reserved.