What Does the Bible Say About Cremation?
Cremation is now the most common method of disposition in the United States, with experts at NFDA suggesting that almost 80% of Americans will choose cremation in the next 20 years. The reasons for this are varied, but many point to the low cost of cremation as a main cause for this shift in preferred disposition method. Cremation might be the less expensive option, but oftentimes Christians wonder whether it’s a viable option within the Christian faith.
Is cremation a sin?
There’s no indication that cremation is a sin anywhere in the Bible. The Bible does not appear to have a stance for or against cremation; it remains neutral. Most experts agree that if cremation was a sin and disqualified the body from being resurrected, it would be written as such. Interested in what the Bible says about death? Read 30 Bible verses about death.
Does cremation prevent Resurrection?
According to Christianity, cremation does not prevent Resurrection. Christians believe that God is all powerful and that all things are possible with God. Millions of people have perished in horrible ways that have destroyed their bodies, but that does not exclude them from Resurrection. Cremation is no different than if a body was destroyed in a fire. Look to the Bible’s own understanding of a return to “dust”:
Ecclesiastes 12:7 (NIV) - Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it.
Genesis 3:19 (King James Version): 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.
Why do some people believe cremation is prohibited in the Bible?
Even though the Bible remains neutral on the point of cremation, many still believe that cremation is unacceptable as a method of disposition for followers of Christ. They believe that cremating a body renders the body ineligible for Resurrection since it’s effectively destroyed.
Most people believe this isn’t a sound conclusion, however, since even bodies that are buried intact will eventually decompose and become unrecognizable. Bodies are destroyed in various ways every single day and it’s doubtful many Christians feel as though those people are excluded from Resurrection, especially if their deaths were beyond their control.
Another reason some people believe burial is preferable to cremation is because burial is explicitly mentioned in the Bible as a form of disposition. Jesus himself was buried in a tomb, after his crucifixion. Many disciples who followed Jesus were also buried and there are phrases that reference burial directly in the Bible. Additionally, it wasn't until 1963 that the Catholic church lifted the restriction on cremations as an acceptable form of disposition for Catholics, so the stigma in the community can still exist, even today:
Daniel 12:2 - “Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt.”
John 5:28-29- “Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice 29 and come out—those who have done what is good will rise to live, and those who have done what is evil will rise to be condemned.”
Genesis 23:4 - “I [am] a stranger and a sojourner with you: give me a possession of a buryingplace with you, that I may bury my dead out of my sight.”
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.”
What are the Bible verses associated with cremation?
If you’re looking for specific Bible verses that support or condemn cremation, there aren’t many to point to. In general, when the Bible mentions cremation it is usually in reference to someone being punished or to mankind’s humble beginnings. The Bible suggests that we are but dust in comparison to God. Here are some mentions of cremation in the Bible:
Genesis 3:19, NIV - "By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.'"
Ecclesiastes 3:20 - “All go to one place. All are from the dust, and to dust all return.”
Joshua 7:25 - “Joshua said, “Why have you troubled us? The Lord will trouble you this day.” And all Israel stoned them with stones; and they burned them with fire after they had stoned them with stones.”
1 Samuel 31:12-13 - “All the valiant men rose and walked all night, and took the body of Saul and the bodies of his sons from the wall of Beth-shan, and they came to Jabesh and burned them there. They took their bones and buried them under the tamarisk tree at Jabesh, and fasted seven days.”
2 Kings 23:20 - “All the priests of the high places who were there he slaughtered on the altars and burned human bones on them; then he returned to Jerusalem.”
The frustrating reality surrounding the Bible and cremation is that the Bible remains neutral on the subject. There is no evidence that suggests cremation is a sin, but there’s no counterevidence suggesting it’s not a sin. Most burning in the Bible is a form of punishment rather than a method of disposition. If you’re unsure whether burial or cremation is the right choice for you, it might be worth speaking to your spiritual leaders for guidance on this subject.