The Bible doesn’t specifically mean or teach about cremation and there are no particular commands for or against cremation found anywhere in Scripture.
Cremation was utilized by people during the Old Testament and New Testament, although it wasn’t common practice among Jews and/or believers.
Still, there are examples in Scripture of humans and human bones being burned, particularly in the Old Testament (e.g. 1 Kings 16:18 and 2 Kings 23:16-20). But this isn’t cremation per se.
The traditional method of disposing of a dead human body in Biblical times was through burial (in the ground, in a tomb or in a cave).
However, Scripture doesn’t condemn or forbid cremation and we know that at the end of the age the dead will be raised and that the mortal bodies of the believers will be transformed into immortal bodies (1 Corinthians 15:52).
And to help you find the answer to ‘what does the Bible say about cremation’ in greater detail, in this article I’ll cover the following topics:
- The definition for cremation
- What God thinks about cremation/burning human bones
- The Bible verses that cover cremation or similar topics
- Bible verses about common burial practices
- Whether or not cremation is considered a sin
- The resurrection of the cremated debate
This is the Definition for Cremation
Cremation is a method used for disposing of the human body after death through extreme heat. The exact process involves putting the body in a cardboard or wooden casket that’s placed in a cremation chamber with temperatures between 1800 ° F and 2000 ° F.
After several hours all that’s left of the deceased person are bone fragments and potentially metal debris such as titanium limbs, which are removed by hand.
Then the bone fragments are put in a processor that crushes them to fine powder, which is then placed in an urn that’s given to the dead person’s relatives.
This body disposal method is typically used as a funeral or post-funeral rite and it’s considered an alternative to a traditional funeral that involves conventional burial of the body in a casket or coffin.
Do We Know What God Thinks About Cremation?
We don’t really know what God thinks about cremation because His Living Word the Bible doesn’t give us guidelines regarding the right burial practices.
God’s Word doesn’t specifically favour, nor forbid the burial method of cremation.
There are no Scripture passages that cover the topic of cremation or what accepted burial practices are, which means that this is not something that the Lord wanted us to know.
Why would that be though?
Perhaps because no matter the burial method, the body will eventually decompose after some time. It’ll turn to nothing but dust, whether it was buried in a gasket or burned in a cremation chamber.
The only difference between the burial process is how much time it takes for the body to decompose. Obviously, the cremation method turns the dead body into dust and ashes much more quickly than a traditional burial.
So, God didn’t give us specific instructions about how to bury the dead because obviously, we all turn to dust in the end.
And the Creator of all things is all-powerful, meaning that He can resurrect anyone, cremated or not.
Bible Verses About Cremation
Although there are no particular Bible verses that mention cremation, there are a few Scripture passages that may point to burning the bones of men.
Here’s what the Bible say about cremation or at least cremation-related burials:
2 Kings 23:15-20
- “Moreover, the altar at Bethel, the high place erected by Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who made Israel to sin, that altar with the high place he pulled down and burned, reducing it to dust. He also burned the Asherah. And as Josiah turned, he saw the tombs there on the mount. 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 that the man of God proclaimed, who had predicted these things.”
1 Samuel 31:11-13
- “But when the inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead heard what 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 Beth-shan, and they came to Jabesh and burned them there. 13 And they took their bones and buried them under the tamarisk tree in Jabesh and fasted seven days.”
- “And Joshua said, “Why did you bring trouble on us? The Lord brings trouble on you today.” And all Israel stoned him with stones. They burned them with fire and stoned them with stones.”
Note that most of those whose bodies were burned in the Bible were cursed as cremation was considered a type of punishment than an honorable practice.
Although you won’t find any specific verses about God or His Son Jesus Christ favoring the practice of cremation, there’s nothing to suggest it’s forbidden from a Biblical perspective either.
Bible Verses About Common Burial Practices
In contrast to cremation, there are many Bible verses related to the common burial practices of both the Old and New Testaments.
Here are a few great examples that reveal what the typical Biblical burial practice is, based on Scripture:
- “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness.”
- “Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb in which no one had yet been laid.”
2 Kings 21:18
- “And Manasseh slept with his fathers and was buried in the garden of his house, in the garden of Uzza, and Amon his son reigned in his place.”
2 Chronicles 21:20
- “He was thirty-two years old when he began to reign, and he reigned eight years in Jerusalem. And he departed with no one’s regret. They buried him in the city of David, but not in the tombs of the kings.”
- “And Jesus said to him, “Follow me, and leave the dead to bury their own dead.””
- “That he may give me the cave of Machpelah, which he owns; it is at the end of his field. For the full price let him give it to me in your presence as property for a burying place.””
2 Chronicles 16:14
- “They buried him in the tomb that he had cut for himself in the city of David. They laid him on a bier that had been filled with various kinds of spices prepared by the perfumer’s art, and they made a very great fire in his honor.”
All of these verses point to a specific and common type of burial practice that’s still relevant to this day. That is, disposing of the body in a grave.
In Biblical times the body was wrapped in linen cloth with anointing spices being added to reduce the unpleasant odours as this was the common burial type at the time.
This was also how our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ was buried prior to raising from the dead on the third day.
This is Whether Cremation is Considered a Sin
There’s no mention of cremation being a sin in the Bible, implying that God doesn’t specifically condemn this burial practice.
It’s easy to see why cremation shouldn’t be a problem for our Creator as we all return to dust eventually, regardless of how we died and how we were buried (or not).
The first book in the Bible reveals this perfectly:
- “By the sweat of your face, you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”
The first human being Adam was both created and formed by God Who used an already available material in the form of the earth.
Just like a potter forms his clay God created man who is made of dust and to dust returns.
And since we already covered the question “what does the Bible say about cremation”, it’s important to remember that nowhere in Scripture does it say that this form of burial is a sin.
The Resurrection of Cremated People Debate
The main objection against cremation that many Christians have comes the confusion regarding how the bodies of those cremated will be resurrected when Jesus Christ returns:
1 Thessalonians 4:16
“For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.”
This passage from Scripture tells us that one day God will resurrect our dead bodies to reunite them with our spirit (1 Corinthians 15:35-58).
However, do you think that God isn’t able to resurrect a cremated human body, just like He is able to resurrect ANY body, no matter how it passed away?
The Lord created everything visible and invisible, meaning that He can bring a person’s remains back to life even if that person was burned alive for example.
It doesn’t really matter how your body was disposed of as eventually, it turns to dust after time and the Bible supports this.
We can say that choosing between cremation and a traditional funeral involving burial falls under the topic of Christian freedom. We are reassured that our bodies will be resurrected at the second coming of Christ so the type of body disposition is irrelevant.
Besides, funerals are simply a way for the living relatives and friends of a diseased person to celebrate his or her life. It’s a moment of paying respect to a dead person by remembering and reminiscing their time on earth.
Cremation is a type of human body disposition through extreme heat that became more prominent in modern times, although it was a rare practice in Biblical times.
And now you have the answer to “what does the Bible say about cremation”. And the answer is quite simple – the Bible doesn’t specifically favour or condemn the practice of cremation.
The reason for this is quite obvious – we will be resurrected at the second coming of Jesus Christ, regardless of whether we were buried in a regular grave or cremated in a cremation chamber.
Remember that when the Lord returns believers will be resurrected as Scripture states:
1 Thessalonians 4:17
“Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.”
Thus, it doesn’t matter how you died or what happened with your body afterward.
In the second coming, God will resurrect believers with spiritual, imperishable bodies into eternal life, while the unsaved will go into eternal punishment (Matthew 25:46).