Let me begin with two guiding statements:
1. No where does the Bible prescribe burial as the Christian mode of interment.
2. No where does the Bible forbid cremation.
That means we have some hard work ahead of us if we want to try to understand the issues from a Christian perspective.
Today, cremation is on the rise.
In 1920, 1% of Americans chose cremation.
In 1960, 5%.
In 2000, 26%.
In 2010, 33%.
Why are people choosing cremation over burial? Here are the four top reasons, in no particular order:
Nevertheless, my position on cremation remains one of passive discouragement. While I don’t think cremation can be classified as a clear sin, there are hints that it might not be the best choice for Christians. Tomorrow we’ll consider what we can learn from the Bible about cremation.
Today, let’s begin with burial.
What does God think about burial?
To answer that question, Christians must turn to the Bible.
The Old Testament does not mention the interment of each person, but several burials are mentioned that establish a pattern, including: Sarah, Abraham, Deborah, Rachel, Isaac, Leah, Jacob, Joseph, Miriam, Moses, Joshua, Eleazar, Gideon, Jair, Jephthah, Ibzan, Elon, Abdon, Samson, Samuel, Asahel, Abner, Ahithophel, David, Solomon, Rehoboam, Abijam, Asa, Baasha, Omri, Ahab, Jehoshaphat, Joram, Jehu, Jehoahaz, Joash, Elisha, Jehoash, Azariah, Jotham, Ahaz, Hezekiah, and Manasseh.
Burials mentioned in the New Testament include those of Lazarus, Jesus, and Stephen.
This establishes a clear Jewish practice of burial in a tomb, a cave, or the ground. This burial practice involved entombment of the full body or remains.
Note: The NT was written during a century-long Jewish burial practice that involved two stages. First, the body was placed in an accessible tomb for at least one year. After sufficient decomposition of the flesh, the bones were then disassembled and placed in a stone burial box (an ossuary) for permanent entombment.
For our purposes of understanding God’s view of interment, the most important burial mentioned in the Bible may be that of Moses.
Deuteronomy 34:5 So Moses the servant of the LORD died there in the land of Moab, according to the word of the LORD. 6 And He buried him in the valley in the land of Moab, opposite Beth-peor; but no man knows his burial place to this day.
God Himself buried Moses.
With every interment option at His disposal, God chose burial instead of any other.
Without question, burial is a mode of interment that pleases the Lord.
Tomorrow we’ll see if we can conclude the same thing about cremation.