Cremation in the Bible

by Thomas J. Doubt, pastor

I read with interest brother Jerry Locke's response to the Pulpit Helps article on burial practices (October 2001). Of particular note was my brother's "incontrovertible" list of those in Scripture who were buried and not cremated.

Missing from the list was the name of Saul. In 1 Samuel 31:4 we find that Saul had killed himself, rather than risk capture. The Philistines beheaded Saul and hung his body at Beth Shan. Valiant men from Jabesh-Gilead recovered the body and then burned it (verse 12). Afterwards, the bones were buried (verse 13). Apparently, these men who recovered Saul's body were not pagans, but of the Israelite tribe of Benjamin (cf. Judges 21:8).

While burial was certainly the common practice in biblical times, as it is today in western culture, the Bible does have evidence of the practice of cremation.

Whether hung on a wall, burned, or buried we should be able to agree that our earthly bodies are the corruptible remains. Through Jesus Christ we are raised with a new spiritual body, incorruptible and immortal.