Derived from the Latin word “cremo” meaning “to burn”, cremation goes as far as its etymology describes it. Cremation is the application of heat that ranges from 1400 to 2100 degrees Fahrenheit (760 to 1150 degree Celsius) to a wooden casket that contains a dead body. That just means that the heat applied is 7 to 11 times the temperature of boiling water. The ruins weigh from 4 to 8 pounds. After the first process, the remains are then ground to granule. Cremation is a 3 to 5 hour process. Cremation is a very old kind of ritual. Archeologists believe that cremation began during the Stone Age, 3000 BCE. The near East part of Europe most likely used it first. As the years passed, by 800 BCE, cremation became the common method in disposing the dead body. After 200 years, the Rome used it also as their way of disposing the dead body. However, some culture did not want cremation as a way of disposing the dead body. For instance, the Christians back then shunned cremation because of the idea that it is related to paganism because of Greece and Rome used it, so they buried their dead in catacombs or underground vaults. However, at present, there are more cultures that allow cremation.

Dharmic faiths, such as Hinduism and Buddhism, require the use of cremation. Their main reason for this is what Bhagavad Gita quoted, “Just as old clothes are cast off and new ones taken, the soul leaves the body after the death to take a new one.” Their belief goes against the reason of the early Christians, because for the early Christian, a body is sacred because it carries the soul, for them, the body is not sacred anymore as the soul already left the body for a new one. Hindu tradition explains why cremation is more preferred in their culture. They believe that cremating the body stimulates detachment, and since detachment plays a huge role in their culture, cremation, for them is a better practice than burial. In addition, they also have a reason for doing a plain burial for children. They are put into the idea that since they are kids, they have not had any attachment since they only lived for such a short period. In relation to cremating, Hindu labels cremation as the “last rites”. As the “last rites”, a Puja, Hindu prayer, is performed to help the spirit of the body transcend to the afterlife.

Christianity on the other hand did not fully agree with cremation. In fact, the Early Christians were against cremation. For them, the body is treated as a sacred material and should be buried properly. Also, a list of Bible verses explains the negativity of burning someone.

“Genesis 38:24: Judah initially ordered his pregnant daughter-in-law to be burned to death because she was guilty of prostitution. This action would have caused the death of the woman and her twin fetuses.

Exodus 32:20: Moses destroyed the golden calf by burning it.

Leviticus 20:14: If a man marries both a woman and her mother, then all three “must be burned in the fire” (NIV). The passage is ambiguous: it is not known whether they would be burned alive, or would be stoned to death first, and their bodies burned later.

Leviticus 21:9: If the daughter of a priest becomes a prostitute, then she “must be burned in the fire.” (NIV)

Numbers 16:35: God exterminated Korah and 250 Israelite men with fire because they opposed Moses.

Deuteronomy 7:25: God commanded that the idols of Pagan Gods be destroyed with fire.

Joshua 7:15-25: After Joshua and his army exterminated the men, women and innocent children of Jericho, a few soldiers disobeyed God’s command and looted the city. As punishment for the theft, and to pay for Israel’s disgrace, God ordered the thieves to be burned. They were stoned to death; their bodies were burned and buried in what was called the Valley of Achor.

Judges 15:6: The Philistines burned Samson’s wife and father-in-law to death.

1 Samuel 31:11-13: Earlier in the chapter, Saul had been wounded and asked for assisted suicide from his armor-bearer. The latter refused, so Saul committed suicide himself. The Philistines impaled Saul’s body and those of his sons and left them on public display. The people of Jabesh Gilead retrieved the bodies, burned them and later buried the remaining bones in Gilead. There have been a number theories raised to account for this unusual treatment to a hero:

Burning might have a local custom in Gilead.

The people of Gilead may have been worried that the Philistines might dig up the bodies and further desecrate them.

Burning might have been necessary because their bodies may have partly decomposed.

the Hebrew word translated as “burnt” might actually mean “annointed”; thus, the bodies might not have been burned after all.

2 Kings 10:26: Jehu demolished a temple consecrated to the God Baal and burned its sacred stone.

Jeremiah 29:22: This verse contains a curse which refers to the time that the Babylonians burned Zedekiah and Ahab by fire.

Amos 2:1: God proclaimed a death curse on Moab because he had reduced the bones of the king of Edom to lime through burning.

The Christian Scriptures (New Testament) contain few references to burning of bodies or objects:

Acts 19:19: Sorcerers who were converted to Christianity brought their scrolls out to be burned.

Revelation 20:15: The fate of those whose names were not written in the Book of Life is to be thrown into the lake of fire.” (Robinson, “Cremation vs Burial: Christian Controversy”)

However, during the medieval period, cremation was practices, and until today, the Church (Catholic) allows the process of cremation already. They still prefer burial, but cremation is already allowed in the Catholic community. In connection to Christianity, Protestants have long before accepted the practice of cremation.

Another religion that accepts cremation as a form of disposal is the Neo-Paganism. Pagans believe that the rising smoke symbolizes the spirit of the dead. Lastly, other religions that accept the practice of cremation are Jainism, Seventh-day Adventist Church and Sikhs.

Cremation was a pagan practice. However, as the period changes, it gets accepted by the modern culture. Nevertheless, some still contradict to it.

This entry was published on March 20, 2012 at 6:14 AM and is filed under Practices, Religion. Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

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