Bible Question:

Is it right or wrong to donate a body to science? How about cremation?

Bible Answer:

The Bible contains a number of examples of human bodies being burned that resulted in death. These bodies were burned as the result of murder, war, and for other reasons (Gen. 38:24; Lev. 20:14; Num. 16:35; Judges 15:6) but not for the purpose of burial. Nowhere in the Bible can one find a passage that describes or suggests that a dead human body was cremated rather than being buried in the ground.

However, we do discover that God buried the body of Moses in the ground.

So Moses the servant of the LORD died there in the land of Moab, according to the word of the LORD. 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. (NASB) Deuteronomy 34:5-6

But this is the only example in scripture of God’s burying a person. Does this mean that God does not want our bodies to be cremated? Unfortunately, there is no answer to the question. It would be a mistake to be dogmatic about cremation or burial since God has not stated which is preferred. If cremation or physical burial in the ground were important, God would have provided us with some guidelines in the Bible, but He did not do that.

Ecclesiastes 12:7 tells us that we all return to ashes some day. Whether we are buried in the earth, die in the ocean, or are cremated, we will return to dust and dissolve some day. The water, minerals, and elements that make up our bodies will be absorbed into the ground and consumed by bacteria, plants, various organisms, or animals. Those who have died in the rivers, lakes, seas, and oceans will completely dissolve. Yet, God can and will resurrect their bodies. That is the message of Revelation 20:13.

And the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead which were in them; and they were judged, every one of them according to their deeds. (NASB) Rev. 20:13

Every person’s body will be resurrected sometime in the future and meet God either in the rapture, in the kingdom, or on judgment day. It does not matter if the body was buried or cremated. If we said that cremation was wrong, we would be establishing a rule that God did not apply to us. That would be legalism. Legalism is the establishment of a principle or practice that someone or some group claims that we should follow for spiritual reasons but that God did not state in the Bible. The Pharisees established many religious rules that God did not establish.

We also do not find any prohibitions against a person donating body parts to science. The Old Testament does prohibit self-mutilation, which was a common practice in false religions. So it is not surprising that God prohibits this practice in Leviticus and other Old Testament passages (Leviticus 19:28). But to donate an organ for another person is not wrong. That is not participation in a false religion. It is an expression of love for others.

Conclusion:

While there is nothing in the Bible that prohibits cremation or the donation of one’s body to science, the decision is ultimately a personal one. Some may feel that burial is the best choice, since God buried Moses in the ground. Others may feel the freedom to be cremated. It is important to remember that the Bible has nothing to say about either choice.

Reference Links:

Is it wrong in the sight of God to be cremated?
What does the Bible say about self-mutilation/suicide, if anything?