Cremation, the burning of bodies of the deceased, has been practiced since the dawn of civilization. There is evidence that it was practiced throughout most of Europe by the Neolithic cultures and died out only with the arrival of Christianity in the 5th and 6th century. It was apparently introduced to Asia by the invading Aryans ca. 2000 B.C. The Hindu community continues to perpetuate it as part of sacred Hindu tradition to the present time.
There is no evidence in the Bible to suggest that cremation was practiced by any of the peoples of Bible history. Christian burial customs have grown out of the Jewish background.
Because of the deep religious connotations involved in a Hindu burial ceremony, the Church in India has been reluctant to consider cremation as a burial option for Christians. In China and Japan cremation is not part of the cultural tradition, but due to the need to conserve land, cremation has been secularized and made mandatory for all communities. Thus it is not an issue for Christians.
In the last 50 years attitudes toward cremation have changed in the West, where more and more Christians use it as an acceptable alternative to the high costs of embalming and burial. In a survey taken in 1965, only 9 out of 27 denominations surveyed, prohibited cremation. Mennonites have never taken any official stand for or against cremation, but tend to favor traditional burial customs.
Erb, Paul. "Funeral Procedures of Religious Groups and Fraternal Organizations -- Mennonites," in Funeral Customs the World Over, ed. Haberstein and Lamers, 2nd edition. Milwaukee: Radtke Bros. and Kortsch Co., 1963.
Haberstein and Lamers. The History of Funeral Directing, esp. ch. 2 rev. ed. (1962).
Encyclopedia Americana, vol. 18 (1986), 171.
Bosham, A. L. "Hinduism." Concise Encyclopedia of Living Faiths. Boston: Beacon press: 224.
Dubois and Beachamp. Hindu Manners, Customs and Ceremonies. 3rd ed. Oxford: Oxford Press, 1906.
Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, and Waterloo, Ontario, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 5, p. 212. All rights reserved. For information on ordering the encyclopedia visit the Herald Press website.
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MLA style: Friesen, John A. "Cremation." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1989. Web. 20 June 2013. http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/C745ME.html.
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