Ligon Duncan on the Non-Negotiables of the Gospel

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  • Tuesday, November 18, 2008

    Israelites, the Soul, and Cremation

    University of Chicago archaeologists who made the discovery last summer in ruins of a walled city near the Syrian border said the stele provided the first written evidence that the people in this region held to the religious concept of the soul apart from the body. By contrast, Semitic contemporaries, including the Israelites, believed that the body and soul were inseparable, which for them made cremation unthinkable, as noted in the Bible.

    The above quote was taken from NYTimes Article "Found: An Ancient Monument to the Soul"

    The statement that Israelites "believed that the body and sould were inseparable" and that this is what made "cremation unthinkable" for them is not correct, particularly those quoted in the Bible. See the following for just a few examples:

    Paul - "We are of good courage, I say, and are willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be at home with the Lord." (II Cor 5:8) "I declare to you, brothers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable." (1 Cor 15:50)

    Jesus "Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell." (Mt 10:28)

    Job - "I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes—I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!" (Job 19:25-27)

    The reason the Israelites were opposed to cremation is that they believed the body as well as the soul was given by God and therefore should be treated with honor, and if you study the Scriptures you'll find that the burning of the body was typically associated with dishonor (for example, it was a type death often experienced by evil kings, etc.)

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