Burial finds its antecedent in the creation chronicles. The body was formed from the dust of the ground (Genesis 2:7), and God pronounced to Adam, “…till thou return to the ground; for out of it thou was taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return” (Genesis 3:19). Burial best follows the primary practice of God’s people, and binds our practice to those believers who have gone before us. Burial pronounces a respect for the human body, which was created by God (Psalm 139:13-16) and in His image (Gen. 1:27; 2:7; 1 Cor. 11:7) – and for the believer whose body was indwelt by His Spirit. Burial reenacts the mode of disposal of Jesus’s body, and witnesses a belief in His resurrection and the expectation of ours. “In short, a burial of the body of a believer is, in the truest sense, the last great act of faith that a believer may exhibit with his or her life.”
A simple Christian funerary following biblical precedent and principles might best (though not only) be a made up of:
- Respectful preparation of the body
- Mourning (not as those who have no hope) with comfort in the future resurrection
- Brief comments and/or singing at the graveside
- Committal in the ground to dust to await the resurrection
A biblical funerary orthopraxy does not lay down rigid regulations, but should proceed on biblical principles judiciously considered. It will not be intimidated by custom – whether national, civic or "Christian". It will resign the body to dust and find sweet comfort in the future resurrection – acknowledging the reality of both inevitable death and glorious resurrection. No matter the final disposition of one's body, the Lord knows them that are His and will raise them all in a moment – incorruptible and immortal.
"Thaptology" is a word coined to stand for the study of burial and funeral rites, particularly from the Bible perspective. It comes from the combination of θάπτω + λογία [thaptó, to bury, inter; to celebrate funeral rites + ology, the study of. Forms of thaptó are found 11 times in the New Testament (Matthew - 3; Luke - 3; Acts - 4; 1 Corinthians - 1)]