(קבוּרָה, keburah', Ec 6:3; Jer 22:19; elsewhere "grave;" ἐνταφιασμός, Mr 14:8; Joh 12:7). SEE FUNERAL.
I. JEWISH. — Abraham, in his treaty for the cave of Machpelah, expressed his anxiety to obtain a secure place in which "to bury his dead out of his sight;" and almost every people has naturally regarded this as the most proper mode of disposing of the dead. Two instances, indeed, we meet with in sacred history of the barbarous practice of burning them to ashes:
the one in the case of Saul and his sons, whose bodies were probably so much mangled as to preclude their receiving the royal honors of embalmment (1Sa 31:12); the other, mentioned by Amos (Am 6:10), appears to refer to a season of prevailing pestilence, and the burning of those who died of plague was probably one of the sanatory measures adopted to prevent the spread of contagion. Among the ancient Romans this was the usual method of disposing of dead bodies. But throughout the whole of their national history the people of God observed the practice of burial. It was deemed not only an act of humanity, but a sacred duty of religion to pay the last honors to the departed; while to be deprived of these, as was frequently the fate of enemies at the hands of ruthless conquerors (2Sa 21:9; 2Sa 14; 2Ki 11:11-16; Ps 79:2; Ec 6:3), was considered the greatest calamity and disgrace which a person could suffer. By the ancient Greeks and Romans this was held to be essential even to the peace of the departed spirits (see Smith's Dict. of Class. Antiq. s.v. Funus). On the death of any member of a family, preparations were forthwith made for the burial, which, among the Jews, were in many respects similar to those which are common in the East at the present day, and were more or less expensive according to circumstances. After the solemn ceremony of the last kiss and closing the eyes, the corpse, which was perfumed by the nearest relative, having been laid out and the head covered by a napkin, was subjected to entire ablution in warm water (Ac 9:37), a precaution probably adopted to guard against premature interment. But, besides this first and indispensable attention, other cares of a more elaborate and costly description were among certain classes bestowed on the remains of deceased friends, the origin of which is to be traced to a fond and natural, though foolish anxiety to retard or defy the process of decomposition, and all of which may be included under the general head of embalming. Nowhere was this operation performed with so religious care and in so scientific a manner as in ancient Egypt, which could boast of a class of professional men trained to the business; and such adepts had these "physicians" become in the art of preserving dead bodies, that there are mummies still found which must have existed for many thousand years, and are probably the remains of subjects of the early Pharaohs. The bodies of Jacob and Joseph underwent this eminently Egyptian preparation for burial, which on both occasions was doubtless executed in a style of the greatest magnificence (Ge 1; Ge 2; Ge 26). Whether this expensive method of embalming was imitated by the earlier Hebrews, we have no distinct accounts; but we learn from their practice in later ages that they had some observance of the kind, only they substituted a simpler and more expeditious, though it must have been a less efficient process, which consisted in merely swathing the corpse round with numerous folds of linen, and sometimes a variety of stuffs, and anointing it with a mixture of aromatic substances, of which aloes and myrrh were the chief ingredients. A sparing use of spices on such occasions was reckoned a misplaced and discreditable economy; and few higher tokens of respect could be paid to the remains of a departed friend than a profuse application of costly perfumes. Thus we are told by the writers of the Talmud (Massecheth Semacoth, 8) that not less than eighty pounds weight of spices were used at the funeral of Rabbi Gamaliel, an elder; and by Josephus (Ant. 17, 8, 3) that, in the splendid funeral procession of Herod, 500 of his servants attended as spice-bearers. Thus, too, after the crucifixion, Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathaea, two men of wealth, testified their regard for the sacred body of the Savior by "bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pounds weight" (Joh 19:39-40); while, unknown to them, the two Marys, together with their associates, were prepared to render the same office of friendship on the dawn of the first day of the week. Whatever cavils the Jewish doctors have made at their extravagance and unnecessary waste in lavishing such a quantity of costly perfumes on a person in the circumstances of Jesus, the liberality of those pious disciples in the performance of the rites of their country was unquestionably dictated by the profound veneration which they cherished for the memory of their Lord. Nor can we be certain but they intended to use the great abundance of perfumes they provided, not in the common way of anointing the corpse, but, as was done in the case of princes and very eminent personages, of preparing "a bed of spices," in which, after burning them, they might deposit the body (2Ch 16:14; Jer 34:5). For unpatriotic and wicked princes, however, the people made no such burnings, and hence the honor was denied to Jehoram (2Ch 21:19). SEE EMBALMING.
The corpse, after receiving the preliminary attentions, was enveloped in the grave-clothes, which were sometimes nothing more than the ordinary dress, or folds of linen cloth wrapped round the body, and a napkin about the head; though in other cases a shroud was used, which had long before been prepared by the individual for the purpose, and was plain or ornament. al, according to taste or other circumstances. The body, thus dressed, was deposited in an upper chamber in solemn state, open to the view of all visitors (Ac 9:37).
From the moment the vital spark was extinguished, the members of the family, especially the females, in the violent style of Oriental grief, burst out into shrill, loud, and doleful lamentations, and were soon joined by their friends and neighbors, who, on hearing of the event, crowded to the house in such numbers that Mark describes it by the term θόρυβος, a tumult (v. 38). By the better classes, among whom such liberties were not allowed, this duty of sympathizing with the bereaved family was, and still is, performed by a class of females who engaged themselves as professional mourners, and who, seated amid the mourning circle, studied, by vehement sobs and gesticulations, and by singing dirges in which they eulogized the personal qualities or virtuous and benevolent actions of the deceased (Ac 9:39), to stir the source of tears, and give fresh impulse to the grief of the afflicted relatives. Numbers of these singing men and women lamented the death of Josiah (2Ch 35:25). The effect of their melancholy ditties was sometimes heightened by the attendance of minstrels (αὐληταί, properly pipers); and thus in solemn silence, broken only at intervals by vocal and instrumental strains suited to the mournful occasion, the time was passed till the corpse was carried forth to the grave. SEE MOURNING.
The period between the death and the burial was much shorter than custom sanctions in our country; for a long delay in the removal of a corpse would have been attended with much inconvenience, from the heat of the climate generally, and, among the Jews in particular, from the circumstance that every one that came near the chamber was unclean for a week. Interment, therefore, where there was no embalming, was never postponed beyond twenty-four hours after death, and generally it took place much earlier. It is still the practice in the East to have burials soon over; and there are two instances in sacred history where consignment to the grave followed immediately after decease (Ac 5:6,10).
Persons of distinction were deposited in coffins. Among the Egyptians, who were the inventors of them, these chests were formed most commonly of several layers of pasteboard glued together, sometimes of stone, more rarely of sycamore wood, which was reserved for the great, and furnished, it is probable, the materials of the coffin which received the honored remains of the vizier of Egypt. There is good reason to believe also that the kings and other exalted personages in ancient Palestine were buried in coffins of wood or stone, on which, as additional marks of honor, were placed their insignia when they were carried to their tombs: if a prince, his crown and scepter. if a warrior, his armor; and if a his books. SEE COFFIN.
But the most common mode of carrying a corpse to the grave was on a bier or bed (2Sa 3:31), which in some cases must have been furnished in a costly and elegant style, if, as many learned men conclude from the history of Asa (2Ch 16:14) and of Herod (Josephus, Ant. 17, 8, 3), these royal personages were conveyed to their tombs on their own beds. The bier, however, in use among the common and meaner sort of people was nothing but a plain wooden board, on which, supported by two poles, the body lay concealed only by a slight coverlet from the view of the attendants (Hackett's Illustr. of Script. p. 112). On such an humble vehicle was the widow's son of Nain carried (Lu 7:14), and "this mode of performing funeral obsequies," says an intelligent traveler, "obtains equally in the present day among the Jews, Mohammedans, and Christians of the East." The nearest relatives kept close by the bier, and performed the office of bearers, in which, however, they were assisted by the company in succession. For if the deceased was a public character, or, though in humble life, had been much esteemed, the friends and neighbors showed their respect by volunteering attendance in great numbers; and hence, in the story of the affecting incident at Nain, it is related that "much people of the city were with the widow." In cases where the expense could be afforded, hired mourners accompanied the procession, and by every now and then lifting the covering and exposing the corpse, gave the signal to the company to renew their shouts of lamentation. A remarkable instance occurs in the splendid funeral cavalcade of Jacob. Those mercenaries broke out at intervals into the most passionate expressions of grief, but especially on approaching the boundaries of Canaan and the site of the sepulcher; the immense company halted for seven days, and, under the guidance of the mourning attendants, indulged in the most violent paroxysms of sorrow. SEE GRIEF.
Sepulchres were, as they still are in the East — by a prudential arrangement sadly neglected in our country — situated without the precincts of cities. Among the Jews, in the case of Levitical cities, the distance required was 2000 cubits, and in all it was considerable. Nobody was allowed to be buried within the walls, Jerusalem forming the only exception, and even there the privilege was reserved for the royal family of David and a few persons of exalted character (1Ki 2:10; 2Ki 14:20). In the vicinity of this capital were public cemeteries for the general accommodation of the inhabitants, besides a field appropriated to the burial of strangers. SEE ACELDAMA.
It remains only to notice that, during the first few weeks after a burial, members of a family, especially the females, paid frequent visits to the tomb. This affecting custom still continues in the East, as groups of women may be seen daily at the graves of their deceased relatives, strewing them with flowers, or pouring over them the tears of fond regret. And hence, in the interesting narrative of the raising of Lazarus, when Mary rose abruptly to meet Jesus, whose approach had been privately announced to her, it was natural for her assembled friends, who were ignorant of her motives, to suppose "she was going to the grave to weep there" (Joh 11:31; see Hackett's Illustra. of Script. p. 111). SEE SEPULCHRE.
II. CHRISTIAN. —
(I.) Ancient Usages. Among the ceremonies of the early Christians we observe invariably a remarkable care for the dead. and a becoming gravity and sorrow in conducting the funeral solemnities. The Christian Church manifested from the first a decided preference for the custom of burying the dead, though the practice of burning the dead prevailed throughout the Roman empire. The Romans used to conduct their funeral solemnities in the night; but the Christians, on the contrary, preferred the daytime, retaining, however, the custom of carrying lighted tapers in the funeral procession. In times of persecution they were often compelled to bury their dead in the night, for the sake of security (Euseb. Ch. Hist. 7, 22). It was usual for friends or relatives to close the eyes and mouth of the dying, and to dress them in proper grave-clothes (usually made of fine linen). Eusebius tells us that Constantine was wrapped in a purple robe, with other magnificence (Vit. Const. 4, 66). Jerome alludes, with indignation, to the custom of burying the rich in costly clothes, as gold and silk (Vita Pauli). Augustine, in several passages, commends the practice of decently and reverently burying the bodies of the dead, especially of the righteous, of whose bodies he says, "the Holy Spirit hath made use, as instruments and vessels, for all good works" (De Civit. Dei, lib. 1, cap. 13). He says further, in another passage, that we are not to infer from the authorities given in Holy Scripture for this sacred duty that there is any sense or feeling in the corpse itself, but that even the bodies of the dead are under the providence of God, to whom such pious offices are pleasing, through faith in the Resurrection. The body was watched and attended till the time fixed for the funeral, when it was carried to the grave by the nearest relatives of the deceased, or by persons of rank or distinction, or by individuals appointed for that purpose. Appropriate hymns were sung; and the practice of singing on such occasions was explained and defended by Chrysostom, who says (Hom. 4 in Hebr.), "What mean our hymns? Do we not glorify God, and give him thanks that he hath crowned him that is departed, that he hath delivered him from trouble, and hath set him free from all fear? Consider what thou singest at that time: 'Turn again unto thy rest, O my soul, for the Lord hath rewarded thee.' And again, 'I will fear no evil; for thou art with me.' And again, 'Thou art my refuge from the affliction that encompasseth me.' Consider what these psalms mean. If thou believest the things that thou sayest to be true, why dost thou weep and lament, and make a mere mock and pageantry of thy singing? If thou believest them not to be true, why dost thou play the hypocrite so much as to sing ?" Notice of the moving of the funeral procession was sometimes given by the tuba; or boards, used before the introduction of bells, were struck together; and in later times bells were tolled. As early as the fourth century it was usual to carry in the procession palm and olive branches, as symbols of victory and joy, and to burn incense. Rosemary was not used till a later period; laurel and ivy leaves were sometimes put into the coffin; but cypress was rejected, as being symbolical of sorrow and mourning. It was also customary to strew flowers on the grave. Funeral orations, in praise of those who had been distinguished during life by their virtues and merits, were delivered. Several of these orations are extant. In the early Church it was not uncommon to celebrate the Lord's Supper at the grave, by which it was intended to intimate the communion between the living and the dead, as members of one and the same mystical body, while a testimony was given by the fact that the deceased had departed in the faith. Prayers for the dead were offered when it became customary to commend the souls of the deceased to God at the grave, and into this serious error some eminent men fell. Chrysostom and Jerome have both been quoted as adopting this unscriptural practice (Bingham, Orig. Eccl. 15, 3, 17). SEE DEAD, PRAYERS FOR THE. "In England, burial in some part of the parish church-yard is a common law right, without even paying for breaking the soil, and that right will be enforced by mandamus. But the body of a parishioner cannot be interred in an iron coffin or vault, or even in any particular part of a church-yard, as, for instance, the family vault, without the sanction of the incumbent. To acquire a right to be buried in a particular vault or place, a faculty must be obtained from the ordinary, as in the case of a pew in the church. But this right is at an end when the family cease to be parishioners. By the canons of the Church of England, clergymen cannot refuse to delay or bury any corpse that is brought to the church or church-yard; on the other hand, a conspiracy to prevent a burial is an indictable offense, and so is the wilfully obstructing a clergyman in reading the burial service in a parish church. It is a popular error that a creditor can arrest or detain-the body of a deceased debtor, and the doing such an act is indictable as a misdemeanor. It is also an error that permitting a funeral procession to pass over private grounds creates a public right of way. By the 3 Geo. IV, c. 126, § 32, the inhabitants of any parish, township, or place, when going to or returning from attending funerals of persons in England who have died and are to be buried there, are exempted from any toll within these limits. And by the 4 Geo. IV, c. 49, § 36, the same regulation is extended to Scotland; the only difference being that in the latter case the limitation of the district is described by the word parish alone. The 6 and 7 Will. IV, c. 86, regulates the registry of deaths. The 4 Geo. IV, c. 52, abolished the barbarous mode of burying persons found felo de se, and directs that their burial shall take place, without any marks of ignominy, privately in the parish church-yard, between the hours of nine and twelve at night, under the direction of the coroner. The burial of dead bodies cast on shore is enforced by 48 Geo. III, c. 75 (see Wharton's Law Lexicon). In Scotland, the right of burial in a churchyard is an incident of property in the parish; but it is a mere right of burial, and there is not necessarily any corresponding ownership in the solum or ground of the church-yard. In Edinburgh, however, the right to special burial places in church-yards is recognized (Chambers, Encyclopaedia).
As to the place of burial: for the first three centuries it was without the cities, generally in vaults or catacombs, made before the city gates. The Emperor Theodosius, by an edict, expressly forbade to bury within a church or even within a town. Chrysostom (Hom. 37 [al. 74], in Matt.) confirms this view. In cases where the Donatists had buried their martyrs (circumcelliones) in churches, we find that the bodies were afterward removed. This is the first instance we find of burials within the church, and it was, as we see, declared to be irregular and unlawful. The first thing which seems to have given rise to burying in churches, was the practice which sprung up in the fourth century of building oratories or chapels, called Martyria, Propheteia, Apostolcea, over the remains of the apostles, prophets, or martyrs. Still, however, the civil canon law forbade any to be buried within the walls of a church; and, although kings and emperors latterly had the privilege given them of burial in the atrium, or in the church-yard, it was not until the beginning of the sixth century that the people seem to have been admitted to the same privilege; and even as late as the time of Charlemagne, canons were enacted (as at Mentz, 813, chap. 52), which forbade the burial of any persons within the church except on special occasions, as in the case of bishops, abbots, priests. and lay persons distinguished for sanctity. Thus, also, in the canons which accompany the Ecclesiastical Canons of King Edgar, and which were probably made about 960, we find, Can. 29, that no man might be buried in a church unless he had lived a life pleasing in the sight of God. (See Spelman, Conc. 1, 451.) Eventually, it seems to have been left to the discretion of the bishops and priests (Council of Meaux. 845, Can. 72). By the ecclesiastical laws of England no one can be buried within the church without the license of the incumbent, whose consent alone is required. SEE CATACOMBS.
(II.) Modern Usages.
1. Roman. — The ceremonies of the Roman Church at burials are the following: When the time is come, the bell tolls, and the priest, stoled, with the exorcist and cross-bearer, proceed to the house of the deceased, where the corpse is laid out with its feet toward the street, and, when it can be, surrounded by four or six wax tapers. The officiating priest then sprinkles the body thrice in silence, after which the psalm De Profundis is chanted, and a prayer for the rest of the soul pronounced; this is followed by an anthem, and then the Miserere is commenced, after which they proceed with the body to the burial-ground, with the tapers carried. When the body is arrived at the church door, the Requiem is sung and the anthem
Exultabant Domino ossa. In the church, the body of a clerk is placed in the chancel, that of a layman in the nave, and the clergy range themselves on either side; then the office for the dead and mass are said. After farther prayers and chanting, the body, having been thrice sprinkled with holy water, and thrice incensed, is carried to the grave, the officiating clerks chanting psalms. The priest blesses the grave, sprinkles and incenses both it and the body, sings the anthem Ego sum Resurrectio, and concludes with the Requiem. Some other minor ceremonies conclude the service. The poor are exempted from every charge, and the priest of the parish is bound to furnish the tapers for their burial. All ecclesiastical persons are buried in the vestments of their order (Rituale Romanum, p. 178, de Exequiis).
2. In the Greek Church, the priest, having come to the house, puts on his epitrachelion or stole, and incenses the dead body and all present. After this, a brief litany having been sung for the repose of the soul of the deceased, the priest again begins the benediction "Blessed be our God;" and the Trisagion having been said, the body is taken up and carried to the church, the priest going before with a taper, and the deacon with the censer. The body is then set down in the narthex or porch (in Russia it is carried into the church), and the ninety-first psalm chanted, which is followed by a succession of prayers and hymns, the Beatitudes, and the epistle and gospel (1Th 4:13-18, and Joh 5:24-31). Then follows the ἀσπασμός or kiss, the priests first, and afterward the relatives and friends, kissing either the body or the coffin, as their last farewell, during which are sung various hymns, divided into stanzas, relating to the vanity of human life. Then follows the absolution of the deceased by the priest; after which the body is carried to the grave, the priests singing the Trisagion, Lord's Prayer, etc. When the body is laid in the grave, the priest casts gravel cross-wise upon it, saying, "The earth is the Lord's, and the fullness thereof," etc. He then pours out some oil from a lamp, and scatters some incense upon it; after which troparia for the rest of the soul are sung, and the grave is filled up.
3. In Protestant lands the forms of burial are generally simple. The order of the Church of England is observed by the Methodist Episcopal and Protestant Episcopal churches in America, in the former somewhat abridged. The forms used by the various churches may be found in their books of order and discipline. — Bingham, Orig. Eccl. bk. 23, ch. 2, 3; Durandus, De Rit. Eccl. Cath. 1, 23; Landon, Eccl. Dict. 1, 448.