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Funeral practices of ____ _____ are based on the Judeo/Christian tradition and this tradition is the result of a kind of cultural evolution of pagan customs of the Mediterranean world.

Western Civilization


To say that funeral practices of today are pagan in nature is true but so are the traditions and customs originating from early Christians and Jews.

All are Interrelated


These are a result of the influence forced upon them, during conquest, by other semitic cultures, specifically 4.

Hebrew Death Beliefs


  1. Egypt
  2. Babylon
  3. Persia
  4. Greece

4 Specific Influences Forced Upon Hebrews


  • 1700 BC- 1280 BC
  • The concept of the soul reuniting with the body at a future time came about.
  • Origin of Resurrection from re-animation

The Egyptian Captivity (of Hebrews)


  • 597 BC- 547 BC
  • The Hebrews rejected Polytheism, a belief in many Gods, and turned to Monotheism, a belief in one God called Yahweh.

The Babylonian Captivity


  • 450 BC - 150 BC
  • The Hebrews believed that man was composed of two elements:
    • Basar
    • Nefesh
  • At death the soul would go to the netherworld. (arterlife)

Persian and Greek Domination








The name of the netherworld that the Hebrews believed in during Persian and Greek domination.



Hebrews basically believed in two different beliefs about death.

  • Christ teached these tenants.

At the Time of Christ


  1. The soul of the good would pass on to a glorious existence; the soul of the evil would face eternal damnation (immortality of the soul)
  2. The soul at the last judgement would reunite with the body and be judged for the last time resuling in a final reward or punishment.

Two Hebrew Death Beliefs During the Time of Christ


A Jewish historian who makes historical accounts of Hebrew burial customs.

Flavius Josephus (37-100 AD)


  1. Remains were washed, annointed, and spiced to contain the odor of putrefaction.
  2. They were attired in their own clothing indicating their station in life. Shrouding the deceased seems to be a later development about the time of Christ (Christ was shrouded)
  3. Out of hygiene necessity, all Semitic cultures (Arabic, Muslim, Hebrew) buried their dead usually by the evening of the day of death because of rapid putrefaction.
  4. The poor were carried on a bier and interred in a shallow trench and covered with a mound of earth. The rich were interred in natural caves or in artificial sepulchers.

Hebrew Burial Customs


The use of _____ for Hebrews comes much later after Christ under Christian Domination.



  1. Originally the men were naked until the burial rites were completed, this gave way to tearing of clothes later in history (Black cloth) (Now they slit ribbons)
  2. Men would strip down to a loin cloth of goat's or camel's hair.
  3. Sandals were discarded as bare feet remained a symbol of death.
  4. Draped or covered their head during mourning.
  5. Shaved off beards and cut hair.
  6. Fasted during the entire mourning period (common to all)
  7. Hired mourners to sing special dirges.

Hebrew Mourning Customs


Rejected ancestor worship and the elaborate tombs associated with it. (Associated with Oriental Mystery cults- Japan, China, India).

Hebrews- Places of Burial


  1. One must be buried with their kin or clan in Sheol.
  2. Hebrew graves divided themselves into four varieties.
  3. Cremation was an insult and strictly forbidden.
  4. Even the poorest and most destitute were provided a grave. To leave the dead unburied or to violate a grave could be punished by death (Usually stoned to death).

Hebrew Places of Burial


  • Sunken Grave
  • Recess
  • Trench
  • Bench

4 Varieties of Hebrew Graves


Has a stone cover on the grave.

Sunken Grave


Thick wall with areas for the deceased to be placed inside.



A simple ____.



There were two philosophies at this time. The oriental mystery cults in the east, were trying to dominate the minds of the people. The ____ were going in the opposite direction.



Member of the Sanhedrin, like a rabbinical council He has a multigrave chamber along with Nicodemous and claimed the body of Jesus against the wishes of the Sanhedrin. Both were credited with the emtombment of Jesus. This person owned the tomb of Jesus

Joseph of Arimathea


Discusses the quick sealing of the tomb of Jesus. The grave was sealed and a boulder was placed in front- double sealed to prevent desecration. V. 66 " so they went and made the tomb secure sealing the stone and setting the guard." Placing in guards in front.

Bible- Matthew Chapter 27- v. 57-66


Christ preached "the infinate and equal value of every human being."- The soul was both spiritual and immortal- no should could be totally destroyed.

Death Beliefs of Early Christians


  1. Follow the example of the master
  2. Resurrection and the body is a temple of the holy spirit
  3. Constantine the great- prohibited cremation
  4. Canon Laws 1203 and 1204

The Resurrection of the Body in Relation to Cremation


The early church never specifically prohibited cremation, but rather encouraged its flow to:

Follow the Example of the Master


Christ promised the _____ of a glorified body and preached that the body was the:

Resurrection, Temple of the Holy Spirit


As a reaction to the pagan Germanic tribes that were threatening western Europe who cremated their dead. (Constantine is not speaking for the Church).

Constantine the Great Prohibited Cremation


Revised in 1963, allowed cremation of Roman Catholics as long as the intention is other than denial of the resurrection of the body and Christian burial is permitted for the cremated remains. No scattering of ashes, but can use a niche for the cremains.

Canon Laws 1203 and 1204


The doctrine that in death, all men are equal, and that the eternal rewards which they gain are not to be assigned according to earthly rank, is a central christian belief.

Christian Concept of Equality in Death


Christians rejected Egyptian, Greek, and Roman concept of an ____ ______ based on discrimination.

Aristocratic Afterlife


Etymology of cemetery means "sleeping place", where those rest for a while in Christ until final resurrection. Death was birth into eternity, a triumphal transition. (The "Pall", that covers the modern casket, is a reminder of the white tunic that a child wears at baptism).

Death as Sleep


The bury the dead was one of the seven corporal works of mercy- like the Hebrews, burial was simple and unpretentious- even during 3rd century bubonic plague, Christians were buried (Significant).

Early Christian Burial Customs


Among early Christians the family administered to the dying and took charge of the care of the dead. This function was usually performed by women in the family.

Role of the Family in Early Christian Funerals


  1. Closing of the mouth, the eyes, and washing the body with warm water.
  2. Anointing the body with oils and spices to keep down the odor of putrefaction.
  3. Clothing the deceased in white, sometimes in own garments, at other times in shrouds.

Preparation of the Body (by women)- Extreme Unction


The sacrament of preparation. (Modern "slick call set" sometimes in a crucifix, that is used by a priest).

Extreme Unction


  1. Lights at the head and feet.
  2. The body be blessed with holy water and incense.
  3. A cross be placed upon the breast, or if no cross, the hands should be folded.
  4. Coffin was optional (on a "bier"), buried in consecrated ground.
  5. Usually view the face only
  6. The wake or death watch would last from eight hours to three days and would serve two purposes.

The Christian Wake


"The kiss of peace" at death or at the conclusion of the wake was a departure from early Hebrew beliefs forbidding contact with the dead body.

Usually View the Face Only


  1. Give time for the family to adjust to the loss of a loved one.
  2. A common fear among the ancients was being buried alive. The wake guaranteed against premature burial. The sepulcher (tomb) was often left unsealed for three days to be sure the individual was dead.

Two Purposes of the Wake


  • In the mourning a requiem mass was celebrated and the sacrament of Holy Communion was distributed to the bereaved.
  • In the afternoon only the singing of psalms and the saying of prayers were permitted.

The Ritualistic Preparation of the Deceased


If possible, this is held during the day. Tourches and lamps were still utilized to signify the deceased souls entrance into a glorious and true existence.

The Funeral Procession- Early Christians


The early christian funeral procession was limited to the _____, the ________, ____ and _____. It passed solemnly and quietly to the grave.

Corpse, Bier Bearers, Family and Friends


After the ___ __ _____, the Funeral Oration honoring the deceased's merits were included in the service.

Era of Persecution


The procession, as well as the ____ ____ were conducted under church supervision including:

  • Alms
  • Purgatorial Doctrine
  • Memorial Requiem Masses

Committal Service


In the form of food and money were given to the poor.



Public prayers for the salvation of the deceased's soul.

Pugatorial Doctrine


On certain days to remember the dead. (All Saints day- November 1st).

Memorial Requiem Masses


Basic conflict between extramural interment and intramural interment. (Battled for 1,000 years).

Early Christian Cemeteries


All cremation and burials would take place away from population centers. Often along roadway and always outside city walls.

Extramural Interment


Burial within city walls, in population centers in the vicinity of churches or within the church itself.

Intramural Interment


  • 253 AD- 313 AD
  • Christians were forced to worship in the catacombs.
  • This supported the intramural internment cycle.

Era of Christian Persecution


Pagan pre-christian times through the early Christian apostolic times to Emperor Valerian's initial persecution in 253 AD of the Christian's: The vast majority of internments were rooted in the Laws of the Twelve Tables.

Cycle of Interment- Extramural


Pre-Christian pagan Roman laws; one of which stated that there would be no burial or cremation in the city. All citizens were interred away from population centers along roadways. (For sanitary reasons).

Laws of the Twelve Tables


Catacombs originated in the tombs of wealthy Christians prior to persecution. During the persecution these cave like structures were expanded into hiding places for the Christian population. The dead were interred with the living, thus the origins of intramural interment came about.

Cycle of Internment- Intramural


By the time of Pope John III (560-575), after the persecution, most burials in Rome were _____. (In and around churches).



The Roman Catholic church established great religious feast days to commemorate publicly and solemnly the death of martyrs, who were murdered for their religious beliefs. (Anniversaries: Examples: November 1st- All Saints Day- November 2nd- All souls day).

  • The Christian Funeral was divided into 3 distinct parts

By the Fourth Century


  1. Levatio Corporis- The wake or an unembalmed body in the family's home.
  2. Conveying the body on a bier for church for a Requiem Mass
  3. Rites of burial in a Christian cemetery, usually intramural, and including a specified committal service. The grave must be consecrated.

3 Distinct Parts of a Christian Funeral by the Fourth Century


The wake or an unembalmed body in the family's home.

Levatio Corporis


Were formed will before Christian times by the poor to defray funeral costs, these clubs combined social functions with funeral functions and were known for their bawdiness.

Burial Clubs


The church state bureaucracy assumed the responsibility for funeralizing the dead- The Decani would have total control.

Constantine the Great


  • Even the poorest would recieve a decent burial.
  • Laws were passed to prevent overcharging
  • A bier would be provided to transport the deceased, later a coffin-like enclosure would be provided ( A real outside enclosure- like a grave liner).
  • All would have a fueral procession
  • Distinct job descriptions

Constantine the Great- The church state bureaucracy assumed responsibility for funeralizing the dead


  • One cruicifer (cross bearer)
  • Eight monks
  • Three acolytes (candle bearers)

All would have a Funeral Procession, Including:


For digging graves, carying biers, placing the remains in a coffin in the ground and performing related funeral services were established. (These were codified).

Distinct Job Descriptions


The basic orientation toward death and the dead in the western world was set, and for the next 1000 years, funeral practices were totally under the control of the Decani of the Roman Catholic Church.

By the Year 400 AD


These were absorbed into the church-state bureaucracy (or they were unemployed if they didn't want these jobs).

The Libertinari and his Assistants- the Pollinctores, and Designatores


Barbarian tribes practiced cremation (fire burial) for about 2,000 years prior to Christian Domination dating back through the iron age to the middle bronze age.

Define Beliefs of Ancient German and Scandinavian Barbarian Tribes


  1. To burn the body as a method of keeping spirits of the dead from harming the living.
  2. To free the spirit of the dead from the clogging prison of the body.

Cremation as a death belief involved two basic concepts and developed an influence projected into modern times.


With a 2,000 year tradition of cremation were ultimately converted to Christianity and were forced to embrace earth interment but this tradition of cremation persists and resurfaces in the 19th century.

Teutonic Germanic Cultures


The pagan warrior was placed on his ship with his treasure, concubines or wives, his weapons, food and drink, his horse, and other domestic animals, and set afire. After the Christian conversion the ship was placed in a huge grave containing the warrior, with the same as listed above, and buried.

Viking Ship Burial


A similar practice to the Teutonic Tribes were practiced in Ancient India, that is cremation with the deceased of wives, concubines, and other key necessities for a happy afterlife.



Deceased placed on pile of wood and burned.

Funeral Pyre


As _______ and ______ tribes conquered all of Europe and England the Roman Catholic Church conquered the teutonic mind thus mingling of cultures occurred. By the tenth century one conclusion from this mingling:

"Death does not end all relationships between the dead and the living but merely signals the transition from one set of relationships to another."

Scandinavian and Germanic