Monday, 7 April 2014


What can science make of the Biblical claims of the amazing longevity of the patriarchs? I heard a radio piece about making the new film NOAH. A film team researcher casually mentioned that Genesis says that Noah planted seeds of cedar trees, waited 120 years for the trees to mature, then used the wood to build the Ark. This newsflash scuppered the untested, smug explanation I had long ago accepted that the Bible authors had confused months with years in listing the ages of Adam, Methuselah, Noah and company. 900 months, divided by 12 gives 75 years; QED, Adam lived 900 months which was mistranslated as 900 years - despite Genesis telling us that men (and we assume women) live 3 score years and 10 years, barring accidents, - which is now about our average lifespan. "Man has but a short time to live". A lifespan whose end point is creeping eerily closer - for me. So, with only a few more weeks, months or years left; it peeked my interest that Noah waited around, leading a humdrum family life, for 120 years, watching his cedar trees grow. After the flood receded, Noah trundled along, making no particular splash, claiming no special powers or position, for another 700 years or so. 

I know for a scientific fact that these days cedar trees do take a century to get up to the sort of height you'd need to saw the long planks needed to build The Ark, with all its cubits, stables, human habitat, and all. And I guess that in the 10,000 or so years since the Great Flood - scientifically now usually ascribed to the melting of the glaciers of the last ice age 100,000 BC to 8,000 BC. Science somewhat reluctantly generally accepts that sufficient archaeological, anthropological, geological and geographical evidence has been found to support the world-wide mythological tales, from all cultures, of world devastating floods, thousands of years ago. One of the most convincing analysis that I read was aptly named "Noah's Flood" and was focused on the Black Sea, which in 10,000 BC was a sheltered fresh water lake, 300 feet below a plug or natural dam holding back the Mediterranean. The lake shores were home to dozens of human villages and as the dam broke the villagers had to retreat as the Black Sea filled and pushed back its shoreline at the rate of 10 metres or 30 feet a day; causing the first major diaspora of the first western civilizations. The inflow and outflow are still evident to boats today, passing through the Bosphorus straits. All this has been scientifically mapped. 

So regardless of arguments between Biblical scholars, the Great Floods recorded by all major cultures, across the world, most probably happened as the glaciers melted - about 10,000 years ago. And The Bible claims that some people in those days - lived 900 years, or so. 

The tables below show Biblical people living ever shorter lives as the millennium tick by, with Abraham only managing to hang on for a measly 175 years - and eventually the whole dammed human race is clipped at seventy years. But, the average lifespan is now steadily increasing, so who knows where it will end? Could we really be destined for and capable of living as long as Noah & Co? My heroes in AD2516 - After Global Warming, average 180 years, then seem to get bored and then despite science that can keep them alive, they deliberately decline, switch-off, and die. And nobody understands why they die.

These notes below are taken from two informative websites, which have considered this question before me. They have much more to say on the subject - I suggest you visit them. 


A LATTER DAY NOAH - 800 years old and still making Arks for the new millennium. the Bible, it talks about living hundreds of years. I, myself, had trouble with this concept and could not offer an answer to a friend who believed the Bible to be a fable because of this. For example, in Genesis it says, “After the flood Noah lived 350 years. Altogether, Noah lived 950 years, and then he died.”
I have since learned that pre-flood Old Testament people were close enough to the time of the original creation that disease, ultraviolet radiation etc. did not wreak havoc to the extent that those elements did after the flood. Before the flood (but still after the fall of Adam and Eve) people lived several hundreds of years because of the protection of the “waters in the heaven”. After the floodgate let loose and all the waters of the heavens flooded earth, the water cycle was borne, humanity was exposed to radiation, and lifespans steadily declined after the time of Noah.
Genesis also says that just after the flood God told Noah that He was limiting the span of a person’s life to three score and ten years (70 years). 3 score & 10 is indeed the average over time. Since that time, however, people continued to live to a great age, including Moses, but the human age span has gradually decreased to approximately seventy years. When God pronounces judgment, it happens. His judgment is always fulfilled but in His time.
For this God is our God for ever and ever; he will be our guide even to the end (Psalm 48:14 NIV). 

For 1,500 years after creation, men lived such long lives that most were either contemporaries of the first man, Adam, or personally knew someone who was! The ten patriarchs (excluding Enoch) who preceded the Great Flood lived an average of 912 years. Lamech died the youngest at the age of 777, and Methuselah lived to be the oldest at 969. See table 1.
Table 1. Ages of the Patriarchs from Adam to Noah
  Patriarch Age Bible Reference
1 Adam 930 Genesis 5:4
2 Seth 912 Genesis 5:8
3 Enosh 905 Genesis 5:11
4 Cainan 910 Genesis 5:14
5 Mahalalel 895 Genesis 5:17
6 Jared 962 Genesis 5:20
7 Enoch 365 (translated) Genesis 5:23
8 Methuselah 969 Genesis 5:27
9 Lamech 777 Genesis 5:31
10 Noah 950 Genesis 9:29
During the 1,000 years following the Flood, however, the Bible records a progressive decline in the life span of the patriarchs, from Noah who lived to be 950 years old until Abraham at 175 (see figure 1 and table 2). In fact, Moses was unusually old for his time (120 years) because, when he reflected on the brevity of life, he said: “The days of our lives are seventy years; and if by reason of strength they are eighty years, yet their boast is only labor and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away” (Psalm 90:10). 

Table 2. Ages of the Patriarchs after Noah to Abraham
  Patriarch Age Bible Reference
11 Shem 600 Genesis 11:10–11
12 Arphaxad 438 Genesis 11:12–13
13 Shelah 433 Genesis 11:14–15
14 Eber 464 Genesis 11:16–17
15 Peleg 239 Genesis 11:18–19
16 Reu 239 Genesis 11:20–21
17 Serug 230 Genesis 11:22–23
18 Nahor 148 Genesis 11:24–25
19 Terah 205 Genesis 11:32
20 Abraham 175 Genesis 25:7
Extrabiblical evidence to support the long life spans of the people in Genesis is found in the Sumerian King List. This list mentions a flood and gives the length of the reigns of kings before and after a flood. There are many striking parallels between the Sumerian King List and Genesis, such as a flood event, numerical parallels between the pre-Flood biblical patriarchs and the antediluvial kings,


  1. Interesting article. 950 years is really nothing in the overall scheme of things, seeing as God intended humans to live forever! 2nd Peter 3:8 says that 1000 years to God is but a day. God also warned Adam & Eve that 'in the day' they ate from the forbidden tree, they would die. No one has ever lived beyond that symbolic day!

  2. Interesting article. 950 years is really nothing in the overall scheme of things, seeing as God intended humans to live forever! 2nd Peter 3:8 says that 1000 years to God is but a day. God also warned Adam & Eve that 'in the day' they ate from the forbidden tree, they would die. No one has ever lived beyond that symbolic day!