Did people really lived that long in biblical times?

Did people really lived that long in biblical times? Guys like Methuselah and Solomon really reached absurd ages like 600 years old, or it was just a slight exaggeration of, uh, biblical proportions?

I don’t have any real proof but when I was taking Anthropology I do believe I remember reading that the average life expectancy has gone up over the years. Our average life exectancy is around, what? 70? So I don’t think that we could ever live to be 600 or so, but that’s just my reasoning.


No. People did not really live that long in biblical times, it was an exaggeration.

Remember, that all Bibles are symbolic and abstract. So don’t take everything you read in the Christian Bible literally.

Well, Methusaleh lived to 969 years. Solomon’s age is not given, but it can be figured out that he died quite young. Jewish tradition puts his death at age 52.

As to your question, if you believe the Bible literally, then, yes, they did. If you don’t then, no, they didn’t.

Zev Steinhardt

I have heard two interesting explanations (neither of which I can quote here, since my books are at home, and I’m not).

a) From Prof. Gerald Schroder, author of Genesis and the Big Bang, I have heard an explanation of a genetic disease that causes people to age at 10 times the normal speed. If you notice the ages of death and ages of parenthood of the people in the beginning of Genesis, you will see that their ages are approximately 10 times the current average.

b) I have heard from another book that the Caananite years were six months, while the Egyptian years were 12 months. If we look at the stories of the Patriarchs in Canaan, their lives seem to be 2 times the normal speed.

Two times normal?? So he was only 484 years old. Ok that makes since now.

And the 10 times thing makes no since because that would make Solomon 5!!

Metushelach, who lived to 969, would be the equivalent of 96.

Abraham, however, who lived to 180, would be the equivalent of 90.

Metushelach became a father at 187, which would be the equivalent of 18.

Abraham and Sarah became parents at about 100. The equivalent would be about 50. That also seems miraculous!

Well, actually, as with many of the OT numbers, they are likely a form of Gematria, a sort of numerology. So, yes, the ages are probably correct, but not in a sense us modern folk would think.

Very interesting.

Can’t recall where I first heard this, but the most reasonable theory I’ve run into is that the descriptions of the “patriarchs” in Genesis are actually descriptions of families- in other words, in the oral tradition, there might have been a story about how Methusaleh founded a family that lasted for nearly a millenium- but it was recorded innacurately, and the original meaning is now gone in multiple layers of translation. Wish I could recall where I first heard it, but it makes more sense than assuming that the average human lifespan dropped by 50-90% after Noah, just because that’s what it says in the Bible.

That’s different from maximum age. Life expectancy is all about children dying young, not the maximum age changing.

Uniball, Nope, the patriarchs are folk heroes whose ages and exploits telescoped over the years of oral tradition until being recorded in the Hebrew Biblical texts.

Kitty, this is a popular misconception - if humans are living longer today it is only by marginal amounts. The exception may be Medieval Europe where public hygene was quite possibly the worst of any area anywhere.

zev_steinhardt, I agree in principle, but surely the ‘truth’ cannot rest in the beliefs of the viewer…

curwin, I think these explanations are unecessary and raise more problems than answers (like: Methuselah lived to 969 - realistic when divided by ten - but was sired by Enoch at sixty-five - was he, then, six and a half?). I’d like to know who claimed the Canaanite year to be six months. I think they had years like any other ancient, Mediterranian, agrucultural society based on a lunar calendar of twelve or thirteen months.

Bear_Nenno, you are confusing Solomon, an historical king from Israel’s short lived empire, with the patriarchs, pre-deluge folk-heroes borrowed from Babylonian mythology.

If we take the stories of people’s lifespans literally, along with everything else, for the sake of argument, then
Methuselah turns out to be another one of the hapless wretches who fell short and drowned in the flood. It doesn’t say that he perished in the flood, but if you look at the “begats”, and total up the ages at the time of begetting, it becomes clear that the big M. died in the year of the flood…presumably in the flood like most everyone else.

Of course not. But this is a situation where the facts are not provable. All you are really left with then is what you believe the truth to be.

Zev Steinhardt

a) According to Jewish tradition, Metushelach died 7 days before the flood, and in fact, God postponed the flood as long as Metushelach was still alive.

b) As far as Prof. Schroeder’s ideas, I won’t go into them here in depth. They are actually quite fascinating, and also include an explanation for evolution, the distance between the appearance of Cro-Magnon man and Adam, and how the Bronze age appears in the Bible and matches up with archelogical data. (See The Science of God pgs 202-203; also pgs. 15-16, and Genesis and the Big Bang pgs 30-32, pg 138). Suffice it to say that the average of sexual maturity, pre-Noah, was around 115.

Schroeder, by the way, has a PhD in physics from MIT, and taught there for several years. In this he is different from Uri Juda, author of The True Bible, who wrote that…

c) … the Canaanite years lasted only six months. Juda, according to the book cover, “deals with electronics” and “in his free time” does research. He very well may be a crackpot. Many of his theories seem ridiculous to me. But his questions are legitimate.

He relates to the question of the early parenthood of Enoch (and others) in a similar way to Schroder (but doesn’t end up in the same place). He mentions that sources external to the Bible (Josephus, Septuagint, the Book of Enoch) make the parenthood of those individuals come later, to a more normal time (Enoch - 165 for example). He posits that this is so the ratio of sexual maturity to life span will remain approximately 1:6 or 1:7. (pgs. 65-66)

As far as the Canaanite 6 month year, he bases it on the following:

a) Semantic differences in the Hebrew words for years in various places in the Bible (it would be somewhat difficult for me to explain them here, and in fact he says that is the reason why most researchers have missed this point).

b) The calendar of the Gezer tablet. I am not terribly familiar with the Gezer tablet, and I’m not quite sure how he arrived at that conclusion. But he seems sure. In any case, from this link:


it is possible to conclude that there may have been calendar systems of 6 month periods, or at least two “new years”.

c) This is the least legitimate academically, but the most interesting – it helps explain many questions in the Bible relating to years, from the life of the Patriarchs to the length of the exile in Egypt. Because of this, I am somewhat drawn to the explanation, but I would be very interested in hearing if there is any real basis to it or not (and in fact I contemplated opening a thread about it).

Very interesting. We Protestants usually miss out on all these sorts of elucidations, since our forebears tended to abjure any traditional knowledge of these things not specifically set down in the canonized bible.

How long a human can live is the same. But the chances of reaching that today is probably better than back then.

<very quick hijack>
so, Handy… when you hit 10,000 posts, how big will the party be? :smiley:
</very quick hijack>


What I read was that they lived so long becasue the ozone layer wasn’t affected at all, until “the flood”.
Then more of the sun’s deadly rays came through and cut the life expectancy by a lot. Not too hard to beleive.:wink: