Old Moldy Bones

The US’ oldest man recently died (113 years). Does anyone know how old the oldest person who ever existed was?

Biblical literalists will tell you that it is Methuselah (969 years IIRC)

The Guiness Book of World Records recognizes 122-year-old Jean Calment who died in France a few years ago.

An interesting story regarding her: In France, they have a legal arrangement where you can provide an older person with a yearly income for life and then inherit the person’s house upon their death. A 39-year old man found an 80-year old woman and began this arrangement, figuring she didn’t have long for the world.

Forty years later, the man died, but 120-year-old Jean Calment was still alive and kicking. His children had to continue paying until she finally died a few years later.

Zev Steinhardt

Biblical even-more-literalists might hold out for the Wandering Jew. Almost 2,000 years, and he’s supposedly still out there somewhere.

hmmm, I think that’s more of an obscure tradition than a literalist view, based (I think) on this bit of John 21:

But such a view seems to run against the verses that immediately follow:

or is there some other basis?

Actually, yes. The passage in question is Matthew 16:27-28:

The problem with this passage is that, if you take it perfectly literally, it seems to say that some of Jesus’ audience will still be around when the Second Coming rolls around. This interpretation presented a problem, as you might well imagine, for those born two or three hundred years after the time of the Gospels. This is where the “obscure tradition” of the Wandering Jew came in; as the story goes, he was either a merchant or soldier who was present at the Crucifiction. As Jesus paused under the weight of the cross, this fellow jeeringly told him to keep moving. Jesus turned and said: “I go; but you shall tarry until I return.” Or words to that effect. Anyway, this sad bastard has ever since been cursed to roam the earth undying until he at last meets Jesus again at the Day of Judgement. So, the story at once preserves Biblical inerrancy and provides a stern object lesson about the dangers of sassing the Deity. Neat, eh?

And I believe you are right; there was another, similar tradition based on the passages from John. I don’t recall the details on that one though.