Did people really live hundreds of years?

I’m reading Genesis and over and over people are living 600-900 years. We know scientifically (obviously) this is not possible. So is it true?

And if it’s not true, what kind of metaphor was God giving? What does it symbolize and who was the earliest to deny the literal interpretation of these people’s ages?

Do we really know that it was not possible?..

Its a good question, but since God specifically states how long man will live from then on, I feel like it is worthy of belief that before the flood, men did live super long.

Genesis 6:3 (RSVCE)

3 Then the Lord said, “My spirit shall not abide in man for ever, for he is flesh, but his days shall be a hundred and twenty years.”

Time was measured differently back then.

I have personally always assumed that the men in those times were only tracking the movement of the Moon, not the Sun. So if 900 years really meant 900 moons (full moons or lunar cycles), as I suspect; then that would mean that 900 full moons would equal approx. 75 years.

Today, our definition of year means the amount time it takes for the earth to revolve around the sun, not the moon around the earth (which is how I think time was measured in Genesis for the humans.)

So people living between 600-900 lunar cycles (which is a vast difference if really solar years) would equal 50-75 earth cycles (or years).

An other clue that time was most like measured in lunar cycle: the Bible doesn’t mention anything about Adam & Eve, their kids or even Noah having vast number of kids themselves. If someone lived for 900 years, they could easily have had 150 children by the time they were 600, assuming only 5 children under 20 at one time. I personally think if they had that many children, the Bible would have mentioned it to illustrate extra Graces granted by God. But instead, it reads like of like living 600-900 years is no big deal, yet people didn’t seem to have an extraordinary number of children.

Now, of course just because the Bible doesn’t mention something, doesn’t mean it’s not true. But I do think that people having 155, children, etc would be something large to leave out.

So did people live to be 600-900 “years” old. Yes they did. But the definition of “year” was different.

I hope you find this helpful.

I find it interesting that the oldest people in recording history was 122 and died in 1997. usatoday.com/story/news/world/2014/09/05/six-people-still-alive-who-were-born-in-the-19th-century/15122367/

And one woman claims to be 127, but they don’t have her birth certificate people.com/article/oldest-living-person-birthday

I think we were built by God to last no more than approx. 120 earth years, but most of us don’t last that long due to sin, disease, etc.

Or, we could actually follow Church teaching on the use of the Old Testament, esp the first 11 chapters of Genesis.

Good Theory… :thumbsup:

No, it’s not literally true. It’s symbolic.

We sometimes forget that the primary method of teaching in Judaism (whatever it was called in any given period) was story telling. That’s why Christ’s own method of teaching was primarily to tell stories (which we call parables).

On the one hand, lengthy life was meant to express the righteousness of the person. In other words, the one who was more righteous was said to have lived longer.

Also, numbers in the Bible often have certain meaning. At first, they did not have true numerals like we do today. They wrote using letters. Somewhat like a code: a=1, b=2, etc. Occasionally, they used these numbers to spell words. Think of a telephone number that spells out a word.

The question “who was the earliest to deny the literal interpretation…?” is actually in reverse. These stories (early Genesis) were never meant to be taken literally. A good parallel example is the parable of the prodigal son. It was never intended to be literal history. Instead, it was always intended to make a spiritual point. In the same way, the early Genesis stories are meant to express some spiritual truth, but were never intended to be taken literally. We don’t see history until roughly the Abraham events (yes, Abraham was a real historical figure). We still have to be cautious though because the ancient peoples simply did not have the same understanding of history that we do today—where we try (or at least tell ourselves) that accuracy is important. Even today, the historian’s own bias always shows, even when nothing but hard facts are recorded.

Imagine if someone were to ask “when did people first deny that the parable of the prodigal son was literal history?” The question itself just doesn’t work.

Phil and Fr. David give the explanations I have heard a lot. I have also heard from those who think the ages given are (or at least could be) accurate in terms of solar years that the reason people lived longer back then is that, for those closer in time to the state of Original Holiness, the effects of Original Sin were not so quick with regards to the deterioration of the body.

So take your pick. :stuck_out_tongue:

Given genesis isn’t to be taken literally, I don’t think people likely lived 900 years and even if that is what was really meant others above have given possible explainations for that.

But I’m still confused as to what the actual purpose was of such high numbers.

If it was to say someone was “very righteous” then it would seem the Bible wasn’t 100% truthful and exaggerated someone’s age.

I do not find it difficult at all. Consider that Adam and Eve had the preternatural gifts of bodily immortality and freedom from sickness from the get go. Pristine DNA. Their descendants would enjoy this before mutations/damage starting taking their toll.

First of all, it’s not accurate to use the words “the Bible wasn’t 100% truthful.” What’s not-truthful is the misunderstanding that it was ever intended to be literal in the first place.

Again, a good example here is the parables Christ gave in the Gospels. They’re not to be taken as literal history, but as stories intended to convey spiritual truths. The truth is still there, even though the details are not (what we could call) “accurate.”

The purpose of those numbers was simply to “rate” the righteousness of the person being mentioned. Someone who was said to live 300 years lived a holier life than one who was said to live 250 years.

These texts are not to be taken literally. They were never intended to be taken literally.

It’s simply impossible to understand the early part of the Book of Genesis if one attempts to force a literal interpretation.

Could it be that righteous people lived to an old age?

Our knowledge of DNA certainly makes these old ages possible.

The very first line of Genesis:

In the beginning (time)

God created the heavens (space)

and the earth (matter)

Science only recently confirmed this. Literal or not?

I rather doubt that there’s any science out there that claims human beings can live to 900 years.
I don’t claim any scientific expertise here, but 900 is just beyond what’s reasonable.

The very first line of Genesis:

In the beginning (time)

God created the heavens (space)

and the earth (matter)

Science only recently confirmed this. Literal or not?

Yes. One of the main points of the Genesis narratives is to express the fact that God created the heavens and earth and everything else. However, trying to change that into scientific data is neither Christianity nor science.

The Book of Genesis is not a science text book. Attempts to make it into a scientific text are not legitimate interpretations.

Faith and Reason cannot be opposed. There are some areas of intersect.

Scientists have just recently made the claim man could live to 500 with a few genetic tweaks. Adam and Eve started out as the prototypical genetic pair. No doubt in my mind they could live to 900. Revelation also supports it.

[LIST=1]
*] Our first parents, before the Fall, were endowed with sanctifying grace. (De fide.)
*] The donum rectitudinis or integritatis in the narrower sense, i.e., the freedom from irregular desire. (Sent. fidei proxima.)
*] The donum immortalitatis, i.e.,bodily immortality. (De fide.)
*] The donum impassibilitatis, i.e., the freedom from suffering. (Sent. communis.)
*] The donum scientiae, i.e., a knowledge of natural and supernatural truths infused by God. (Sent. communis.)
*] Adam received sanctifying grace not merely for himself, but for all his posterity. (Sent. certa.)
[/LIST]
As far as the first line of Genesis - chalk it up to mere coincidence then. :hmmm:

Explore this site to see more areas of intersect. IDvolution

You’re not talking either.

You’re trying to force a scientific understanding into the Book of Genesis. That is neither faith, nor reason.

Genesis is not a scientific text. The ages of persons in Genesis are purely symbolic.

We agree the Bible is not a science text book. However, science is found in it.

Please cite a magisterial source that I could review that the ages are purely symbolic.

They don’t merely intersect, one informs the other, as in a partnership, as parts of a whole.
Father’s statement that the bible is not a science text points out the necessity for a faith that goes beyond what is reason-able only, and a reason that trusts faith in the mysteries it cannot fully explain.

Scientists have just recently made the claim man could live to 500 with a few genetic tweaks. Adam and Eve started out as the prototypical genetic pair. No doubt in my mind they could live to 900. Revelation also supports it.

There is no scientific basis to support an extraordinary life span for the ancient Israelites. Speculation is fine, but that’s what it is.

[LIST=1]
*] Our first parents, before the Fall, were endowed with sanctifying grace. (De fide.)
*] The donum rectitudinis or integritatis in the narrower sense, i.e., the freedom from irregular desire. (Sent. fidei proxima.)
*] The donum immortalitatis, i.e.,bodily immortality. (De fide.)
*] The donum impassibilitatis, i.e., the freedom from suffering. (Sent. communis.)
*] The donum scientiae, i.e., a knowledge of natural and supernatural truths infused by God. (Sent. communis.)
*] Adam received sanctifying grace not merely for himself, but for all his posterity. (Sent. certa.)
[/LIST]
As far as the first line of Genesis - chalk it up to mere coincidence then. :hmmm:

Explore this site to see more areas of intersect. IDvolution

Not sure what you’re seeing in Genesis that points to scientific evidence.

I think it’s important for Catholics to lead the way in proposing what Truth is.
It’s first of all a Person, who we are called to have a relationship with. Expecting the written word to suffice for the entire substance of a relationship only leads to frustration. We are called to a lot more than “proof”.

1The Pharisees and Sadducees came up, and testing Jesus, they asked Him to show them a sign from heaven. 2But He replied to them, “When it is evening, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red.’ 3“And in the morning, ‘There will be a storm today, for the sky is red and threatening.’ Do you know how to discern the appearance of the sky, but cannot discern the signs of the times? 4“An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign; and a sign will not be given it, except the sign of Jonah.” And He left them and went away.

“Reduce yourself to a book Jesus!”
or
“Do the hard work of faith for us! Give us everything in writing, that we might not be required to risk our trust in your person!”

I am curious to know why you refer to ancient Israelites as having an extraordinary life span.

The extraordinary life spans recorded in Scripture were not of the Israelites. The Israelites did not then exist.

Historical science can show us, not empirical science.

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