I know the Bible is not a Science Text But


#1

I was wondering about the ages of people in the bible. Like take Abraham, for example, Genesis says he was 75, I belive, when God called him. Should we take that at face value? What about Methusalah? **How do scripture scholars interpret these numbers? **

21 When Enoch had lived sixty-five years, he became the father of Methu’selah. 22 Enoch walked with God after the birth of Methu’selah three hundred years, and had other sons and daughters. 23 Thus all the days of Enoch were three hundred and sixty-five years. 24 Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him. 25 When Methu’selah had lived a hundred and eighty-seven years, he became the father of Lamech. 26 Methu’selah lived after the birth of Lamech seven hundred and eighty-two years, and had other sons and daughters. 27 Thus all the days of Methu’selah were nine hundred and sixty-nine years; and he died.


#2

You talk about science.
Science is about proof.
Did they live that long?
Where’s the proof?
It’s conjecture either way.


#3

I’m simply asking how it is to be interpreted. It seems you are misreading what I have said.


#4

People just lived longer back in those days, no way for us to explain it, just the way it was.


#5

I can only take the numbers literally. I see no merely symbolic value in them. And, it would make sense that people might live long lives in order to bring about the growth in the human race, given that we all came from two original human beings. I don’t know. I just wanted to say that science (mentioned in your title) cannot add much to this particular discussion other than what we know about recent human features and characteristics and that there is no evidence supporting the Biblical claim. One would not expect that it could.


#6

From how I understand it, you are not meant to take a lot of it literally.

Methuselah lived to almost 1000 years?
Sarah had a baby at age 90?
*I don’t think so… :nope:
*
Much of the color, drama, and embellishments are there to creatively help illustrate the lessons and ideas of the stories.

.


#7

The Bible says God’s spirit was still with man and they lived very long. Methuselah lived around 900 yrs. I can’t find the verse. :blush:


#8

Remember that the people we’re talking about were just a few generations removed from forebears with perfect DNA. One way of looking at it is that there hadn’t been enough generations for the DNA to get messed up. Another way of looking at it is that it just took them longer to learn how to die.


#9

It’s in the fith chapter of Genesis.

I’m sure the Church Fathers probably have comments on this. I was just curious. It seems possible that they could have lived longer. “All things are possible with God.” Anyways, from our scientific learning, the whole process of aging is somewhat mysterious in any case. I know we’ve learned a lot about it, but still…


#10

Considering that Sarah having a son in her old age is explicitly presented as being “Huge incredible miracle beyond anything anybody could expect!!!”, I would say that you are supposed to understand that Sarah had a baby when she was 90. Similarly, I think it’s quite explicitly supposed to be unusual and amazingly miraculous that Elizabeth and Zechariah had a baby when they were both old.

Now, it is true that on occasion, women who have had lots of kids have continued having kids into their fifties, and that’s before fertility drugs or any kind of artificial insemination. Some people just have menopause reeeeeeally late.

But for a woman to have her first child when she’s gone through menopause and is old? That obviously requires divine intervention.

On the ages of the patriarchs, you have a lot more room to wonder. First off, it’s clear that some people were presented as living to be very old, and that humans live less long as they get further away from Eden’s time and God’s special graces given to Adam and Eve before they fell.

(FYI: Tolkien plays with this in the ages of his Numenoreans, if you read the appendices to Lord of the Rings or the Silmarillion. That is my geek moment of the day.)

However, there have always been plenty of commentators who taught that these ages are partly symbolic. Since number symbolism is really packed into Jewish writings and into the Bible, this is plausible.

Others have theorized that they also represent partly represent other calendar and year-numbering systems. This may well be, as some ancient civilizations did things like count harvests, and there is more than one kind of harvest in a year. But I haven’t seen anything really solid about this, and dividing Methusaleh’s age by three would still leave a pretty big number!

Frankly, once you say, “Oh, yeah, the Creator of the universe wants to tell humans stuff and make them part of His family, and He does not want them to forget what He tells them even after thousands of years,” you stop worrying so much about miracles being implausible. They are all signs, and God has the entire universe’s control panel to work with. He knows how to get our attention, because He made us. God knows every physical and biological workaround. Nothing is impossible with God.


#11

Thank you for the chapter. They all lived very long while God’s Spirit was with man. Chapter 5 & 6 are very interesting.


#12

It’s not about how long they lived. It is about the fact that man started living shorter and shorter lives as the world became more depraved.

The ancient reader would have been surprised when people started living shorter and shorter lives. They would have been surprised that people were dying.

We now have the opportunity for eternal life.

-Tim


#13

One theory is that time was measured differently. What is being called a “year” may not equal what we call a year today (aka the 365 days the earth takes to travel around the sun).

And sometimes the text may be using different time measurements all mis-translated to “year.”

For example:

  1. it might be possible that the very large ages are really “moons” (number of full moons) and not years. 900 moons would equal approx 75 years.

  2. It’s also possible that some “years” may have been seasons. The tropical areas typically have just 2 seasons (dry and rainy), vs the 4 in the temperate areas. 75 “seasons” would have equalled 37.5 years.

The human co-authors of Genesis were trying to emphasis large amounts of time, so they very well may have used both seasons and moons in their writings, which have have been mistranslated to “years” over time.

But even if “years” is a mistranslation, it doesn’t negate the message that God intended us to receive and learn from the Book.

Finally, it’s also possible that God allowed people to live longer before and shortly after the flood.

But I personally believe it might be a translation thing because I don’t think there is a specific place in the Bible where it mention that God later shortened our life spans after the flood.

I pray this is helpful.


#14

I really like this sort of theory. I took a class at LSU about genetic engineering and indeed we don’t know too much about the aging process, but it seems to have to do with DNA replication. Nerds, read on here: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Telomere

Though I do not think we have to take this literally, I will continue to do so unless science somehow proves otherwise. It would be pretty cool though if some scientists came out with a report about early humans either having ultra-long telomeres or more efficient hTERT’s…


#15

I believe years are actual years…Sarah laughed when the angel said she would have a child at 90 yrs. old.


#16

I don’t know if the Church has stated specifically what this means, but I have a couple possible answers:

1.) They did not count the years the way we do. To the ancient world, a year wasn’t 365 1/4 days divided into 12 months of 28-31 days. As far as I know, most cultures of the time counted the year based on the cycle of the moon. The still had “months” but they counted them from new moon to new moon. A 12 month year based on this model would actually be shorter than the solar years we count today.

2.) It’s not literal language! Prior to the Exile, the Jewish people had no concept of afterlife the way we do now. They had Sheol, and that was it. No Heaven, no Hell. So if your faith is going to be rewarded it must occur during your life. To them, long life was one of the many blessings God bestowed on the faithful. The others being children, property and wealth.

This isn’t an either/or thing. One of these answers might be right, they might both be wrong. I only present what I recall from my own studies of religion, history and civilizations.


#17

Perfect DNA?
Huh?

Who had perfect DNA??

.


#18

In reference to Genesis Chapter 5…My Navarre Commentary pretty much agrees with you. Also, it says that ages of the patriarchs are symbolic. The commentators don’t give references for this statement, but I assume it comes from the Church Fathers.

As far as symbolism goes, it does not elaborate further except to say that Enoch’s age represents a perfect number as there are 365 days in the year before God took him. although he did not die.


#19

I’m just playing devil’s advocate here… But IF the 90 years age of Sarah was really 90 “seasons” then Sarah would have been 45, which is close to menopausal age. Plus, if a married woman had not had a child by then (in those days), it would have been safe to assume that either she was barren or her husband impotent. And it’s possible that they may or may not have known about impedance.

So if Sarah was really 45 years old, she still may have laughed.

Again, this is just academic theory.

God Bless


#20

I’m very curious where you are getting your facts.
It’s pretty common understanding that in today’s world, with medicines and surgeries and updated understanding of biology and such, we live much longer than any of our ancestors.

The ancient reader would have been surprised that people died?
How ancient are we talking, here? What century is this ancient reader who would be surprised by death?

.


DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.