I was speaking with my pastor the other day, and I asked about the extremely old ages recorded in the book of Genesis for some of the patriarchs: Methuselah living 960 years, Noah over 700.
The good pastor replied, “I don’t think they did. Those are just stories, you know?”
At the time I didn’t have an answer; but thinking about it, how can we dismiss those numbers as “just stories?” If we start saying that, we can say that about the entire Bible, “They’re just stories.” And that is what many people say now, including the stories of the Incarnation and Resurrection: just stories, not histories.
Granted, maybe the apple that Adam and Eve ate is a symbol of something, but when the authors clearly write that someone lived a certain number of years of age, it seems to be a plain literal intent there. Especially considering the ages are, actually, considering ancient myths, rather modest. I think the Sumerians wrote that some of their kings lived for thousands of years. Nobody in the Bible lived to a thousand.
I find it hard to believe, of course; but not impossible. I mean, I do believe a man raised himself from the dead (not merely a man). So, I’m leaning towards the literal truth, that Methuselah lived 969 years, and not some kind of alternatively calculated, shorter years, but 969 cycles of the seasons.
What do you think? Are the ages literal? Is biblical inerrancy jeopardized if we start saying, “They’re just stories” ?