and at the young age of 700

Pitting Biblical ages against what science tells us about the extremes of human longevity.
grizzled old man

Over the past year or so, I keep stumbling into books which try to cram what we know about history, physics and biology into various Biblical quotes to somehow prove that the Bible is still true to the letter despite being written in the ancient past by religious scribes or eclectic deep thinkers. The practice is known as Apologetics and it presents ample opportunity for lively debate and a lot of corrections to the writers understanding of the natural world and its history, one particular topic sticks out like a sore thumb.

Genesis 5 states that the first humans lived for radical stretches of time. Adam lived 930 years. Seth lived 912 years. Enos was still fertile at 815, dying when he was 905. Cainan lived to 910, Mahalel to 895, Jared to 962. Methuselah was the record holder for longevity with a lifespan of 969 years. One would think that human lifespans should average between 900 and 935 years or so without Gods silent intervention. Many scholars think these numbers are just metaphors for something else or are a product of a different counting of years. But Apologetics writers are saying that it was possible for humans to reach these astronomical ages.

The key, they argue, is genetics. The majority of animals dont live as long as humans because their bodies and hence, their genetic structures are different. If our genes control everything, they must also control lifespan. So in the past, the first humans could live well into their 10th century until a mutation happened and our genes now terminate our lives within about 80 to 100 years. (A veiled reference to the tale of Noah’s flood.)

Technically speaking, we share much of our genome with all living things on the planet through toolkit genes. And genes dont determine how long we’ll live. Natural selection does that. Genes are responsible for the aging process and yes, our bodies get the command to weaken after a certain period of time making us more susceptible to injury and disease which is what kills us off in the end. But theres no such thing as a genetic kill switch.

In addition, all the stress on our bodies requires a lot of repairs and the tissues were made of only last so long until theyre too damaged to keep working. Adam and the other radically long living Biblical characters are more likely to turn to dust than to live in excess of 900 years. The lifespan is controlled by a lot of things. Environment, genetics, diseases, how we handle injury, physical stress and our unique bodily quirks all play a role. To single out one component and forget about all the others doesnt work. Looks like Apologists need to reconsider this point and see if they can come up with a better explanation.

# oddities // apologetics / bible / lifespan / religion


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