Explaining longevity in the biblical era

Do you really believe Adam lived 930 years and Methuselah lived 980 years?

In Genesis, chapter five we read of many long ages.  Adam lived 930 years, Seth lived 912 years, Methuselah lived 969 years, just to name a few.  It is not until after the Flood that life spans steadily start to decline.  Abraham lived 175 years; Moses lived 120 years; then eventually the familiar 70-year lifespan we read about in Psalms 90:10 is close to where we have returned today.

In the context in which Genesis five is written, we can believe what it says is actually true.   It is very clear that Genesis, as a piece of literature, is an historic narrative and thus, historically accurate.  This is certainly how the New Testament writers and Jesus referred to Genesis.

So, how could men live that long?  The Bible does not say directly but it does give us some hints and we can apply what the Bible says to what we see in nature and see if it makes sense. 

First of all, after God created Adam he said it is “very good.”  Thus, Adam’s body (and mind, by the way) must have been “very good.”  That is, he was created without any of the affects of the curse.  After thousands of years, our physical bodies are continuing to experience the affects of the curse, continuing to “run down.”

Genesis 1:6-7 says a separation of water above and below the firmament (sky, expanse, atmosphere) covered the earth.  Most likely this water “above” somehow served as a protective blanket for the earth making it a much healthier place to live.  A very popular model that seems to fit the facts of nature and the Bible is the Whitcomb/Morris model.  They propose that this water layer “above” was a vapor canopy.

Such a canopy could have protected people, animals and vegetation from the damaging effects of  radiation.  In Genesis 7:11,12 the “floodgates” were opened for forty days and forty nights. A worldwide flood required massive amounts of water and these waters from above, no doubt, contributed to the deluge.  Therefore, after the flood, lifespans were shortened by radiation causing harmful somatic (bodily) effects like cancer, etc. and genetic effects like mutations.

The antediluvian period (the period before the Flood) was probably a uniform and pleasant climate with no deserts or polar regions.  A worldwide, invisible vapor canopy covering the earth like a blanket would have produced a greenhouse effect allowing heat and light in, while at the same time blocking out harmful cosmic radiation.  It is very likely that the entire hydrologic cycle of rain and precipitation was not what it is now.  Genesis 2:5,6,9 suggests that the early earth did not experience rain which would have been replaced by a tropical, but stable environment.  Also, seasonal cold and heat are not mentioned until after the Flood.  Thus, a humid, comfortable atmosphere replacing the need for rain coupled with the absence of harsh seasonal changes would have made the antediluvian period conducive to long ages.

This would also explain what we see in the fossil record.  Large amounts of tropical vegetation buried and compressed with a worldwide catastrophe could explain the abundance of fossil fuels.  Fossils of lush vegetation in Alaska, Antarctica, the Middle East and elsewhere confirm a period where the world’s environment was much different.  Increased atmospheric pressure could explain pteranodons with 70 foot wingspans.  They would have trouble flying in our present atmosphere but could have been buoyed up by the increased air pressure.  Giantism in plants and animals found in fossil record would be reasonable in such a favorable climate.  Perhaps that is why we can see dinosaurs 125 feet long and weighing, perhaps, 80 tons.  Dinosaurs are reptiles and reptiles continue to grow until they die.  Thus, longer lifespans could be an excellent explanation of the size of these creatures.

As you can see, this model, built on the Scriptures,  explains much of what we see in nature.   However, it is not without its shortcomings.  Not all creationists are happy with this model and have proposed other models that explain the facts as well.  A very important lesson can be learned about this.  We cannot teach a model as fact.  We can teach the Bible as fact.  When Scripture teaches something plainly we can be, and need to be, assertive about it.  The Bible will not change, but a model is subject to change and we should not be dogmatic about it.  We certainly do not want to promote as fact something we cannot prove; evolutionists seem to have a monopoly on that anyway.  In reality, some variation of the canopy model which accounts for its flaws probably existed allowing for these long ages.

Regardless, we know they lived that long because we know someone who was there, the Creator of the universe and He has given us His word, which we can trust.

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©Tom Carpenter
Originally published in the Rockdale/Newton Citizen