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Question On Really Old Ages In Bible


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What's up with people's really old ages in the bible?  Are there any official xian "explanations"?  They get mentioned so casually all the time in sermons -- "Abraham and Sarah had Issac when Abraham was 100 and Sarah was 90 . . . blah blah blah"  Nobody bats an eye. 

 

When I was a kid, I came up with two explanations on my own.  One was that it was a sign of respect.  Like you would respect a grandparent who gained wisdom over the years, so to say someone was 500 would be saying they were "very wise."  The other was that if the bible was a collection of myths, which certainly the old testament is, that when they say someone was 100's of years old they would be saying the old people are not ordinary people, but more like demigods (obviously not a biblical concept), or are simply people we should take special note of.

 

Does anyone know anything better than what I made up?

 

Thanks in advance!

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Gandalf lived longer than any of those Bible chumps.  Mithrandir said, "Three hundred lives of men I've walked this earth and now I have no time."

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Joseph Campbell found some interesting parallels with Berossus' history of Babylonia:

 

The Inner Reaches of Outer Space: Metaphor as Myth and as Religion

P. 9-12 

"For example, in the Hindu sacred epics...the number of years reckoned to the present cycle of time, the so-called Kali Yuga, is 432,000; the number reckoned to the "great cycle", within this Yuga falls is 4,320,000. But then reading one day in the Icelandic Eddas, I discovered that in Othin's warrior hall, there were 540 doors, through each of which, on the "Day of The Wolf" (that is to say at the end of the present cycle of time), there would pass 800 divine warriors to engage the antigods in a mutual battle of annihilation. 800 x 540 = 432,000.

...In Babylon, I then recalled, there had been a Chaldean priest, Berossos, who c. 280 BCE., had rendered into Greek an account of the history and mythology of Babylonia, wherein it was told that between the rise of the first city, Kish, and the coming of the Babylonian mythological flood (from which that of the bible is taken), there elapsed 432,000 years, during which antediluvian era, ten kings reigned. Very long lives! Longer even than Methuselah's (Genesis 5:27), which had been of 969.

So I turned to the Old Testament (Genesis 5) and counting the number of antediluvian patriarchs, Adam to Noah, discovered, of course, that they were ten. How many years? Adam was 130 years old when he begat Seth, who was 105 when he begat Enosh, and so on, to Noah, who was 600 years old when the flood came: to a grand total, from the first day of Adams creation to the first drop of rain of Noah's flood, of 1,656 years. Any relation to 432,000? ...it was shown that in 1,656 years there are 86,400 seven-day weeks. 86,400 divided by 2 equals 43,200.

And so it appears that in the book of Genesis there are two contrary theologies represented in relation to the deluge. One is the old tribal, popular tale of a willful, personal creator god, who saw that "the wickedness of man was great in the earth..." (Genesis 5:6-7). The other idea, which is in fundamental contrast, is that of the disguised number, 86,400, which is a deeply hidden reference to the Gentile, Sumero-Babylonian, mathmatical cosmology of ever-revolving cycles of impersonal time, with whole universes and their populations coming into being, flowering for a season of 43,200 (432,000 or 4,320,000) years, dissolving back into the cosmic mother-sea to rest for an equal amount of years before returning, and so again, and again, and again.

It is to be noticed, by the way, that 1+6+5+6=18, which is twice 9, while 4+3+2=9: 9 being associated with the goddess mother of the world and it's gods. In India the number of recited names in a litany of this goddess is 108. 1+0+8= 9, while 108 X 4 = 432. ...It is strange that in our history books the discovery of the precession of the equinoxes should be attributed to Hipparchus, second century BC., when the magic number 432 (which when multiplied by 60 produces 25,920) was already employed in the reckoning of major cycles of time before that century).

 

That's probably one of the best reasons I've found for the exaggerated life span thing - a nearly direct copy and mimic by the late Biblical writing periods as they used the Babylonian myth as a framework from which to spin Jewish mythology. The long ages have no real meaning other than to outline a cyclical time method popular in eastern and near eastern mythology. They needed to stretch out the lives of 10 mythological Patriarchs to mirror the 10 Babylonian Kings from the rise of Kish to the deluge. They were playing around with numerology, and cosmological astro-mythology, and trying to bring them into a Judaized framework by the looks of things.  At least that's one reasonable explanation for the ridiculously long mythological lives. 

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Thank you, Joshpantera!!!  Now I know why pastors never try to explain those long lives!  

 

I really appreciate you posting that explanation.

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What's up with people's really old ages in the bible?  Are there any official xian "explanations"?  They get mentioned so casually all the time in sermons -- "Abraham and Sarah had Issac when Abraham was 100 and Sarah was 90 . . . blah blah blah"  Nobody bats an eye.

 

I asked my parents that question when I was a child and they said: "There was no pollution back then so people could live hundreds of years."  I thought it made sense and never questioned it again.

 

I have read other ancient texts where they mention people aged hundreds of years, sometimes reaching very close to 1,000 but very seldom above that number.  I never studied biology or genetics so I have no idea how aging works, so I actually think it was possible for humans to live much longer than we do today at some points in history, and that it might actually be possible again in the future.  The aging process does not seem to be well understood, even today.

 

Here's and interesting article on the subject:  Can the Human Lifespan Reach 1,000 Years - Some Experts Say "Yes"

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Before the Great Flood most of the water in the ocean and all of the water in the ice caps was up in the sky giving up a protective layer of fog called a "firmament".  So people could live for 400 to 900 years no problem at all.

 

-Science class in my Christian middle school.

 

Sadly at the time I assumed this was the truth.  I just accepted it without questioning it.

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As a kid, I was told it had something to do with the Flood, because you notice that people have shorter lives afterwards.  However, that didn't really explain why this happened.

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No one knew what a year was in biblical times.

Uh, what?

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If it were common for people to live for 100's of years in biblical times, it would not have been specifically mentioned for the few (10) people who lived those 100's of years.  And if it were common for women to have babies WELL PAST MENOPAUSE it also would not have been mentioned.  And poor Jesus would have been horribly horribly pitied for dying at the mere pre-adolescent age of 33.

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Before the Great Flood most of the water in the ocean and all of the water in the ice caps was up in the sky giving up a protective layer of fog called a "firmament".  So people could live for 400 to 900 years no problem at all.

 

-Science class in my Christian middle school.

 

Sadly at the time I assumed this was the truth.  I just accepted it without questioning it.

 

Yeah, I was taught this as well. Then that the Flood destroyed the canopies (firmament) and that's why they couldn't be old anymore. Makes no sense now, but at the time it made perfect sense!!! 

 

I like this 42300 thing. It makes more sense, especially since we know the author of Genesis was none of those old people in it!! 

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No one knew what a year was in biblical times.

Uh, what?

 

I think what he is getting at is what did ancient Hebrews consider a year? They didn't know the earth rotates around the sun which denotes a year for us. so what did ancient Hebrews consider a year? add on top of that exaggeration and forming reality from mythology its not that unexpected. In fact It would be unusual if it didn't

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I'll chime in to say I also heard the pre-flood, post-flood idea. Something about protective canopy / firmament, and maybe pollution or the sun, maybe purer blood lines without any sort of contamination for a while... a bunch of conjecture but totally accepted as fact. Super weird, now that you think about it. 

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No one knew what a year was in biblical times.

Uh, what?

 

I think what he is getting at is what did ancient Hebrews consider a year? They didn't know the earth rotates around the sun which denotes a year for us. so what did ancient Hebrews consider a year? add on top of that exaggeration and forming reality from mythology its not that unexpected. In fact It would be unusual if it didn't

 

There's some pretty obvious things about the year though that even ancient people back in pre-bronze age times recognized. You don't need to know which thing is going around which thing to tell that there's a year-long significant cycle involved. And that cycle had been recognized by several cultures in that time. You don't need to know it's the earth going around the sun that makes the year. (Besides, the more relevant thing for most practical purposes isn't the earth going around the sun, but the axis of the earth relative to the sun; the two are closely related though, due to physics, but you don't need to know that to realize that when figuring out how the seasons work.) There's a bit of time that is cool, there's a bit that's warmer during which plants grow like crazy, and the cool time returns, followed by the warmer time. It's not rocket science.

 

It is of course possible that the words used for month and year changed over time, and that a word that at some point signified month changed to signify year - such changes are far from unusual, cross-linguistically speaking - but it's even more likely, imho, that the authors of these stories really thought the time spans involved were that great (this does not mean the time spans really were that great, just that people like exaggerating! We also find that other cultures had similarly exaggerated time-spans involved with different words involved, and the exact same change of meaning for a word, albeit possible, gets less likely the more times we invoke it as an explanation; of course, it's also possible the Hebrew stories are derived from stories in the other culture, where that change had occurred, thus limiting the number of times we need to invoke that particular change to one, viz. babylon. Of course, Aramaic and Hebrew are closely related, so it's also possible the change happened in the common ancestor of both of those, and the stories were kept by both cultures, etc.)

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I thought Bill was being sarcastic.  I find the best explanation is exaggeration.  Some Bible author had to claim that Solomon had 300 wives and 700 concubines.  And what was it . . . 7000 horses?  So if you have ancestors who were important in mythology you give them exaggerated ages.

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I thought Bill was being sarcastic.  I find the best explanation is exaggeration.  Some Bible author had to claim that Solomon had 300 wives and 700 concubines.  And what was it . . . 7000 horses?  So if you have ancestors who were important in mythology you give them exaggerated ages.

 

That doesn't explain how the same numbers come up in disparate mythologies from the area.  There must have been something they were trying to convey with those numbers.  Numerology was big at the time, across several cultures.

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I thought Bill was being sarcastic.  I find the best explanation is exaggeration.  Some Bible author had to claim that Solomon had 300 wives and 700 concubines.  And what was it . . . 7000 horses?  So if you have ancestors who were important in mythology you give them exaggerated ages.

 

That doesn't explain how the same numbers come up in disparate mythologies from the area.  There must have been something they were trying to convey with those numbers.  Numerology was big at the time, across several cultures.

 

Yeah, but finding out exactly what they were trying to convey ex-post-facto is fraught with dangers. Pareidolia lurks behind every corner if you go down that route.

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Joseph Campbell found some interesting parallels with Berossus' history of Babylonia:

 

The Inner Reaches of Outer Space: Metaphor as Myth and as Religion

 

P. 9-12 

 

"For example, in the Hindu sacred epics...the number of years reckoned to the present cycle of time, the so-called Kali Yuga, is 432,000; the number reckoned to the "great cycle", within this Yuga falls is 4,320,000. But then reading one day in the Icelandic Eddas, I discovered that in Othin's warrior hall, there were 540 doors, through each of which, on the "Day of The Wolf" (that is to say at the end of the present cycle of time), there would pass 800 divine warriors to engage the antigods in a mutual battle of annihilation. 800 x 540 = 432,000.

 

...In Babylon, I then recalled, there had been a Chaldean priest, Berossos, who c. 280 BCE., had rendered into Greek an account of the history and mythology of Babylonia, wherein it was told that between the rise of the first city, Kish, and the coming of the Babylonian mythological flood (from which that of the bible is taken), there elapsed 432,000 years, during which antediluvian era, ten kings reigned. Very long lives! Longer even than Methuselah's (Genesis 5:27), which had been of 969.

 

So I turned to the Old Testament (Genesis 5) and counting the number of antediluvian patriarchs, Adam to Noah, discovered, of course, that they were ten. How many years? Adam was 130 years old when he begat Seth, who was 105 when he begat Enosh, and so on, to Noah, who was 600 years old when the flood came: to a grand total, from the first day of Adams creation to the first drop of rain of Noah's flood, of 1,656 years. Any relation to 432,000? ...it was shown that in 1,656 years there are 86,400 seven-day weeks. 86,400 divided by 2 equals 43,200.

 

And so it appears that in the book of Genesis there are two contrary theologies represented in relation to the deluge. One is the old tribal, popular tale of a willful, personal creator god, who saw that "the wickedness of man was great in the earth..." (Genesis 5:6-7). The other idea, which is in fundamental contrast, is that of the disguised number, 86,400, which is a deeply hidden reference to the Gentile, Sumero-Babylonian, mathmatical cosmology of ever-revolving cycles of impersonal time, with whole universes and their populations coming into being, flowering for a season of 43,200 (432,000 or 4,320,000) years, dissolving back into the cosmic mother-sea to rest for an equal amount of years before returning, and so again, and again, and again.

 

It is to be noticed, by the way, that 1+6+5+6=18, which is twice 9, while 4+3+2=9: 9 being associated with the goddess mother of the world and it's gods. In India the number of recited names in a litany of this goddess is 108. 1+0+8= 9, while 108 X 4 = 432. ...It is strange that in our history books the discovery of the precession of the equinoxes should be attributed to Hipparchus, second century BC., when the magic number 432 (which when multiplied by 60 produces 25,920) was already employed in the reckoning of major cycles of time before that century).

 

That's probably one of the best reasons I've found for the exaggerated life span thing - a nearly direct copy and mimic by the late Biblical writing periods as they used the Babylonian myth as a framework from which to spin Jewish mythology. The long ages have no real meaning other than to outline a cyclical time method popular in eastern and near eastern mythology. They needed to stretch out the lives of 10 mythological Patriarchs to mirror the 10 Babylonian Kings from the rise of Kish to the deluge. They were playing around with numerology, and cosmological astro-mythology, and trying to bring them into a Judaized framework by the looks of things.  At least that's one reasonable explanation for the ridiculously long mythological lives. 

We don't have a Berossus to check back from, in fact, the only thing on Berossus we have, are quotes of quotes made by Christian writers. So I'd caution against using him as evidence. Not that there aren't obvious similarities between the sumerobabylonian and hebrew theologies, but because there are many, deeply interrelated, instrinsic similarities. Though the Sumerian Kings List gives that number at "241200 years" And there were 9 kings, but only 8 are listed on the kings list. The final one being Ziusudra/Utnapishtim/Atrahasis, the son of Ubaratutu. Though he sometimes is listed on kings lists:

http://etcsl.orinst.ox.ac.uk/section2/tr211.htm

 

Though other texts give:

Five cities; eight kings ruled for 385,200sic years.

http://www.livius.org/k/kinglist/sumerian.html

 

But I never saw the figure you give. Though I have seen some lists that had Ziusudra as seperate, some assume he is the same and not the son of Ubaratutu. Depends on which tradition in which sumerian or other mesopotamian city.

I don't know about that from the Hindu System, so I can't really comment on that.

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What's up with people's really old ages in the bible?  Are there any official xian "explanations"?  They get mentioned so casually all the time in sermons -- "Abraham and Sarah had Issac when Abraham was 100 and Sarah was 90 . . . blah blah blah"  Nobody bats an eye. 

 

When I was a kid, I came up with two explanations on my own.  One was that it was a sign of respect.  Like you would respect a grandparent who gained wisdom over the years, so to say someone was 500 would be saying they were "very wise."  The other was that if the bible was a collection of myths, which certainly the old testament is, that when they say someone was 100's of years old they would be saying the old people are not ordinary people, but more like demigods (obviously not a biblical concept), or are simply people we should take special note of.

 

Does anyone know anything better than what I made up?

 

Thanks in advance!

 

Christians don't need explanations, only faith. Wicked non-believers have to have evidence and proof. Satan the great deceiver has loosed the demon of thought, the demon of logic and the demon of critical thinking upon them. lol.

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What's up with people's really old ages in the bible?  Are there any official xian "explanations"?  They get mentioned so casually all the time in sermons -- "Abraham and Sarah had Issac when Abraham was 100 and Sarah was 90 . . . blah blah blah"  Nobody bats an eye.

 

I asked my parents that question when I was a child and they said: "There was no pollution back then so people could live hundreds of years."  I thought it made sense and never questioned it again.

 

I have read other ancient texts where they mention people aged hundreds of years, sometimes reaching very close to 1,000 but very seldom above that number.  I never studied biology or genetics so I have no idea how aging works, so I actually think it was possible for humans to live much longer than we do today at some points in history, and that it might actually be possible again in the future.  The aging process does not seem to be well understood, even today.

 

Here's and interesting article on the subject:  Can the Human Lifespan Reach 1,000 Years - Some Experts Say "Yes"

 

 

Good one. Someone told me that there was a lot of cloud cover back in those days so a lot less UV rays to age your body. :-) It's funny that people even attempt to explain this stuff.

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Before the Great Flood most of the water in the ocean and all of the water in the ice caps was up in the sky giving up a protective layer of fog called a "firmament".  So people could live for 400 to 900 years no problem at all.

 

-Science class in my Christian middle school.

 

Sadly at the time I assumed this was the truth.  I just accepted it without questioning it.

 

Sorta makes you wonder why people in rainy/foggy areas like say, London don't live hundreds of years.

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"Sorta makes you wonder why people in rainy/foggy areas like say, London don't live hundreds of years."

 

They do.  Look at the royal family.  They're just smart enough not to advertise so everybody doesn't move there.

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