DestinyTurtle

Was Jesus Old By the Standards of his Generation?

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This is a random question that has been popping in my head lately, in a broader context of thought about how often we completely misinterpret or misrepresent history or mythology by projecting it in the modern context, which is very different in ways we don't normally think about.

 

Jesus's crucifixion is often represented as a tragic, untimely death of a shining prophet/teacher/son-of-god in his prime. It's usually understood that he died around the age of 33, which seems really young to us. However, consider that the average life expectancy was a lot shorter back then. When I look up historical trends of life expectancies in Wikipedia, it says for Classical Rome it was from ages 20-30 (if you lived past 10 your expectancy goes up to 47, but let's be honest - that's probably for wealthy Romans and not for wandering vagabond prophets). I keep wondering whether he was actually considered relatively old at the time of his death, or at least long past his prime. 

 

I wonder if anyone who is more educated or well read on the historical context has anything to add to or clarify on this. I am also interested in any additional thoughts about how differing context of age/aging changes the meaning or impression of biblical stories and perspective.

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Your observations are historically accurate. The Roman goblets that they drank from were often made of lead, so they were basically poisoning themselves. I think I read somewhere that the average lifespan was 38-40 years. Disease and infection was almost always fatal for obvious reasons. 

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You're forgetting "average lifespan" includes infant mortality and childhood disease. I can't speak for all times and places obviously, but the "average lifespan was 40" canard is used in many more places than just ancient Rome (I mean I'm sort of leery about the long term survivability of lead goblets so I'm with you on that score.) But in most cases, outside lead goblets probably, if you made it out of childhood, you were likely to live to about 70 or so. (Don't ask me to source that because I can't remember what the original source of that information was, but there is plenty of evidence that the existence of a bunch of actually "old people" isn't a modern invention.)

 

TLDR version: the infant mortality and childhood illness deaths are dragging the average way down. In the modern world we have far less of both so our average lifespan seems much higher, but probably not really.

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     Many Jews of this time started drinking out of stone cups similar to these:

 

cups.gif

 

     Quite a few places have been found where it appears they were manufacturing stone vessels (for all sorts of uses).

 

     Luke says that jesus is about 30 (29-31?) and his story has his ministry going for about a year.  So he dies when he's still about 30 (30-32?)?  John has his ministry last for about three years so people tend to choose it instead.  John never really mentions his age but he has a couple indirect references.  There is the place where the temple is referenced as being 46 years old and there's a comparison between jesus and the temple.  Also, there's a reference to jesus seeing Abraham even though he is not yet 50.  These make more sense if a person is supposed to be older as opposed to younger. 

 

     Anyhow, I would imagine the poorest folks didn't fair too well overall.  Just read the bible.  They're going to magicians for medical help.  Okay, I guess the bible claims they're going to the son of god for medical help but I think my point still stands.  No one is seeing doctors.  And I'd bet even a doctor from that period is a cut above either a son of a god or a magician (take your pick).  Maybe not by much in every case but I would think a doctor could do better than "Have faith" and spitting on you.  If you managed to live past the first few years of life you probably got to suffer well into adulthood.  On the plus side I can imagine you had plenty of company.  The laws of the Jews provided for the poorest of the poor.  That is why you had to leave some of your fields so that the poor could eat from them and things like that.  I believe the bible even has jesus and his crew doing just that.

 

          mwc

 

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15 hours ago, mwc said:

     Many Jews of this time started drinking out of stone cups similar to these:

 

cups.gif

 

     Quite a few places have been found where it appears they were manufacturing stone vessels (for all sorts of uses).

 

     Luke says that jesus is about 30 (29-31?) and his story has his ministry going for about a year.  So he dies when he's still about 30 (30-32?)?  John has his ministry last for about three years so people tend to choose it instead.  John never really mentions his age but he has a couple indirect references.  There is the place where the temple is referenced as being 46 years old and there's a comparison between jesus and the temple.  Also, there's a reference to jesus seeing Abraham even though he is not yet 50.  These make more sense if a person is supposed to be older as opposed to younger. 

 

     Anyhow, I would imagine the poorest folks didn't fair too well overall.  Just read the bible.  They're going to magicians for medical help.  Okay, I guess the bible claims they're going to the son of god for medical help but I think my point still stands.  No one is seeing doctors.  And I'd bet even a doctor from that period is a cut above either a son of a god or a magician (take your pick).  Maybe not by much in every case but I would think a doctor could do better than "Have faith" and spitting on you.  If you managed to live past the first few years of life you probably got to suffer well into adulthood.  On the plus side I can imagine you had plenty of company.  The laws of the Jews provided for the poorest of the poor.  That is why you had to leave some of your fields so that the poor could eat from them and things like that.  I believe the bible even has jesus and his crew doing just that.

 

          mwc

 

 

Those cups are pretty cool. Yeah, that's a good point about the difference in outcomes of the poor. This seems to be a situation that is always true. There are still far worse health and lifespan outcomes for the poorest among us now. Even in the west.

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Thank you, everyone for your perspective on this! Perhaps Jesus could have lived longer than 33, and people like him may have drunk from lead (or stone) cups. I bet there are a lot of things about that context that is completely mistaken or misunderstood in our day and age. Lots to think about!

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10 hours ago, DestinyTurtle said:

Thank you, everyone for your perspective on this! Perhaps Jesus could have lived longer than 33, and people like him may have drunk from lead (or stone) cups. I bet there are a lot of things about that context that is completely mistaken or misunderstood in our day and age. Lots to think about!

     Some of what I stated is from Irenaeus (Against Heresies book 2😞

 



XXII

 

6. But, besides this, those very Jews who then disputed with the Lord Jesus Christ have most clearly indicated the same thing. For when the Lord said to them, "Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day; and he saw it, and was glad," they answered Him, "Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast Thou seen Abraham? " Now, such language is fittingly applied to one who has already passed the age of forty, without having as yet reached his fiftieth year, yet is not far from this latter period. But to one who is only thirty years old it would unquestionably be said, "Thou art not yet forty years old." For those who wished to convict Him of falsehood would certainly not extend the number of His years far beyond the age which they saw He had attained; but they mentioned a period near His real age, whether they had truly ascertained this out of the entry in the public register, or simply made a conjecture from what they observed that He was above forty years old, and that He certainly was not one of only thirty years of age.For it is altogether unreasonable to suppose that they were mistaken by twenty years, when they wished to prove Him younger than the times of Abraham. For what they saw, that they also expressed; and He whom they beheld was not a mere phantasm, but an actual being of flesh and blood. He did not then wont much of being fifty years old; and, in accordance with that fact, they said to Him, "Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast Thou seen Abraham? "He did not therefore preach only for one year, nor did He suffer in the twelfth month of the year. For the period included between the thirtieth and the fiftieth year can never be regarded asone year, unless indeed, among their Aeons, there be so long years assigned to those who sit in their ranks with Bythus in the Pleroma; of which beings Homer the poet, too, has spoken, doubtless being inspired by the Mother of their [system of] error:-

Oi9 de\ qeoi\ pu\ r Zeni\ kaqh=menoi h0goro/wnto

Xruse/w| e0n dape/dw|:

which we may thus render into English: -"The gods sat round, while Jove presided o'er, And converse held upon the golden floor."

     There was no clear position on this, and other things, a very short time after the supposed events.  And the real thing is after two thousand years it's not a matter of things becoming confused or misunderstood it's a matter of nothing has really changed.  Things just seem rather certain because counsels making declaration via fiat and outlawing/destroying opposition over time.  Just look how the Arian controversy was settled.  Then unsettled shortly after.  Then resettled.  Back and forth for about a century until it became outlawed for good as the law of the empire.  That's how we've arrived at the present and not by losing a solid foundation over the ages.  This is all a house built on sand not rock as we've be told sold (this should be a relatable metaphor for this crowd).

 

          mwc

 

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