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Human longevity is the length of a person's life span. The Creationist reflections on this topic typically focus on the effects of the flood on the human lifespan, and the cause of human mortality. Ancient historical documents, including the Biblical book of Genesis, record lifespans approximately 10 times above what they are currently. However, immediately after the flood, human longevity shows a rapid decline.
|“||And the LORD said, My spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh: yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years. Genesis 6:3||”|
According to the book of Psalms, the average human lifespan (which at the time of the writing would have been 3,000 years ago, and we know must have been at least 2,500 years ago given the Dead Sea Scrolls) was 70 years:
|“||The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away. Psalms 90:10||”|
Prior to the flood, Genesis 5 records that people lived extraordinarily long lives: routinely over 900 years. Methuselah is known for living longer than any other human in history, dying at the age of 969.
This longevity is believed to be so extraordinarily long in part because environmental conditions were optimal before the Earth was destroyed during the global flood. This perhaps maintained by a stronger magnetic field or dense atmosphere which collapsed during the flood.
|Born||Ancestor||Son Born||Age||Died||Other Children||Reference|
|0||Adam||130||930||930||Abel, Cain, s&d||Genesis 5|
|1056||Noah||502||950||2006||s&d||Genesis 5:32 , Genesis 9:29|
|1558||Shem||100||600||2158||Elam, Asshur, Lud, Aram, s&d||Genesis 11|
|1978||Abram||100||175||2153||Ishmael, Zimram, et. al.||Genesis 25 , Genesis 17:24 , Genesis 12:4|
|2078||Isaac||40||180||2258||Esau||Genesis 21:5 , Genesis 25:20 , Genesis 35:28|
|2118||Jacob||91||147||2265||Reuben, Simeon, et. al.||Genesis 30 , Genesis 35|
|2196||Levi||137||abt 2337||Exodus 6:16|
It should be noted that there is nothing known about the human body which would fundamentally prevent humans from having lived that long in the past, or to one day live that long again. Scientists do not know why humans age and ultimately die, although some have speculated[Reference needed] that it might be due to the shortening of telomeres, which could theoretically have been much longer prior to the flood.
Josephus on early human longevity
Josephus, a first century Jewish historian, wrote:
|“||Let no one, upon comparing the lives of the ancients with our lives, and with the few years which we now live, think that what we have said of them is false; or make the shortness of our lives at present an argument that neither did they attain to so long a duration of life; for those ancients were beloved of God and [lately] made by God himself; and because their food was then fitter for the prolongation of life, might well live so great a number of years; and besides, God afforded them a longer time of life on account of their virtue and the good use they made of it in astronomical and geometrical discoveries, which would not have afforded the time of foretelling [the periods of the stars] unless they had lived six hundred years; for the Great Year is completed in that interval. Now I have for witnesses to what I have said, all those that have written Antiquities, both among the Greeks and barbarians; for even Manetho, who wrote the Egyptian History, and Berosus, who collected the Chaldean Monuments, and Mochus and Hestiaeus, and besides these, Hieronymus the Egyptian, and those who composed the Poenician History, agree to what I here say: Hesiod also, and Hecataeus, Hellanicus and Acusilaus; and besides these, Ephorus and Nicolaus relate that the ancients lived a thousand years; but as to these matters let everyone look upon them as he thinks fit. (Antiquities, I:5:104-108)||”|
After the great flood, human lifespans declined quickly and precipitously as seen in the chart at right.
There are several possible factors for consideration:
- The decrease was a result of God's order that "His days will be 120 years."
- The decrease in lifespan was the result of the harsher environment after the flood.
- Accelerated recombination, inbreeding, and the resulting genetic drift played a possible role.
- Accumulation of mutations.
- The decrease was a result of events occurring between 1997 AM and 2187 AM (when most of the post-diluvian patriarchs died).
- The ages of the Biblical genealogy are exaggerated.
- The ideal genetics of Adam were increasingly diluted through the postdiluvian generations, making the body less robust. This is supported by the geometric decrease in lifespan before leveling off.
It is argued by some that the decline in human longevity was either an intended or knowingly concomitant result of the flood. The following passage quotes the words of God declaring man will live to be 120 years because He would destroy the Earth by flood.
"Then the LORD said, "My Spirit will not contend with man forever, for he is mortal; his days will be a hundred and twenty years." ... The LORD saw how great man's wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time. The LORD was grieved that he had made man on the earth, and his heart was filled with pain. So the LORD said, "I will wipe mankind, whom I have created, from the face of the earth—men and animals, and creatures that move along the ground, and birds of the air—for I am grieved that I have made them." - Genesis 6:3-7
Although another suggested interpretation of this scripture is that the flood would occur following 120 years, it is very compelling that the maximum life expectancy for humans is almost exactly 120 years. The longest verified modern lifespan on record for a human was Jeanne Calment who lived to be 122 years of age.
It is a foregone conclusion that after the flood, the environment was substantially different. The fossil record indicates that prior to the flood, the Earth was a tropical paradise. The destruction of the Earth by flood would have altered the environment in harmful ways about which we can only speculate. Further, post-flood inbreeding would have been extreme with only a father, mother, three sons, and their wives remaining, causing the loss of a great deal of heterozygosity, and making humans more vulnerable to the new and harsher environment. Their view is consistent with biology (particularly genetic drift,) flood geology, and the decline of humanity.
The chart at right shows that all of the post-diluvian patriarchs died within a 200 year period, from 1997 AM to 2187 AM. Interestingly, Noah died only two years before Abraham was born. It is possible that their deaths were caused by events occurring during this period, such as perhaps the dispersion of humanity from the Tower of Babel, war, environmental changes, or some other events during that period that caused the death rate to increase greatly.
- Main Article: Fall of man
The Tree of Life was a tree in the Garden of Eden that was placed there so humans could live forever. According to Genesis 2-3 , upon eating of the forbidden Tree of Knowledge, God immediately removed Adam and Eve from the garden, and placed a flaming sword to guard the tree so they could not eat from the Tree of Life.
In Genesis 3:22-23 , God is quoted as saying "'He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.' So the LORD God banished him from the Garden of Eden ..."
There remains some debate within the theological and creation science community regarding the nature of this immortality.[Reference needed] However, many people assume humans were originally designed to be physically immortal, but this ability was somehow linked to the aforementioned Tree of Life. Perhaps the fruit from the tree contained some factor that was able to transform the biochemical nature of humans, slowing or arresting programmed cell death (apoptosis). As a result of the actions of Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden, they brought death to all mankind through their disobedience.
Recently, human lifespans have been increasing at a remarkable rate in the Western World. This is due primarily to improved medicine, hygiene, and nutrition. Changes in the human gene pool itself are not the cause of this increase. In the absence of our improved technology and nutrition, the human lifespan would be no higher than it was 1000 years ago.
- Genesis 5 The Genealogy from Adam to Noah
- Living for 900 years by Carl Wieland
- Decreased lifespans: Have we been looking in the right place? by Carl Wieland
- Life Span of Biblical Patriarchs BEFORE and AFTER Noah's Flood BibleStudy.org, Accessed September 27, 2011.