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 Ancient historical documents, including the Biblical book of Genesis, record lifespans approximately 10 times above what they are currently.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. According to the Bible's book of Genesis, one of the intended consequences of the flood was to reduce the human lifespan to 120 years.
|“||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||”|
The purpose of the Flood, as stated in Genesis 6, was because "all flesh had corrupted his way" and required a physical solution. While wickedness was rampant, God's first words to Noah after the Flood concerned the ongoing wickedness of man's imagination "from his youth", so the purpose of the Flood was not to cure a sin or wickedness problem, but a physical problem with the "corruption of flesh".
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 of pristine genetics so close to original creation, 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 "definitively" 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. Latest research strongly suggests aging is simply the result of genetic decay over the lifespan of the individual, a result of information decay in the genes. Genetic enhancement research (injecting genetic information to replace existing genes) has shown across-the-board improvement in the individual's health and longevity, although this has not been attempted with humans (in any published account).
In (Genetic Entropy) John Sanford, PhD references a study performed by Halliday and Watts in 2001 that clearly shows an exponential decay curve which can only be described as "biological". The calculated "line of best fit" is exponential with a correlation curve of 0.94, a very close fit. Clearly the writer of Genesis was either a faithful historian or uber-mathematical-modeler. Fabrication of such data would require both a deep mathematical understanding coupled with a desire to show exponential decay. Why would anyone do this, considering that genetics was not discovered until the 19th century and mutations in the 20th century? Cries of "fraud" are not only unreasonable, but realistically why would anyone bother to fit these numbers to an exponential curve? What would it matter? There is no doctrinal nor historical value in such an endeavor. Rationally speaking, the ages are real and human lifespans really were extraordinary in the early generations of mankind. Through accumulated mutations over many generations, life expectancy has progressively declined via genetic degeneration. (For further reading, see Genetic Entropy & The Mystery of the Genome, JC Sanford PhD, Elim Publishing, 2005, pp. 148-149)
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." As God regularly uses natural physics to affect both his commands and miracles, we may look to the creation itself to discern what method He chose to affect this limitation.
- 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 and/or loss of genetic information through specialization.
- 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.
- A significant differential in the earth's gravitational attraction (below) before the Flood versus after, as higher gravity would put far more stress on an individual's constitution.
Recent research into size ratios and gravity, with earth's current gravity we can expect a maximum of 22,000 pounds for a land animal. Considering many of the larger dinosaurs were 150-200 tons in size, and many species had extended necks, the gravity of today would preclude the existence of such an animal. The modern giraffe's long neck has an extraordinary valved design for maintaining blood pressure even when it bends over to drink. Dinosaurs with 20-ton necks towering many stories high would have extraordinary blood pressure problems coupled with the torque required to keep such a neck aloft. The point being, the gravity before the Flood was clearly much less than today's gravity. Did the earth acquire more mass through asteroid impacts or some other means? When we examine extraordinary sizes for all creatures prior to the flood, it is clear they were able to achieve these sizes (especially the largest flying insects and pterosaurs) because gravity was far less.
All that said, gravity is a significant factor in the physical stress on a human body. This additional stress should also be considered as a factor in declining longevity. Again. God would have visibility to the change in gravity, the stress it would cause, and could easily align his 120-year declaration to man accordingly.
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
What would be the purpose of limiting mankind's lifespan? Clearly God had in mind a "corruption of the flesh" problem coupled with a wickedness and violence problem. Both of these were exacerbated by mankind's ability to live long lifespans. We can see someone like Hitler come to power if he has relatively unlimited tries to get it right. With today's longevity, such a global power-grab is a once-in-a-lifetime. Likewise, Hitler was about as evil as he was going to get by age 20. He then had several decades to amass disciples. What if he had several centuries? His influence would be unstoppable. Clearly the limiting of man's lifespan had a purpose in keeping evil at bay through simple attrition.
In our limited understanding, we can imagine putting something into play for purposes of good, and returning to find it had been irreversibly corrupted for evil. The pain and grief we might experience are barely a glimmer of the magnitude God expresses in the above passage. Would we choose to tear-down everything and start over? Clearly God knew the corruption was irreversible and he had a narrow path to correct it.
Some have asked, "why couldn't God hit the reset button" and just annihilate everything and start over? Why the boat? There are several reasons for this, not the least of which is Jesus is the "lamb slain from the foundation of the world". Adam, Methuselah, Seth, Abel and many others had already died in the hope of a coming Redeemer. God has already promised (to Adam) the Redeemer will come. What then does God do with all those eternal souls? They are not in heaven yet (John 3:13) so must wait for their redemption. For God to keep his promises and the theme of the creation (the Lamb of God) he is compelled by his own holiness to see the plan through. The Ark therefore, is an act of preservation of bloodlines, but is also a preservation of a promise, that God would enter humanity as a human.
As the Flood occurred 100 years after God commissioned Noah, the number "120" cannot apply to when the Flood would occur. It is however, very compelling that the maximum life expectancy for humans hovers around 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.
It is important to note that God declared Noah "righteous" only after he built the Ark. Prior to this time, God had declared all mankind "only evil continually", so no righteous humans existed for God to pick from. The Scripture says God chose Noah because he was "perfect in his generations", and this directly refers to his physical breeding, not his spiritual condition. One could argue God chose Noah because of his more pristine genetics, which would preclude the malaise associated with a genetic bottleneck. Noah was only the 10th generation from Adam, containing relatively few mutations from Adam's pristine genetics. In addition, God told Noah he would send the animals, not that Noah would have to gather them. Only God would have visibility to the animals with the most viable genetics for the post-Flood world. That the animals arrived in two-by-two is a direct assent of honoring the genetic model originally put in play on Day 5 when the animals were created to breed "after their kind".
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. It is more likely the ongoing decay of genetic information simply "caught up" with the human genome over time as longevity continued to decline.
Breach of Lord's command?
One of evolutionists' argument is that even after Lord commanded people to live 120 years, some Biblical characters lived longer. This is simply a misapplication of God's declaration. Clearly Noah, his sons and generations to follow lived longer, with declining ages attached to each generation. Clearly God didn't mean 120 years until the Flood came, since it arrived 100 years later.
This 120 years is a provision of God's mercy, that those alive during this time would not see more than 120 years, thus limiting the total number of people killed in the Flood. The Bible claims "all flesh had corrupted his way", a direct explanation of how physical flesh loses its original "way" or path of genetic flow. Every creature had a prescribed "path" or "way" intended by the Creator and when this flesh's "way" was corrupted (via corrupted genes) this would eventually affect the entire creation, including mankind.
The primary risk of not Flooding the earth, would be the risk that mankind's genetics would be irreversibly corrupted so that God could not bring forth a "kinsman Redeemer", a human male from the seed of the woman. God's original intent was to personally enter history using genetics (overshadowing and impregnating Mary) and it was necessary to protect mankind's bloodline from irreversible corruption. The only way to do this (for mankind and for the animals) was to eradicate the corrupted genetics so they could not further affect the various genomes. This necessarily required a single, global event to cut off the corrupted bloodlines, hence the need for a global Flood.
- 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 able to restore the biochemical nature of humans. Modern research shows loss-of-function and mutation in genes leads to cancer and other illnesses, and accelerates aging. The Tree Of Life reappears in the book of Revelation where humans are told to eat of it "freely". This is because in the time prior to the Fall, eating from the Tree of Life was not optional.
The two trees in the Garden create an atmosphere requiring humans to deliberately choose loyalty to the Creator. They must eat of the Tree of Life to maintain immorality and must avoid the Tree of Knowledge to keep from death. They don't have the option to choose "neither" - they are dependent on the Tree of Life and not eating from it is disobedience. Likewise to eat from the Tree of Knowledge is disobedience.
As a result of the actions of Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden, they brought death to all mankind through their disobedience. This death arrived immediately when God institutionalized substitutionary death by clothing them with coats of skins, of slain animals. The very next chapter shows Cain and Abel performing ritual sacrifices, one with flesh and one with grain, clearly knowing the flesh sacrifice was more acceptable to the Lord (as is mentioned in the New Testament concerning Cain and Abel (Heb 11:4)).
This substitutionary death is a foreshadowing of the Crucifixion, as Jesus is the "Lamb slain from the foundation of the world" (Rev. 13:8). Adam and Eve lived for many years after the Fall, but without access to the restorative power of the Tree of Life.
Some theologians suggest Adam died a "spiritual death" since he did not die immediately. But this misses the point of God instituting substitutionary death. The Bible says "for by man came sin, and by sin death, so death passed on to all men". If Adam died a "spiritual death", why did Jesus have to die a very physical death? It is true Adam was separated from God (in fellowship) when he disobeyed, but this did not absolve him from the (physical) death penalty. He was required to offer a substitute death (by clean animal) in hope of the coming Redeemer.
In addition, God cursed the entire creation. Christ's death on the Cross paid the ransom for the entire creation, not just mankind. The Curse however, was God's declaration that his restorative power would be withdrawn from the Creation and send it into a spiral of decay. The Tree of Life was simply one element of this restorative provision. Even as the creation is in a death spiral, God promised certain aspects would remain consistent and reliable (Gen 8:22) until a future time-certain. This promise is the basis of all science. Without this promise, nobody can expect the universe to remain consistent "on its own".
Recently, human lifespans have been extending 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 extension. In the absence of our improved technology and nutrition, the human lifespan would be no higher than it was 1000 years ago.
As such, there is a difference between an "increased" lifespan versus an "extended" one. Technology can extend life by forestalling death. This is no different than extending the life of a car through regular maintenance. It would not however, cause a car to last significantly longer than its original design. Nor would it make the car "immortal".
A movement today called "Trans-human" or "H+" performs research on using animal DNA to extend human genetic functionality, including extended ages. While most countries ban genetic testing on humans, those that do not remain a controversial hotbed.
- 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.