I PROMISED in Friday’s blog to report on a few theories that Bible experts have to explain why folks in the first 10 generations of human beings lived nearly 1,000 years each.
Spoiler alert: not one of the theories rings the bell. Not as far as most Bible experts say.
- It’s history. People lived longer before Noah’s Flood. An ancient Flood story from Sumeria, in what is now south Iraq, said eight kings who lived before the Great Flood ruled a combined total of almost a quarter of a million years: 241,200 years. The shortest reign: 18,600 years. Longshot speculation: the Flood unleashed previously unknown aging toxins from the ground. Or maybe the burst of rain dissipated thick clouds that had protected people from the sun’s radiation.
- It’s working with a lunar calendar. We’re talking months, not years. So Adam’s descendant Mahalalel wouldn’t have been 895 years old when he died, but 895 months: a believable 74 years. Problem: He fathered a son when he was 65 months (age 5). Not so believable.
- It’s symbolic. The numbering system symbolizes that the life God gives follows a natural pattern, like the movement of stars and planets in the sky. Long-shot speculation: The numbers are based on what ancient star-gazers knew as astronomical periods—tech term, “synodic periods.” That’s the time it took for a heavenly body to return to the same point in the sky. Enoch, at 365 (the number of days in a year), symbolizes the ideal lifecycle—and that’s when he was “taken,” apparently to heaven, instead of dying. Lamech’s 777 years equals the time in days that it takes Jupiter and Saturn to return to the same point in the sky.
- It’s flattery. Assigning bigger-than-life numbers to humanity’s revered patriarchs is a bit like giving a famous person an honorary doctorate, or letting your boss beat you at golf. It seems like a polite thing to do, but everyone knows what’s going on.