So, today I begin that long-promised series on Old Testament “oddities”—that is, those things in the Old Testament that in many cases make people go Hmmmmm even more so than the miracles in the New Testament do. I had originally figured I might tackle things chronologically but I think instead I’ll bounce around as the mood hits me to tackle one story or topic or another. We’ll be spending most of our time in Genesis and Exodus of course, but given the more “mythological” feel of those two books, I doubt that will surprise you much. I’ll probably do one of these “Old School” posts a week or so; certainly no more than two in a week.
So, what’s on the plate today? Creaky knees, sagging breasts, bent backs and lots of complaining about how things use to be in the old days. Yup. Aging. More specifically, those incredibly long lifespans in the early biblical days.
Adam supposedly lived 930 years, while seven generations later, Methuselah clocked in at 969 and then a couple generations later Noah hit 950. Enoch, supposedly the seventh generation, died young at 365. By and large, after Noah, lifespans took a big dip but still were several centuries long. When we get to one of the next big names of the Bible after Noah, and that would be Moses of course, he lived 120 years, long by today’s standards and certainly by the standards of his day too I’m sure, but certainly a figure that most of us can swallow more easily.
So, I’m going to call bullshit on those 900+ year lifespans aren’t I?
I believe them. Yup, I’m taking this one on faith mostly, but there are some logical reasons as well (granted, the “fact-based” arguments rely on some faith-based assumptions, but it’s logical nonetheless). When God started off with Adam and Eve, things like illness were not part of the equation. I’m not even sure if death was part of the plan and if it was, I’m sure it was intended to be a much different process than the messy ones we go through on this planet. Hell, childbirth wasn’t supposed to be as messy as we know it.
God told Adam that to eat of the fruit of that Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil meant death. And He spoke truly. When Eve and then Adam bit into that fruit, they brought death into their existence. Not instant death, though. That’s one of the reasons Satan went after Eve first. He knew that the fruit wasn’t going to kill Eve right away or even short-term. And he knew that when she realized that, she was going to tell Adam. And Satan knew that was going to make Adam doubt God, which would otherwise have been pretty tough to do considering how tight Adam and God were. And that was the first step to disobedience and sin. And Adam bit. Literally and figuratively.
What happened was that first off, Adam and Eve killed off a major part of themselves spiritually. God intended us to be spiritual beings, even though we were clothed in bodies. That spiritual death was a major blow to humanity because it meant a fundamental separation from God. We also opened the door to illness and pain and all kinds of suffering, which pleased Satan to no end, since he hated us from the moment God told him He was going to create us.
The reason, I believe, for the initially long lifespans, even with illness and death coming into play, was that despite death entering into Adam’s existence, he was still close enough to his original spiritual self to have a hardy body and a long lifespan. It is the subsequent generations that brought a progressive weakening of that reserve and a steady descent into being almost wholly beings of the flesh, with only the barest smattering of our spiritual selves left. Note also that, the men of the Old Testament who were the more direct descendants of Adam also had their first children at advanced ages, often after they had lived a century or more. The biology of humanity was a very different thing then, clearly, and probably closer to God’s original intentions. After the Great Flood (which may end up being part 2 of this series), lifespans took a major nosedive, but let’s also remember how sinful and degraded that generation was. So even though Noah was righteous, the human gene pool was pretty polluted by sin and what there was to work with wasn’t all that great.
Now, you might say, “Oh, Deke, you must also be one of those folks who thinks the Earth is 7,000 years old and shit.” Nope. I don’t believe that at all. I think Adam was created quite a bit more than 7,000 years ago. I won’t get into all of that too much in this installment, but those folks who lived so long, even in the generations immediately following the flood, were long before the recorded civilizations like the Babylonians or Egyptians or anyone else of the region. From what I understand, Jewish genealogies are sometimes “abbreviated” for the sake of convenience, with the lesser or insignificant generations excluded. And even if that hasn’t been the case in recent millennia, I think it was for the genealogies in the Bible. Quite a few more generations existed that the Bible tells us of in my humble opinion. I suspect Adam goes way back to Homo Erectus or Cro Magnon times or somewhere in that epochal neighborhood. We’ve had a long time for Adam’s blood and Eve’s to help build humanity, and also a long time for the deadly nature of that fruit to worm its way fully into our biology.
The fruit has fallen far from the tree, as it were.