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Is it even possible that man could have lived to ages of more than 900 years as reported in Genesis?

Is it even possible that man could have lived to ages of more than 900 years as reported in Genesis?

By Harrison Elkins

Did they really live to be over 900 years old? The long ages of men recorded in the Bible are indeed often criticized by the world. One of the most recent examples of doubt was a Huffington Post article, in which Dr. Joel Hoffman called Adam's age "symbolic," suggesting that his recorded age of 930 years was biologically unreasonable. The book of Genesis records that Seth lived to be 912 years old, Enosh lived to be 905, and Noah lived to be 950. And, of course, Methuselah is famous for living 969 years, supposedly the longest age ever recorded. Did these men really live to be so old? Skeptics have suggested that perhaps people counted one month as a year- so Adam would have lived 930 months, or just over 77 years. However, this would mean that Cainan, who was said to be 70 when his son was born, became a dad at age five (70 months). Now that's biologically unreasonable! Though these long ages cause many eyebrows to raise, they are written very specifically, in a historical fashion (and are in fact recorded in other historical, non-religious documents). Once you establish that the Bible is the infallible Word of God, the question is no longer "Did these men live to be so old?" but, "How did these men live to be so old?" One of our God-given privileges is to use science to explore how things occur, including how things in the Bible may have occurred. This is exactly what Dr. John Sanford, creation scientist and Cornell University geneticist, has done with these ages. Using the records in Genesis, Sanford plotted the ages of the men and discovered a graph that was an exponential curve- typical of what biologists call a "biological decay curve." The ages in Genesis actually fit a curve that indicates an increase of mutations in the human DNA over time. When we have more mutations in our DNA, more and more imperfect cells are created in our body. As the number of mutated genes grows, organs made from the imperfect genes should eventually fail, causing us to die of old age. One would rationalize, then, that if we had less mutations, then our organs should not fail as early, and we would be able to live longer. From looking at the data God provides us in His Word, it would appear that early humans had fewer mutations in the beginning, allowing their bodies to function longer, so that they might live longer lives. But what caused the life span to decrease so dramatically after the Flood? While Noah lived to be 950, his son, Shem, lived only to be 600. Shem's grandson died at 433 years of age, and his great-great grandson, Peleg, died at 239. By the time of Moses we see people living lives of just over 100. While we may not know the exact cause, we can make some scientific guesses as to what factors might have affected the decline in life-span. Two possible contributing factors are deuterium-saturated water and the genetic bottleneck that occurred.
One possible reason that the lifespan of humans decreased after the flood was the change in water. Genesis 2:6 states that "streams came up from the earth and watered the whole surface of the ground." (NIV). Research has shown that water in the past had low levels of an isotope of hydrogen called "deuterium". Water with low levels of deuterium can slow and even stop cancer. On the other hand, when we drink water that has much deuterium, the mutations in our DNA increase. We can therefore suggest that the "streams of the earth" before Noah did not have much deuterium. Because people drank this water, they did not suffer many mutations, allowing their bodies to function longer. But then that all changed. Genesis records that the flood was initiated when "all the springs of the great deep burst forth." Dr. John Ashton, creation scientist and researcher, has suggested that the waters that burst forth and fell to the earth in Noah's flood contained high amounts of deuterium. When the flood had receded, waters all over the earth had been saturated in the deuterium. When people after the flood drank this water, their mutations would have increased more quickly, cutting their life span. Another possible explanation for the decline in life-span is the genetic bottleneck that occurred when the entire human race was reduced to only eight people aboard the ark. When a population is dramatically reduced, many genes can be lost, and the descendants of the survivors are limited in their DNA possibilities. It is possible that pre-flood peoples had a genetic make-up that allowed for long life. Geneticists do know that genes can contribute to long life, as evidenced by Jeanne Calment (1875-1997), who lived to be 122 years old because of a rare combination of genes. When the human population was reduced at the flood, it's possible that the genes for long life were lost, causing the life-span to suddenly decrease. Our understanding of the telomere might also enlighten the mystery of the decline. A telomere is a structure at the end of our chromosomes that programs how long our cells divide. Every time our cells divide to create more cells, our telomere shortens. Once the telomere is used up, our cells no longer divide to replace other cells, leaving our cells to "age" and our organs to fail. If we had a longer telomere, or the enzyme that repair telomeres, it is possible that our cells would continue to divide, and our bodies would function much longer. In fact, telomerase, the enzyme that repairs the telomere, does exist and is found in 90% of cancer cells. This is what makes these cancer cells “immortal.” But the mutations in humans that quickly accumulated after the flood could have shortened the telomere, thereby causing people's bodies to fail more quickly, reducing their lifespan. As we have seen, a scientific case can be built to explain the long lives recorded in the Bible, showing us that Scripture is certainly not outside the bounds of reasonable science. We can place our faith and trust in what the Bible says, including the promise it gives of eternal life to those who repent and place their trust in Jesus Christ. Now that's long life!