The book of Genesis records both Adam and Noah’s descendants, men who lived to be many hundreds of years old. According to Genesis 5:5, “The whole lifetime of Adam was nine hundred and thirty years; then he died.” Noah lived 950 years, and Methuselah takes the cake at 969 years old. How in the world could this be possible?
“How are we supposed to understand the longevity of the Old Testament figures in the Bible? Are we supposed to understand it literally?” asked David. Monsignor Stuart Swetland, host of Go Ask Your FatherTM on Relevant Radio, explained two possible explanations for the ridiculously long lifespan of early Old Testament figures.
“One explanation, one that I personally find more satisfying, is that everything before Genesis chapter 12 is, in the technical sense of the word, prehistoric. Because in the biblical understanding, history begins with the call of Abram who becomes Abraham and Sarai who becomes Sarah and the covenant that God makes with his chosen people. So from a biblical perspective the first 11 chapters are prehistoric, so they’re not trying to teach us history or science, they’re trying to give us a theological vision of the human person. So the segments that talk about longevity are mostly in that part of the Scriptures which is not trying to give us a strict history,” explains Msgr. Swetland.
The second possibility could explain how these ages might be taken literally. “The original condition of Adam and Eve … before sin, humankind was not meant to die, or at least die like we currently do. And so that’s the way Adam and Eve were made. Now Adam and Eve sinned and broke the covenant relationship with God … in doing that, they affected everything. … With sin came death, and that changed everything,” said Msgr. Swetland.
“Given that Adam and Eve were made in a different way in a sense that they were meant to be immortal in a way that we only are through Christ in the Resurrection, some people speculate that the early humans who are descendants from that would still have been living a lot longer than current humans because over the generations the affects from all the disharmonies from all the sins have made us as a race that is less likely to live long.”