How come in Genesis people get so old? That was my question at Presbyterian confirmation class, eons ago. I wasn’t such a hot student, nor was I overly interested. But you have to say something to justify your existence, and so that was my question.
The answer was disappointing and dull, but I had no reason to think it was not legitimate. They had different calendars back then! What they called a year was really a month. Thus, the eight patriarchs of Genesis chapter 5 who live almost 900 years apiece, give or take, really live only 75 years, just like us in suburbia.
In fact, the calendar answer is not legitimate, or at least it is not complete. For Arpachshad fathered a son at 35 years of age. Under the different calendar theory…..let’s see….ah!…he was 3 years old when he became a dad! This is clearly impossible, because…..well, it just is.
Furthermore, Genesis chapter 11 has people living about 500 years, no longer 900. Later, Abraham and Moses lived less than 200 years. By the time Psalm 90 was written, the common lifespan was 70-80 years. So are we to believe there is a regulatory agency sliding time calibration as the Fed slides interest rates? Plainly, something doesn't fit with the different calendar explanation.
It does, though, fit perfectly with the Bible's teaching that man was made to live forever, and that death only came about after the first man disobeyed God. Of course, this view requires that we accept...gasp... Adam and Eve!…..whadaya think, we’re 5 year olds??!
Accept it for a moment…you can always take it back later… just as the mathematicians assume certain conditions and then see where it leads. Valuable math has been discovered that way.
When Adam disobeyed God, yes, in the Garden of Eden, it was as if he pulled the plug on himself. Pull the plug on a fan and the blades don’t immediately freeze. Instead, they gradually slow. So Adam, designed by God to live forever, still coasts to over 900 years after rebelling.
If you put a dent in a cake pan, any cake you bake will also have the dent. Similarly, Adam passes on imperfection to his offspring. And like the slowing blades, lifespans of successive generations are ever shrinking, from 900 (Gen 5) to 500 (Gen 11) to 200 and less.
I’d always been taught that Genesis was a fairy tale, for the consumption of dumb people and children, beneath consideration for we wise ones of modern times. When I came in touch with Jehovah’s Witnesses, however, and saw loose ends such such as this example coming together with satisfying logic, it changed my view of the Bible. Assemble a few key pieces of a jig saw puzzle, and you gain confidence that the rest will come together as well. And that is just what happened.
Greater detail can be found in the book What Does the Bible Really Teach? available from Jehovah's Witnesses.
Genesis chapters 3, 5, 11, 25:7, Rom 5:12