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Abstract

Table of Contents

Part I

Part II

Part III

Part IV

Appendixes


     

Part I: The Intrusion of Death

Chapter 5

Longevity In Genesis

All the days of Methuselah were
nine hundred and sixty nine years.
(Genesis 5:27)

The days of our years are
threescore and ten;
if by reason of strength they be
fourscore years,
yet is their strength labour and sorrow;
for it is soon cut off,
and we fly away.
(Psalm 90:10)

 

     The biblical record has presented a problem for chronologists, which involves a paradox. The total period covered by the patriarchal list from Adam to Noah is far too short to satisfy the demands of current chronology which claims up to two million years for the time of the appearance of the first man; but the ages which are given are far too long! In one respect, therefore, the record is much too circumscribed, and in another respect much too extended. The usual method of dealing with this paradox is to say that the figures really have no meaning. This is myth, not history.
     In order to extend the total interval from the creation to the Flood without dispensing with the record, it is sometimes pointed out that the Septuagint versions give a longer period by approximately one third as shown in the table below, although this helps very little since it provides us with only an extra 600 years or so. Two other chronologies

     pg.1 of 21     


for the period in question which might help are to be found in Josephus and in the Samaritan Pentateuch, also shown in the table. Unfortunately, Josephus essentially copies the Septuagint, while the Samaritan Pentateuch succeeds only in reducing the total by 350 years.
     In the table which follows, figures are given for the ages of the fathers at the time of their firstborn according to the Hebrew text, the Alexandrian Septuagint, the Vatican Septuagint, Josephus, and the Samaritan Pentateuch. By adding these ages together, along with the age of Noah at the time of the Flood, it is possible to calculate the total time which elapsed from the creation of Adam to that event.

GIVEN AGES OF FATHERS AT BIRTH OF FIRSTBORN

   Heb.

 Alex. LXX

 Vat. LXX

 Josephus

 Sam. P.
 1. Adam

 130

230

230

230

 130
 2. Seth

 105

205

205

205

105
 3. Enosh

 90

190

190

190

90
 4. Kenan

 70

170

170

170

70
 5. Mahalalel

 65

165

165

165

65
 6. Jared

 162

162

162

162

62 
 7. Enoch

 65

165

165

165

65
 8. Methuselah

 187

187

167

187

67
 9. Lamech

 182

188

188

182  

53
 10. Noah

 600

 600

600

600  

600 

 Totals

 1656

2262

2242

2256

1307

     Now the question of which text is to be regarded as the original one was nicely summed up many years ago by Dr. James C. Murphy who showed that the internal evidence from the figures themselves is decidedly in favour of the Hebrew text. *

     The numbers in the Septuagint (LXX) evidently follow a plan to which they have been conformed. This does not appear in the Hebrew, and it is greatly in favour of its being an authentic

* Murphy, James C., Commentary on Genesis, Belfast, no date, p.196.

     pg 2 of 21      

genealogical record. The numbers before the birth of a successor, which are chiefly important for the chronology, are enlarged in the LXX, by the addition of just one hundred years in each of six cases, making Adam 230 years old at the birth of Seth, Seth 205 years old at the birth of Enosh, and so on, while the sum total of each life remains the same as in the Hebrew, with a slight exception of 25 years in the case of Lamech. The object here is evidently to extend the total life span of each individual.
       It is not easy to imagine what motive could have led in the other direction, i.e., to the shortening, if the original had been as given in the Septuagint; since all ancient nations have rather shown a disposition to lengthening their chronologies. On physiological grounds, too, the Hebrew is to be preferred, since the length of the life does not at all require so late a manhood as those numbers would seem to intimate.

     We shall have occasion to examine this evidence of internal proportional consistency in a way that was not available to Murphy but fully bears out his contention.
     There is a further consideration also which we may touch upon here in the analysis of the figures. It is found that between the period of childlessness and the total length of life in the Hebrew text, there is a high correlation, but by an exactly comparable method of statistical analysis the correlation in the Septuagint and in the text given by Josephus is very low indeed. The Samaritan Pentateuch does a little better than the two latter versions, but it has a peculiar artificiality about it in that the numbers are arranged in a more or less steadily declining order, which is cause for suspicion when it is realized that the total life spans of these same individuals show no such steady decline. In actual fact, Methuselah who lived longer than any of the others, comes late in the list (eighth), while Jared (the sixth) and Noah (the tenth) both lived longer than Adam. This fact is visually apparent in the graph shown in Fig.1.
     It is important to notice, therefore, that this decline in the period of childlessness which makes the Samaritan figures look more "realistic" in one way, is badly upset when the figures for total life span are correlated with them. All in all, there is every reason to have far more confidence in the Hebrew version than in any of the others: and since the others do not really help to solve any chronological problems, there are really no good reasons for preferring them.
     Before proceeding to an analysis of the figures in the Hebrew text, it may be useful to consider very briefly two suggestions which have been made for the extension of the time interval of 1656 years between Adam and the Flood. The first proposal is that we do not have a complete and continuous genealogy from Adam to Noah, in

     pg.3 of 21     


     pg.4 of 21     


spite of the fact that each successor is stated to have been the son of his immediate predecessor. The argument here is that the word son in Hebrew can also mean grandson or great-grandson, to any degree of distance one chooses, even as Christ is spoken of as a son of David, or the woman who had an infirmity is spoken of as a daughter of Abraham (Luke 13:16). So there may well be gaps in the record for all we know according to the critics.
     The second proposal is that the names of individuals in the genealogical list are not individuals at all, but dynasties. This concept is a little more complicated, as will be seen. Let us consider these two devices for the extending of the chronology.

1. The Supposed Gaps in the Record.

     The proposal that there may be gaps in the record is reasonable enough in certain contexts, for Scripture shows many such gaps, but they are only discoverable by reference to parallel portions of Scripture where comparison of the details shows them up at once. Did we have but one account without any means of comparison with a parallel account, it would not be possible to discover that names were omitted. Sometimes a father is said to have borne a certain individual as his son, whereas we learn from other parts of Scripture that the individual was actually his great-great-grandson. The fact is well known to biblical chronologists. Such "incomplete" genealogies are not infrequent. Two are illustrated below in the following tables. In the table immediately below will be seen, in parallel columns, the genealogy given in 1 Chronicles 6:6-10 and Ezra 7:3-4 for Zerahiah to Amariah, in which it will be noted that in the second instance six names are omitted.

1 Chronicles 6:6-11  Ezra 7:3-4
 Zerahiah  Zerahiah
 Meraioth  Meraioth
 Amariah  -
 Ahitub  -
 Zadok  -
 Ahimaaz  -
 Azariah  -
 Johanan  -
 Azariah  Azariah
 Amariah  Amariah

Note: Ezra 7:3 lists the names in column 2 in reverse order.

     pg.5 of 21     

 

     Obviously in this passage the word son has a much broader meaning than it does in English when applied to the relationship between Azariah and Meraioth who preceded him by seven generations. It will be noted also, in this case, that the earlier table is the complete one.
     By contrast, in the following table, we have two genealogies which are parallel only in the sense that they cover the same period of time, though not the same list of individuals.

      In this case, beginning with Jacob we have two contemporaries, Levi and Joseph in the next generation, and then in Exodus 6:16-20 we have what appear to be only three generations till the introduction of Aaron, Moses and Miriam. Now Aaron, Moses and Miriam were contemporaries of Nun the father of Joshua, but between Joseph and Nun there intervened nine generations whereas between Levi and Moses are shown only two generations. This will be clear enough by examining Table VI. But if we did not have the right hand column of this Table, then from Exodus 6:16-20 we might very well suppose that Aaron and Moses were only the third generation from Levi. If we allow thirty years for a generation, this would represent a time

     pg.6 of 21     

interval of about a hundred years. But the parallel genealogy shows us that this would be a misrepresentation of the facts since there are nine generations in the interval which actually spanned approximately three hundred years.
     A great deal has been made of such gaps in Scripture by those who would like to extend its chronology substantially. I have dealt with these incomplete genealogies in some depth in another volume. *

      Here it is shown that it is not proper to assume, on the basis of these known gaps, that there may on that account be many other gaps which leave biblical chronology open-ended, since we have no proof of any such gaps. The truth of the matter is that there is no evidence of any gaps in Scripture except in so far as Scripture has itself directed our attention to them by supplying elsewhere the only evidence we have that the data in this instance has been abbreviated.
     If on an examination paper, for the sake of neatness in presentation, one were to work out a mathematical sum but omit some of the commonplace steps in the calculation, and then one were to append these omitted calculations on a final sheet of paper, it would be quite incorrect to argue that one had actually left gaps in the calculation _ merely because the data was supplied elsewhere. In the case of the biblical record, there has been even more confused reasoning because we would never have known of any of the gaps which are made so much of by Warfield
and others but for the fact that Scripture actually fills them in elsewhere.
     In the absolute sense, we have no evidence whatever from Scripture that there really are missing names in any of the genealogies. We only know that in certain cases they are omitted for specific reasons that are not always clear, but are then supplied elsewhere in order to make the record complete. I think Philip Mauro was perfectly right when he said that God would surely not leave any missing links in the lineage leading from the first Adam to the last Adam, since it was essential that this relationship should be clearly demonstrable.

     Because of the wide use made by those who appeal to these supposed gaps in order to bring the Word of God into line with current evolutionary doctrine, it is very important to observe that there is no evidence whatever of such gaps in Scripture unless one

* Custance, Arthur C., "Genealogies of the Bible" Part V in Hidden Things of God's Revelation, vol.7 of The Doorway Paper Series, Zondervan, 1977.
Warfield, Benjamin B., "On the Antiquity and the Unity of the Human Race," Biblical and Theological Studies, Philadelphia, Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co., 1968, p.238 ff.
Mauro, Philip, The Chronology of the Bible, Boston, Hamilton Brothers, 1922, p.10.

     pg.7 of 21     


adopts a policy of arguing from part of the record only. The record as a whole does not leave any gaps. The claim that such gaps exist is an argument based entirely on a selective reading of Scripture, while ignoring the rest of the evidence.

2. Names Refer to dynasties, Not to Indviduals

     We come, then, to the second alternative, namely, that we are really dealing with dynasties rather than individuals, a proposal which is believed to overcome two difficulties at once. In the first place, the great periods attributed to each entry are not the life spans of individuals but periods during which a tribe or a dynasty founded by that individual, was in the ascendancy. In the second place, it is proposed that the time periods ascribed to individuals who were contemporaries for a large portion of their lives, are really consecutive and therefore may be added together as reigns are added together, thus considerably extending the time period from Adam to the Flood. In Appendix 5 will be found a Table showing how this scheme is applied to Genesis 5. At this juncture it is only necessary to say that the total time span can be extended to a period of 7630 years from the birth of Seth to the Flood, by comparison with the biblical chronology of about 1656 years. From the point of view of evolutionary anthropology, this is inconsequential.
     I fancy this method of interpreting the genealogy originated with one who was acquainted with modern Arabian genealogies and family histories in which the whole clan may be treated as a single individual. It is sometimes pointed out that in Acts 7:16 the name Abraham refers to the clan or family of Abraham, the patriarch himself being dead at the time of the transaction referred to.
     However, there is no doubt that some of the names at least are clearly intended to refer to individuals whose personal history is really the interest of the writer Enoch, for example, whose 365 years of life clearly refer to the time he spent on earth before his translation and surely cannot be applied to the time period in which his clan was in the ascendance. Noah who comes last in the list, is surely the same individual who, 600 years later, survived the Deluge with his immediate family, and the vignette of his life which follows the story of the Flood is obviously intended to be taken as personal history. Altogether, it seems unlikely that anything is gained by re-interpreting the record as a list of dynasties.
     The Genesis record contains the same kind of information after the Flood, giving us the age of the father at the birth of his son and in the end his total life span. But in this instance no commentator has suggested that the figures should be interpreted as a succession of dynasties.

     pg.8 of 21     


     The post-Flood data show, moreover, that there is a steady decline in life span so that if a graph is constructed (see Fig. 3) the curve has the appearance of representing a genuine biological phenomenon of declining viability until the age of man has fallen below 120 years. It is as though the data were intended to show how the longevity of antiquity gradually decayed until man reached his present life span. Thenceforth the subject was not worthy of further consideration in Scripture, and from this point on we are only once told what a man's age was when he died! We shall have occasion later to examine the probable reason why this is so.


     Altogether, I think it makes much more sense to take these lists of Genesis and treat them both statistically and graphically as though they are records of the lives of individuals. The result of such an analysis is quite surprising for it is apparent that the figures display just that measure of variance, along with an over-all consistency, such as are normally observed in genuine vital statistics. But this normalcy is observed only if we go by the figures in the Hebrew text and not by those in any of the other texts such as the Septuagint for example. In the latter, as we have seen, there is a certain artificiality, a kind of deliberate evening out of the figures, as though the editor was attempting to give them a degree of uniformity which he felt was missing. But his emendations were not consistent nor were they effected right across the board, and the result is that statistical analysis of certain correlations clearly reveals that the data themselves have been inexpertly tampered with.
     Now, in applying standard techniques of statistical analysis to the data provided in Genesis 5 on the ten pre-Flood patriarchs, it is necessary to exclude certain of the names as being too exceptional. We must exclude Enoch since we do not have any figures which would have represented his natural life span, because he was removed prematurely. Lamech also appears to be an exception. This is clear from Fig.1 where his name completely departs from the comparatively smooth curve drawn through the rest of the entries. Evidently he died "young"; but also he appears to have matured slowly, for his period of childlessness was significantly greater than for any of the others. Curiously enough, Lamech seems to have felt the burden of living more than the others, since he alone appears to have complained (Genesis 5:29). Perhaps he was frustrated by the fact that his old father, Methuselah, living on and on, delayed his own accession to a position of seniority in the family. At any rate, if his name is included in the list for the purposes of statistical analysis, the effect is a total distortion of relationship between the period to the begetting of the first son

     pg.9 of 21     


and the total life span. Finally, we must also exclude Noah, since he closed his life under different conditions in the world after the Flood and since there is some uncertainty as to the precise meaning of Genesis 5:32 where we are told that he was 500 years old when he bore all three of his famous sons Shem, Ham, and Japheth. Not only is this very late in life to beget a firstborn compared with the other patriarchs, but clearly there is some special circumstance involved unless these three sons were triplets. Had they been so, we might expect to have been informed of the fact, as we are of Jacob and Esau. The use of the term younger when applied in Genesis 9:24 to Ham does not altogether rule this out because even if all three were born together, the first one to appear would be marked as the oldest and the last one as the youngest.
     This seems a drastic reduction of the list, from ten names to seven. But it happens that, in statistics, seven is still accepted as a sufficient number of entries under certain circumstances. Anything less renders the correlation formula which I propose to use unacceptable.
     Using the Spearman Rank Order Formula, a very high correlation indeed is found between the figures given for the period of childlessness and the total life span of each individual as recorded in the Hebrew text, but when the figures given for the same individuals as found in the Alexandrine Septuagint and the Vatican Septuagint (Table IV) are treated in the same way, the result is entirely different.
     The Spearman Rank Order Correlation Formula is:

      The method of using this formula is straightforward. The names are listed as they appear in the table below in Column 1. This is followed in Column 2 by the life spans. Column 3 is the Rank Order, i.e., the largest life span is No. 1, the smallest becomes No. 7, and each life span is given a serial number representing its order in rank. In Column 4 the period of childlessness is listed. These figures are once more ranked as shown in Column 5.
     Column 6, marked "Difference" (D), represented the difference between the figures in Column 3 and 5, i.e., the disparity between the relative rank orders. The positive or negative sign is ignored because in Column 7, which is marked D
2, the process of squaring the figures cancels out the negative sign in any case. The last column is then totalled to give the value as shown. In the formula, n is simply the number of entries in this case 7.

     pg.10 of 21     


 Col. l  Col. 2  Col. 3  Col. 4  Col. 5  Col. 6  Col. 7
 Name  Life Span Rank
Order
Childless
Period
Rank
Order
 Diff'ce  D2
 Adam  930  3  130  3  0  0
Seth    912  4  105  4  0  0
 Enos  905  6  90  5  1  1
 Cainan  910  5  70  6  1  1
 Mahalaleel  895  7  65  7  0  0
 Jared  962  2  162  2  0  0
 Methuselah  969  1  187  1  0  0
           sum =  2

 Applying the formula:  
We have:   
 

     Now a word about the formula and the value of r (0.96). After years of analyzing data in a laboratory where the number of entries sometimes ran into three or four hundred and not merely seven as we have here, we took the trouble on a number of occasions to apply the Spearman Rank Order Formula as well as the usual far more complex formula which involves such high numbers that a calculator is necessary. We consistently found that the difference in the correlation values by the two methods was usually only in the second decimal point. Simple as it is, Spearman's Formula is, therefore, remarkably useful.
     The value of r as found above has the following significance. Any group of figures such as these, because they are derived from vital statistics, are likely to fluctuate entirely due to chance in a way that

     pg.11 of 21     


there will almost never be a perfect correlation. There will always be some individuals who mature more quickly than others for no evident reason, and some individuals who die much younger or much later than their peers again, for no self-evident reason. Where there are evident reasons, one normally excludes their statistics from the calculations (as we have done with Lamech). If the basic concept that there is a firm relationship between the rate of maturing and the length of life is sound, the longer a person has lived the more likely it will be that he has matured more slowly. Thus as the life span increases one expects, other things being equal, that the time to the appearance of the first child will be correspondingly greater. If this always happened, we would have a perfect correlation and the value in the Spearman Formula would then work out exactly at 1.00. If the figure works out to be very much less than 1.00 (say, 0.25), then the correlation is poor. It may even be reversed, the oldest persons consistently bearing their children at the youngest period of their lives, in which case the value of r is negative.
     In the analysis of the Hebrew text it will be seen that the correlation is remarkably high (very nearly 1.00) and although such statistical analysis is really only a measure of probability, it does imply that the figures in Genesis 5 are genuine, undoctored by any scribe or editor: OR they have been exceedingly carefully edited by someone thousands of years ago who was aware of the kind of analysis they might be subjected to much later in history. This alternative can be discounted.
     The significance of the high correlation based on the figures given in the text of Genesis becomes more apparent when we apply the same technique of analysis to the figures in the Alexandrine Septuagint which some authorities have preferred. These values for r are shown below.

 Hebrew Text  Alexandrine Septuagint  Vatican Septuagint
 0.96   0.07  Minus 0.07

      Assuming, then, that the figures in Genesis according to the Hebrew text are the correct ones, we can construct a graph (Fig.1) showing that the viability of man from Adam to Noah has a rather surprising trend upwards. One could speculate that, immediately after the Fall, man's ability to compensate for his now lessened vitality in extracting a living from the soil, was improved with time 

     pg.12 of 21     


and the ingenuity by those of later generations who developed a high technology with remarkable speed, as Genesis 4:17-22 indicates. Moreover, the smallness of the population at first would also contribute to the difficulties of achieving dominion over the earth. But the very long lives of the earliest people would accelerate the accumulation of knowledge and experience so that civilization would all the sooner be advanced to the point where labour-saving devices and measures taken for the preservation of life and the curing of disease would gradually increase security and lead to a less exhausting way of life. There may in that case have been a slight amelioration of the effects of the Fall on man's physical well-being which would be reflected by some gains in terms of life span, although the same advantages would undoubtedly tend to increase man's potential for wickedness, so that by the time of Noah technology was advanced enough not only to allow the building of a giant ship as large as the Great Eastern of comparatively modern times, but a spiritual condition so serious as to demand the almost total destruction of the human race.
     Whether the Flood which was brought upon the world in judgment was geographically universal, or whether the world's population was still concentrated in a comparatively small area so that the Flood needed only to overwhelm that area, is a point of considerable argument. In the present context, the really important point is that the race of mankind was literally reduced to eight sole survivors, Noah and his three sons and their four womenfolk. The consequences of this in terms of the future life span of man were very great indeed and for perfectly understandable reasons.

Post-Flood Decline in Longevity

     Immediately after the Flood the course of events in terms of human life span clearly changed very dramatically, as will be seen in Fig.2. Something quite specific reduced man's life expectancy from nearly a thousand years to 120 years within a period of seventeen generations. When the data provided in Scripture are plotted in the form of a graph and these points are converted into a smooth curve, the end result is a graph which has such a normal appearance about it that no one who is accustomed to viewing scattergrams of biological data would doubt for one moment the validity of it especially if they were not aware that it is based on biblical data. It is a perfect example of what happens when some biological trend is explored and plotted routinely, provided that the original data have not been manipulated or gathered without sufficient precautions. Speaking personally, having drawn hundreds of scattergrams of this nature from data derived from our own experiments using human subjects over a period of fifteen years  

     pg.13 of 21     


Figure 2. Dramatic Decline in Longevity After the Flood.
Vertical axis, ages in 100-year increments.
Horizontal axis, number of generations after Adam.

     pg.14 of 21   


or so, there is not the slightest doubt in my mind that the relevant data provided for us in the Bible are genuine. There is just that measure of inconsistency and variance between individual readings, combined with a certain over-all smoothness of trend which is so characteristic of experimental data where living things are concerned that we can have strong confidence in the genuineness of the original figures.
     But more than this: the decline continued for a long time, far beyond the period covered by Fig.2, until a kind of equilibrium was achieved with a normal life span of about three score years and ten. What was the factor that caused the initial dramatic decline in life span from Noah's 950 years to Moses' and Aaron's 120 years, within sixteen generations?
     It has been suggested and it may very well be true that a rather radical change took place in atmospheric conditions in connection with the Flood itself. There are those who believe that prior to the Flood, man was shielded from harmful cosmic radiation and even possibly from direct sunlight, by some kind of canopy of water vapour which was more than merely an unusually heavy cloud cover. It is thus held that the collapse of this canopy contributed to the extraordinarily heavy rains which were partial cause of the Flood itself. The appearance of the rainbow as a special sign of assurance that such an event would not occur again on the same scale may be an indication that the conditions of ordinary rainfall as we now experience it, did not apply in pre-Flood times. It is held that actual rain was not experienced before the Flood. The earth was watered through the agency of a kind of water-saturated environment, rather like a hothouse situation. It may be. On the other hand, the sun and the moon (and the stars?) must surely have been visible, in view of the fact that they were given for signs. We are not told in Genesis 1:14-16 that the stars were given for signs, only that the sun and moon were.
*
      But it seems to me to be implied that the stars were visible also; though it is difficult to see how even the existence of stars which would not actually be visible through such a canopy could be known to the earth's inhabitants.
     It is certain that cosmic radiation and certain forms of solar radiation do have an effect upon life span.
(111) If there was a change from a wholly shielded environment in this respect to one in which, after the Flood, shielding was greatly reduced, then it might be

* The Hebrew 'oth rendered signs, is generally considered to mean something more than markers, they would surely have to be rather clearly visible as distinct objects. Would it fulfill the conditions of their appointment that they only distinguished night from day?
111. Cassaret, George W., "Acceleration of Aging by Ionizing Radiation", University of Rochester Atomic Energy Project, University Report #492, New York, 1957; Howard J. Curtis, "Biological Mechanisms Underlying the Aging Process", Science, vol.141, 1963, p.698-691; and "Effects of Radiation on Human Heredity", WHO (World Health Organization), Geneva, 1959.

     pg.15 of 21     

expected that the life-shortening consequences of exposure to such radiation would become immediately apparent. This could account for the sudden decline in life span shown so dramatically in Fig.2.
     However, there is another factor which I believe was a more potent one, that is only shown up by examining the nature of this curve more closely. Figure 3 displays the details of this period of human history on an enlarged scale to bring out two aspects of this sudden decline, one of which is related to the genetics of inbreeding.
     When Adam and Eve were created, they were perfect, not only spiritually but physically also. None of their genes were defective by reason of mutation. What are known as mutations are errors of transcription in the basic coding of the DNA in the individual cell nuclei which appear to occur sometimes spontaneously when the cells multiply or which are caused by external agencies such as radiation and certain poisons, like mustard gas for example. Once such an error has occurred, the line of cells derived from the damaged original will all carry the same error or fault. Some of these faults appear to be comparatively harmless, although most authorities believe that all mutations are harmful. Certainly, all mutations can be harmful under certain conditions. These faults in replication, which are called mutations, are found to occur at specific locations on the chromosomes which determine the character of each cell. These locations are called genes. In man it is believed that there are possibly 40,000 such genes altogether in every cell. There is room, therefore, for a significant number of errors or mutations in any one cell: and it should be remembered that all the cells descended from a damaged cell will normally bear the same defect.
     Now the only mutations that occur during the life time of an individual which can injure the next generation are those which have occurred in the ova or the spermatozoa, since these alone form part of the body of the next generation. Any agency which damages these reproductive cells has grave consequences for the future of the line thus affected. This is particularly so where close relatives marry. For they have not only shared the same environmental conditions and therefore been subject to the same damaging influences, but have also derived their reproductive cells from a common source. The result is that the damage in the cells of both partners is likely to have occurred at the same location in each cell, i.e., at the same gene on the same chromosome. When two such damaged genes are brought together by the mating of close relatives, the effect of the damage is tremendously reinforced and the offspring will suffer doubly from it. And technically, we say the effect is being expressed homozygously.
     It is the discovery of this fact which has permitted biologists to explore the harmful effect of mutations by the simple process of

     pg.16 of 21     

Figure 3. Declining Longevity of the Post-Flood Patriarchs from Shem to Joshua.
Vertical axis, age in 50-year increments. Horizontal axis, number of generations.
 

     pg.17 of 21     


exaggerating the effects of inbreeding.
     Now what would happen when Adam's immediate sons and daughters married one another (Genesis 5:4) is that chromosomes with the same gene content would be paired off homozygously, but the effects would not be very detrimental because at this stage in human history the number of damaged genes would be very small indeed. As time went on and more mutations began to occur with succeeding generations, partly perhaps because of the effect of the poison which Adam and Eve had introduced from the forbidden fruit and had passed on to their descendants, the danger of such mutations showing up harmfully in children would increase. However, this increase would be compensated for by the fact that the population itself was expanding and the need for brother-sister marriages would become less and less. More and more distant relations would be mated, and common lines of damaged genes would be conveyed in their less harmless or heterozygous form. In view of the great ages to which people lived, it seems likely that the population would grow more rapidly than it does at the present time. It is true that people were slower in maturing but there is no reason to suppose that this involved any lengthening of the gestation period. It seems almost certain that families would be larger, and that the population growth rate would be substantially accelerated.
     It seems likely that by the time of the Flood, the population could have been in the millions, even though man may not have spread very far from the original site of the Garden of Eden. In modern times a single city may easily house a million people. . . .  With such numbers and less than 2000 years of human history, the number of mutations that would be showing up homozygously in the population need not have been excessively large and up to that point probably had no significant effect on the average life span, although the mortogenic effect of the inherited poison itself brought every man to the grave in due time (with the exception of Enoch).
     But then the situation changed fundamentally when the population was dramatically reduced to eight sole survivors, because close inbreeding was once again forced upon the community. William Hollander, writing on the effects of lethal mutations in a population has this to say:
(112)

     The quickest way to expose lethal traits is by intensive and continued inbreeding. In man such matings are generally illegal or taboo; the experience of the race indicates bad results. But brother-sister matings in animals, and self-pollination in plants are a standard laboratory practice. The outcome is generally detrimental unless it has become customary in the species. 

112. Hollander, Willard, "Lethal Heredity", Scientific American, July, 1952. p.60.

     pg.18 of 21     


     When inbreeding begins, the heredity seems to be breaking down, all sorts of defects and weaknesses appear. The average life span decreases . . . .
     But if the family can weather the first few generations (five with plants, and ten with animals) a leveling off sets in. Members of the family may show defects and weaknesses but not new ones, and there is a striking uniformity. The type has become fixed. [Emphasis mine].

     This is essentially what I believe happened in the case of Noah's family and their immediate descendants. Moreover, we find that ten generations were required to normalize the new expected life span. The expected life span was not, however, the three score years and ten of David's time (Psalm 90:10) but the 120 years maximum of Genesis 6:3. Figure 3 is designed to make these observations more understandable.
     The precise meaning of Genesis 6:3 has been a little difficult to establish because the Hebrew is not absolutely clear. It has been proposed that the words, "My spirit shall not always strive with man for that he also is flesh: yet his days shall be 120 years," meant only that God would restrain his judgment for a period of 120 years for man to mend his ways while Noah constructed the ark. The problem is to determine the exact meaning of the Hebrew verb which lies behind the English words "shall not always strive." I think the consensus of opinion today is that the intention of the original text is not that judgment would be delayed for a period of 120 years, but rather that God would normally call back to Himself the spirit of each individual before he reaches 120 years of age. In short, this was to be the maximum expected life span of man hereafter. For example, the Jerusalem Bible translates Genesis 6:3, "His life shall last no more than 120 years." By limiting his life span, God intended to limit his potential for wickedness.
     Since God used "natural" means to effect this limitation, the decline follows a "normal" curve. The curve of expected life span fell very rapidly at first, beginning with Arphaxad who lived only 438 years and continuing through to Jacob who died when he was 147 years of age, ten generations later. By this time the curve is definitely beginning to flatten out. For the eleventh generation, we are given two names, Levi and Joseph, who lived respectively 137 years and 110 years, with an average of 123.5 years. Three generations later on the chart, with Moses and Aaron, we have reached an average age of 119.5 years. The final name on the chart is that of Joshua whose life span had already fallen below 120, as will be seen.
     The extraordinary thing is that from this time on, we are provided in Scripture with almost no further data on actual life spans of  

     pg.19 of 21     


individuals not even David. *
      The figures given for Job come close, for we are told that "after this, Job lived 140 years" (Job 42:16), but we are not told what his age was before this and at the very end we are merely informed that he died "being old and full of days." Whether I have failed to observe other exceptional cases where the age at death is actually given, I do not know. But certainly I have searched for such cases without success thus far, and one concludes the silence must be quite intentional. We thus seem to have in this tabulation clear evidence of an historic process of degeneration, most of which had occurred by the tenth generation of those who were born after the Flood . Shem, of course, has to be excluded from this decade because although his life was shortened he was born before the Flood, a fact which suggests that some environmental factors were indeed at work contributing to the shortening of life.
     There is one further point of interest: from Jacob (the tenth generation) and onwards, the average life span of the remaining seven individuals whose ages at death are given was actually 123 years...and it was still obviously declining, though much more slowly. It is therefore of interest to recall once again the observation made by Acsadi and Nemeskeri that the probable maximum life span for man, except under very unusual circumstances, is now set at 120 years.

Conclusion

     It is difficult to imagine how such data as these, the significance of which could hardly have been recognized until modern times, could have been fabricated by some author or authors who wished to add a supposed dignity to the history of their own patriarchs by giving them a fictitious longevity in keeping with the claims made by their contemporaries.
     There are ten generations from Adam to Noah but the phenomenon of reduction in longevity did not apparently take place. The reasons for this could hardly have been apparent to people writing centuries later but who were aware of a drastic reduction in life span in their own day. They must therefore have been restrained from trying to doctor the figures to show at least some decline which might seem to them to make the figures more plausible. That they did not do so suggests the presence of a restraining Hand as they wrote. After the Flood, the decline takes a form which has all the earmarks of truth  

* A considerable search in Scripture reveals only one case, to my knowledge, namely, that of Jehoiada, a priest (2 Chronicles 24:15), some fourteen centuries later. One wonders why this sole exception. . . .

     pg.20 of 21     


about it. The smooth curve of Fig.3 is not arbitrarily drawn but has been imposed on the points by strictly mathematical arrangement. Towards the lower end of the curve several doubles of names appear at significant points. The tenth generation mark is emphasized, as it were, by being preceded by the figures for Isaac and Ishmael (ninth generation) who nicely straddle the normalized curve, and is followed by the figures for Levi and Joseph (eleventh generation) who also straddle the normalized curve.
     Even the heroic figures in Israel's history are not accorded the honour of having their ages at death recorded, the only near exception (as we have mentioned) being Job, a circumstance which may be intended to enable us to "place" him in history. He seems likely to have been a contemporary of Abraham.
     It is remarkable, therefore, that in those far-off days where one might expect to find the least specific information, there we find the most precise ages carefully recorded. As soon as later historical times are under review where exact information would almost certainly be in official records, the precise statement of age seems to have been deliberately ignored even in the case of the Lord Jesus Christ. Certainly God's ways are not man's ways.
     We have now moved back further and further into the dim and distant past until we find ten patriarchal giants before the Flood covering with their individual lives a span of time exceeding that which has elapsed from William the Conqueror until the present. It is hard to conceive what this really means in terms of the potential knowledge and experience that an individual might acquire in such a long lifetime. And imagine the possibilities for firsthand communication! Adam could have discussed his experiences with Methuselah over a period of 243 years, Methuselah could have discussed this information with Shem for 98 years. And Shem was a contemporary of Abraham for 150 years.
     But what would have happened to the world's population if natural death had never become part of human experience? If death had not intruded, an endlessly growing population was a contingency which God had to take into account when He created Adam as a potentially immortal creature. It is worth asking three questions:

   (a) what would have happened if man had not fallen and death had not entered, and if the population had thus simply gone on increasing century after century;
   (b) how did Adam lose that potential or, to put it slightly differently, how did death come to enter human experience; and
   (c) why was Adam created with such a potential in the first place if God knew that he would so soon lose it by his disobedience? Was it not an exercise in futility to endow him thus to no purpose? 

     pg.21 of 21     

Copyright © 1988 Evelyn White. All rights reserved

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