_Did people actually live for centuries?
The New American Bible has this to say on the subject: This chapter…together with Gn 11, 10-26, its primary purpose is to bridge the genealogical gap between Adam and Abraham. Adam’s line is traced through Seth, but several names in the series are the same as, or similar to, certain names in Cain’s line. The long lifespans attributed to these ten antediluvian (of the time before the Biblical flood or ancient) patriarchs have a symbolic rather than a historical value. Babylonian tradition also recorded ten kings with fantastically high ages who reigned successively before the flood.
The Archaeological Study Bible states: It is uncertain whether the large numbers describing human longevity in the early chapters of Gn are literal, serve a literary function, or both. The fact that there are exactly ten names in the list (as in the genealogy of Gn 11:10-26) indicates that it almost certainly contains gaps, the lengths of which are summarized in the large numbers. Other ancient genealogies outside the Bible exhibit similarly unrealistic figures and also contain exactly ten names.
St. Jerome’s Commentary, an extremely detailed and complex study of the Bible, notes the fact that the Mesopotamian tradition has seven ‘apkallu’s,’ the seven sages prior to the flood, who were believed to have founded the elements of culture (writing, artistic skill, etc.) The pre-flood list of Sumerian kings later became standardized to 10, a number that the Biblical writer adopts. Some Mesopotamian lists attempt to correlate the seven sages and the 10 kings. Segmented genealogies (both Biblical and non-Biblical) were generally not for conveying historical information but for determining domestic, politico-jural, and religious matters. In the case of early Bible genealogies- showing a line of sin, a line of “blessing of progeny and land,” a line of God’s undiminished commitment to the blessed, etc.
On the other hand, some….uh…scholars with a more literal view (such as those writing “Commonly Misunderstood Bible Verses”) believe that prior to the flood, a water canopy surrounded the earth and protected the inhabitants from harmful radiation in outer space. (They don’t mention exactly how LIGHT got through). And, people might have been vegetarians, contributing to their longer lifespans.
Other scholars do have various explanations, of which you may study in your own time. If I don’t cut off this post, I’ll still be writing it into the next year.
Brown, Raymond E. (S.S.), Fitzmyer, Joseph A. (S.J.), & Murphy, Roland E. (O. Carm). (1990) Genesis. “The New Jerome Biblical Commentary.” Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall, Inc.
Catholic Book Publishing. (various) Genesis: Chapter 5 Notes. “St. Joseph Edition, New American Bible.” New York, NY: Catholic Book Publishing.
Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. (2005). Genesis: Chapter 5 Notes. “New International Version: Archaeological Study Bible”. Zondervan Corporation, Grand Rapids, MI.
Rhodes, Ron. (2008). Genesis 4:17. “Commonly Misunderstood Bible Verses.” Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers.”
Jennifer Becker Landsberger
Who am I? Freelance writer (magazines, websites, & copywriting), Catholic, military wife, and Mensan. Double Bachelor's in History & Psychology.
Witnessing by charity and love are above all. Studying the Bible and beyond helps me on this quest. Feel free to join my walk into the Bible.
If you wish to donate in order to help support the cost of running this website, it would be greatly appreciated!
If you found the information helpful, even a small donation would be wonderful!
Thank you & God bless you.
~~~Prayer before Writing-
Oh creator of the universe, who has set the stars in the heavens and causes the sun to rise and set, shed the light of your wisdom into the darkness of my mind. Fill my thoughts with a loving knowledge of you, that I may bring you like to others. Just as you can make even babies speak your truth, instruct my tongue and guide my pen to convey the wonderful glory of the Gospel. Make my intellect sharp, my memory clear, and my words eloquent, so that I may faithfully interpret the mysteries what you have revealed.
To my readers & fellow writers,
1. I will pray that God's grace helps illuminate all of our interactions- both those of simple reading and more active conversations.
2. I will communicate with you respectfully and civilly. These are (rightly) issues which we feel passionate about. But even in disagreements, I will respect you fellow "seekers of truth."
3. I will not fall into negative behavior or words, such as insinuations, exaggerations, blames, or personal attacks. I respectfully ask you to do the same.
4. I will pray we will all find the truth and strive to fulfill the two greatest commandments: "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these." (Mark 12:30-31)
This site will occasionally feature paid posts! I always 100% verify everything I endorse. You will not see posts for products or sites I would not use myself.
All images on site were labeled for general re-use. If you find an image that is NOT supposed to be used, please contact me & I will remove it.
Sites I Recommend
Biblical Evidence for Catholicism by Dave Armstrong