Q+A : Why could Noah live so long and we can’t?
As you read through Genesis, you can’t help but notice that people are recorded as living to ages many times what we live to today. No-one was recorded as breaking the millennium mark (1000 years), but quite a few make it over 900.
Why is this the case, and why don’t people live that long today? Because after the events in Genesis, ages come down to what they are today (and usually an awful lot less!). The oldest people we read about today live to somewhere between 110 and 120.
So what is the difference?
The Bible doesn’t actually give us any clear direction on this, and so we are left to make educated guesses.
Some people like to say that the Bible is just wrong in claiming people lived very long lives, and that it is all made up, kind of like fairy stories. But that makes the error of assuming that something beyond our experience is impossible and so made up. The same sort of impulse is behind people saying Jesus never rose from the dead – despite the solid case based on historical evidence for the resurrection.
Some people say that the big decline started after the flood, and so there was some environmental change which occurred in association with the flood which shortened the human life-span. Either an atmospheric change, a diet change, or something like that.
Some think that the human genome began decaying after sin entered the world (as part of God’s curse on human-kind for their rebellion against him) and so shorter lives is one of the results of sin.
Some people suggest its a combination of these things, or perhaps even something else.
While these sound logical, and are compatible with what we understand from genetics and other fields of endeavour, we don’t actually have enough evidence to make a case for any one particular (or combination of) cause for the shorter lives people experience. Certainly not with anything approaching certainty. (Other than the fact that it appears to be a consequence of human sin and God’s punishment for sin).
These questions can be very perplexing, and it is encouraging to know that there are answers we think make sense. The thing to keep in mind is that just because an answer makes sense, it doesn’t mean it is the correct one. Particularly when it is something that the Bible does not actually explain. Knowing something is true does not mean we will always understand how to prove it in a way that satisfies everyone. But it does not make it any less true.