Biblical longevity

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Biblical longevity refers to the claimed biologically-impossible life spans of some Biblical characters, which were often hundreds of years long. Some characters in the Bible simply live too long (in terms of hundreds of years[1]) despite God's command after the flood which puts an upper bound on human life at 120 years. This divine decree is a problem for many literal interpretations of the Bible, not least because Jeanne CalmentWikipedia lived to be 122, but also because some Biblical characters subvert the decree, leading to quite hefty contradiction in scripture.

The scriptures[edit]

After God has seen how wicked humanity is, He decrees an upper limit to the age of humans after the flood.

Genesis 6:3
And the LORD said, My spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh: yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years.

If this statement is true, we should not expect anyone to have a life longer than 120 years after the flood.
However, in later passages of the Bible, there are people who blatantly defy this command and live far more than 120 years.


  • Abraham lived to the ripe, old age of 175 years old (with the physical prowess to father a child at 100 years of age, no less!)
  • Sarah, Abraham's wife, had her numbers come up at a comparatively low 127 years of age (though she did give birth to Abraham's child when she was 90 years old!)
  • Noah lived for 950[2] years (That's longer than Adam!)
    • It's 350 years even if you don't count the years he lived before the flood.[3]
    • Although the rule might not have been retroactively applied (he might have been grandfathered).
  • Methuselah, of course, is famous for living longer than any other person mentioned in the Bible (given that women's ages weren't mentioned), reaching the age of 969. However, his longevity wasn't as remarkable as it's often made out to be, since many others (including Noah, as mentioned) are said to have lived well into their 900s.
  • Shem lived for something like 600[4] years, so he pretty much got grandfathered in as well.
    • It's not clear why Japheth is not grandfathered in as well (Ham probably did not get grandfathered in due to the Curse of Ham).
  • Pretty much every one of Shem's firstborn descendants[5] (all the way to Jacob![6])
  • Moses's father, Amram, lived for 137 years and Moses' grandfather, Kohath, lived for 133 years. Moses himself reached the 120 years (he led the Exodus when he was 80 [7], with the travel towards the Promised Land lasting 40 years).

Possible explanations[edit]

Far and way the most likely explanation is that it simply didn't happen and it's just a story.

However, those looking for other explanations have suggested:

  • Some suggested that free will enables an individual to defy God's commands, and the reduction of human lifespan is no exception.
  • Sin and sinful lifestyles cause aging and we were originally meant to live forever.[8][9] This doesn't stand up to statistical analysis. Was Methuselah less sinful than Moses?
  • An environment change that gradually lowered the life span. This might have had something to do with the Great Flood, according to Answers in Genesis.[8] All the water hanging around in the Firmament prior to the Great Flood might have been involved,[10] although there is no obvious mechanism for this to prolong lives. Along with the lack of credible archaeological evidence for these lifespans in prehistory, the geological, biological, and logistical constraints mean that the Great Flood probably didn't happen.
  • By "year" the Bible actually means "month"[11], although this is contradicted by the times the Bible uses days, months, and years together, as well as the adjusted age of some aforementioned examples:
    • Abraham - around 14.5 years old when he died (apparently, with the ability to father a child at around 8.3 years old)
    • Sarah - around 10.5 years old when she died
    • Noah - around 79.2 years old when he died, which is actually plausible, but certainly not for the time's medicine - lifespans were oftentimes in the 20's to 30's
    • Methuselah - 80.75 years old when he died, ditto for Noah
    • Shem - around 50 years old when he died, ditto for Noah other than the relatively early death (at least for most modern countries)
    • Amram and Kohath - around 11.4 and 11.08 years old respectively when they died (which considering Moses' adjusted death date of 10 years, means Amram gave birth to Kohath at less than half a year old, and Kohath gave birth to Moses when he was a bit over 1 year old.)
  • Verse By Verse International believes people just are taking Genesis 6:3 out of context and claims it really says that Big G was planning to flood the earth in 120 years.[12] It certainly resolves the contradiction, but you also gotta wonder — why the wait?
  • Records on the naturalistic explanations for the difference in life expectancy were eaten by the goats, and the Bible is patched subsequently to accommodate that.
  • The Bible is not an accurate source concerning human longevity.

See also[edit]


  1. That's before we count
    • 2 Peter 3:8
      But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.
    and other time-dilation/expansion events/techniques.
  2. Genesis 9:29
  3. Genesis 9:28
    And Noah lived after the flood three hundred and fifty years.
  4. Genesis 11:10-11
    These are the generations of Shem: Shem was an hundred years old, and begat Arphaxad two years after the flood:
    And Shem lived after he begat Arphaxad five hundred years, and begat sons and daughters.
  5. Genesis 11:12-32
  6. After Terah, they are:
  7. Exodus 7:7
    And Moses was fourscore years old, and Aaron fourscore and three years old, when they spake unto Pharaoh.
  8. 8.0 8.1 Did People Like Adam and Noah Really Live Over 900 Years of Age?, Georgia Purdom and David Menton, Chapter 16, The New Answers Book 2, Answers in Genesis, May 27, 2010
  9. How and Why Did People in the Bible Live So Long?, Jack Wellman, What Christians Want To Know
  10. Why Did the People Live So Long before the Flood?, Don Stewart, Blue Letter Bible
  11. Did People in Bible Times Really Live So Long?, The Watchtower, Jehovah's Witnesses, 2010
  12. Did God limit man’s life to 120 years? (February 17, 2015) Verse By Verse Ministry International