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The Genesis of Long Lives

Genesis

In 2019, the United Nations reported that “All societies in the world are in the midst of [a] longevity revolution—some are at its early stages and some are more advanced…”[1] Although it is highly improbable that nations will ever succeed in prolonging the average lifespan to any significant extent, there was a time when mankind lived extraordinarily long lives during the time leading up to the flood. Scripture teaches that there was then a progressive shortening of man’s lifespan from Noah to Abraham, and from Abraham to Moses. There are several important reasons why God purposed to allow the first generations of humanity to live as long as they did; and, there is a significant theological rationale for why He shortened the lifespan of humanity.

At the beginning of Genesis, we read of a number of extraordinarily long lives at the beginning of human history.

In Genesis 5, we read, “Adam lived 930 years…Seth lived 912 years…Enosh lived 905 years…Kenan lived 910 years…Mahalalel lived 895 years…Jared lived 962 years…Methuselah lived 969 years…Lamech lived 777 years…Noah lived 950 years.”

These ages come in the record of the genealogy of Seth—Adam and Eve’s son, given by God to replace Abel. The ages of Seth’s descendants pose a number of challenges for the modern reader. Some modern interpreters have suggested that this genealogy belongs to a mythopoetic narrative written to compete with other ancient near eastern mythopoetic origin stories, while the better part of the Christian church throughout history has taken this genealogy to be historically factual record of the primitive history of mankind. Before we seek a rationale for the length and the shortening of the lifespan of humanity, we need to be settled on the historicity of the narrative.

According the both the Old Testament and the New Testament, Moses wrote Genesis under inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Genesis is historical narrative given from a divine perspective. The repeated use of the phrase, “these are the generations of….”—from the creation of the world to the life of Jacob—supports the historicity of the revelation (Gen. 2:45:16:910:111:1011:2725:1225:1936:1937:2). Reflecting on the first genealogy—namely, the generation of the heavens and the earth in Genesis 1–2, Geerhardus Vos observed,

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Rev. Nicholas T. Batzig is the organizing pastor of New Covenant Presbyterian Church in Richmond Hill, Ga. Nick grew up on St. Simons Island, Ga. In 2001 he moved to Greenville, SC where he met his wife Anna, and attended Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary.