Are the Bible years the same as ours?

Bible and Numbers: Why God Made Methuselah So Old

Enoch was 65 years old when he fathered his first child. Not worth mentioning had it not been for his son, who surpassed him by far: at the age of 187 he became a father for the first time and fathered numerous sons and daughters in the following 782 years. Methuselah, the oldest person in the Bible, did not die until the legendary 969 years. And he wasn't the only prehistoric man who lived unimaginably long.

Adam was already 930 years old, his son Seth 912. All ten forefathers up to Noah reached a similar “biblical age”. Then came the deluge. God destroyed all but a small part of his own creation and started over. Shortly before, he had decided that humans should not live to be more than 120 years old, which roughly corresponds to the biological possibilities of his creature.

Hardly any information to be taken seriously

As a result, the age fell, but initially only insignificantly. From then on, people lived to be up to 600 years old. Jacob and his sons came to just under 200, and only in the time after Moses did the biblical man approach a realistic age: "Our life is seventy years, and when it comes up it is eighty ..." (Psalm 91). At least that's what the Old Testament says.

These old people and their seemingly infinite life have always been fascinating, although - apart from Bible-loyal Christians - there is agreement that these statements are hardly to be taken seriously. But how are they to be understood then?

The theologians and biblical scholars differ on this to this day. First of all, it is important to know that the story of the Israelites and their understanding of how the world came about, Genesis, was passed down orally for a long time. Theological interpretation and writing did not follow until centuries later.

Some experts therefore assume transmission errors, lunar and solar cycles have been confused with each other. Accordingly, it is 969 lunar years, which corresponds to 78.5 years of life. But applying this to Enoch, he would have fathered Methuselah at the tender age of five and a half. Others interpret the numbers as figures in steps of ten, so that Adam was 93 and not 930 years old and Methuselah was 96 instead of 969. But even with this interpretation, Enoch would still have fathered his firstborn at six and a half years.

What is striking, however, are the parallels to ancient oriental ideas about the Babylonian or Sumerian primordial kings who, according to tradition, ruled until the great flood. The first king Alorus is said to have been in power for 36,000 years, the tenth as much as 64,000 years. The writing of Genesis, in which the ages of the forefathers appear, is attributed to a group of scholars who revised the traditional scriptures in Babylonian exile and were strongly influenced by ancient oriental myths.

Long life as a reward for the righteous