Regarding the ancient patriarchs living for several centuries I don’t believe that would be possible. Apart from the fact that the nose and ears continue to grow, so a 900 man would look like an elephant, there is senility. It happens to 1 in 5 over 80’s, and I should imagine if people could live for even 200 years, it would be close to 100%. The main problem however is potential. 200 years ago, most were dead by age 40. They had the same potential as us, but living conditions meant they died early. For the patriarchs, they would not have had medical care or medicines. They would not have had sanitary conditions. They would have had a very poor diet (hard things like seeds would quickly have ruined their teeth so after the first century, they would have lived on soups). They would have worked very hard. Like people in Jesus’s time, even with a possibility of living over 900 years, most would have been dead in their thirties. Living so long was just not possible.
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Thank you for contacting Answers in Genesis regarding the article on the age of the patriarchs. Please see my comments below and note that they are said with sincerity.

Regarding the ancient patriarchs living for several centuries I don’t believe that would be possible.

Although it is difficult for us to imagine, given current experience and conditions, someone living as long as the patriarchs lived, this really isn’t an issue of whether or not someone believes it. Imagine if someone came up and said “I don’t believe that it would be possible for water to exist at over 100 degrees celsius.” Would such an argument be valid? No, this is dependent upon other variables, such as pressure.

Apart from the fact that the nose and ears continue to grow, so a 900 man would look like an elephant, there is senility. It happens to 1 in 5 over 80’s, and I should imagine if people could live for even 200 years, it would be close to 100%.

But how do we know at what rate did the ears and nose grow for those who lived around 900 years 5000 years ago? The point is that it would not be wise to assume that their rates of growth and renewal were the same as today. Obviously something was different; otherwise they would have been dying in only about 1/9 of their life.

Consider if everyone today had the sad and tragic children’s disease progeria. This is when the body ages and dies by the time the person reaches age 12 or 13. The bones have osteoporosis; the skin appears severely aged; the hair grays; etc. If someone would say, “There is no way a person could have lived to 80 years old,” based on the rates they were experiencing with progeria, does that mean it couldn’t happen? Of course not.

The main problem however is potential. 200 years ago, most were dead by age 40. They had the same potential as us, but living conditions meant they died early.

I agree. However, the potential for the patriarchs was much different, and this is the key.

For the patriarchs, they would not have had medical care or medicines.

How could one know they couldn’t have known good medical practices? Genesis doesn’t record this. They could have been much wiser to medicines and care than we may imagine. However, I don’t believe this was the primary reason they could sustain such long lives.

They would not have had sanitary conditions.

How could one know they didn’t have sanitary conditions? Genesis doesn’t record this. I’m sure someone living for nine hundred years could surely figure out how to properly dispose of unsanitary items and to clean things decently. Additionally unsanitary conditions are a problem because of disease, which was not much of a problem back then (see Get Answers: Death & Suffering), and are often in overpopulated areas, and that also would not have been such a problem in the world’s early days.

They would have had a very poor diet (hard things like seeds would quickly have ruined their teeth so after the first century, they would have lived on soups). They would have worked very hard. Like people in Jesus’s time, even with a possibility of living over 900 years, most would have been dead in their thirties. Living so long was just not possible.

How could one know they had a poor diet? Genesis doesn’t record this. In fact, their diets/food may well have been superior—especially before the Flood.

Do you realize that these last three assumptions are actually founded in a religious evolutionary perspective? The assumption is that people were not smart enough to have invented good medical care and not advanced enough to wash their hands, brush their teeth, or grow nutritious, sustaining food. In fact, the opposite was likely true. Mankind was smart right from the start—with Adam being programmed with language to know what was good, how to clean, how to tend plants, and so on. To accept these assumptions is to place our understanding above what is clearly presented in the Bible.

But even so, these things are still probably not the major factor that allowed them to live so long. Most creationists believe that it was genetic. In the same way that a single point mutation in the DNA can cause the massive age drop to those suffering from progeria, another mutation or series of mutations over time could easily account for the reduced ages.1 The loss of information as mutations continued to accumulate in the human genome after the Fall and Flood seems to be the best explanation for what the Bible teaches. Hence, we would have the loss of the great ages as given in Scripture. For more please see Chapter 16: Did People Like Adam and Noah Really Live Over 900 Years of Age?

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Footnotes

  1. The dropping in ages began with Noah’s sons. Consider that Noah’s father was the shortest lived patriarch at only 777. This may have been the source of a mutated gene that was masked in Noah. Back