The original question was: We don’t we live for many hundreds of years like the people in the early generations in the Bible. Are we not capable of living till we are over 500 years of age? Is it our bodies?

Answer by Diane Eager and John Mackay

The Bible records that the majority of the first 10 generations of humans had life spans of over 900 years, but most of us don’t expect to live a tenth of that. To show the Biblical history of declining life spans we have graphed it below from Adam to Moses, which covers the decline from over 900 years for the pre-Flood people (Noah being the last person to live over 900 years) down to the Moses, who lived for 120 years, but wrote Psalm 90:10 some 3,000 years ago, which states our life will be around seventy to eighty years, so don’t be surprised that seventy to eighty remains the usual life expectancy for people in western countries these days. But what caused these reductions in lifespan?

Long Life Factors

In today’s world not everyone has the same life span, and some factors are well known to enable ‘longer lives’. A good diet and living in a good environment with a mild climate certainly helps, yet even with the same diet and environment some people live longer than others, so there must be also be a genetic component. This can be confirmed in some family histories where there are people across many generations who have lived longer than average, and also likewise some families have a well recorded history of recurring short life spans.

What causes death?

Human beings do not grow to maturity, live for some decades unchanged, and then just drop dead. There is often a very obvious factor or precipitating event that causes death. For some people this is a deliberate external agent such as violence or murder. For others it is a less deliberate, but a still deadly set of circumstances such as an accident, lack of food or water, spending too long in a dangerous environment, e.g. too cold or hot. For many people it is a disease of some kind, which is caused by external agents, such as infections or substances like asbestos, but mostly they are caused by the degeneration and breakdown of body structures from within, e.g. heart disease, strokes, cancer.

Biblical History of Life and Death

The sad thing in today’s world is the number of people who scoff at the idea of humans living for the long periods described in Genesis, yet applaud the scientists who are working on enabling us to live longer. The wakeup call is to realise that originally Adam and Eve and their descendants were meant to live forever, and that our current problem of physical death is a moral penalty not a biological necessity. It is the consequence of disobeying God,

Genesis tells us that everything God originally made was very good. (Genesis 1:31) This meant no death, disease or violence and no carnivores. (Obviously when you don’t get eaten, you live longer.) Furthermore, in the Garden of Eden human life was sustained by access to the tree of life, but after man sinned access to this tree was barred, and people were condemned to die. (Genesis 3:22-24) Even if we don’t die from an outside agent such as infection or violence, eventually wear and tear processes within our bodies overtake any built-in repair processes and we die. The fact that it took 930 years for death to overtake the first man is an indicator of how good the human body and the environment were when God first created them.

The generations before Noah’s flood still lived in an environment that was much better than today’s climate and environment, with good genes and an environment that protection them from mutations, a mild climate and plenty of good nutritious plants to eat. Therefore, it should not surprise us that the first 10 generations had similar lifespans to that of Adam. (Genesis 5)

After Noah’s flood the environment was devastated, and extremes of climate began. Life became a struggle to find food and shelter in the face of droughts, ice and snow, and other harsh environmental conditions. Furthermore, the mutation rate increased in man, animals, plants and microbes. Mutations accumulated faster than repair processes can work and were passed onto the next generation, and started to accumulate in successive generations. The increased mutation rate and the disruption of the environment also resulted in previously harmless microbes starting to cause disease, or becoming parasites. All these things would shorten lifespans.

After the judgement at the Tower of Babel, a relatively small population was split into even smaller groups, who could only breed with one another for many generations. Inbreeding is a well known reducer of lifespans by reinforcing and perpetuating any defective mutations, both in man and animals.

To all this we must add the effects of centuries of human sin and ignorance, which has resulted in wars, violence, oppression, overcrowding, inadequate diet, poor sanitation and hygiene, abuse of drugs and alcohol, and other dysfunctional behaviour. By the days of Job, after Babel, disease is mentioned as a real factor in human life. All these things decrease lifespans as well, and one of the latest is AIDS associated with aberrant sexual behaviour, and Ebola from a bat virus combined with the simple lack of good sanitation.

Pretty gloomy picture isn’t it? Sure makes life a struggle but it also makes it easier to accept that it should be better than this and that’s where only the Christian Gospel is of any help. The only way to escape this sorry state of degeneration and death is put your faith in the Creator of life, the Lord Jesus Christ, in his death and resurrection at Calvary almost 2000 years ago to save us from the sin that caused it in the first place. Your body will still die in this world, but Jesus promises that we will be raised to life, never to die again, in a new body and we will live in a new heavens and a new earth where there is no longer any death, and no grief or suffering. (see Revelation 21 and 22)

Related Question:

Life Spans: Genesis says Methuselah lived 969 years. Were the long life spans in Genesis real years? Answer here.

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