Ages of Patriarchs

Or slingshot…By the way, out of curiosity, have you ever used a slingshot like the Biblical one? I have not–we had really cool ones that my parents purchased for us to shoot lizards with in Africa. I’m not sure how strong the Biblical time ones were.

Ours were really strong, but I would not want to use them against someone with a sword (unless I had a repeater :slight_smile:

From the University of Google (rely on the numbers at our own risk, but interesting still:

that still begs the question–why would David count God as his savior in this match, if he thought he could do it alone? And what’s the dividing line of irreducible complexity, where one finds the miracle? (I think that’s a rhetorical question).


If we’re not struggling with the OT, we haven’t been paying attention.

God has chosen (so Christianity says) to communicate in the Scriptures though human language, with all its ambiguity and limitations. I think he also employs cultural forms of expression as part of inspired communication.

The inflated numbers are a means of adding emphasis in certain ways–a historical manifestation of the poetic hyperbole, for example, in 1 Sam 18:7: “Saul has killed his thousands, and David his tens of thousands” (cf. Hosea 8:12).

The genocide and indiscriminate slaughter in the OT are the idealized historical equivalent of the brutal imagery Jesus uses occasionally in his ethical commands (Mk 9:43-47; Mt 19:12; Jn 6:53). Jesus shakes us up with images of self-mutilation and cannibalism–without explanation–and, having provocatively gotten our attention, expects us to dig out the meaning that is consistent with the rest of revealed truth. In the OT, God wants his people to understand that certain ancient cultural practices are repugnant to him. However, even in the text itself there are some indications that literal meanings of the commands to massacre do not make sense. It’s too big a subject to treat in detail here, of course.

I take “inerrancy” to mean that Scripture, speaking in “diverse manners” accomplishes exactly what God wants it to. Nothing is there because God erred. But that doesn’t mean dry factuality throughout, nor that the correct interpretation is always handed to us on a platter. Some Renaissance sculptors used a technique called non finito, leaving unfinished areas to remind viewers that the medium was stone even as they were admiring the smooth elegance of the figure proper. God does that too, I think.

In the effort to understand, wrestling in faith with the inspired text like Jacob with the messenger, we emerge blessed but not unscathed (Gen 32:24-29).


My Dad made me a slingshot like that out of leather as a kid. You can really whiz a rock, but I never mastered any semblance of accuracy. I was lucky to release the rock in the general direction I was facing.

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Very appropriate quote. Thanks.

I posted a new thread taking the question of inerrancy to different level. Let me know what you think.

Right. And who is the “we” in your sentence? Is it just you? If so, the beginning of your sentence would more accurately be structured thus:
“What I imagine from my own hypothesising about reincarnation…”

Please don’t try and hoodwink people into thinking your opinions are credible by using deceptive language. It’s annoying. Be truthful.

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My guess is that the authors are trying to say that after the Fall, God intended to give humans an average lifespan of hundreds of years. Then around the time of Noah, God “had it” with humans and further reduced human lifespan to around one hundred years, hence the steep decline

“Then the LORD said, “My Spirit shall not strive with man forever, because he also is flesh; nevertheless his days shall be one hundred and twenty years.””
‭‭Genesis‬ ‭6:3‬ ‭NASB‬‬

I know hundreds of people who have also bothered to study the body of knowledge including reincarnation, life after death, lost souls, ghosts, NDE and past lives who have come to the same conclusion, thus we, not just me. For instance, Dr. Wolfgang Eisenbeiss gave his presentation “Life after Death” over 1000 times summarizing his review of the body of knowledge that I referenced.
Best Wishes, Shawn

I will then give you the word “we.”
However, as “anecdotal evidence is not code for empirical evidence,” I still take issue with your use of the word “know.”
“Think,” “believe,” or “postulate” would more accurately describe your collective position.

***Edited to add: I also find it misleading to call a bunch of anecdotes and opinions a “body of knowledge.”

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Looks like I missed out on the cherry picked ‘biological decay curve’ which is also a fancy made up term that has no theoretical/mathematical foundation.

I wrote a little blurb on the PS forums a while back about the graph and it’s absurdity:

I really want to be charitable to things like this. But I just can’t. I know how to manipulate data to make it say what I want it to. I’ve faced the temptation to leave off data points that don’t support my hypothesis. After all no one would probably ever find out…


Interesting, but if I may, it seems irrelevant to the literary question I’m asking here, unless you have other insight? Thus I would still ask or observe the following:

The charts you put in the linked discussion graph the decline in ages against numbers of years from Adam as the X axis. That may be interesting to support or refute scientific considerations, but this would require an ancient author to have done more sophisticated calculations than simply attributing a certain age to a certain patriarch.

So your first chart shows a relatively linear decline of ages, if graphed against time from Noah rather than by generations. This would be interesting… But was this the ancient author’s intent?

If so, this ancient author would have had to calculate all the various ages so that, as he decided to give a Particular age see a particular patriarch, he would have made sure there was a generally linear decline if calculated against years from Adam… Possible, I suppose, but that seems to me far fetched. This would imply that he specifically desired to see or portray a linear decline in ages, and went through all the calculations based on recorded time elapsed, made the decline linear… and then failed to include those timeframes in the narrative, thus obscuring any linear decline he had intended to show, presenting as he did simply the ages in reference to what successive generation they were in, thus reflecting a curved decline in the actual narrative.

I’m not at present interested in the scientific claims for or against the ages, but simply the numbers by generation, as this seems the literary focus. And just looking at the numbers I noticed the precipitous decline in recorded ages, followed by a leveling of the decline, when I was a child. I still see it just reading the text. After reading about these relatively steady 900+ numbers in gen 5, you have a precipitous drop in those numbers, followed by a leveling off of said decline. Debate whether or not to call it a “decay curve” or what, but I see rapidly decreasing numbers listed in Genesis with each successive generation, followed by a far more gradual decline in those numbers. Perhaps with a “step” in the 400s for 3 generations.

So, secondly: Graphing ages against generation, (I think the most straightforward takeaway from the text itself), does yield to me a very striking curved decline, the “step” of 3 slightly rising ages of 400s the only real aberration. Leaving aside any and all scientific claims, have you yourself any alternative as to why the ancient author(s) came up with the idea of a) a decline in ages at all, or b) why such a curved decline?

Thirdly, I imagine that if I were a YEC defender and trying to show some environmental r genetic effect on lifespans post flood, I wouldn’t particularly care if the ages declined in a linear or curved fashion. Either, I would think, would support my hypothesis. Hypothetically, if you did prove to a YEC defender (such as the author you reference in the other post) that the postdiluvian decline in age was linear rather than reflecting a curve, as graphed against timeframe from Adam, how would this fundamentally impact his argument? The genetic entropy, or whatever they claim, would still be effecting human lifespan, and gradually decreasing over time, rather than following a curve. But it would still support their hypothesis, no?

Okay, if you’re willing to explore any and every other possibility … Gen. 1-11 is a polemic against Mesopotamian political, theological, and economic ideology. Since Gen. 1-11 is a direct rebuke to Mesopotamian culture and religion, it adopts the same mytho-historical genre that every scribe across the ANE learned in scribal school. Why do you think there are so many echoes of Mesopotamian mythology in Genesis 1-11? Because the “final exam” for potential scribes was to copy the flood tablet of Gilgamesh, or Atra-hasis, or the Sumerian King List, or Enmerkar and the Lord of Arratta, etc.

Mesopotamian mythology served kings and priests as politico-religious propaganda. This apparently began with Shulgi of Ur (2094-2047 BC). Over the course of 20 years, he transformed himself into Gilgamesh’s brother and declared himself a god. As Michalowski details in “The Mortal Kings of Ur”:

“Shulgi’s transformation and reinvention was a carefully managed affair. … In literature this found expression in the concomitant all-encompassing reinvention of the written tradition… The centralized, patrimonial state run from Ur required a well-regulated and well-trained bureaucracy … Writing was the instrument by which the Crown exercised oversight and control. … The hearts and minds of these literate servants had to be molded through schooling that not only taught them writing skills but also indoctrinated them into the ideological aspirations of the new state.

Some of this also found expression in a composition that we call the Sumerian King List , a largely fictional genealogical enumeration of cities – and dynasties – that ruled Mesopotamia since time immemorial, when “kingship descended from the heavens.” Now that Piotr Steinkeller (2003) has published an Ur III exemplar of the text, we can be fairly certain that it was composed under that dynasty, most probably during Shulgi’s reign. The oldest manuscript that we have ends with the reign of Ur-Namma, and then the scribe added a subscript: “May my king, divine Shulgi, live a life of never-ending days!” (Emphasis mine.)

After the fall of Shulgi’s dynasty, the rulers of Isin (Old Babylon) rewrote history to connect their newly founded dynasty to antiquity. They added the names of kings who ruled “before the flood” to give the appearance that Babylonian kings could trace their lineage to the beginning of kingship, when it “descended from the gods.” In Faith, Tradition, and History: Old Testament Historiography in Its Near Eastern Context , the authors say:

… in its final form, the SKL is an apology for the post-Ur III Isin dynasty. The rulers of the Isin dynasty saw themselves as continuing the tradition of kingship at Ur. … Neither the antediluvian nor the post-Ur III Isin rulers were included in the original composition. Instead, the pattern of several successions of the kingship of Sumer from Kish to Uruk to Ur dominates the list.… (A) civilization renders account of its own past in intellectual form…. In the case of the Sumerians, their tendency to do speculative thought in terms of “myth” results in the fact that it was not characteristic of them to separate myth from history. This is reflected in their historiography.

The antediluvian kings added to the King List by Babylonian scribes reigned outrageously long times of 30-40,000 years. The first 18 or so kings after the flood reigned around 900 years. Following Gilgamesh, the length of reign drops off to something reasonable, such as 36 years. This is the same pattern we see in the Genesis genealogies.

Summing up, scribes all over the ANE, including Israel, were familiar with Mesopotamian mythology because they learned it in school. Mesopotamian mythology served the needs of its political masters. Their myths said that the king was the representative of the gods (if not a living god, a la Shulgi). The king was credited with building cities, maintaining agriculture (irrigation canals), and advancing culture.

Genesis 1-11 rejects all of that. Ordinary men and women are the image of God, not just the king. Ordinary people, not kings, built cities, domesticated livestock, and invented musical instruments, metallurgy, and religion (4:17-25). Furthermore, “the flood” did not happen because humanity was making too much noise for the gods to rest; God brought the flood because the earth was full of blood and violence.

And what about Babel? Sumerian followed by Akkadian cuneiform was the international language of diplomacy and trade. It was the symbol of Mesopotamian cultural supremacy and hegemony. The invention of alphabetic writing challenged that. Suddenly, local peoples were writing their own stories in their own language. West Semitic vernacular alphabets proved crucial in local people’s formation of identity and common purpose. Hebrew writing allowed the creation of a revolutionary literature divorced from royal privilege and prerogative. The end of the Mesopotamian empires was the end of cuneiform’s one-language dominance, a situation that had prevailed since the days of Sargon and Shulgi. That is the “historical” reality behind the Tower of Babel.

In short, biblical “history” begins with Abram, whom God called out of idolatry (Josh. 24:2). Genesis 1-11 is a polemic response to Mesopotamian mythology/ideology. It is written in the genre to make the point even more clear. Every literate person (scribe) in the ANE would immediately recognize the Genesis parody of the Sumerian King List, Gilgamesh, Atra-hasis, etc. The fact that this background was forgotten as cuneiform fell into disuse isn’t surprising.

Well, if anyone made it this far, congratulations!


Probably the real reason is the Babylonian Kings list had absurdly long ages and so naturally the righteous ‘kings’ of the Israelites should live pretty long. And then since people didn’t live that long when Genesis was being written it had to be explained why the ages were presently much shorter.

No, this does not support their hypothesis at all! To support one’s hypothesis, you actually need well, a hypothesis. Some kind of mathematical backing of what kinds of changes were happening to the genome and how those impact our aging. There could definitely be evidence of this rapid change within our genome here today as we can aim to evaluate which parts of our genome have changed more rapidly than others. And then with this mathematical backing, we can begin to ask if this is plausible. BUT the ages in Genesis ARE NOT average ages of the human population, they are really long ages for ONE person. A line that sort of goes downwards except when it doesn’t is not very impressive. Especially when one arbitrarily chooses and x-axis like you did with ‘generations.’ Plus most YEC as I said in the other thread believe genetic defects starting coming with ‘the fall’ which would mean any so called genetic entropy should have started then. This makes no sense even within the YEC framework.


N.B., this is not arbitrary, it is exactly what is reflected in the text.

Maybe you are using the word hypothesis differently than I am. If I were examining some longitudinal trend of real ages, and saw them consistently decline in a linear manner over several hundred years, I could toss out all manner of potential hypotheses about why those ages were declining, no? Increasing scarcity, genetic difficulties, increasing societal conflict and warfare, plague, increase of diseases… many of these could be hypotheses that were at least consistent with the initial data set, no? Even if the initial data set showed consistently gradually declining ages as opposed to something exponential?

But you’re not doing that. You were plotting the ages of a single person as recorded in a book where numbers were highly symbolic and probably not literal. The only thing that we know is that the ages are declining because some author wrote numbers that kind of got smaller each generation but others were a little bigger. You have no information about the population as a whole and so at best you could be explaining why each child lived less than their parents in most of the cases.

There have been several excellent reasons proposed here as to why the numbers are so big, but I am not quite sure where you stand with those. It doesn’t really make sense to read them literally in light of the ancient near Eastern context.


Please see original post and my numerous, repeated, clarifications, to the effect that THE AUTHOR’S INTENT IS ALL I AM INTERESTED IN EXPLORING. And when I plot the ages listed/contrived/invented by the author, in successive generations, as he presented them, I am still struck that it at least resembles some sort of decay curve, certainly more than a linear reduction, which is what I would have expected an ancient author to do.

As for the illustration of plotting real ages… I was simply giving the YECs the benefit of the doubt regarding their hypothesis, that it seems to me at first glance, that their hypothesis would not require some sort of decay curve, but a linear decline would still similarly be consistent with their post flood hypothesis.

Yes, but they are all entirely unacceptable as being considered as a legitimate hypothesis, as they have, well, no “mathematical backing”… :wink:

I see. I’m glad that it makes you think there’s something hidden in the particular decrease and it makes you interested and excited.

I see. Or maybe they’re not trying to figure out any patterns, just explaining why the numbers were so big in the first place. It’s a pretty logical plot hole if the beginning of your story begins with people who lived great ages and since nobody in the present does, well… you need to explain that somehow. There’s no mathematics behind that. Nobody is proposing extreme catastrophic changes to human genomes that except for YECs and apparently you a little bit too.



Perhaps you would quote me what I said that gives basis for you to believe so?

Otherwise, I would refer you back to my original post, and numerous, repeated clarifications above, and request you refrain from making baseless conclusions about my hidden motives.

Okay. Maybe I over-read what you said here:

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Ummm … hello? Is this thing on? :loudspeaker:

You could plot exactly the same decay curve with the Sumerian King List.


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