A longstanding question of interest to those of us who believe that Genesis is an accurate account of ancient history is why human life spans were so very much greater in the past than they are today. Figure 1 shows a collection of life span data recorded in several books of the Bible, much of it from Genesis 5 and Genesis 11. The Flood is shown by the dashed line in the column on the right. Notice that life spans (vertical black bars) before the Flood were pretty consistently around 900 years. The only exceptions were Enoch—who did not die but rather was raptured when he was 365 years old—and Lamech, who appears to have died in the Flood. In contrast, life spans after the Flood rapidly became much shorter. The present regime of death near 75 years of age had already been reached by Moses’ time, just one thousand years after the Flood. Why did human life spans diminish so dramatically—from 925 years on average to just 75 years on average—following the Flood?
Far more than just curiosity has motivated my research into this matter, of course. The question of why human life spans were once more than ten times what they are today is obviously one of enormous practical significance. Indeed, there is no medical or scientific question of greater practical significance than this one. A correct understanding of why human life spans were so much greater in antiquity raises the possibility that practical steps might be taken to restore human life spans to pre-Flood values today.
To the clear-headed Christian this is a welcome prospect. To Christians, death is no friend. It is a perversion that only entered creation as a result of sin. It will be entirely vanquished and removed from the creation at the close of God’s great plan of redemption. Death is Satan’s stock-in-trade. The Savior dispenses life. The Christian who follows the Savior and understands His heart thrills at every advance of life and every setback of death.
Christians hail the great life-saving strides which have been made in medicine during the past several centuries. The work of Pasteur, in particular, in elucidating the germ theory of disease has saved millions of lives: from soldiers wounded in battle, to women giving birth in hospitals, to babies and children formerly decimated by smallpox, to patients undergoing surgery, to many, many more.
The West, with its Christian roots, has historically contended vigorously and tirelessly with the domain of death. We still do so today, with large, publicly supported research institutions devoted to finding cures for cancer, heart disease, and numerous other major killer diseases.
The only blot on the West’s record in this regard is the hideous modern spectacle of abortion. This is a relatively recent blot, of course. Its presence in the West today is a symptom of a widespread loss of Christian moorings—a moral confusion at a very fundamental level. It signals the loss from the Western conscience of the simple truth that death is Satan’s ware—that those who have embraced as their public policy the death of innocents have not embraced the One who is “the Life”.
Clear-headed Christians see death as an unwelcome evil and an enemy. They have always done whatever they could to wrest from death its estates. This same historic Christian sentiment impels us to do what we can to elucidate the cause of the dramatic reduction in life spans which followed the Flood.
*Please note: this article was first published in March, 2001.