I abhor dogmatism for the obvious fact; it serves as a cosy bulwark between blind information acceptance and a person’s ability to come to a reasonable conclusion through the application reason and logic.
Surely we’ve all heard about the ‘awe-inspiring’ biblical story of Methuselah, the son of Enoch who lived for 969 years. Until this morning, I had never really considered that certain ‘educated Christians’ do actually believe this to be true and accept for a fact that another human being lived this long on the back of our today’s calendar simply because the Bible says it happened.
The Methuselah religious myth is just one of the many on which religion developed and thrives—and unfortunately, a bunch of credulous 21st century citizens still largely believe in these tales in spite of their apparent ridiculousness.
When it comes to most of the Biblical myths, they can easily be stripped apart by any reasonable person who decides to just spend a second to subject what they read to rational evaluation.
On facebook, a status update from a ‘friend’ which stated that Methuselah for a fact lived for 969 years pushed me to consider the plausibility of this Biblical claim, employing basic reason and logic—which every reasonable person should be able to appreciate.
The Hebrew Bible states that Methuselah lived the longest and died at the age of 969.
Let’s grant this as a fact.
Now, any sensible person who comes across this passage would ask; at the era Methuselah lived, what constituted A YEAR? How many days or months made a year under the then calendar?
So if every 2 weeks was considered a year under the calendar of the time, then it is plausible he could live up to 969 years.
Without knowing for certain the sort of calendar which was used at the time, it is purely nonsense to think that what amounted to one year at the time is the same as what amounts to a year under our calendar.
We’ve had different ways of counting years and therefore have had different calendars throughout history. Methuselah’s 969 years on earth could possible be as a result of difference in the way we count time (remember, for the purpose of this argument, we granted that he actually live).
Also, it would be impossible for those who lived before us to have had longer life expectancy than us—it is estimated that the life expectancy at the time Jesus was said to have lived was 30-37 years.
Any era below that time would reasonably have less—and less.
It doesn’t take much to find answers to most of the claims of the Bible, yet many just don’t want to use their thinking faculties.
The Methuselah case is just like me saying, I drunk 200 glasses of water in 2 hours—depending on the size of the glass, this could be true or false.
Interestingly, the Genesis verse on Methuselah is available in three manuscript traditions; the Masoretic, the Septuagint and the Samaritan Torah.
However, the three traditions do not agree with each other…
The Masoretic states that Methuselah died in 1656 AM, the year of the flood at the age of 969. The Septuagint (Alexandrinus) documents Methuselah as having died in 2256 AM, 6 years before the flood (2262 AM).
The Septuagint (Vaticanus) on the other hand insists Methuselah died in 2256 AM, 14 years after the flood (2242 AM)—and then the Samaritan Torah (the adopted Christian Bible version) says, Methuselah died in the year of the flood (1307 AM).
Now, which among the above is the truth even if we agree that the calendar used at the time was way shorter than what we have today?
If we can’t agree on his death date (the simplest), how can we know or agree on when he was born (the complex date, because none of the people who were present at his supposed death or wrote this would have been alive when he was born.)
Interestingly, Noah who is the grandchild of Methuselah lived up to 950 years, while Methuselah’s father Enoch live for about 430 years before being translated. Now this is where the problem springs up; the maximum human lifespan, as shown by the Bible, diminishes swiftly after Noah, from almost 1,000 years to the 120 years of Moses.
The question is; what changed or happened? Perhaps I should mention that, the same Bible places human life expectancy between 70 and 80 years (Psalm 90.10)
Considering the above, Ellen Bennet has argued that the Septuagint Genesis 5 numbers are in tenths of years, which “will explain how it was that they read 930 years for the age of Adam instead of 93 years, and 969 years for Methuselah instead of 96 years, and 950 years for that of Noah instead of 95 years.”
Ellen’s deduction makes it somewhat rational to conclude that Noah lived 50 years instead of 500 years before he took a wife and begat Shem, Ham, and Japheth. Meaning, the Septuagint total ages with decimal points: 93.0 for Adam, 91.0 for Cainan, 96.9 for Methuselah and 95.0 for Noah…
Robert M. Best also supports Ellen Bennet’s line of reasoning.
And then we have those who believe all the numbers of Genesis 5, including Methuselah’s age, have no meaning at all. Kenneth Kitchen calls the ‘outrageous’ ages the Bible mentions “pure myth”, Yigal Levin believes these ages were simply intended to speed the reader from Adam to Noah—with Claus Westermann says they were deliberately used to create the impression of a distant past.
Now, do you honestly believe Methuselah literally lived for 969 years?