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Table of Contents

Part I

Part II

Part III

Part IV

Part V

Part VI

Part VII


Part IX


Vol.5: The Virgin Birth and the Incarnation




Table of Contents

Chapter 1.  Some Considerations of Theology and Genetics
Chapter 2.  The Testimony of Tradition
Chapter 3.  The Testimony of Scripture
Appendixes.  1. The Origin of the Germ Cells
                   2. The Importance of the Cytoplasm


Publishing History:
1957  Doorway paper No. 2, published privately by Arthur C. Custance
1977  Part I in The Virgin Birth and the Incarnation, vol.5 in The Doorway Papers Series, published by Zondervan Publishing Company
1997  Arthur Custance Online Library (html)
2001  2nd Online Edition (corrections, design revisions)

     pg 1 of 4      


     ONE OF THE great classics of earlier anthropology is a five-volume treatise, The Physical History of Mankind, by James Prichard. Though seldom quoted now it is a mine of information, and it is characterized by evidences of wide reading and breadth of comprehension that are so lacking in these days of extreme specialization. Unlike modern authors, Prichard gave some attention to the question of longevity and its possible relevance in the study of the history of culture.
     The indifference of anthropologists today in this matter is surprising for several reasons. In the first place, biologists are showing increasing interest in the subject, because research has indicated that natural death is probably not a characteristic of functioning protoplasm per se. The question is why living organisms die at all, and whether it may not be possible (if it should prove desirable) to extend human life for centuries. The study of aging, now recognized as a field in its own right and classified as Gerontology, is however not merely a question of adding years to life but also of adding life to years. And this raises some interesting possibilities in the matter of possible effects this might have upon cumulative experience and the possible effects this might have on the acceleration of historical processes and the development of both the desirable and undesirable characteristics of civilization. The good that some men might do when given a longer life, would also be balanced against the evil that other men might do in the same circumstances. It is therefore a cultural as well as a biological matter, and should be of some concern to anthropologists and sociologists. What will be the cultural consequences of any marked extension of human longevity? Do we have any light on the subject from past history to guide our thinking?

     pg.2 of 4     

     In the second place, ancient traditions have been receiving some remarkable confirmations from archaeology. One need only mention Homer and the cities of Troy and Knossos to illustrate this. Heinrich Schliemann and Sir Arthur Evans, to say nothing of a host of men who have excavated sites in the more ancient centres of civilization in Sumer and the Indus Valley, have substantiated much in Greek, Babylonian, and Aryan traditions which was thought to be pure fancy. The records of antiquity have proved to be remarkably dependable even where it has often seemed most unlikely that they could be. This has consistently been the case with the early records of the Bible, wherever it has been possible to test them. If these traditions can now be treated with sufficient respect to inspire men of good judgment to invest considerable sums of money for their investigation, ought we not perhaps to pay some attention to those features of these same traditions which, while not actually verifiable in the same way, are clearly a part of the same oral or literary heritage? Ancient tradition is almost unanimous in attributing great longevity to the men of earliest times. Granted that there is gross exaggeration (assuming that we are reading them rightly), may there not be a kernel of historical fact underlying them, as there has proved to be behind the other elements of these same traditions?
     In the third place, there is evidence that civilization developed with extreme rapidity in its initial stages, as though men had more energy than we have today, and found workable solutions to basic problems almost at once. Early Middle East civilizations seem to spring into view "ready made." Suppose for the sake of argument that men did live for centuries; would we not expect to find just this, for the cumulative experience of each individual over such greatly extended periods of time would compound knowledge in a way that is quite impossible now. Interpretations of early cultural history might need to be seriously modified. Certainly the biblical record implies this, for if we allow the record to speak for itself, within a few generations, five or six at the most, almost all the arts and sciences basic to city life were founded and flourishing, including metallurgy and the bifurcation of society into rural and urban communities.
     What then are the objections which render the subject so improper in scientific circles? Perhaps there are three chief objections:

1. There could be little or no evidence to demonstrate that men have lived for hundreds of years, except for the records of antiquity. And these records are challenged as pure fiction.

2. As far back as analysis of skeletal remains has been undertaken by anthropologists with this specifically in view, the evidence seems to show that human life was if anything shorter than it
now is.

     pg.3 of 4     

    3. It is supported by the Bible, which for many reasons makes it suspect at once in the minds of many            people.

     But we have three good reasons for looking into the subject in all seriousness, namely, its biological interest, the nature and unanimity of ancient traditions, and the witness of archaeology to the speed with which the earliest cultures developed in the Middle East. And we have to recognize three kinds of objections, namely, the absurd claims made by some of the ancient traditions, the absence of any evidence for great longevity from fossil remains, and prejudice against the biblical record.
     This Paper is an attempt to examine the evidence, the argument being that men probably did live for centuries at the very beginning, that their life span dropped steadily for reasons which were possibly genetic, that there is a simple and reasonable way in which the absurdities of some ancient traditions may be explained so that they contribute useful information, that those records from antiquity which can be evaluated by modern statistical methods show every evidence of being factual, that there is no biological reason for doubting that men might have lived for centuries at one time -- or might survive for centuries in time to come, and that some light is hereby thrown upon the sudden appearance of high cultures in many parts of the world within a very short time of one another so that the total chronology may well have been considerably shorter than is generally assumed.

     pg.4 of 4     

Copyright © 1988 Evelyn White. All rights reserved

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