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Table of Contents

Part I
Part II
Part III
Part IV
Part V
Part VI
Part VII
Part IX

Part I: Longevity in Antiquity and Its Bearing on Chronology

Chapter 1

The Biological View

Some Statements of Biologists
Regarding the Phenomenon of "Natural Death"

     IN 1938, Julian Huxley published a series of short essays, one of which was titled "The Meaning of Death." In this essay he explored the subject very briefly and by the use of a few illustrations from botany attempted at a basic level to focus attention on one aspect of the problem. The question was whether death is in any sense "natural" for living things. With respect to plant life he wrote: (1)

     We have records of trees of vast age and size, whose death seems only to have been due to accident, that is to say, to something in the external world and not in the tree itself, and therefore something which could be avoided. . . There is nothing inherent in the tree itself which causes its death, merely the long-continued shocks and buffets of the world, preventable things one and all; by which I mean that if one could shelter the tree from storms, keep off active enemies, and provide it with a reasonable amount of food, water and air, we must suppose that it would go on living for ever.

     He then spoke of one particular tree in the Calcutta Botanical Gardens which has been sheltered artificially, and showed every sign of continuing indefinitely:

     Thus we have persuaded ourselves that a single individual can in some cases go on living indefinitely, and two pertinent questions arise and demand an answer.
     First, if functioning protoplasm is not necessarily subject to death, why did death appear? And secondly, granted that death must come for mankind, will it be possible in ourselves, for instance, to postpone its coming . . . for a short space, a long space, or even forever?

     The following year, R. E. D. Clark published a paper in the

1. Huxley, Sir Julian, "The Meaning of Death," in Essays in Popular Science, Penguin Books, Harmondsworth, 1938, p.105.

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Transactions of the Victoria Institute in which he touched on the same question: (2)

     Concerning death, we know of course very little. But it is by no means biologically impossible that man was designed to be immortal. The cells of which the body are composed are designed to function for long periods and to react continuously to changes in the environment. Many cells are known, such as those of cancer, which never lose this power and which are in the strictest sense immortal. But for reasons as yet quite unknown the cells of which the body is composed lose their powers with advancing age.

     In 1946 V. Korenchevsky, writing in the British Medical Journal, with keen insight pointed out that the aim of science is not only a longer life, but a stronger one: (3)

. . . to add life to years, not just years to life -- not only the prevention of the appearance of senile decay, but also elimination of those pathological features which are not necessarily associated with normal old age, since they are not present in some rare cases of less pronounced pathological aging. As aging starts very early, actually with the normal process almost the whole of the span of human life will be changed, and therefore in some distant future, man will probably become in some respects a different creature.

     It is of course possible that man was at one time in the past a very different creature in this respect. The following year Dr. Korenchevsky wrote: (4)

     As to the possible prolongation of human life in the future, beyond the extreme age already reached by some centenarians, the scientists who have studied this problem give different answers. . . .  Metchnikoff says that "we may predict that when science occupies the preponderating place in human society that it ought to have, and when knowledge of hygiene is more advanced, human life will become much longer."
     Prof. Fisher concludes that "it would be surprising if the future did not witness a further lengthening of human life, and at an increasing rate. Of course, there is a limit to the further increase of human life, but there is good reason to believe that the limit is still far off."
     Prof. Simms of Columbia University states that "there is at the time no proof for or against the possibility that we can some day extend our active life an extra one hundred or two hundred years with retention of youthful health, intelligence, and appearance."

     In 1948, in a paper with the intriguing title "The Probability of Death," Edward Deevey observed briefly, (5) "Death from old age is a

2. Clark, R. E. D., "The Mystery of Evil in Relation to the Divine Economy," Transactions of the Victoria Institute, vol.71, 1939, p.120.
3. Korenchevsky, V., "Conditions Desirable for the Rapid Progress of Gerontological Research," British Medical Journal, September 28, 1946, p.468.
4. Korenchevsky, V. "The Longest Span of Life Based on the Records of Centenarians in England and Wales," British Medical Journal, July 5, 1947, p.15.
5. Deevey, Edward, "The Probability of Death," Scientific American, April,1950, p.58.

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legal fiction, not a medical fact," by which he seems to have meant that death is a result and not a cause of the breakdown. New insights into the meaning of death are continually being gained, and there is a very general spirit of optimism among gerontologists that a wonderful new field full of promise for the future is being opened up. Yet for all this optimism, very little is said about the possibilities of the past and only a handful of less enthusiastic writers have paused long enough to ask whether great longevity is either desirable or safe.
     However, the fact that death might be delayed for a very long time, or even indefinitely, has raised the question of whether or not death may actually be an advantage to the progress of living things, if not to the individual at least to the species. H. J. Muller,
(6) of the Department of Zoology of Indiana University pointed out recently that while "natural death is not the expression of an inherent principle in protoplasm," it has resulted from the fact that the simpler forms of life which marked the earlier geological periods and which merely divided and reproduced themselves almost without change, were in time replaced by "higher" forms that individually carried only half the potential for the next generation. No such form is ever complete in itself, and it thus proved to be mortal. But it permits of lines and a degree of variation which was previously impossible. Thus,

     Death is an advantage to life. Its advantage lies chiefly in its giving ampler opportunities for the genes of the newer generation to have their merits tested out. That is, by clearing the way for fresh starts (and new combinations) it prevents the clogging of genetic progress by the older individuals.

     Le Comte du Nouy put it this way: (7)

     If several methods of asexual reproduction are known in plants and in animals, it is evident that these processes reproduce indefinitely the same characters. The cell or organism separates into two individuals who live, grow, and in their turn each separate into two others.
     They never die, except accidentally. They go on untiringly doubling their number according to their specific rhythm, so that if it were not checked by a more general or dominant phenomenon, they would soon smother the earth under their mass. . . .
     Asexual cells do not know death as individuals. They are immortal. All of a sudden, with sexual generation, we see the appearance of an entirely new and unforeseen cyclical phenomenon: the birth and death of the individual. It is clear that sexual reproduction, with fecundation which suppresses the immortality of the individual, was indispensable to make a strain progress

6. Muller, H. J., "Life," Science, vol.121,1955, p.5.
7. Du Nouy, Le Comte, Human Destiny, Longmans Green, Toronto, 1947, p.61.

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towards complexity. It was necessary to modify, to enrich heredity, by the mixture of foreign strains, by the pooling of acquired characters.

     The range possibilities for variation become vastly extended by division of the sexes, but this division also introduces death for the individual.
     If death is only necessary to permit further development, and if man's biological evolution has already been completed, as Huxley thought it had, death serves no further purpose for man. If we go one step further and say that God made man as he is -- the climax of a long succession of higher and higher forms, having no further stages for his biological development -- need he have been made mortal at all? Could he not have been made immortal?
     Indeed, could He not have combined the sexes in one self-sufficient and deathless form? There are some who feel that the story of the creation of Adam and Eve as given in Genesis is intended to give recognition to this possibility. This is not to say that the one who gave us this story in its present form understood this, but rather that God did when He revealed the stages by which the first man and woman were introduced. God separated the sexes for the deepening of their enjoyment of one another and to render them beneficially interdependent, but in such a way (i.e., supernaturally) that neither was thereby rendered mortal by nature as a consequence. Death is stated to have been incurred subsequently as a penalty.
     But what would have happened if such a race of immortals had begun to multiply? Would not the earth have groaned under the impossible burden of their numbers? The answer to this probably lies in other passages of Scripture. While such immortal creatures would not be subject to removal by death, they would have been removed by other means and for other reasons.
     Having been schooled in this world until innocence was turned into virtue, each individual in due time would have been transformed into a higher state no longer dependent upon time and space, and without passing through death at all, as Enoch appears to have been. In the case of Enoch, we are merely told that he "was not," for God "took him."
(9) This has always been understood to mean that he passed out of this sphere without dying. Jesus Christ, on the other hand, deliberately surrendered this possibility. The significance of the events which took place on the Mount of Transfiguration is variously interpreted. This much seems fairly certain. We see here

8. Genesis 3:19; Romans 5:12.
9. Genesis 5:24; Hebrews 11:5.

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one man who has come to manhood without being touched by sin. Having thus fulfilled the task of passing from innocence of childhood to the virtue of perfect manhood without fault, this man might have been transformed and passed immediately into a higher state at that point without seeing death. But the subject of His conversation on the Mount of Transfiguration seems rather to have been related to the fact that He was deliberately setting aside this privilege, which was now His right, in order to become subject to death in a unique way. This scene is therefore taken by some to be a picture of what would be the "end" of each individual's period of schooling in this world if it were not for the fact of sin and death. Such is one possible reconstruction of the original divine plan, until death was introduced (Romans 5:12), because this plan was thwarted. Thus death is now appointed for each individual.
     Yet death still seems to come prematurely. It is a curious thing that the human body appears to have become arrested in its development as though we die while still in a state of semi-childhood. It could be argued that this is evidence that we do not live out the span we might; we do not live long enough to reach full maturity or our maximum potentiality. At one time we might have done so. Apparently we no longer do.
     In a study of some aspects of embryology, Sir Gavin de Beer makes reference to what he terms the fetalization of man:

     Bolk has shown that many of the features of the adult (human) structure show resemblances to those of the embryonic structure of anthropoid apes, and the same point of view has been expressed by Devaux.

     In a subsequent section we explore this subject a little further.
     In the meantime we may sum up the biological view by saying that extreme longevity is foreseen as a possibility in the future, and it should not therefore be ruled out as impossible in the past. There is no inherent reason why man could not have lived to be almost one thousand years old. The fact that man today almost literally dies "young," even though he reaches a "good old age," suggests that perhaps something has gone wrong with a mechanism that would otherwise quite normally have continued to operate healthily for centuries. If so, long life was once normal, and it remains only to inquire into the factors which may have operated to reduce it to its present limitations.

10. De Beer. Sir Gavin, Embryos and Ancestors, Oxford University Press, 1940, p.55.

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Some Examples of Extreme Longevity in Historical Times

     We now come to a question where, unfortunately, we cannot be too sure of the information we have. People who have reputedly survived for well over 100 years, were born at a time when there was not always a careful record kept of vital statistics. Moreover, perhaps because of the artificiality of highly civilized life, the majority of cases of people who have lived to great ages are apt to be found among the less civilized or more "backward" communities, where records are less exact.
     Furthermore, there is a certain prejudice among scientists against any subject which captures the public attention too readily, because it tends to invite exploitation by free-lance writers whose chief concern is sensationalism. In the case of very aged individuals who make claims to exceptional longevity, public imagination is easily stirred because history seems to crowd more and more into each passing year, so that such patriarchs appear to have lived through centuries rather than scores of years. They almost belong to another age. The newspapers do not hesitate to make the most of such choice items, and a little exaggeration here and there seems inevitable, whereas an unbounded faith in the merest recollections of such folk serves to put a question mark against all their claims in the minds of serious people.
     Nevertheless, there are a sufficient number of reports on hand that it seems the law of averages must make at least some of them valid. A quite extended list of aged people is given by Prichard in the anthropological classic to which reference has already been made. In his first volume, he discusses the topic "The Duration of Life in General." What follows is an examination of a number of records of old people of Caucasian and Negroid stock whose life span exceeded one hundred years. The following summary is extracted from the text to show the kind of data Prichard was able to find and for which he could supply documentation.


 Date of Death

 Age at Death
Apollonius of Tyana

 AD. 99

  St. Patrick




  Llyarch Hen


  St. Coempene


  Piastus, King of Poland


 Thomas Parr


 Henry Jenkins


 The Countess of Desmond


 Thomas Damme


 Peter Torton


 Margaret Patten


 John Rovin


 John Rovin's wife



11. Prichard, James C., Researches into the Physical History of Mankind, vol.l, Houlston and Stoneman, London, 1836, pp.11-15f.

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Prichard then adds to this list a number of names of which he personally had knowledge of the details of birthplace, occupation, and general health.


 Date of Death

 Age at Death
 May Innes


 Charles Layne


 Statira, a black woman


 Margaret Darby


 Catherine Lopez


 Rebecca Tury


 Joseph Bam


 Catherine Hiatt


 Robert Lynch


 Francis Peat


 Juan Moroygota

 1828 (living)

 138 plus

     Sir Charles Marston, (12) in his book The Bible Comes Alive, made reference to Iwan Yorath, a Welshman, who died in 1621 aged 156, and a relative of his named Elizabeth Yorath, who died according to the Parish Register of Llanmaes in Glamorganshire, in 1668 at the age of 177 years.
     In the News Review, December 22, 1938, a number of instances of individuals who survived to remarkable ages were given, among whom was the Thomas Parr mentioned above, but also a Turk named Zaro Aga who died in the United States in 1934, at the age of 164 years. A photograph of the man was given. The Evening Telegram (Toronto) in its issue of April 26, 1942, devoted on the editorial page an article to instances of exceptionally aged persons whose life history was believed to be known with some degree of certainty. Mentioned was a report from the Morning Post, published in England, and dated December 25, 1804, of the death of a mulatto in Frederic Town (USA), who died in 1797 at the good old age of 180 years. But the Methuselah of the modern world is surely a certain Li Chang-yun, also mentioned in this report. He hailed from Szechwan

12. Marston, Sir Charles, The Bible Comes Alive, Eyre and Spottiswoode, London, 1937, p.54.

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Province, in China, was born in 1677, and died in May 1933 at the ripe old age of 256 years! The Daily Star, also a Toronto newspaper, published on December 15, 1952, the following report from Allahabad, India:

     A local paper here reported recently that Baba Harainsingh has celebrated his 176th birthday and hopes to live for another 25 years. The paper said that Baba had grown a complete new set of teeth, the previous ones having fallen out, when he was about 100 in the 1870's. His gray hair also is turning black again.

     The Toronto Telegram, on April 17, 1954, published a story with photo, about a certain Mrs. Annie Firlotte of New Brunswick, who was then living and in excellent health. She had never been to a dentist and still retained her own teeth. Her memory was crystal clear, and she was very much alive at the time of the report, looking forward to the warmer weather so that she could go visiting once more. She was then 113 years old. More recently still the Star Weekly (Toronto) on December 15, 1956, ran a special feature article about Javier Pereira from Colombia in South America, who claimed to be 167 years old, and was most active and mentally alert. It appears that his health is excellent according to medical reports from New York, and that his age may very well be exactly what he claims it is. All these instances of aged people are remarkable enough, assuming of course that they are true, but they still do not begin to approach the ages given for Adam and his immediate descendants. Yet the very well-being of some of these people at the time of reporting, suggests that years alone do not constitute "age" as we commonly think of it. Indeed, the reverse may be sadly true, for there are cases of people who passed through the whole cycle of development with extreme rapidity and died of "old age" in the seventh or eighth year. Under "Longevity," and referring to this disease, the Encyclopedia Britannica (15th edition), stated:

     Physiological old age, that is, freedom from any pathological change, is agreed to be rare, and it has been said by Terrance, Cicero, Sanctorius, and often since, that old age is itself a disease. Eli Metchnikoff attributed the senile accompaniments of advanced years to pathological and preventable causes, especially poisons produced by bacteria in the large intestine, these toxins causing degeneration of the bodily cells which are eaten up by more resistant cells called macrophages. This hypothesis has been much discussed. That disease may produce the picture of morbid old age prematurely is well established, and in the remarkable but rare condition of progeria this occurs in childhood.

     There is then, no basic reason for rejecting claims made by such

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people to extreme longevity (as judged by modern standards). Aging is not to be measured in years.

Possible Factors Bringing About a Reduction in Life Span

     1. Changes in food, climate, "rate of living." Though the evidence is not by any means conclusive, man may have changed in one important respect his food habits in the past. Speaking of such a possible change, Claude Villee wrote: (13)

     The human appendix is the remnant of the blind pouch, the cecum which is a large functional structure in the digestive tract of herbivorous animals like the rabbit. Foods rich in cellulose require a long time for digestion, and the cecum provides a place where the food may be stored while the gradual process of digestion, mostly by intestinal bacteria, takes place. A long time ago in our evolutionary history our ancestors changed to a diet containing more meat and less cellulose, and the cecum has gradually diminished to the present useless vestige, the appendix.

     It could be that the change was not after all so very long ago. This might be a remarkable witness to the truthfulness of the early record in Genesis of just such a change of diet.
     Clive McCay of Cornell University conducted experiments in aging,
(14) which indicate that a low calorie diet leads to a longer life. The evidence was derived from experiments with rats and might not therefore apply to human beings. The problem is to know what kind of diet men had when meat was not a part of it, nor many of the modern vegetables, such as potatoes, etc., which are now taken so much for granted. Was it necessarily a low calorie diet? It certainly need not have been. A surprising number of the earlier fossil remains of man have the teeth ground down to the gums, but otherwise showing little or no signs of decay. A few writers have suggested this could be evidence of greater longevity. On the other hand cereals ground in stone querns of primitive type might contain sufficient grit to act abrasively and thus wear down the teeth more rapidly in the process of normal mastication. Or, of course, the diet might be deficient in some tooth building or hardening substances such as calcium. (15)
     Until evidence appears to show conclusively that a meat diet reduces longevity, the matter can only be considered as a possibility.

13. Villee, Claude, Biology, Saunders, Philadelphia, 2nd edition, 1954, p.580
14 .Clive McCay's work is referred to by Albert Lansing, "Experiments in Aging," Scientific American, April, 1953, p.38.
15. Albert Lansing states there is experimental evidence that a lack of calcium increases the longevity of some forms of simple life. One might therefore expect to find a correlation between the wearing down of teeth and longevity, since the lack of calcium would perhaps render the teeth softer. (See ref.14, p.43.)

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At any rate the eating of meat seems to have been forbidden until after the Flood, if we are correctly interpreting Genesis 9:3ff. And there are also passages which suggest that meat eating will yet be done away in due time, Isaiah 11:7; 65:25, and longevity is then to be restored also. Yet the two may not necessarily be related.
     The injunction given to Noah regarding meat seems clearly a departure from what preceded, since the new diet is contrasted with the old which consisted only of herbs.
(16) Vegetarianism is adopted by people for a wide variety of reasons. One is that animals are believed to be carriers of certain diseases communicated to man by ingestion of their flesh, and mankind is accordingly afflicted by reason of his carnivorous habits. One thing can be stated with some certainty it seems, namely that early man was not nearly as subject to disease as we are today, at least to diseases which would leave any evidence in his skeleton.
     Ales Hrdlicka made a special study of fossil remains years ago with this in mind. He set forth his conclusions as follows:

     There is no trace in the adults of any destructive constitutional disease. There are marks of fractures, some traces of arthritis of the vertebrae, and in two cases (La Chapelle and the Rhodesian skull) much less of teeth and dental caries. The teeth in the remaining specimens are often more or less worn, but as a rule free from disease, and there is, aside from the above two specimens, but little disease of the alveolar processes. It appears therefore, that on the whole, early man was remarkably free from disease that would leave any evidence on his bones or teeth.

     Then, turning to later human remains:

     Such diseases as syphilis, rachitis, tuberculosis, cancer (of the bone at least), hydrocephalus, etc., were unknown or rare in these. . . .

     He then observed that there is a gradual increase of other diseases of bone and teeth, and when we come to the much later remains of early man we find him more and more like his modern counterpart:

     As we proceed toward men of today, particularly in the white race pathological conditions of the bones become more common.

     Again, it should be emphasized that we do not know whether

16. The wording is significant: "Every moving thing that liveth shall be meat for you: even as the green herb have I given you all things." This surely indicates a change.
17. Hrdlicka, Ales, "Anthropology and Medicine," American Journal of Physical Anthropology, vol.10, 1926, p.6.

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there is really any connection between this apparent increase in diseased condition and the eating of animals, which might conceivably be the carriers in some instances. The evidence is certainly not against the assumption, and this seems to be about as far as we can go.
     There is, then, a possibility that a difference in diet in very early times might have been partially responsible for a greatly extended life span, but this alone can hardly account for it, and there must have been other contributing factors.
    In view of the fact that biblical commentators have for many years proposed that certain quite radical changes may have taken place in the climatic conditions of the world following the Flood, leaving the present world a very different one from the one which perished, it seems necessary to consider this hypothesis before passing on to causes for which there is evidence of a far more substantial nature.
     Briefly, the general idea is that the rainbow appeared for the first time and was at once designated as a guarantee that the previous conditions which made such a flood possible would not be repeated. The period from Adam to Noah, it is said, did not see rain as we now know it, but the earth was a kind of hothouse shielded from the sun's direct rays by a blanket of "cloud," a mist going up from the face of the ground watering the earth. Although the sun was not then directly visible as it now is, it was nevertheless seen through this cloud blanket as a greater light, and the moon as a lesser light. These conditions prevailed until for some reason at the time of the Flood, all this moisture was suddenly precipitated onto the earth in immense rains contributing to the devastation by the waters which "came up."
     In this shielded atmosphere, all but a very little harmful cosmic radiation was prevented from reaching the surface of the earth. The clear skies which appeared for the first time immediately after the great rains had ceased, permitted the appearance of a new natural phenomenon so far as man was concerned, namely, the appearance of a rainbow . . . clear proof of a change in the order of nature, and guarantee that such a deluge could not again overwhelm mankind. It is argued not unreasonably that God would hardly choose a phenomenon which had occurred repeatedly prior to the Flood, as a symbol of assurance that such a Flood would never occur again. To be really convincing, any such guarantee would need to be associated with a new phenomenon of nature, rather than one which must already have been witnessed time and time again if it had 

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previously rained quite often. Alfred Rehwinkel put the matter this way, (18)

     The third theory attempting to explain the antediluvian climate is the so-called canopy theory. According to this theory the earth was originally surrounded by a canopy of vapor which intercepted the direct rays of the sun. The heat which penetrated the canopy was diffused so equally over all the zones of latitude, that the subtropical climate prevailed even in the high latitudes. This canopy served to bring about conditions similar to those in a hot-house with a temperature of about 72 degrees F. The chemical rays of the sun, especially those most active in the aging of living things and those that bring about decay and fermentation, were intercepted by the canopy; and as a result, men and animals lived to great ages. Storms and rain were unknown in the world of Adam, and hence the rainbow was first seen on the day that Noah left the ark. Extremes of cold and heat were not possible. In the Flood, all this changed. The canopy collapsed and was the chief source of the floodwaters. The immediate effect of the removal of the canopy was a radical climatic change. Now the seasons became sharply divided and there was from now on "a seed time and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter" (Gen. 8:22).

     It has also been suggested that the phrase "the waters which were above the firmament" (Genesis 1:7) is intended to imply a kind of "sea" or continuous "body" of water, the counterpart of the seas which were below. Between was that part of the atmosphere which permitted birds to navigate with full visibility. We are therefore to assume that the canopy did not reach down to the level of the land, as a low-lying fog, but remained some distance above the ground providing a ceiling. The waters of the seas, and the watery canopy, were th
     Harold Blum pointed out that the composition of the atmosphere, with respect to the proportions of carbon dioxide and free oxygen, can profoundly modify the temperature at the earth's surface, and how this in turn need have been only a few degrees higher or lower to bring about a marked change in climatic conditions so far as living organisms are concerned.
(19) Early man lived in the shadow of the great sheets of ice which still covered vast areas of the land surfaces. There is still no real certainty about the causes of these ice ages which have periodically plagued the earth. But, as Kenneth Macgowan says, one hypothesis is that there was a decrease in the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. (20) Bruckner calculated that summers in the last period of glaciation were only 4 degrees Centigrade, or about 7 degrees Fahrenheit, colder than they are today. This

18. Rehwinkel, Alfred, The Flood, Concordia, St. Louis, 1951, p.12.
19. Blum, Harold, Time's Arrow and Evolution, Princeton University Press, 1951, p.92.
20. Macgowan, Kenneth, Early Man in the New World, Macmillan, New York, 1950, p.92.

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shows how sensitively balanced the economy of nature really is.
     In a word then, we do not really know what the atmospheric conditions were that prevailed from Adam to Noah. This might be thought to tell against the hypothesis that the climate in those days was different in some way that encouraged longevity. Actually the reverse is true For it means that we have some justification for postulating a different world, even though we have no means just now of ascertaining what kind of a world it was.
     One further aspect of the problem of aging should be mentioned briefly, namely, the influence of the "rate of living." Referring once more to the work of Clive McCay, we may note that when he divided litter-mate rats into two groups, one which was fed a normal diet and the other a diet limited in calorie content, the latter group lived longer.
(21) Similar studies with the water flea Daphnia and other invertebrates show essentially the same effect. Commenting on these results, Albert Lansing observed: (22)

     The experiments confirm what has been suspected for a long time, and there is some significant relation between the growth processes and aging. . . .

     That the growth rates of early man from Adam to Noah may have been slower is suggested by the longer period of childlessness prior to the birth of a firstborn, a period averaging some 117 years approximately.

     2. Inbreeding. We come now to a factor which, if we allow for the sake of argument that men did once live for centuries, was probably paramount in the reduction of longevity. We shall make one further assumption however. The first man and woman as they came from the creative hand of God were physiologically perfect and began their existence without any mutated genes.
     Almost at once, when sin had entered, gene mutations would begin to appear. It is estimated that something like 10 gene mutations take place in each new generation. These become cumulative, since each generation inherits a quota of the new mutations and adds those taking place in themselves. Lammerts and Sinclair, in a paper published by the American Scientific Affiliation, observed:

     As long as a perfect world existed, complete balance was possible. But with the entrance of sin, a vicious unbalance began leading to a more and

21. Quoted by Albert Lansing, ref.14, p.38.
22. Ibid., p.42.
23. Lammerts, Walter E., and Sinclair, John C., "Creation in Terms of Modern Concepts of Genetics and Physics," Journal of the American Scientific Affiliation, September, 1953, p.9.

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more imperfect relation of the gene system with the environment both internal and external. Even the very basic system of gene reproduction by chromosome division and transmission became subject to flaws and imperfections. Hence we witness the large number of mutations which are mostly defective in one way or another.

     There is one sure way to reveal the presence of lethal mutations in a population. Willard Hollander, in an article on this subject, remarked: (24)

     The quickest way to expose lethal traits is by intensive and continued in-breeding. In man such matings are generally illegal or taboo; the experience of the race indicates bad results. But brother-sister matings in animals, and self-pollination in plants are a standard laboratory practice. The outcome is generally detrimental, unless it has become customary in the species. When in-breeding begins, the heredity seems to be breaking down, all sorts of defects and weaknesses appear. The average life span decreases. . . .  But if the family can weather the first few generations (five with plants, and ten with animals) a leveling off sets in. Members of the family may show defects and weaknesses but not new ones, and there is a striking uniformity. The type has become fixed.

     Note that ten generations are required to complete the breakdown, after which the process slows up significantly and finally levels off. More recently Maynard Smith is reported as stating: (25)

     In laboratory stocks, heterozygosity appears to be the most important single correlate of long life, which is part of the general complex found in hybrids.

     To state it more simply, unrelated parents tend to produce long-lived children, and related parents short-lived children. The most important single factor in this question is the degree of relatedness of the parents.
     Now, an analysis of the data given in various chapters of Genesis, reveals some striking facts. Taking the figures of ages as they stand in the Massoretic text, which provided the basis of the Authorized and Revised Standard Versions, we have a means of establishing a genealogical tree of the descendants of Noah's family in the line of Shem for some 15 generations, for whom the ages at the time of death are given. Curiously enough, beyond this, it is not possible to determine, except possibly by inference, the total life span of an individual, not even of such great figures as Solomon or David. It seems as though the actual life span of representative individuals in this initial period were given for a specific reason, after which no

24. Hollander, Willard, "Lethal Heredity," Scientific American, July, 1952, p.60.
25. Smith, Maynard, "Biology of Aging," Nature, vol.178, 1956, p.1154.

     pg.14 of 18     

purpose would have been served by their inclusion except to satisfy idle curiosity.
     Assuming as the record implies, that this new "world" was to be re-peopled from a small family of only eight souls who had survived the Flood, there would be of necessity a high degree of inbreeding at first which would however slowly reduce as the population multiplied.
     There is no reason to suppose that Shem's wife was too closely related to him, and therefore their son Arphaxad was not a child of inbreeding in any significant sense, though he was born perhaps into a new atmosphere and hence his shorter life.
     From then on, however, inbreeding would begin to take effect, for Arphaxad must either have married a sister or a first cousin.
     The statement is made in Genesis 6:3, that the new normal life span of man was to be settled at a maximum of 120 years. The Authorized Version (KJV) does not make this too clear, though the Hebrew is fairly certain, and its meaning has been properly rendered in the Revised Standard Version. Arphaxad, having married a "blood relative," had a child Salah whose total age is given as 433 years. Then follows a list of descendants, the tenth generation from Arphaxad being reached as shown in the chart at Jacob, who died at 147 years old. The ages of two children of Jacob are then given and their average is found to be 123.5 years. That is to say, the ten generations reveal, probably as a result of inbreeding, a steady drop in longevity until individuals appeared whose life span hovered around the appointed 120 years maximum. Thereafter the graph smoothes out. As soon as we reach Moses -- a significant point in the history -- the appointed span is reached almost exactly by the two whose names are given. Joshua fell below. At this point the record ceases to provide any further information, the limits of Genesis 6:3 having been reached (see Fig. 1), with one exception, that of Jehoiada (2 Chronicles 24:15) whose life span had exceeded his allotment. It will be noted that for the eleventh to fifteenth generations inclusive, taking all the ages given for these five generations, the average life span is found to be 123 years.
     It is difficult to imagine how this rather striking phenomenon, the significance of which could hardly have been recognized till modern times, could have been fabricated by some author or authors who wished to add a supposed dignity to the patriarchs by giving them a fictitious longevity in keeping with the claims made by their contemporary historians.
     At the same time, there are ten generations from Adam to Noah,  

     pg.15 of 18     


     pg.16 of 18     

but the phenomenon of reduction in longevity did not apparently take place. What could have been the reason? Perhaps it is again a matter of genetics.
     Assuming Adam and Eve were originally without mutated genes, any genes which may have mutated within their lifetime would not automatically be at the same loci. Each would experience a different set of mutations. Thus when they mated, the chance of genes of a like locus being mated to have a lethal effect would be very small, and brother-sister marriages or the subsequent marriages of closely related persons would not be serious. It will be noted that such marriages were not forbidden until after the Flood.
     By the time of the sixth or seventh generation, when the chances were higher that lethal mutations would be brought together in a single individual by inheritance (if the parents were closely related), the population would be large enough so that people did not have to marry those who were closely related to them, and indeed probably did not do so. The life span did not therefore drop, though the whole population was carrying an increasing number of mutated genes, for each man or woman was inheriting many of the genes mutated in their forebears and adding to the pool those mutating in their own bodies during their lifetime.
    But when the population was reduced to eight people only, at the time of the Flood, and close intermarriage became necessary, these genes began to be exposed homozygously, and lethally; and reduced viability resulted until the new population found its new norm after ten generations. The curve is a normal one, and appears undoubtedly to represent a historical sequence. Its remarkable form, considering the antiquity of the data from which it has been derived, supports the genuineness of the record and tends to establish three facts: (1) that the Flood did reduce the population to a single family of small size; (2) that the original life span was 600 years or more; and (3) that the record of names and ages is not a literary invention, but factual -- with no extensive gaps -- in fact with no gaps at all if the figure of ten generations has any real genetic significance in an inbreeding population of mammals.
     Furthermore several doubles of names and ages are given. They appear at significant points. At the end of the ten generations, Jacob is preceded by Isaac and Ishmael, both of the same generation, who nicely straddle the curve to even it out, and immediately after Jacob two more are given, whose average confirms the line. Therefore, at the point which marks the transition, a cluster of ages is given as though to define the curve more clearly.  

     pg.17 of 18     

     But what is perhaps even more surprising is the fact that once the life span had dropped below the appointed maximum, the record of ages at death (with the one exception noted above) ceases entirely. Nor is it given even for national heroes. Job, who must undoubtedly be placed back somewhere in Abraham's time, is only said to have exceeded 140 years (Job 42:16). But this is quite in keeping with the ages reached by those who lived in that generation, and is in a way a confirmation of the fact that Job is truly patriarchal in this sense.
     It is remarkable, therefore, that in those far-off days where one might expect to find the least specific information, the exact ages have been carefully recorded. As soon as the later historical times are under review, where such exact information would most certainly be in official records, the statement of ages is carefully ignored. In the light of these observations, it seems that the information must have been given for good reason and ought not to be lightly set aside as of no historical importance. For genetics, and for anthropology, these early records may be very significant.  

     pg.18 of 18     

Copyright © 1988 Evelyn White. All rights reserved

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