The Bible, Science, and the Ages of the Patriarchs -- By: Bert Thompson

Journal: Bible and Spade (Second Run)
Volume: BSPADE 06:1 (Winter 1993)
Article: The Bible, Science, and the Ages of the Patriarchs
Author: Bert Thompson

The Bible, Science, and the Ages of the Patriarchs

Bert Thompsona


As one reads through the Bible, he is sometimes confronted with statements, situations, or events which seem at first glance to be either impossible or improbable when viewed from a modern, 20th-century vantage point. One good example of such an occurrence might be the statements of Scripture regarding the ages of several of the Old Testament patriarchs.

Genesis 5 records that prior to the Flood, people typically lived for hundreds of years, with the average age of the antediluvian patriarchs (not including Enoch, who was taken into heaven without dying) being 912 years. As Leupold has observed, “At once we are struck by the longevity of these patriarchs; all except three lived in excess of 900 years. It is useless to attempt to evade this fact” (1942:233).

Leupold’s observation that it is “useless to attempt to evade the clear statements of Scripture regarding the long life spans of the patriarchs” is correct, of course, in the sense that no one can deny that the Bible attributes long ages to many of the ancient patriarchs. The Bible specifically states that Adam, for example, lived 930 years (Gn 5:5), Methuselah lived 969 years (Gn 5:27), etc. However, as Leupold himself discussed in his two-volume Exposition of Genesis, some have suggested that while the Bible says these old worthies lived to be vast ages, that is not what it means. In other words, while the Biblical statements themselves on these matters are clear, their meaning is not.

This is the case, we are told, because it is a matter of record that men today do

not live to be centuries old. Thus, some have suggested that the Biblical record is unacceptable, and therefore needs to be “fixed,” or “explained,” to bring it into line with modern scientific facts on these matters, and to make its message palatable to people of our day and age. What recourse is available, then, to the person who discovers that there is disagreement between plain, historical statements of Scripture and modern scientific pronouncements?

First, one might simply acknowledge that the Bible is inspired of God (2 Tim 3:16–17), and as such is accurate in its renderings. If such a person has studied the matter(s) at hand, and is assured that his understanding of Scripture is accurate, he ...

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