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Biblical longevity
Name Age LXX
Methuselah 969 969
Jared 962 962
Noah 950 950
Adam 930 930
Seth 912 912
Kenan 910 910
Enos 905 905
Mahalalel 895 895
Lamech 777 753
Shem 600 600
Eber 464 404
Cainan 460
Arpachshad 438 465
Salah 433 466
Enoch 365 365
Peleg 239 339
Reu 239 339
Serug 230 330
Job 210? 210?
Terah 205 205
Isaac 180 180
Abraham 175 175
Nahor 148 304
Jacob 147 147
Esau 147? 147?
Ishmael 137 137
Levi 137 137
Amram 137 137
Kohath 133 133
Laban 130+ 130+
Deborah 130+ 130+
Sarah 127 127
Miriam 125+ 125+
Aaron 123 123
Rebecca 120+ 120+
Moses 120 120
Joseph 110 110
Joshua 110 110

Methuselah or Metushélach (Hebrew: מְתוּשֶׁלַח / מְתוּשָׁלַח, Modern Mətušélaḥ / Mətušálaḥ Tiberian Məṯûšélaḥ / Məṯûšālaḥ ; "Man of the dart/spear", or alternatively "when he dies/died, it shall be sent/has been sent") is the oldest person whose age is mentioned in the Hebrew Bible, given as 969 years. Extra-biblical tradition records that he died on the 11th of Cheshvan of the year 1656 (Anno Mundi, after Creation), 7 days before the beginning of the great Flood.[1] According to Rashi on Gen. 7:4, The Holy One delayed the Flood specially because of the 7 days of mourning for the righteous Methuselah in his honour. Methuselah was son of Enoch and the grandfather of Noah.

The name Methuselah has become a general synonym for any living creature of great age.

Methuselah in the Bible

Methuselah is mentioned in one passage in the Hebrew Bible, Genesis 5:21-27, as part of the genealogy linking Adam to Noah. The genealogy is repeated, without the chronology, at 1 Chronicles 1:3, and also appears at Luke 3:37.

(21) And Enoch lived sixty and five years, and begat Methuselah: (22) And Enoch walked with God after he begat Methuselah three hundred years, and Methuselah begat sons and daughters: (23) And all the days of Enoch were three hundred sixty and five years: (24) And Enoch walked with God: and he [was] not; for God took him. (25) And Methuselah lived an hundred eighty and seven years, and begat Lamech: (26) And Methuselah lived after he begat Lamech seven hundred eighty and two years, and begat sons and daughters: (27) And all the days of Methuselah were nine hundred sixty and nine years: and he died.
The verses are available in three manuscript traditions, the Masoretic, the Septuagint and the Samaritan Torah. The three traditions do not agree with each other. The differences can be summarized as follows:[2]

Text Age at son's birth Remainder of life Methuselah Age at death Comment
Masoretic 187 782 969 Methuselah dies in 1656 AM, the year of the Flood
Septuagint (Alexandrinus) 187 782 969 Methuselah dies in 2256 AM, six years before the Flood (2262 AM)
Septuagint (Vaticanus) 167 802 969 Methuselah dies in 2256 AM, fourteen years after the Flood (2242 AM)
Samaritan 67 653 720 Methuselah dies in the year of the Flood (1307 AM)

There have been numerous attempts to account for these differences - the most obvious being accidental corruption by copyists and translators. Some errors may be the result of mistaken attempts to correct previous errors. Gerhard Larsson has suggested that the rabbis who translated the Septuagint from Hebrew to Greek in Alexandria around the 3rd century BC, aware that the Egyptian historian Manetho makes no mention of a Deluge, lengthened the patriarchs' ages to push back the time of the flood to before the first Egyptian dynasty.[3]

Extra-Biblical mentions

Methuselah appears in two important Jewish works from the 3rd and 2nd centuries BC. In the Book of Enoch,[4] where Enoch (as the narrator) tells Methuselah of the coming worldwide flood and of the future Messianic kingdom. The Book of Jubilees names Methuselah's mother and his wife - both are named Edna - and his daughter-in-law, Betenos, Lamech's wife.

The 17th century midrashic Sefer haYashar ("Book of Jasher"),[5] describes Methuselah with his grandson Noah attempting to persuade the people of the earth to return to godliness.[6] All other very long-lived people died, and Methuselah was the only one of this class left. [7] God planned to bring the flood after all the men who walked in the ways of the LORD had died (besides Noah's nuclear family). [8] Methuselah lived until the ark was built, but died before the flood, since God had promised he would not be killed with the unrighteous. [9] The Sefer haYashar gives Methuselah's age at death as 960[10] and does not synchronize his death with the flood.

Interpretations

The meaning of Methuselah's age has engendered considerable speculation, but no widely accepted conclusions. These speculations can be discussed under four categories and their combinations: literal, mistranslation, symbolic, and fictional interpretations.

Literal

Literal interpretations take Methuselah's 969 years to be exactly 969 solar years. This conflicts with evidence that a lifespan of centuries is not currently possible. Some literalists suggest allegedly naturalistic explanations: the patriarchs had a better diet, or a water vapor canopy protected the earth from radiation prior to the Flood.[11] Others introduce theological causes: man was originally to have everlasting life, but sin was introduced into the world by Adam and Eve, its influence became greater with each generation, and God progressively shortened man's life.[12]

Mistranslation

Some believe that Methuselah's extreme age is the result of an ancient mistranslation that converted "months" to "years", producing a more credible 969 lunar months, or 78½ years,[13] but the same calculation applied to Enoch would have him fathering Methuselah at the age of 5.[14]

Symbolic

Symbolic interpretations begin with the observation that the Biblical chronology routinely uses numbers for their symbolic value: for example, 10 symbolizes completion, 8 symbolizes the mundane world, and 7 the divine. So Methuselah's father Enoch, who does not die but is taken by God, is the seventh patriarch, and Methuselah, the eighth, dies in the year of the Flood, which ends the ten-generational sequence from Adam to Noah, in whose time the world is destroyed.[15]Template:Request quote

Fictional

Among those who believe that all the numbers of Genesis 5, including Methuselah's age, have no meaning at all, Kenneth Kitchen calls them "pure myth",[16] Yigal Levin believes they are intended simply to speed the reader from Adam to Noah,[17] and Claus Westermann believes they are intended to create the impression of a distant past.[18]

See also

References

  1. Methuselah dying before the flood is based on the Masoretic Text of Genesis 5. He died after the flood based on the Genesis 5 numbers in the Lucianic Septuagint.
  2. Taken from the table in Gerald Hasel, "Genesis 5 and 11: Chronolgenealogies in the Biblical History of Beginnings
  3. Quoted in the website of the Institute for Biblical and Scientific Studies
  4. "The Book of Enoch". http://www.heaven.net.nz/writings/thebookofenoch.htm. Retrieved 2006-08-29. 
  5. Sefer Ha-Yashar: Or, the Book of Jasher (1887), Salt Lake City: J. Parry & Co.
  6. (Jasher 5:7)
  7. (Jasher 5:21)
  8. (Jasher 4:20)
  9. (Jasher 5:21)
  10. (Jasher 5:36)
  11. John C. Whitcomb, Jr. and Henry M. Morris, "The Genesis Flood" (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1961), 399-404
  12. Pilch, John J. (1999). The Cultural Dictionary of the Bible. Liturgical Press. pp. 144–146. 
  13. Hill, Carol A. (2003-12-04). "Making Sense of the Numbers of Genesis". Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith 55: 239. 
  14. Morris, Henry M. (1976). The Genesis Record: A Scientific and Devotional Commentary on the Book of Beginnings. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House. p. 159. "Such an interpretation would have made Enoch only five years old when his son was born!" 
  15. Abraham Malamat, “King Lists of the Old Babylonian Period and Biblical Genealogies,” Journal of the American Oriental Society 88 (1968): 165. See also the discussion of "ten" in the Gen. genealogies in M. Abot section 5, Jacob Neusner, The Mishnah: A New Translation (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1988), 685. Duane A. Garrett also thinks this is deliberate, thus indicating redaction, Rethinking Genesis: The Sources and Authorship of the First Book of the Bible, Ross-shire, Great Britain: Christian Focus Publications, 2000, p. 99.
  16. K. A. Kitchen, Ancient Orient and Old Testament (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1966), 40
  17. Yigal Levin, “Understanding Biblical Genealogies,” Currents in Research: Biblical Studies 9 (2001): 33
  18. Westermann, Genesis 1-11: A Commentary, 354

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