Why Were People Older In The Bible Than Now?


“Why were people in the Bible older than people are now?”

ANSWER 1 Dr. John Baumgardner

“Good question!  If we consider the human lifespans after the Flood, especially in Genesis chapter 11, we observe that they decreased dramatically from Noah (950 years, Genesis 9:29) to Abraham (175, Genesis 25:7) years.  Something significant obviously happened, either during the Flood itself or in the centuries immediately after the Flood that caused the human lifespan to decrease drastically.  Dr. John Sanford, a Christian geneticist has concluded the most likely cause was the rapid accumulation of harmful mutations in the human chromosomes during these centuries immediately after the Flood due to high levels of radiation in the environment.  I concur that this is the most likely cause we can currently identify. I was a member of the Radioisotopes and the Age of the Earth (RATE) research project conducted from 1997 to 2005.  Based on several separate lines of radioisotope evidence, we concluded that a vast amount of radioactive decay logically must have occurred during the year of the Flood.  The layer of water beneath the ark, however, protected Noah, his family, and the animals on the ark from the high levels of radiation that were coming from the earth’s rocks during that year.  However, after Noah, his family, and the animals disembarked from the ark, radiation levels in the environment, although much, much lower than during the Flood, nevertheless were high enough to cause significant numbers of genetic mutations in humans and other living things for several centuries after the Flood.  John Sanford and I suspect that these mutations after the Flood, which accumulated generation after generation, because of the genetic damage they caused, were responsible for the decrease lifespan with each successive generation.   I trust this is helpful.  Blessings”

ANSWER 2 Dr. John Morris (ICR)


There’s much we don’t really know are told that all about those ancient days which were so different from today, but we do know some things.

The world before the Great Flood  was not at all like today. The only things we can know for sure is from the Bible, God’s account of what the world was like. We know that the ground was much more fertile so the fruits and vegetables were more nutritious and healthy. Folks would have grown bigger and lived longer than we do today. Also, the air pressure would have been more than today. This would be more healthy than we experience. Often hospitals give high air pressure to help people heal.

Sam, we are still learning important things about health and aging. There’s so much more to learn. I trust you will be strong in the Lord and in His Word and solve some of these remaining problems. Go get ‘em!”

ANSWER 3: Dr. Jay Nicholson:


You have asked a very good question that many adults wonder about. From a strict science perspective, we have no idea why people that lived before the flood lived longer than people live today. Many secular scientists would state there is no merit to the Biblical text in Genesis that people lived 8-900 years and that there is no known mechanism by which people could even possibly live that long. That being said, there is no reason that we should doubt what the Bible says. The Bible is God’s Word to the people He created. What we know based on God’s Truth is that people did live significantly longer before the flood and that after the flood the maximum life expectancy dropped to approximately 120 years. The Flood was a pivotal point in the history of God’s Creation. Basically, everything changed during that period of time. The world in which we live today is probably very different than the pre-flood world. We can’t quantify all the differences since we don’t have detailed observations from that period of time. We only have what is recorded in the book of Genesis and the focus of the writer was not on recording a detailed set of observations of the world, but on the actions of man and the human condition. Basically, everything that is stated about the pre-flood world, other than what is specifically written in Genesis is speculation. Consequently, for us to try to explain why man can no longer live to 900 years also would be speculation. Paul mentions in his writings that there are “mysteries” and things that we will not understand in this life. I would say that your question falls into this category. I’m very much looking forward to Heaven, and I really hope that I can take Biology 101 from the Creator of the Universe! Then I’ll know how to better answer your question. 🙂


ANSWER 4 Dr. Jay Wile:

Hello Sam,
That is an excellent question!  The great men who are discussed in the Old Testament are often referred to as “Patriarchs.”  Many of them lived to be quite old, and most creation scientists would agree that this is because their DNA was not as deteriorated as ours is today.  You see, when God created Adam and Eve, their DNA was ideal.  However, as time has gone on, mutations have accumulated in our DNA.  As the number of mutations in our DNA increase, we become less healthy overall, and our lifespans decrease.  Thus, you would expect that as history progressed, human lifespans would decrease.  This is exactly what we see for most of human history.  Lifespans decreased from the time of the Patriarchs until we started learning about medicine, sanitation, etc.  At that point, lifespans started to increase, because medicine, sanitation, and those kinds of things helped to make up for our declining overall health.  Medicine can’t fix all the damage that mutations have done, however, so lifespans will never reach those of the Old Testament Patriarchs.
If you are interested, I have a longer discussion of this here:
ANSWER 5  Mark Armitage, M.S., Ed.S.
“Hi, Sam. The truth is we really don’t know exactly why the patriarchs lived longer in the Old Testament than we do today. Those kind of long lives certainly did not continue after the great Flood, however.
We do know that God told Adam and Eve that they would “surely die” if they ate from the forbidden tree. So we have to assume that God was right and that they would begin to live shorter lives and start to decay after they disobeyed, were forced out of the Garden and no longer had access to the Tree of Life. Before they sinned, they had no sickness, no decay and no shortening of life. I guess it is always good to obey God if we want to live long, happy lives.
One other “educated guess” that we have is that after the Flood, there were more mutations in the DNA of the descendants of Noah and his sons and their kids – so those mutations could not have been could and could have shortened life spans a great deal. Similarly, less good food, and the influences of pests, poisons and disease could have also shortened life spans. Truly we can only guess at the reasons, but God will make it clear to us one day! GREAT question, Sam.”
ANSWER 6 Dr. Terry Hurlbut

“An excellent question, Sam.

To answer this, first you must understand that, at a particular event in Earth’s history, conditions in our atmosphere and “biosphere” (the thin film around the earth where all life exists) underwent a radical change. That event was the Global Flood.

Before the Flood, God made everything perfect. (Hebrew: mo’ed tov, meaning of absolute, surpassing, and un-improvable excellence). In particular, the earth had no such things in it as “radioactive elements.” Matter in the early earth did not decay, as so much of it does. Every atom was just the right size. Proteins folded just so, as they must so they can do their work for you. And never would one atom in the middle of a molecule abruptly transform into another.

The Flood changed all that.

Walter T. Brown, Jr., PhD (In the Beginning: Compelling Evidence for Creation and the Flood) describes this change. The parts that relate to your question are these:

The early earth had one land mass. Parts of this were laden with quartz, and with many “heavy metals.” (The next time you look at a Periodic Table of the Elements, you can see what we call the Heavy Metals in their particular region in the Table.) Now when you deform quartz in any way, you make electricity. We white-smocks call that piezoelectricity, meaning electricity made under pressure or tension (literally, “pulling”). Deform quartz enough, and you can generate the kind of electricity you find only in certain kinds of nuclear reactors. These are the reactors that actually change some metals into other metals. (The alchemists of the Middle Ages wanted to change cheap metals into gold and silver. Today we change some of the heaviest metals into metals like americium, which people can do things with other than just look at it with curiosity.)

Now then: the Global Flood began a crack in the land mass, that went all the way through it in a matter of seconds. Out of this crack came water–tons and tons and tons of it, which had lain buried fifty or sixty miles underground. These are the “fountains of the great deep”–though instead of “fountains” that word should be “springs.” So fast did that water gush up–thirty-two times as fast as sound!–that the two edges to either side started to flutter, like paper caught in the rushing air from an electric fan. (Try it. Hold a piece of paper closer to an electric fan, or the blowback from a room air conditioner, and watch what happens to it.)

Well, as you can imagine, that produced earthquakes stronger than anything anyone has ever felt since then–ten or a hundred times as strong as the recent Japan Earthquake. Those quakes acted on all that buried quartz, and turned the heavy metals buried into it into a state of matter we call plasma–which means something you shape and mold. (The root of that word is the same place we get our word plastic.) To get plasma, you strip all the electrons away from the atoms. In that state, those heavy metals actually fused, a thing most heavy metals cannot ordinarily do. They formed elements too heavy to stay together for any length of time. Those metals split apart, to form at least two of the radioactive elements we know today: uranium and thorium. (Those two are far and away the most abundant radioactive elements in all the earth’s crust.) And because the environment was still subject to those tremendous electric fields, those elements decayed–rapidly–to form all the naturally occurring radioactive elements–elements heavier than lead–we know today.

What’s more, all those reactions released a lot of neutrons. The water in the “springs of the great deep” took most of these up. But a lot of lighter elements took up the rest. So you got heavy isotopes (heavier forms of natural elements) and in some cases radioactive isotopes of lead and even lighter elements.

You also got carbon-14 as a product of cluster decay. Cluster decay is any sort of decay between alpha and beta decay (helium and free electrons) and outright fission–when an atom splits down the middle or close to it.

Now what do you think that did to living things? Well, when plants started to take in carbon-14 to make their sugars and other good things that nourish us, we took in the carbon-14, too. So suddenly an atom of carbon, in the middle of an enzyme, a muscle molecule, or other vital molecule, changes into a nitrogen atom. At the molecular level, as you can imagine, that ruins everything! And I haven’t even mentioned the radiation hazard from the carbon-14 throwing off a free electron.

And those heavy isotopes? A protein made with that kind of atom will be too heavy to fold properly. So it won’t work properly. Biochemical reactions don’t run as fast as they should. Muscles can’t work as hard. (How do you think a rope could hold if you suddenly started breaking its strands while it was holding a load?) Result: people die earlier than they otherwise would.

So human beings, who lived an average of 900 years old before the Flood, are blessed to live to be a hundred today.

This didn’t happen all at once. It didn’t affect Noah; he already had all his molecules when the Flood happened. (He was 599 years old when it happened–“in the six hundredth year in the life of Noah.”) But his son Shem got some of the effect, and lived only 600 years. His grandson Arphaxad lived an even shorter time. And on and on and on.

But, I hear you ask, how can we possibly be sure? Well, there’s a way, but it would cost a lot of money. Build a terrarium as well-sealed as the Biosphere Two experiment you might have heard or read about. Keep out all the carbon-14 from its atmosphere. Make sure you have only regular isotopes–not too heavy, not too light–to make up its soils and everything else you put in it. Now release some small animals into it–mice, maybe. Watch how long these mice live in successive generations. If Dr. Brown and I are right about this, the grandchildren and great-grandchildren of the mice you release into that terrarium should live significantly longer than their ancestors did.

How about it? Does that make you want to grow up to raise money to try that experiment? Actually, I hope I leave you with this bit of practical advice. In a very real how-to-keep-the-doctor-away sense, you are what you eat. Be extra careful what you put into your mouth, and where it came from.

Can anyone do anything about the radioactive carbon and the heavy isotopes? Only God can. The prophet Isaiah, for one, hinted that God willdo something about it after His Second Coming. Remember what Jesus told us: “With man, these things are impossible. But with God, all things are possible.”

Things To Look Up:

  • Radioactivity
  • Alpha particle
  • Beta particle
  • Cluster decay
  • Fission
  • Uranium
  • Thorium
  • Americium
  • Synthetic elements”

ANSWER 7 Dr. Donald Deyoung

Some have questioned the accuracy of the stated lifespans of Old Testament pre-flood people, However these ages are literal and true. Early in history, people had not yet accumulated the genetic mutations which gradually wear us down. Early people simply lived closer to the original, perfect creation of mankind. I expect these men and women also used more of their brain power then we do today. We presently are a ‘mere shadow” of the advanced abilities of our early ancestors.
There may be additional factors responsible for longer lifetimes in the past. Early people may have been shielded from various types of space radiation. Also there are indications the the early earth may have had an atmospheric pressure several times its present value. Studies show that such a high “hyperbaric’ air pressure is beneficial to health.
Finally, Genesis Genesis 6:3 may indicate that human lifetimes were resent to 120 years (+ or -) by the Creator himself so as to prevent the extreme evils that developed in the pre-flood world. Genesis 6:5 states that hearts had become evil “all of the time.”