Age of Patriarchs

By Dr. Elaine Follis

Categories: Abraham and Sarah, Noah, Old Testament


Why did Noah, Abraham, Sarah and others live so long? Noah starts building an ark at 480 years of age. Sarah gives birth to a son at age 90. Are these real ages?


Some say the numbers are literal. Some say they are total fabrication.

In between are ideas like this:

  • Numbers are symbolic of a 'long time.' (But then, why so specific??)
  • The numbers reflect the time span of direct descendents. (This is nice because it goes along with the family solidarity that characterized the Hebrew sense of things; but if true, the numbers should decrease by generation--and they don't always do that.)
  • A year is not the same today as it was then. (Then, there were lunar--not solar--years. But the difference between lunar and solar time is not large enough to account for the long years.)

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