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Q&A: An Objection To My Genesis 5 Paper

Concerning the post entitled: Genesis 5 – The Case For Long Ages Being An Instance Of Biblical Numerology

When Adam and Eve took their gift of free will and chose to disobey the authority of God, they chose to do what they selfishly wanted to do for their own perceived good and gain. This effectively separated them spiritually from God. This separation from God is spiritual death. It is a fact that Adam and Eve “died” upon eating the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. It wasn’t an immediate physical death (although physical death was introduced into the race and the world as a result) but instead it was an unseen but definitely felt spiritual death. Genesis 3:22 (NIV), “And the LORD God said, ‘The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.’” Physical death was a result of God withdrawing man’s access to the tree of life. Because they had perfect bodies from before the Fall, the process of aging went on longer than it does this side of the Flood.

But sin, when given enough time, will corrupt relatively quickly. Look at how bad humanity became before the flood when people lived hundreds of years! People lived longer so sin manifested to such a greater degree that according to Genesis 6:5 (NIV), “The LORD saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time.”

Right before the flood God said in Genesis 6:3 (NLT), Then the LORD said, “My Spirit will not put up with humans for such a long time, for they are only mortal flesh. In the future, their normal lifespan will be no more than 120 years.” Our life span is shortened so that sin will not consume us to the degree it did with pre-flood humans. This was a deliberate decision by God that this man ignores. If he is an expert then he should know this verse and explain it away like he’s trying to do with other scriptures. He would have to explain it away to hold to his views.

So if this writer proposes that the pre-flood people whom the Bible says lived hundreds of years really didn’t live hundreds of years, then he is at odds with those who say that the “day” in Genesis 1 is thousands or millions of years. This is because Adam was alive on day six and certainly lived to day seven. But if a day in the creation week is thousands or millions of years, then Adam should have an age of hundreds or thousands or more of our present 365-day kind of years. But this guy says, no! They had ordinary life spans like us.

He says: “In this paper, I will make the case that the original author and audience did not take these ages to be literal sums of solar years the characters lived, but that the numbers carried special symbolic significance. Numbers had special meanings to the biblical authors, and they employed them in a number of ways to telegraph certain points.”

Such confusion! How can anyone know what the truth is? The obvious response from listening to these opposing views is confusion. The rational conclusion after hearing these opposing and liberal views is that no one can know the truths of the Bible for sure – just believe what these Bible “experts” say because they have devoted their lives to their studies. Sounds to me like the Pharisees and experts on the law in Jesus’s day imposing their view of truth on the masses and then looking down at the masses as being uneducated and therefore unable to understand the scriptures like they do because they devoted their lives to the study of scripture. This confusion is not good for inquiring minds trying to understand the Bible coming into the faith, and a stumbling block for the rank and file Christians who are left wondering what parts of the Bible they can believe and what parts are going to be explained away by a cerebral scholar. I have a real problem with this writer. I am not impressed by scholarly degrees and education. There are many false and liberal professors in Bible colleges and seminaries these days. This sounds like one of them.

BTW, I know that there is significance to numbers in the Bible. i.e. 7, 40, etc. But this looks like an inappropriate twisting of numerology to push a point.

  • Robert

I am not sure why you’re referring to me in the third person Robert. Perhaps you think Cerebral Faith has a staff and it’s one. If so, you’re mistaken. It’s just me; Evan Minton. I run the whole show. It can get a little stressful having to do everything (it’s becoming a full-time job, actually), but Christ helps me.

First, I don’t think Genesis 6:5 is saying that God shortened peoples’ lifespans. I realized you quoted from the New Living Translation rather than The King James Version or English Standard Version, which are word for word translations. The NLT is a thought-for-thought translation for the purpose of trying to make The Bible a lot more reader-friendly. Unfortunately, if the translators themselves misinterpret what the text said, they’re not going to illumine the meaning of scripture, but obscure it. Look at how this text is rendered in more literal word-for-word translations

Genesis 6:3 in The New International Version reads “Then the LORD said, “My Spirit will not contend with humans forever, for they are mortal; their days will be a hundred and twenty years.”

in The English Standard Version, it reads “Then the LORD said, “My Spirit shall not abide in man forever, for he is flesh: his days shall be 120 years.”

and in The King James Version, it reads “And the Lord said, My spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh: yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years.” 

So the text could be interpreted in one of two ways; (A) God either shortened the lifespans after the flood in order to curb the amount of evil humans can commit (so much sin, so little time) or (B) God declared a period of grace humanity would have to repent prior to the flood coming. 

The latter is how Brian Godawa parses it in his book When Giants Were Upon The Earth, a book containing the historical and biblical facts and research undergirding his Chronicles Of The Nephilim novels. Just based on how the text is literally worded, either interpretation of Genesis 6:3 could be adopted. Ergo, it isn’t a silver bullet proof text against a non-literal reading of the ages in Genesis 6:5. 

Secondly, do humans even need centuries to perpetuate an insanely evil and debauched society? Think of the great Holocaust caused by Hitler, the atrocities of Rhanda, the evil that Nero Ceasar inflicted on first century Christians, and the horrors the Japanese army inflicted on the Chinese.

I don’t think humans need to live past 100 for a society to be described as in Genesis 6:5 (NIV), “The LORD saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time.” Just think of our modern American civilization or the morality of The Roman Empire. 

Thirdly, you wrote \\\\“So if this writer proposes that the pre-flood people whom the Bible says lived hundreds of years really didn’t live hundreds of years, then he is at odds with those who say that the “day” in Genesis 1 is thousands or millions of years. This is because Adam was alive on day six and certainly lived to day seven. But if a day in the creation week is thousands or millions of years, then Adam should have an age of hundreds or thousands or more of our present 365-day kind of years.“\\\\

— Yes, so what if I am at odds with those who adopt The Day-Age Interpretation of Genesis 1? So what if I’m at odds with those who think the days in Genesis 1 are millions and millions of years? I think that interpretation is wrong anyway. As I argue in depth in my paper “Genesis 1: Functional Creation, Temple Inauguration, and Anti-Pagan Polemics”, I believe Genesis 1 is not about natural history, it’s not about how God materially brought about the cosmos and all that it contains into being, rather, Genesis 1 is about God assigning functions to everything that already materially exists, and he does so over 7 24-hour days as part of an inauguration ceremony inaugurating the cosmos as God’s temple. God assigns functions to all things (creates, makes) over 6 days, and on the 7th, He rests in the universe as His temple after creating an image of himself on the previous day (i.e Genesis 1:26-27), as was common for gods to do in The Ancient Near East. I also believe that Moses made the effort to take jabs at the pagan creation myths of his time such as The Baal Cycle and The Enuma Elish.

I implore you to actually read my arguments for this interpretation rather than dismiss it with a wave of the hand and call it idiosyncratic. 

But, my point here is that you seem to think Old Earth Christians are monolithic on how to interpret Genesis 1. That is not the case. I do take the days of Genesis 1 as 24 hours, but they’re 24 hours of functional origins, not material origins. The material manufacturing phase took place chronologically prior to Genesis 1. How long? The Bible leaves that an open question. 

However, I don’t think one needs to hold that the Genesis 1 days are 24 hours in order to make sense God saying to Adam “in the day you shall eat of it, you will die”. Hebrew scholars have noted that the verse could be translated “dying you shall die” as even some Young Earth Creationists such as Terry Mortenson have said (see here –> “Clearly in the context of Genesis 3, Adam and Eve died spiritually instantly—they were separated from God and hid themselves. Their relationship with God was broken.” 

Finally, your concern about knowing what the Bible says. Neither I nor any biblical scholar would say that “no one can know the truths of the Bible for sure” and just to believe the experts. Many of scriptures truths can be readily discovered and known by any Bible reader. We can know that God created all things, that Jesus is God yet distinct from The Father (John 1 seems clear enough on both of these counts), that Jesus died on the cross to atone for our sins (1 Peter 3:18, Romans 5:8, 1 John 2:2) and on the third day rose from the dead (Matthew 28, 1 Corinthians 15:3), ascended into Heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father, and will one day come again and the dead will rise (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). We can know that all human beings are sinners (Romans 3:23 seems clear enough) and that it’s only by belief in Jesus can we gain eternal life (John 3:16, John 3:36, Ephesians 2:8-9). 

Anyone of any education level can know these things just by cracking open The Bible and reading. As Christian Apologist Dr. Frank Turek frequently says, “the main things are the plain things and the main things are the plain things”. The most important truths God wants us to know from The Bible are clear cut and plain. Everything we need to know to be saved, to cultivate a strong relationship with God, and to live a holy life, can be gleaned from the pages of holy writ without ever having herd a single sermon or read a single commentary.

However, not all things are clear from scripture. Some things require heavy duty exegesis. Some things can’t be fully understood unless you do your homework. Christians have realized this for years. The early church father Tertullian is quoted as saying “Scripture is shallow enough for a baby to come and drink without fear of drowning, but deep enough for men to swim in without ever touching the bottom.” The famous preacher Charles Spurgeon said “No one outgrows scripture. It widens and deepens with our years.” 

On the one hand, Paul says “But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them; And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.” (2 Timothy 3:14-15, KJV, emphasis mine). On the other hand, the apostle Peter says “As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction.” (2 Peter 3:16, KJV, emphasis mine). 

One should not reject an interpretation of a biblical passage purely on the basis that it’s non-intuitive or requires some thinking through. One needs to engage with the arguments and evidence given in favor of that interpretation. And you haven’t really done this. You haven’t engaged with the reasons given in favor of a numerological interpretation of the ages. 

For example, one argument I gave is that in Genesis 25:7, it said Abraham lived to be 175 years old. Now, if the extremely long ages of Adam Seth, Enosh, Keenan, and the others were literal, then this means that Abraham died extremely young compared to them. 175 would be like a baby to those who live close to a thousand years old. If the Ages were literal, it makes no sense to say that Abraham died at a good old age. It would be like if we said that someone today died at a good old age if they died at the age of 25 instead of 80.  

And in Genesis 17:17, Abraham laughs at the thought of siring children since he’s 100 years old. But, if the ages in Genesis 5 were literal, surely Abraham would have known that many of his ancestors sired children long after they had their 100th birthday. 

These two points in my paper paved the way for the plausibility of a non-literal reading. If a literal reading is implausible, then a non-literal reading seems open to investigation, wouldn’t you say? 

And isn’t it odd that all of the ages end with a 0,2, 5, 7, or 9? Kenton Sparks says it’s .00000006% possible that the numbers should just line up with a 0, 2, 5, 7, and 9. It is fantastically improbable that these numbers just so happened to be the ages at which these men literally died. 

Before I end my response, I should note that this is not a hill I’m willing to die on. I’m willing to adopt the ages as literal if that is where applying the rules of hermeneutics takes me. I took them literally for years. Although I’ll never convince many fundamentalists and Young Earth Creationists, The Bible is my ultimate authority on matters of faith and practice. I believe The Bible is true from the first verse of Genesis to the last verse of Revelation And if I have misinterpreted it, then I’ll change my view.

If you have any questions about Christian theology or apologetics, send Mr. Minton an E-mail at It doesn’t matter whether you’re a Christian or Non-Christian, whether your question is about doubts you’re having or about something you read in The Bible that confused you. Send your question in, whatever it may be, and Mr. Minton will respond in a blog post just like this one.

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