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September 25, 2013 / conservadox

Dvar Torah Bereshit Part II

Scharfstein says something odd in commenting on the long life spans of Adam et al: “In the beginning, the air was pure and the streams and rivers were unpolluted.  The earth was fertile without impurities.  The first humans were vegetarians, and hard-working farmers and herders who performed physical tasks … Is it any wonder that under this ideal regimen, they lived to a ripe old age?”

There is a fine line between being accessible and being silly, and this passage crosses that line.  The evidence is pretty overwhelming that in agricultural, preindustrial societies people did not live as long as they do today- whether you look at Third World societies today, or whether you look at life expectancies hundreds of years ago.   Thus, there is no reason to believe that people living without modern sanitation or medical care would live 900 years or even 100 years.

So how do I explain these parts of the Torah?  Either:

1.  The Torah’s statements about long pre-Noah life spans are literally true and a miracle; or

2.  They are simply not literally true- either legends based on nothing, or they are based on a different conception of the word “year.”  (For example, if every month is a “year” for purposes of Bereshit), then an alleged 900-year life span is really 70 or 80 years.)

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