Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login

As a side thread, regarding Jeanne Calment, here's a more in depth article about whether she was actually the oldest person in the world: https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2020/02/17/was-jeanne-cal...

I find it compelling, or at least plausible, that she wasn't actually the oldest person ever. Mainly just on the math of if, that if expected years remaining reduces exponentially as a function of current age, there would have to be many more people closer to the oldest age than there are.

It's an inserting article, but I come out of it on the other side of you. The descriptions from the people who lived with Jeanne and Yvonne for decades make it sound too impossible for someone to have made the switch described. Living this long could just be like winning the lottery. Sure it is incredibly unlikely that any one person would win, but when someone does win that doesn't mean it's fraud. After all in this case we all buy a ticket.

I do not believe her age is correct; the Bible states that man's maximum lifespan is now 120:

> Genesis 6:3

> 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.

I know you're getting down voted for not providing evidence / not being scientific, but I've always wondered how that number made its way into the Bible. Were people really living to 120 back when Genesis was written 3500 years ago?

There is the idea in the Bible that in the time before the flood people were somehow greater. They were bigger and lived longer. Here is a quote from Noah's genealogy for instance from the New Revised Standard Version, Genesis chapter 5.

"21 When Enoch had lived sixty-five years, he became the father of Methuselah. 22 Enoch walked with God after the birth of Methuselah three hundred years, and had other sons and daughters. 23 Thus all the days of Enoch were three hundred sixty-five years. 24 Enoch walked with God; then he was no more, because God took him. 25 When Methuselah had lived one hundred eighty-seven years, he became the father of Lamech. 26 Methuselah lived after the birth of Lamech seven hundred eighty-two years, and had other sons and daughters. 27 Thus all the days of Methuselah were nine hundred sixty-nine years; and he died."

After the flood things changed, and you don't have these incredibly long lived people anymore.

People seem to forget the story states it never rained before the flood and that a mist covered everything. Indeed, there wasn’t enough direct sunlight for a Rainbow until the flood.

Regardless of whether it’s true or not, the story is describing a different type of earth; one covered with dense clouds that all precipitated at once, flooding the world and, ever since, exposing everything to UV radiation which obviously would have an enormous deleterious impact on lifespans.

There's a bit of a rabbit hole to go down about the question of ages in Genesis, touching on some neat topics such as Base-60 counting systems used by ancient Sumerian civilizations. Here's a nice start : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uoPbZnRN8xQ

It is really a Western culture thing to put great exactness on numbers. There is also the possibility that timekeeping was off compared to today, and so with those two factors in mind, it might not be unreasonable to assume that many people (at least knew someone who) lived to their 80's-90's, which in turn would make it 120 years with some great give-and-take. I think this is the argument of Dr John Oakes (disclaimer: doctor in chemistry, not theology).

A personal hypothesis is that according to the Bible, Moses lived to be 120 years, and as he was a salvific figure (not divinely) to the Jews him living to the maximum age is a pretty cool point.

Anyway, it kind of begs the question: how Jacob came to be 130 (Genesis 47:9), when max age was 120? Perhaps Genesis 6:3 was talking about something else, then? Theories include how much time was left in the life of Adam (the word used for man is in the singular number with the definite article, which could be translated as "the man Adam", instead of mankind). So it might be saying that Adam had 120 years left to live in. Another interpretation is that God gives mankind 120 years of repentance, and then the flood waters would come.

Either way, it's a good question. 120 seems to have some significance in the Bible. 2 Chronicles 5:12-13 mentions Solomon's temple, where there were 120 priests singing in unity. In Acts 1:15 there were 120 people that Peter talked to. The book of revelation mentions that 12 000 from each tribe will be saved, for a total of 144 000 people (12 x 12000).

Thanks for the prompt, even though I have no answer.

Disclaimer: I am a Christian and in pursuit of my BTh, so I am probably biased.

Well, no. People often lived much longer, 500 or even 800 years…

But seriously it’s quite interesting that Moses number is so close to the current limit!

At best that says they could count to the rough age of their own eldest. At worst, it’s just the Texas sharpshooter fallacy — you don’t get brownie points for that when the same book also gave a size for Noah’s Ark roughly on par with Berlin Zoo’s rhino exhibit.

I don’t understand. Genesis is talking about the maximum age someone can live. And it turns put to be very close to reality. It’s not measuring two different things. You confuse me.

The Bible a as a whole is making a lot of claims, not just that one. You claim one example of being (close to) right (given a chalcolithic lifestyle and medicine) is “interesting” in isolation — but that ignores that it’s surrounded by nonsense.

It isn’t interesting or surprising that a collection of nonsense might be occasionally (and even then vaguely) correct.

Lottery players are occasionally correct about the numbers, even if they chose them by superstition. But even they don’t get to claim the jackpot when they choose and the drawn numbers are merely “close”. Yet being close is the first step in how superstitions get generated.

Likewise, the Bible: no more or less interesting than any other collection of Just So stories, fitting a narrative to an existing observation.

It gets super weird, the word we use for "really old", Methuselah, comes from a person mentioned in the bible as living to 969.

Noah was said to have reached over 900 as did Adam, etc.

But it's not like years were unknown to people in antiquity either. But maybe it's just something that we don't have a good translation for and "year" is a close enough guess.

For instance, someone who has lived to 80 has lived about 960 months, which, if you notice, is really close to 969. And people living to their 70s and 80s seems reasonable. Considering that life expectancy in the past typically jumped up once you reached adulthood.

It had nothing to do with lifespans.

The pronouncement related to the Flood: it occurred 120 years after the pronouncement.

There’s some confusion in the chronology, due to Noah’s genealogy, age, and the births of his sons being kinda garbled up in the same chapter. (That is, some might say the flood happened 100 years after the pronouncement instead of 120.)

But no fair reading would assume it has to do with lifespans as even in the authors time (Moses, presumably) people were living longer than 120 years. For instance, Sara lived to 127, Abraham lived to 175, and Jacob made it to 140 or so.

Probably not, but they also weren't good at keeping time.

Guidelines | FAQ | Lists | API | Security | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact