Methuselah

Methuselah
Children Lamech, and other sons and daughters
Parents Enoch

Methuselah (Hebrew: מְתוּשֶׁלַח / מְתוּשָׁלַח, Modern Mətušélaḥ / Mətušálaḥ Tiberian Məṯûšélaḥ / Məṯûšālaḥ ; "Man of the dart/spear", or alternatively "his death shall bring"[1]) is the oldest person whose age is mentioned in the Hebrew Bible. Extra-biblical tradition maintains that he died on the 11th of Cheshvan of the year 1656 (Anno Mundi, after Creation), at the age of 969, seven days before the beginning of the Great Flood.[2] According to Rashi on Genesis 7:4, God delayed the Flood specifically because of the seven days of mourning in honor of the righteous Methuselah. Methuselah was the son of Enoch and the grandfather of Noah.

The name Methuselah, or the phrase "old as Methuselah," is commonly used to refer to any living thing reaching great age.

Contents

Methuselah in the Bible

Methuselah is mentioned in one passage in the Hebrew Bible, Genesis 5:21–27, as part of the genealogy linking Adam to Noah. The genealogy is repeated, without the chronology, at 1 Chronicles 1:3, and also appears at Luke 3:37. The following is taken from the King James Version of the Bible.

(21) And Enoch lived sixty and five years, and begat Methuselah: (22) And Enoch walked with God after he begat Methuselah three hundred years, and Enoch begat sons and daughters: (23) And all the days of Enoch were three hundred sixty and five years: (24) And Enoch walked with God: and he [was] not; for God took him. (25) And Methuselah lived an hundred eighty and seven years, and begat Lamech: (26) And Methuselah lived after he begat Lamech seven hundred eighty and two years, and begat sons and daughters: (27) And all the days of Methuselah were nine hundred sixty and nine years: and he died. (KJV)

The verses are available in three manuscript traditions, the Masoretic, the Septuagint and the Samaritan Torah. The three traditions do not agree with each other. The differences can be summarized as follows:[3]

Text Age at son's birth Remainder of life of Methuselah Age at death Comment
Masoretic 187 782 969 Methuselah died in 1656 AM, the year of the Flood at the age of 969
Septuagint (Alexandrinus) 187 782 969 Methuselah dies in 2256 AM, six years before the Flood (2262 AM)
Septuagint (Vaticanus) 167 802 969 Methuselah dies in 2256 AM, fourteen years after the Flood (2242 AM)
Samaritan 67 653 720 Methuselah dies in the year of the Flood (1307 AM)

There have been numerous attempts to account for these differences – the most obvious being accidental corruption by copyists and translators. Some errors may be the result of mistaken attempts to correct previous errors. Gerhard Larsson has suggested that the rabbis who translated the Septuagint from Hebrew to Greek in Alexandria around the 3rd century BC, aware that the Egyptian historian Manetho makes no mention of a Deluge, lengthened the patriarchs' ages to push back the time of the flood to before the first Egyptian dynasty.[4]

Extra-Biblical mentions

Methuselah appears in two important Jewish works from the 3rd and 2nd centuries BC. In the Book of Enoch,[5] Enoch (as the narrator) tells Methuselah of the coming worldwide flood and of the future Messianic kingdom. The Book of Jubilees names Methuselah's mother and his wife – both are named Edna – and his daughter-in-law, Betenos, Lamech's wife.

The 17th century midrashic Sefer haYashar ("Book of Jasher")[6] describes Methuselah with his grandson Noah attempting to persuade the people of the earth to return to godliness.[7] All other very long-lived people died, and Methuselah was the only one of this class left.[8] God planned to bring the flood after all the men who walked in the ways of the Lord had died (besides Noah and his family).[9] Methuselah lived until the ark was built, but died before the flood, since God had promised he would not be killed with the unrighteous.[8] The Sefer haYashar gives Methuselah's age at death as 960[10] and does not synchronize his death with the flood.

The Sumerian king list mentions a character named Ubaratutu who seems almost identical to Methuselah. He was the son of Enmunderana the Sumerian Enoch, and king of Sumeria until the flood swept over the land. Although their ages are different their father and year of death remain the same.[citation needed]

Interpretations

Bartolomé Bermejo, Christ Leading the Patriarchs to Paradise, c. 1480. In this depiction of the Harrowing of Hell, Methuselah is portrayed as leading the procession of the righteous behind Christ, along with Solomon, the Queen of Sheba, Adam and Eve.

The meaning of Methuselah's age has engendered considerable speculation, but no widely accepted conclusions. These speculations can be discussed under four categories and their combinations: literal, mistranslation, symbolic, and fictional interpretations.

Literal

Literal interpretations take Methuselah's 969 years to be exactly 969 solar years. This conflicts with the current human lifespan. Some literalists suggest possible naturalistic explanations: the patriarchs had a better diet, or a water vapor canopy protected the earth from radiation prior to the Flood.[11] Others introduce theological causes: man was originally to have everlasting life, but sin was introduced into the world by Adam and Eve, its influence became greater with each generation, and God progressively shortened man's life, particularly in the postdiluvian era.[12]

Mistranslation

Some believe that Methuselah's extreme age is the result of an ancient mistranslation that converted "months" to "years", producing a more credible 969 lunar months, or 78½ years,[13] but the same calculation applied to Enoch would have him fathering Methuselah at the age of 5[14] using numbers from the Masoretic Text. Another commentator[15] suggested that the Genesis 5 numbers "might for convenience have all been multiples of 5 or 10". If the Septuagint numbers are divided by 10, Enoch's 165 when he fathered his son would be 16½ years, and Methuselah's 969 when he died would be 96.9 years.

Another commentator[16] argued that the Septuagint Genesis 5 numbers are in tenths of years, which "will explain how it was that they read 930 years for the age of Adam instead of 93 years, and 969 years for Methuselah instead of 96 years, and 950 years for that of Noah instead of 95 years"... "Surely it is much more rational to conclude that Noah lived 50 years instead of 500 years before he took a wife and begat Shem, Ham, and Japheth." Table III[17] lists the Septuagint total ages with decimal points: 93.0 for Adam, 91.0 for Cainan, 96.9 for Methuselah, 95.0 for Noah, etc. Another commentator[18] provided a similar table of the same Septuagint Genesis 5 numbers with decimal points inserted in the same tenth position.

Symbolic

Symbolic interpretations begin with the observation that the Biblical chronology routinely uses numbers for their symbolic value: for example, 10 symbolizes completion, 8 symbolizes the mundane world, and 7 the divine. So Methuselah's father Enoch, who does not die but is taken by God, is the seventh patriarch, and Methuselah, the eighth, dies in the year of the Flood, which ends the ten-generational sequence from Adam to Noah, in whose time the world is destroyed.[19]

Fictional

Among those who believe that all the numbers of Genesis 5, including Methuselah's age, have no meaning at all, Kenneth Kitchen calls them "pure myth",[20] Yigal Levin believes they are intended simply to speed the reader from Adam to Noah,[21] and Claus Westermann believes they are intended to create the impression of a distant past.[22]

Derivative words

The word "Methuselarity" was coined by Aubrey de Gray to mean a future point in time when all of the medical conditions that cause human death would be eliminated and death would occur only by accident or homicide.[23]

See also

References

  1. ^ Cornwall and Stelman Smith, The Exhaustive Dictionary of Bible Names
  2. ^ Methuselah dying before the flood is based on the Masoretic Text of Genesis 5 and his dying after the flood based on the Genesis 5 numbers in the Lucianic Septuagint (Codex Vaticanus).
  3. ^ Taken from the table in Gerald Hasel, "Genesis 5 and 11: Chronolgenealogies in the Biblical History of Beginnings
  4. ^ Quoted in the website of the Institute for Biblical and Scientific Studies
  5. ^ "The Book of Enoch". http://www.heaven.net.nz/writings/thebookofenoch.htm. Retrieved 2006-08-29. 
  6. ^ Sefer Ha-Yashar: Or, the Book of Jasher (1887), Salt Lake City: J. Parry & Co.
  7. ^ (Jasher 5:7)
  8. ^ a b (Jasher 5:21)
  9. ^ (Jasher 4:20)
  10. ^ (Jasher 5:36)
  11. ^ John C. Whitcomb, Jr. and Henry M. Morris, "The Genesis Flood" (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1961), 399–404
  12. ^ Pilch, John J. (1999). The Cultural Dictionary of the Bible. Liturgical Press. pp. 144–146. ISBN 0814625274. 
  13. ^ Hill, Carol A. (2003-12-04). "Making Sense of the Numbers of Genesis". Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith 55: 239. 
  14. ^ Morris, Henry M. (1976). The Genesis Record: A Scientific and Devotional Commentary on the Book of Beginnings. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House. p. 159. ISBN 0801060044. "Such an interpretation would have made Enoch only five years old when his son was born!" 
  15. ^ "The Numbers of Genesis V 3-31: a Suggested Conversion and Its Implications", Donald V. Etz, Vetus Testamentum, Vol 43, No 2, 1993, pages 171-187, abstract
  16. ^ Ellen H. Bennett, Science of Knowledge and Reason, 1897, London, England, pages 32-34
  17. ^ Ellen H. Bennett, page 34
  18. ^ Robert M. Best, Noah's Ark and the Ziusudra Epic, 1999, page 108
  19. ^ Abraham Malamat, “King Lists of the Old Babylonian Period and Biblical Genealogies,” Journal of the American Oriental Society 88 (1968): 165. See also the discussion of "ten" in the Gen. genealogies in M. Abot section 5, Jacob Neusner, The Mishnah: A New Translation (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1988), 685. Duane A. Garrett also thinks this is deliberate, thus indicating redaction, Rethinking Genesis: The Sources and Authorship of the First Book of the Bible, Ross-shire, Great Britain: Christian Focus Publications, 2000, p. 99.
  20. ^ K. A. Kitchen, Ancient Orient and Old Testament (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1966), 40
  21. ^ Yigal Levin, “Understanding Biblical Genealogies,” Currents in Research: Biblical Studies 9 (2001): 33
  22. ^ Westermann, Genesis 1–11: A Commentary, 354
  23. ^ "The singularity and the Methuselarity: similarities and differences", Aubrey D N J de Grey, Studies in Health Technology and Informatics, 2009, 149, pages 195-202.

External links


Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Methuselah — (englisch für Methusalem) ist der Name einer Langlebigen Kiefer (Pinus longaeva), die im Inyo National Forest in der höchstgelegenen Region der White Mountains zwischen Nevada und dem Death Valley in einer Höhe von über… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Methuselah — • One of the Hebrew patriarchs, mentioned in Genesis 5 Catholic Encyclopedia. Kevin Knight. 2006. Methuselah     Methuselah     † …   Catholic encyclopedia

  • METHUSELAH — (Heb. מְתוּשֶׁלַח), patriarch of mankind, son of enoch , father of lamech , and grandfather of noah (Gen. 5:21–25). The name has been variously explained as meaning man of the weapon or man (worshiper) of (the deity) Salah. Methuselah in the… …   Encyclopedia of Judaism

  • Methuselah — [mə tho͞o′zə lə, məthyo͞o′zə lə] n. [Heb methūshelaḥ, lit., ? man of the dart, or ? man of Shelah (a Babylonian deity)] 1. Bible one of the patriarchs, who lived 969 years: Gen. 5:27 2. [usually m ] Winemaking a large wine bottle, esp. one for… …   English World dictionary

  • Methuselah —    The term methuselah in general conversation today is taken to mean a very old man, possibly incredibly old. According to the Bible (Genesis 5:27), Methuselah lived 969 years, which makes him the oldest figure in the Bible: When Enoch had lived …   Dictionary of eponyms

  • Methuselah — /meuh thooh zeuh leuh, thoohz leuh/, n. 1. a patriarch who lived 969 years. Gen. 5:27. 2. an extremely old man. 3. a very large wine bottle holding 61/2 qt. (6 l). * * * Biblical patriarch who lived to the age of 969. The son of Enoch, he is… …   Universalium

  • Methuselah — noun 1》 a very old person. 2》 (methuselah) a wine bottle of eight times the standard size. Origin 1930s: from the biblical patriarch Methuselah, said to have lived for 969 years (Gen. 5:27) …   English new terms dictionary

  • Methuselah — Me|thu|se|lah [ˌməˈθju:zılə US ˈθu: ] n as old as Methuselah very old …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • Methuselah — noun as old as Methuselah very old …   Longman dictionary of contemporary English

  • Methuselah — UK [məˈθjuːzələ] / US [məˈθuzələ] mainly literary someone who is very old • Etymology: In the Bible, Methuselah was a man who lived for 969 years …   English dictionary


Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.