There is historical evidence that supports the accuracy of the document we know as the book of Genesis. One of the most challenging chapters to the modern reader is Genesis 5 where Adam to Noah’s genealogy lists people as living 930, 910, 969, etc. years. Our natural tendency is to see this as mythology, allegory, or just exaggerated record keeping. Before we reject the accuracy of this genealogical document inside the book of Genesis there are a few things we should consider.
One, this is an age that is far removed from our world today. Assuming the creation account is true and accurate then this genealogy is recording the first 10 generations of human existence. That means Adam, who was created perfect with no genetic flaws, is living and reproducing on the earth. How many genetic flaws are a perfect man and a perfect wife going to hand down to the next generation? None. Comparing this to our world where genetic problems are a daily source of medical and scientific research if is only obvious these people would live longer.
Two, sin was introduced when the first man disobeyed God. In addition to separating mankind from God, this sin corrupted man and his environment. Sin brought a growing destructive force to the human race both physically and mentally. Deterioration would continue through each generation. More than this, sin had an effect on the environment. New types of diseases are part of our modern world. There were no diseases in the Garden of Eden but since that time they have been consistently developing and growing. Quoting the United Nations Environment Program: “Changes to the environment that are sweeping the planet are bringing about a rise in infectious diseases. . . Ailments previously unknown in human beings are appearing. . .” (Feb. 22, 2005, see article here http://www.commondreams.org/headlines05/0222-02.htm ). So, in these first 10 generations disease was still a developing problem.
Third, today we are told to worry about the ozone layer. Quoting from NASA’s educational resources: “The ozone layer absorbs 97-99% of the sun's high frequency ultraviolet light , light which is potentially damaging to life on earth.” (http://www.nas.nasa.gov/About/Education/Ozone/ozonelayer.html ) According to the creation account in Genesis there was a layer of water in some form above the atmosphere surrounding the earth:
“And God said, ‘Let there be an expanse between the waters to separate water from water.’ So God made the expanse and separated the water under the expanse from the water above it.” (Genesis 1:6,7)
The “expanse” would be the atmosphere of the earth. In the next verse it is called “sky”. If the ozone layer in the atmosphere today protects us from ultraviolet light from the solar system then this layer of water (in some form) that God placed above the atmosphere would have done some filtering of dangerous waves. In the account of the flood Genesis 7:11 says “the great deep burst forth, and the floodgates of the heavens were opened.” The opening of heaven’s floodgates on the earth was the collapsing of the water above the atmosphere. It is interesting to note that life expectancy after the flood of Noah is cut in half. Noah’s son Shem lived 500 years and his grandson lived 403 years. (Genesis 11:10-22)
Fourth, in 1906 a list of kings who lived during the same time as the first ten generations was found in a temple library in Nippur of Sumer. (http://www.generationword.com/images/bible_school/sumer.jpg ) It is known as the Sumerian King List (http://www.livius.org/k/kinglist/sumerian.html ) It records eight kings who lived from the time “kingship had descended from heaven” up until “the Flood then swept over.” The number of the generations matches those listed in Genesis when the first man is added and the hero of the flood story is added to the eight. The length of each king’s reign is listed with the king’s name and his city. The length of their reigns is unbelievable even by biblical proportions: 28,800 years, 36,000 years, 43,200 years. What we do see here is:
a similar genealogy
a genealogy from the same time period
a genealogy from the same location
a historical document that had not been tampered with from the time of its writing on a clay tablet before 2,000 BC. There have since been 15 more ancient fragments of this same document found indicating it was a well copied document in the ancient world.
The Flood was an event recorded in ancient Sumerian documents. It is listed as occurring in the same generation as Genesis 5.
Concerning the number of years it is interesting to note that if the Sumerian King List were originally copied from a previous document that had recorded the numbers in a decimal system but the scribe wrongly used the sexagesimal system (http://www-groups.dcs.st-and.ac.uk/~history/HistTopics/Babylonian_numerals.html ) which is based on six or sixty instead of 10 to translate the numbers they would have gone from numbers very similar to Genesis 5 to the unbelievable numbers recorded now
( http://www.allaboutarchaeology.org/sumerian-king-list-faq.htm )
See galyn’s generation word notes here http://www.generationword.com/notes_for_notesbooks_pg/genesis/5_1.htm
Visit Generation Word’s home page here http://www.generationword.com/