"Methusaleh lived 900 years... But these
stories you're liable To read in the bible, They ain't necessarily so." *
*Lyrics from "It Ain't Necessarily So", George Gershwin's PORGY &
BESS, c 1934
The enormous lifespans attributed to biblical men like Methuselah seem to belong
to the realm of myth rather than fact. And this biblical claim would have seemed even more
fantastic to George Gershwin who was born in 1896, when life expectancy was 47 years.
Since then, the average lifespan has grown to 75.8 years and the percentage of
people living past the age of 80 has increased to the point that our culture has not been
able to keep up with the needs of this fast-growing segment of our population. And
although antibiotics and some diagnostic procedures have played a role in this increased
longevity, experts agree that, for the most part, the enormous gains made in this century
have come about through vastly improved sanitary measures and a better understanding of
And the science of nutrition, which has already helped to dramatically increase
the human lifespan, is still in its infancy. Recommended daily dietary requirements were
first formulated in 1941 at the National Nutrition Conference in Washington D.C.
Since then, these dietary requirements have been dramatically revised and there is
a much greater emphasis on fruits, vegetables and grains. And along with this emphasis
there is the growing knowledge that meat-eating is harmful to the human organism; that it
is a major factor in the development of many diseases.
This identification of meat-eating with fatal diseases and lessened lifespans
correlates with the biblical record of longevity. The Bible shows the human lifespan
diminishing radically after the Great Flood. And it was only after the Flood that eating
the flesh of other creatures became the ubiquitous and acceptable way of life that it
In the time of Methuselah and his long-lived ancestors, eating flesh was still
understood to be a perversion of God's plan, and men obeyed the command given them by
their Creator to eat only the produce of the earth. But by the time of the Flood, human
standards had so deteriorated that the Bible reports: "The Lord saw how great
man's wickedness on the earth had become, and every inclination of his heart was only
evil." (Gen. 6:5)
And just as life after the Fall of Adam and Eve was life lived at a much regressed
level so, also, was life after the Flood. The violence and depravity that was rampant
before the Flood left its mark on the survivors. And the most chilling evidence of the low
estate to which man had fallen is related in the ninth chapter of Genesis.
"The fear and dread of you will fall upon all the beasts of the earth and
all the birds of the air, upon every creature that moves along the ground and upon all the
fish of the sea. Everything that lives and moves will be food for you." (Gen.
Because biblical scholars, like most people, have become desensitized to killing
and eating animals, they have interpreted the above passage of scripture as God's blessing
on man-turned-carnivore. But of course it is not divine approval: it is only an
acknowledgment of the low estate to which the human race had fallen.
Man's development had reached such a nadir that he would no longer observe the
natural law of his being. He would no longer restrict his diet to the things that had been
provided as his only legitimate source of food: "[To] everything that has the
breath of life in it, I give every green plant for food." (Gen 1:30.) After the
Flood, men no longer even tried to obey this command.
That refusal had an immediate effect on human life. From the time of creation to
the time of Noah, the Bible reports life spans of more than 900 years for men like Adam,
Seth, Enosh, Kenan and Jared. But after the Flood, when carnivorism became an acceptable
way of life, longevity decreased with every generation.
The Bible says that Noah's son, Shem, lived 600 years. Although he was born before
the Flood, his was the first generation to come to full maturity after the waters
subsided. And the effect of a carnivorous diet on the body of human beings who were
created to be herbivorous, was immediately apparent. Shem's life span was only two- thirds
of that of his forefathers. And his son, Arphaxad, died at 438 years of age. Raised from
birth in a carnivorous world, and subject all his life to a diet that was a perversion of
God's intent, his life span was less than one-half that of his ancestors.
By the time that Peleg, great-grandson of Arphaxad was born, the Bible reports
lifespans of only 200 plus, years. By then, the biological heritage that men and women
were passing on to their children reflected the damage that had been done by centuries of
eating the meat which has a toxic effect on the human body.
As time went on, the damage done by eating the flesh of other creatures continued
to take its toll. Men like Joseph and Moses, who are reported to have lived about 120
years, began to seem like models of longevity. And by the time King David died (circa 1000
B.C.) at 70 years of age, the Bible eulogizes him as having "died at a good old age,
full of days."
To the end of biblical times, those who lived to be seventy continued to be
thought of as having "died at a good old age." But in the three hundred years
between the death of Moses and the death of David, the lifespan had decreased by another
fifty years. This happened during a period of time when the amount of meat consumed by the
Israelites was radically increased. After Moses led his people to Canaan, they began a
settled life in the land. And when sacrificial "worship" became centered in
Jerusalem, the raising of animals for slaughter at the Temple became an extremely
Prophets like Isaiah, Amos, Hosea, and Micah told the people to stop killing
animals in the name of God. They denounced the sacrificial religion which made a mockery
of divine worship. Not only had human beings become inured to killing other creatures in
order to consume their flesh, they had made this perversion a religious duty: a holy
undertaking. But the people did not listen to the prophets, and the sacrifices continued.
By the time of Christ, the Jerusalem Temple had become a giant slaughterhouse.
The priests claimed that it was God who demanded the slaughter of animals; that it
was He who delighted in the tantalizing smell of roasting flesh. The following scripture
is typical of over thirty-five biblical passages that tell of God's pleasure in what was
essentially, a giant barbecue "Celebrate a festival to the Lord ...Present an
offering made by fire as an aroma pleasing to the Lord, a burnt offering of
thirteen young bulls, two rams and fourteen male lambs" (Numbers 29:12,13)
Needless to say, there is no report of God eating the animals--the people took care of
that part of the sacrificial ritual.
Most human beings no longer attribute their eating of flesh to the demands of God.
In our own day, when the claims of science outweigh the claims of religion, it is the
health professionals, not the priests, who promote the eating of meat. They have said that
men must consume flesh because it is a biological necessity; that animal protein is
absolutely necessary for optimum health.
Like the representatives of the medical establishment who year after year insisted
that smoking was not harmful, so also have health professionals refused to acknowledge
that the ingestion of flesh is toxic to the human body. Mainstream doctors and
nutritionists have begun to concede that plant foods contain substances which have
remarkable curative and preventative value. But they leave out the most important part of
the health equation. It is not only the addition of plant foods that works seeming
miracles--this must be balanced by the removal of flesh foods from the diet.
From teeth to arteries to intestines, human physiology confirms that man was not
created to be carnivorous; that his insistence on eating flesh puts an enormous strain on
the entire body. As this fact becomes more widely acknowledged, human beings will enjoy
healthier lives as well as an increased lifespan. And as vegetarianism becomes the norm,
each generation will reap the benefits not only of their own diet, but also of the
biological heritage bequeathed to them by vegetarian ancestors.
In the meantime, whether men kill and consume animals in the name of God, of
nutrition, or of gourmet cooking, the result is the same. They will suffer the
debilitation, disease and early death that results from this perversion of the natural
laws that govern the human body.
But the biblical injunction "Be not deceived, God is not mocked;
Whatsoever a man soweth,that also shall he reap," has a positive, as well as a
negative aspect. When human beings have chosen to nourish their bodies in the way they
were created to be nourished, they will reap the benefits of a longer lifespan as well as
a greatly enhanced quality of life. And they may find that Methuselah really did live nine
Reprinted from the Nov./Dec. 1997 issue of Humane Religion. Copyright 1997 by
This article is available in pamphlet form which may be reprinted and distributed
for educational purposes.