The Genesis 6:3 Problem?

Contradiction #5

Genesis 6:3

“Then the Lord said, “My Spirit will not contend with humans [man] forever, for they are mortal [flesh]; their days will be a hundred and twenty years.”

Now if you ask the majority of Christians about this passage, they would say this passage is in reference to a persons lifespan. That this scripture says Man is not live longer than 120 years. (I was one to believe this samething, that Genesis 6:3 was about a physical lifespan.) However not all Christians believe that.  There is a small, but growing group who believe that this passage is either referencing a spiritual lifetime or a timeframe to man’s destruction til the Great Flood. However there are some questionable things about this scripture, that needs to be answered.  (Here some are TWO Examples 1 and Example 2 of people trying to answer this same question, but not doing the same amount of critique.)

All together there are three running apologetic assumptions in regards to this scripture:

  1. Assumption/Theory 1- It is a Reference to a Natural Lifespan
  2. Assumption/Theory 2- It is countdown to the Flood and Noah’s Ark
  3. Assumption/Theory 3- It is a Reference to a Spiritual Lifespan

Assumption 1: Lifespan
Now in this assumption, Christians believe Gen 6:3 is a reference to the lifespan that God allowed a person to live.   That No man shall live longer than 120 years. Even though this is the most common interpretation of this scripture; it is the one with the most glaring contradictions.

1. Let’s start in Ps 90:10 that “Our days may come to seventy years or eighty, if our strength endures; …” So s it 70,80 or 120?

Well to some this is still not a contradiction because, Psalm 90:10 reference to an average approximation lifespan. Which makes sense cause it does imply if we stay spiritually/physically strong then our lifespan can be up to 70 or 80 years of age. So in this theory, to justify the two scriptures, Psalm 90:10 does not say the lifespan is 120, but that it’s an average lifespan up to 70-80 years.

2. Secondly even after Genesis 6:3 there were people who lived past 120 years of age. In chapter 11 of Genesis there’s a long genealogy between Shem and Abram where almost every person mentioned lives longer than 120 years, Shem lived to be 500, and several lived to be older than 400.

Maybe this curse in Genesis 6:3 wasn’t meant for the few descentdents after Noah.  Maybe it was an exception , to the few after the flood.  One interpretation of this was that that when God declares something it is not always immediate, maybe it was a form of exponential decay.  And it doesn’t necessarily mean it will happen starting with the very next person born. Yes this exception does make sense, but it may be too big of an exception to consider and the bible makes no direct mention of an exception like

Jeanne Calment on her 121st birthday

this.

3. And lastly, the most obvious contradiction to this theory is Jeanne Calumet who lived to the age 122. (February 21, 1875 – August 4, 1997).  And she probably won’t be the last to reach 120 years.

There are just too many inconsistencies for Genesis 6:3 to possibly be a reference to life span. Even if poiSo we know that this interpretation ofnt 1 & 2, were the exception, no apologetics could explain or justify point 3 of the longevity of Jeanne Calumet.

Assumption 2: The Flood

This assumption takes the stance that Genesis 6:3 was a reference to a count-down to the Flood and Noah’s Ark.  And that the flood was to occur in 120 years.  However the problem is that it should have taken nearly 120 yers to build the ark, but in actually in took under 100 years. And some think it may have taken much less than that. This would make the prediction off by atleast 20 years, which is as significant amount of time. We do know that up to 100 years may have passed between the time Noah has his children (Gen. 5:32) and the time the flood begins on the earth (Gen. 7:6). Additionally it seems plausible that God’s proclamation in this verse could have taken place 20 years prior to the birth of Noah’s children, as Genesis 5 is essentially a listing of descendants and does not necessarily come before Genesis 6 chronologically. If so, this could account for the 120 years, but this is really stretching it.  Noah would have needed some time to build the ark of course; though at some point his three sons could assist.  Furthermore, we read nothing in the text of repentance of others, nor even of Noah or his family calling others to repent with the flood coming.

Assumption 3: Spiritual Lifespan

Dennis McKinsey claims the reference is to God’s “spirit” and, his protective power & preservation (as in the spirit of God or Holy Spirit not soul).  And that this verse has nothing to do with “abiding” in man in the sense of an actual lifespan. But more over that the spirit of God remains with us ONLY the duration of 120 years. That this is meant to say that man would not be so led any longer; “for that he is flesh,” signifies because he had become corporeal & without God’s Spirit.  This even supports the notion that Psalm 90:10 & Genesis 6:3 neither are designed to be a reference to a finite lifespan. That it’s a poetical reference to lifespan & longsufering.

Now the Lord said ‘My spirit will not contend with humans[man] forever, and the definition of Spirit in Geneisis 6:3 means ‘breath; breath of air.’  So even though this brings into question the true context of this scripture {Cause one could interpret God’s Spirit as lose of breath or life} and this does pose as a possible contradtiction.  It still makes assumption #3 PLAUSIBLE.

However my biggest problem with this assumption is that its mostly not because it makes the most sense, but that it’s more chosen out of technical default, cause all the other assumptions have to many contradications.  I mean think about it – -this would would become corporeal creatures at the age of 120 years.  In my opinion this seems like a twisted and warped conclusion even in spite of no glaring contradictions.  

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About M. Rodriguez

When I first received Christ salvation, I made it a priority to read the whole bible and I did. But it was the Bible that made me question my faith. For I found it flawed and lacking. Due to this I launched a personal inquiry/investigation into my faith, and ultimately realized that the Christian God of the Bible was indeed man-made. Now I Blog about those findings and life after Christ.
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23 Responses to The Genesis 6:3 Problem?

  1. unklee says:

    Surely there needs to be a fifth option – that Genesis 1-11 is myth and we don’t need to look for mathematical facts within it.

    CS Lewis, perhaps the most influential christian of the 20th century, believed it was myth, though he hastened to add it was a God-inspired myth.

    • really I didn’t know CS Lewis felt this way on on the Genesis 6:3

    • REALLY…I didn’t know CS Lewis thought that way of Genesis 6:3.

      But ur right – that should be an option on the poll

      • unklee says:

        Here are a couple of quotes from CS Lewis:

        “The earliest stratum of the Old Testament contains many truths in a form which I take to be legendary, or even mythical – hanging in the clouds, but gradually the truth condenses, becoming more and more historical. From things like Noah’s Ark and the sun standing still upon Ajalon, you come down to the court memoirs of King David. Finally you reach the New Testament and history reigns supreme, and the Truth is incarnate. ….. what is everywhere and always, imageless and ineffable, only to be glimpsed in dream and symbol and the acted poetry of ritual becomes small, solid – no bigger than a man who can lie asleep in a rowing boat on the Lake of Galilee.”

        from ‘Is theology Poetry?’

        “The Bible, read in the right spirit and with the guidance of good teachers, will bring us to Him. When it becomes really necessary (i.e. for our spiritual lfe, not for controversy or curiosity) to know whether a particular passage is rightly translated or is myth (but of course myth especially chosen by God from among countless myths to carry a special spiritual truth) in history, we shall no doubt be guided to the right answer.”

        from a letter “to a lady”, 8 November 1952

  2. Ryan says:

    then where do people draw the line?

  3. Ryan says:

    Also are these ages really verified? Antisa Khvichava (born 8 July 1880) is a Georgian woman who is 130 years old, which would make her the oldest person of all time. Her passport is given as evidence. However it is claimed that it is likely that her birth records were either misrecorded or falsified. It is possible more people may be exposed as younger than they actually claimed or others claimed them to be.

    http://www.mostextreme.org/oldest_person.php
    .

    • yes they are, undisputed, Jeanne Calumet has been researched by multiple people, organizations and newspaper. And they all have confirmed and verified her age.

      I know there are reports of women in Japan, georgia, and afganistan to have live(d) to 145, but none of those are confirmed so nobody takes those serious.

  4. “The church says only God decides when it’s time to go. If that’s the case why have average life spans doubled in the last hundred years or so?”

    Anon.

    I saw this quote, I thought it would be fitting for the topic

  5. unklee says:

    I wonder which church says that and where? And I wonder whether we should believe that church has a right to speak on behalf of God?

    I would have thought the christian view is that God is sovereign over all things but that doesn’t take away the fact that human choice is also important – e.g the Bible says of Judas: The son of man must be betrayed, but woe to the one who betrays him”. I would add that God doesn’t always exercise his sovereignty to the full or else we’d have no freedom.

    So I don’t think “only God” decides, but our actions also decide.

  6. Jenni G. says:

    Just to throw another monkey wrench into the works, there are some Bible students who might point out that on other occasions it has been said that a day to God is as a thousand years to man. Multiply that kind of scale outward (120 years in human time is 43830 days, which becomes 43,830,000 years) and the end of humankind is so far out there as to be irrelevant to us.

    Ultimately, trying to make complete literal sense of a book in which symbolism is frequently use is an exercise in missing data.

  7. daveyork7 says:

    One thing that also needs to be mentioned is that almost all numbers recorded in the bible are approximate(“three days in the heart of the earth”-for an example). I myself, having been married to a Filipina for 23 years am used to a an agriculturally based society which thinks like this. If they say something starts at six for instance it could mean anytime around that, even up to an hour before or after, or more! That tends to happen when you get up with the sun, stop work when it’s dark, and don’t wear a watch.

  8. kusina says:

    stop being baby Christians and rely on the Holy Spirit to teach you not ppls opitions.Are u Spirit filled?.Don’t use ur physical mind to understand the things of God u will end up nowhere and very confused.Let me give u a clue that has always worked -THE BIBLE INTERPRETS IT’S ITSELF.ask the Holy Spirit genuinely for any thing u don’t understand and relax (no hocus pocus or magic and he will lead u to the right place in the bible for interpretation).pliz note this is not some ppl interpreting the Bible for u but God(it has always worked for me).if in doubt i can give u millions of proof that even scientists and Archaeologist are catching up with the Bible.pin point Accurate

    • M. Rodriguez says:

      In all sincerity this is not a baby Christian question, this is Meat. now i’ve been told by many, that it is only by the spirit, that can I interpret it or it is only by faith that I can understand the scriptures. Fine, I’ll concede that….Since you are one who is spirit filled, can you please interpret and reconcile the Genesis 6:3 problem?

      oh and just to let you know….”The spiritual does not come first, the physical(natural) does, and then comes the spiritual.” – 1 corinthians 15:46

  9. J says:

    Just wanted to mention that through the whole article the author references Genesis 6:30 instead of Genesis 6:3, might want to correct that!

  10. Kevin McCabe says:

    Genesis 5 ends with this statement:
    Genesis 5:32 And Noah was five hundred years old, and Noah begot Shem, Ham, and Japheth.

    And we know Noah’s age when the flood came, thanks to Genesis 7
    Genesis 7:6 Noah was six hundred years old when the floodwaters were on the earth.

    Now God’s statement regarding not striving and His speaking to Noah are both recorded in Genesis 6

    Genesis 6:3 And the LORD said, “My Spirit shall not strive with man forever, for he is indeed flesh; yet his days shall be one hundred and twenty years.”

    Genesis 6:13 And God said to Noah, “The end of all flesh has come before Me, for the earth is filled with violence through them; and behold, I will destroy them with the earth.

    Now it is TEMPTING to say that God spoke to Noah between ages 500 and 600, because Genesis 6 falls between those two “end points”, and then come to the conclusion that it could only have been one hundred years—not one hundred and twenty years.

    HOWEVER, Several things should be noted.

    #1 God doesn’t necessarily speak to Noah until 6:13, while the 6:3 statement precedes that.

    #2 Is probably more significant, and that is that Genesis 6 does a “reset”, as it starts to recount the story of man’s wickedness from earlier point in time.

    Genesis 6:1-3 Now it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born to them, [2] that the sons of God saw the daughters of men, that they were beautiful; and they took wives for themselves of all whom they chose. [3] And the LORD said, “My Spirit shall not strive with man forever, for he is indeed flesh; yet his days shall be one hundred and twenty years.”

    So we can’t assume that something stated in Genesis 6 comes chronologically between statements in Genesis 5 and 7. Certainly, men did not start multiplying after Noah was 500 years old! Since the events referenced in verses 6:1 and 2 preceded Noah’s 500th birthday, there is no problem understanding that verse 3 could have as well. I believe that verse 3 is more tightly coupled to Genesis 6:1 and 2 than Genesis 5:32, therefore, too me, it is quite plausible that God’s announcement to destroy came 120 years prior to the flood.

  11. Loren says:

    I think you nailed it Kevin. I didn’t understand the article’s claim that this view was “really stretching it.” It is the most logical view and the easiest to defend.
    One contradiction that failed to be mentioned was concerning the assumption of the 120 years as referring to the spiritual life of man. This is easily refuted by the lives of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, et. al., who handily eclipsed that age barrier. Surely no one would claim that God removed His Spirit from these men!

  12. Joe says:

    it should have taken nearly 120 years to build the ark<—this comment alone indicates the complete ignorance of the whole article. Why would anyone think a wood ark would take 120yrs to build. 3 men can easily frame a ranch style/size home from foundation to roof in 10-12 days and an ark is going to somehow take 120 years? In building Ranch house years that would be about 4,000 homes. Now take those houses and stack them 50 cubits/75feet wide 30 cubits/45 feet high and as long as they will go lengthwise and how many arks would you get..you'd get a fleet of them is what you'd get. Stop watching t.v. and listening to idiots or you'll keep writing this mislead krap. oh yeah, where did your other article say I can purchase a bridge to the moon? I hear they're cheap this time of year….ugh

  13. Will O. says:

    As a guest to this site, I am very intrigued and impressed by both the questions and answers I have found here. I see very little in the way of antagonistic put downs between believers and non-believers and am happy to be able to say that! Very interesting thoughts…I will only add a brief two-cents. For those visiting this site: God says repeatedly throughout scripture that those who seek Him with everything they have will find Him (Matt 7:7). I believe that the only way to prove God to be a liar/non-existent is to take Him at His word and see if He is reliable. By choosing to look for the God of the Bible or the truth (that He exists or does not exist), a person must be honest with themselves and willing to know the truth no matter the cost–not even if there really is a God who allows sin to exist so that we might have the option of choosing to love Him. Such a reality is perhaps too complex for the human mind to fathom, and yet, in my experience, no one who has honestly appraised the facts and sought God has failed to find out that He exists and that “He is the rewarder of those who seek Him (Hebrews 11:6).”
    To seek God with everything does not mean petitioning God once for something and then rejecting God outright after He fails to “deliver”. If you still have breath in your body, you have enough power to continue seeking God. In fact, the only time a person can truly say “I told you so! God is not real!” is when they have died, and nothing happens to them (i.e. they simply cease to exist), meaning that the God of the Bible is not true. If such were the case, it would seem that the hypothetical individual would lose nothing in their quest for truth–they would discover the truth, one way or another, and would feel no sadness or pain or elation at finding out that there was no God. Furthermore, such an individual would have devoted their life to the most worthy pursuit imaginable–the understanding of the question with utmost importance (the existence of God). For if the God of the Bible exists–nothing could be more significant. Such a fact would mean that life must exist after death, and that individuals must choose their eternal destiny (yes, according to the Bible, we can choose to submit ourselves to God, or choose to ignore and rebel against Him with infinite and ultimate consequences [I know there are questions or determinism within the context of the Bible--it is not my goal to address those questions here]). Such a fact would also mean the possibility of an eternity of purpose, meaning, acceptance, joy and love, rather than an infinitesimally short and meaningless existence. Thus, it seems there is only potential benefit in seeking out the truth with every fiber of existence that we possess (yes…this little essay is a restatement of Pascal’s wager with a few of my own thoughts tossed in. I recognize that there are alternate theoretical possibilities out there besides the existence or non-existence of the God of the Bible, such as the presence of different gods, or metaphysical realities. While I respect those options as theoretical possibilities, I maintain that there is no theoretical possibility greater than the possibility of the existence of the God of the Bible).
    The fact is…many people do not want to find out that there is a God who lets bad things happen. Most people are angry at the before-mentioned God of the Bible or don’t want their lives to be accountable to a higher authority. I would challenge all of us including myself to, in the words of James, “submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.”
    My hope is that we might all share in the joy of finding out that God is far more real than we could have imagined.

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