Henry Peacham (1638) The Valley of Varietie, Chapter I, pp. 1-8.
What to thinke of the length of Age, which men lived in former times, and shortly after the Creation.
It hath been a question, What manner of yeares those were, our Forefathers (in the holy Scriptures) are said to have lived; as some, seven hundred, others, eight hundred, and some, nine hundred; as Methuselah; since, yeares have beene taken diversly. Some have imagined they could not be our Anni solares, as wee account yeares by the course of the Sun, as being a thing incredible, that the date of a mans life should extend it selfe to that length, farre beyond the age of the eldest Oakes that may be found. Some accounted every Summer a year, (as Pliny reporteth1) & Winter another; as also the Arcadians counted their yeare by three Moneths; others againe, according to the age of the Moone, as the Egyptians: so some amongst them are reported to have lived a thousand yeares. Thus far Pliny.
There are therefore that imagine, Gen. 5. those yeares are to be understood, that exceed not the (fore-named) Lunarie yeares,2 ten whereof make but one of our Solar yeares; hereby reckoning, that who are in the Scripture said to have lived nine hundred yeares, lived of our yeares but ninety, every hundred of those monthly yeares amounting but to ten of ours. So they beleeved all that space of time which is contained in one yeare, to have beene anciently divided into ten parts, and every part taken for a yeare, and every one of those ten parts to have had, Senarium quadratum,3 because in six daies God finished his worke of the Creation; all which number multiplied by tenne, make just twelve Moneths.
But these conclusions which they thinke witty, fall out to be most absurd, they not observing what followeth hereupon; for then should Canan, who begat children when he was aged 70 yeares, have begotten them when he was but seven yeares old. Beside, if wee make a yeare but of six and thirty daies, of what length must the Moneth be? surely, no more than three dayes: And how may that place in Genesis be reconciled, where it is said,4 The flood began the seven and twentieth day of the second Moneth? and how will it agree, where it is said, The Arke rested upon the mountaines of Ararat, the seven and twentieth day of the seventh Moneth.
Let us therefore certainly beleeve the yeares then to have beene all one with ours, and that which is spoken of the great Age of those Fathers, not much to differ from the computation, according to our yeares. It is againe said, that The Mountaines appeared upon the first day of the eleventh Moneth; therefore the yeare consisted of many Moneths: and that we may not think the Month then consisted of no more than three daies, or thereabouts, observe the seven and twentieth day is named.
Now, if you would happily know the reason why the Fathers then lived so long, know there were two causes; first, the Finall; then, the Efficient: the Finall causes were; First, increasing the World with people, wherby it might be replenished, which they could not doe, but by living a long time. Secondly, Arts were to be invented, for they are not found, but by long Experience. Thirdly, the Worship of God was to be delivered by Tradition, for as yet the written Word was not. But that could not be in such a varietie of people, except those who received it from God, had beene long liv'd.
The Efficient causes of this their length of life, were I. The singular Blessings of God, Deuter. 30. I am thy life, and the length of thy daies. II. The nearnesse in time to the Creation, when the bodies of men were of a singular, and a most perfect constitution and soundnesse, and state of Health. III. The Diet and feeding was farre more wholesome before the Flood, then since. IV. The wits and invention were more accurat and subtile, in searching and finding out the nature and qualities of all things whereof they had need, to the sustenance of life, then ours are in these daies. For these reasons, I suppose their lives were of that length.
Neither may wee wonder at it, since Heathen Writers testifie, That even in their Times, some thousands of yeares after the Flood, many lived two hundred, others three hundred yeares. Hellanicus (cited by Plinie5) reporteth, That in Aetolia, many lived till they were two hundred yeares of age: which Damastes confirmeth, while hee maketh mention of one Pictoreus amongst them, who lived strong and able of body, till hee had fulfilled three hundred years; this saith Plinie.
1. Histor. lib. 7. cap. 48. [sect. 155; Englished by Holland, VIII, Chap. 48, p. 181)
2. Consisting of 36 daies.
3. Six times six, or 36.
4. Genes. 6.
5. Plin. Hist. lib. 7. cap. 48.
This page is by James Eason.