AskDefine | Define Methuselah

Dictionary Definition



1 (Old Testament) a patriarch (grandfather of Noah) who is said to have lived 969 years
2 a man who is very old [syn: old man, greybeard, graybeard]

User Contributed Dictionary


Proper noun

  1. The oldest person whose age is recorded in the Hebrew Bible, having reportedly lived 969 years.
  2. italbrac hence Any person or thing that has lived to a very old age.


  • 1611 — King James Version of the Bible, Genesis 5:25-26
    And Methuselah lived an hundred eighty and seven years, and begat Lamech: And Methuselah lived after he begat Lamech seven hundred eighty and two years, and begat sons and daughters:


Biblical character


  1. A bottle of Champagne or Burgundy wine containing 6 liters of fluid, eight times the volume of a standard bottle.

Usage notes

A Bordeaux wine bottle with this volume would be called an imperial.

Extensive Definition

This article is about the Biblical character. See Methuselah (disambiguation) for other uses.
Methuselah or Metushélach () is the oldest person whose age is mentioned in the Hebrew Bible. The name Methuselah has become a general synonym for any living creature of great age.


Methuselah is mentioned in Genesis as the son of Enoch and the father of Lamech (father of Noah), whom he fathered at the age of 187. A close reading of the dates in the Old Testament reveals that Methuselah is said to have died in the year of the Great Flood, but the Bible does not say that he was among those who died in the flood. Some have interpreted his name as a prophecy: when he dies, the Flood will come. In that case, the long life has an allegorical dimension, showing that God withheld judgment on humans for a very long time.
According to the Bible, he reached the age of 969 years. Genesis 5:27 states, "And all the days of Methuselah were nine hundred sixty and nine years: and he died" (American Standard Version). Genesis 5:5 states, "So all the days that Adam lived were nine hundred and thirty years, and he died." (American Standard Version). Assuming Adam's life began at the time of creation, Adam was alive when Methuselah was born. This makes Methuselah the human link between Adam and Noah (Assuming Methuselah died at the time of the flood, or at least after Noah's birth). However, in the ancient texts from which the English Bible was translated, there are variations of the ages of the patriarchs in different versions. The Samaritan Pentateuch gives ages adjusted to exactly match the flood. Methuselah is also mentioned in the apocryphal Book of Enoch as being the son of Enoch and as having brothers. The writer tells Methuselah of the coming Deluge and of a future Messianic kingdom.
Using Bishop Ussher's Bible chronology from the creation to Nebuchadrezzar II provides the following dates:
  • 4004 BC - Creation
  • 3317 BC - Birth of Methuselah
  • 3000 BC - Approximate building of the Great Pyramids of Giza
  • 2348 BC - Death of Methuselah and Noah's flood


Modern science puts the natural limit on current human longevity below 130 years. Genesis 6:3 placed a similar limit of 120 years on man's lifespan. This being the case, Methuselah's lifespan has been a source of much speculation. Some resolve the issue by suggesting that Methuselah's long lifespan is not meant to be taken literally, while others attribute it to translation errors inflating a shorter lifespan. Biblical literalists, on the other hand, have proposed several reasons that might explain a drastic decrease in the human lifespan after the Noachian deluge. The most compelling, however, is the fact that Gen. 6:3 says, "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.'" This is interpreted by some as a prophecy that man's lifespan would be gradually shortened over time, as punishment for sin, regardless of the fact many of the lifespans questioned by non-creationists occur well after Genesis. Further, according to Genesis chapter 2, prior to 'the fall' in the Garden of Eden man could have lived forever.
One solution involving translation error is proposed by Robert Best, who suggests that inaccurate conversion between various ancient Sumerian numerical systems produced the ages of Methuselah, Noah, and kin out of archaic Sumerian numerals. Best calculates that Methuselah's actual age would have been 85, and that he would have had his first son at age 17 (instead of age 187).
Creationists accept the ages recorded in the Bible, and have speculated on reasons for the dramatic decrease in lifespans following the Great Flood of Noah's time. One reason claimed is that conditions before the flood caused much less ultraviolet light from the sun to impact the earth, and that this allowed for longer life spans. The Institute for Creation Research has posited that a 'vapor canopy' surrounded the earth before the Flood, and that it was the source of the floodwaters. Such a canopy would also have protected humankind from what they allege to be aging effects of the sun's ultraviolet rays. After the dissipation of the canopy during the Flood, according to this theory, lifespans dropped rapidly to what they are today. Mainstream scientists have rejected the vapor canopy theory, asserting that it does not stand up to any scientific analysis.
Young Earth creationist Carl Wieland alternatively speculates that the decline in lifespan is because of the drastic reduction in population due to the Flood, causing a genetic bottleneck in which the genes that were 'coded for longevity' were lost.
For some Bible believers, the cause of the decrease in human longevity is that God sets a specific lifespan for human beings, as in Genesis 6:3. Witness Lee's "Four Falls of Man" hypothesis claims that man's life span was shortened four times, due to sin: from everlasting to 1,000 (first fall--the fall of Adam;) from 1,000 to 500 (second fall; the Earth around the time of Noah), from 500 to 250 (third fall) and finally from 250 to 120 (fourth fall brings in the law with Moses), however the theory contradicts Genesis 6:3's limitation on life to 120 years after the first 'fall'. Notably, in the times of King David, when actual ages were recorded, the ages of the kings generally were in the range of 40-70 years old.
If one assumes that the age of 969 indicates months instead of years (indicating a mistranslation), Methuselah's age is calculated as 80.75 years (969/12), which is a more realistic lifespan. Another theory suggests lunar cycles were mistaken for the solar ones. If this is the case, each lifespan from Genesis would be shortened by a factor of 12.37 and give ages for Methuselah and his contemporaries that resemble those of modern humans. However, objections to such life-shortening calculations have been raised on the grounds that, if reductions by these factors are carried out, several biblical fathers would have had children while they themselves were approximately five years old.

See also

External links


Methuselah in Old English (ca. 450-1100): Mathusal
Methuselah in Catalan: Matusalem
Methuselah in Czech: Metuzalém
Methuselah in German: Methusalem
Methuselah in Modern Greek (1453-): Μαθουσάλα
Methuselah in Spanish: Matusalén
Methuselah in Esperanto: Metuŝelaĥ
Methuselah in Persian: متوشالح
Methuselah in French: Mathusalem
Methuselah in Indonesian: Metusalah
Methuselah in Italian: Matusalemme
Methuselah in Hebrew: מתושלח
Methuselah in Dutch: Metusalem
Methuselah in Japanese: メトシェラ
Methuselah in Norwegian: Metusalem
Methuselah in Polish: Matuzalem
Methuselah in Portuguese: Matusalém
Methuselah in Russian: Мафусаил
Methuselah in Serbian: Метузалем
Methuselah in Serbo-Croatian: Metuzalem
Methuselah in Finnish: Metusalah
Methuselah in Swedish: Methusalem
Methuselah in Walloon: Matîssalé
Methuselah in Chinese: 瑪土撒拉

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

Father Time, Nestor, Old Paar, antediluvian, antique, back number, centenarian, conservative, dad, dodo, dotard, elder, fogy, fossil, fud, fuddy-duddy, gaffer, geezer, golden-ager, gramps, grandfather, grandsire, granny, graybeard, has-been, longhair, matriarch, mid-Victorian, mossback, nonagenarian, octogenarian, old believer, old chap, old codger, old crock, old dodo, old dog, old duffer, old fogy, old geezer, old gent, old gentleman, old liner, old man, old party, old poop, old woman, old-timer, older, oldster, pantaloon, patriarch, pop, pops, presbyter, reactionary, regular old fogy, relic, senior citizen, septuagenarian, sexagenarian, square, starets, the quiet-voiced elders, traditionalist, venerable sir, veteran
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