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Old 05-19-2001, 04:11 PM   #1
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Post Life expectancy of NT characters?

This is an issue I've wondered about several
times while reading things WRT dating claims on
the various NT books. Seems like it belongs
in it's own thread rather than mixed in
with all the other posts....

So, there are those who would believe that
the NT books are all written by the attributed authors, but accept what seem
like late dates. For instance, on a recent
thread (was it Anderson or Rodahi?) mentioned
that the dating for John cold be up to 60
years after JC. Also, I think the mainstream
dating of the Gospels is something like
70 ad, right?

Here's the thing. Let's say the disciples
were 20 years old (forgive me if I don't
remember if there are accepted ages for
any of them - could someone supply them
if there is?). If you go 40 years out,
that puts them at 60 years old. By our
modern standards, we wouldn't think twice
about assuming someone could live that long.
And would 20 even be reasonable? How young
do you have to make the NT authors for them
to live long enough to have penned the books?

However - this is ancient Isreal we're talking about here. Bad medicine, relatively
(compared to ours) poor nutrition. What would
be the average lifespan back then? Is it
reasonable to expect these characters to
live that long? Didn't we here in the U.S.
have a much shorter average than that
just 100 years ago?

Does anyone have information on these topics?
(average lifespan around 30 ad, assumed lifespans of the NT authors, etc).

Just seems like this never comes up.

Thanks.
 
Old 05-19-2001, 10:09 PM   #2
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Good question.

Let me add some additional questions...

Place yourself in the shoes of the Gospel writers, why now? At the end of your life you now get a hair up your axx to write something that should have been written many years ago.

At a younger age they would have been able to get the "good new" out to larger numbers of people. They must have known how to write earlier, old men don't go to school to learn to write at that age. Why all the same writers writing at this particular time? Did they make more money by giving "live" sermons, and now at the end of their lives decide to pass on the money belt to their children or chosen students? (If they did live this long)

Is it more probable that the next generation wrote this crap and tagged the names on it to give authority. Gave them a religion to teach from as they did not possess the "real life" version from which to teach and earn. To teach/preach you must do so from either life experience or other authoritative data.
 
Old 05-20-2001, 02:02 AM   #3
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You are right about the average lifespan in those days being much shorter than today, but keep in mind that this was largely caused by the very high child mortality rate. Once beyond adolescent age, many people lived to an old age. Emperor Tiberius, for example, reached the age of 79 before he was murdered.

I don't have any satistics ready, but saying that it is unlikely that anyone could have witnessed Jesus (if he ever lived!) and written about it 40 years later doesn't seem a very strong argument.

What surprises me more is that it took that long for ayone to write about him in the first place, if there is more to him than a local travelling healer and religious zealot being put to death for troublemaking.

If I had been a companion of God for three years, and present when he did miracles and was executed, I'd write about it within days or weeks, not 40 years later!

fG

 
Old 05-20-2001, 08:39 AM   #4
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Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by faded_Glory:
You are right about the average lifespan in those days being much shorter than today, but keep in mind that this was largely caused by the very high child mortality rate. Once beyond adolescent age, many people lived to an old age. Emperor Tiberius, for example, reached the age of 79 before he was murdered.


</font>
I do think the statistics should be examined
(if there could be any). Seems to me that
an Emporer would be an outlying data point,
since I would expect him to have much better
nutrition and medical care than most other
people.

What would be more important, given the
context of the question, is the average
lifespan of average people, or perhaps maybe
even the lower class people since they
were all suposedly uneducated fishermen.

 
Old 05-20-2001, 09:32 PM   #5
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Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by Kosh:
I do think the statistics should be examined
(if there could be any). Seems to me that
an Emporer would be an outlying data point,
since I would expect him to have much better
nutrition and medical care than most other
people.

What would be more important, given the
context of the question, is the average
lifespan of average people, or perhaps maybe
even the lower class people since they
were all suposedly uneducated fishermen.

</font>
Consider how many of the 12 disciples wrote the gospels(assuming it was them). Out of 12... 2. Which could mean the other 10 died out already (according to the John reference Peter had already been martyrred at the time John wrote his gospel). Could it be possible that 2 out of 12 people might liver longer than the *average* life span? The average lifespan has to be deduced by both the longer-lived and shorter lived persons.

 
Old 05-20-2001, 09:57 PM   #6
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Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by Kosh:
This is an issue I've wondered about several
times while reading things WRT dating claims on
the various NT books. Seems like it belongs
in it's own thread rather than mixed in
with all the other posts....

So, there are those who would believe that
the NT books are all written by the attributed authors, but accept what seem
like late dates. For instance, on a recent
thread (was it Anderson or Rodahi?) mentioned
that the dating for John cold be up to 60
years after JC. Also, I think the mainstream
dating of the Gospels is something like
70 ad, right?

Here's the thing. Let's say the disciples
were 20 years old (forgive me if I don't
remember if there are accepted ages for
any of them - could someone supply them
if there is?). If you go 40 years out,
that puts them at 60 years old. By our
modern standards, we wouldn't think twice
about assuming someone could live that long.
And would 20 even be reasonable? How young
do you have to make the NT authors for them
to live long enough to have penned the books?

However - this is ancient Isreal we're talking about here. Bad medicine, relatively
(compared to ours) poor nutrition. What would
be the average lifespan back then? Is it
reasonable to expect these characters to
live that long? Didn't we here in the U.S.
have a much shorter average than that
just 100 years ago?

Does anyone have information on these topics?
(average lifespan around 30 ad, assumed lifespans of the NT authors, etc).

Just seems like this never comes up.

Thanks.
</font>
By the middle of the next century, (second) Polycarp lived to be 86. Senica, the Roman philosopher lived to be 70 something. Plycarp lived in Asia Minor, not in Rome. So if one had the right conditions one could possibly live as long as we do. The differences is that they didn't typically live that long, but it was not unheard of. The Emperor Clau-clau-Claudius lived to be about 80 I think. (if you saw "I Claudius" you get the joke).

I've figured it up before and don't care to go through the math again but it is possible that the young Polycarp knew John. He didn't have to know him when John was young, just when Polycarp was young.

John could have lived to AD 90. Say he was 20 when he knew Jesus we would be about78 when he wrote his Gospel. Plycarp being 86 when he died in AD 256 or so, would have been what? He could have easily known John at some point in the AD 70s or 80s and be old enough to understand what was going on.

Mark and Luke were young in the time of Jesus, they could have lived to AD 70 or 80 when most scholars date their works. If Mark was 20 in AD 33 he would have been in his late 50s in AD 70 when he wrote his Gospel.


Matthew might be a hard case since his work is dated at about 80 typically by most scholars. We can assume he was probably in his late 20s or early 30s when he knew Jesus. So he would have to be getting up there when he wrote. But if we accept the theory that he only wrote a sayings source (Q) which was incorporated into a work that was latter redacted--and there is evidence from Iranaeus to support that--than it is even more possible. The saying source probably would come from before AD 50.

[This message has been edited by Metacrock (edited May 20, 2001).]
 
Old 05-20-2001, 10:04 PM   #7
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Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by critical thinking made ez:
Good question.

Let me add some additional questions...

Place yourself in the shoes of the Gospel writers, why now? At the end of your life you now get a hair up your axx to write something that should have been written many years ago.

At a younger age they would have been able to get the "good new" out to larger numbers of people. They must have known how to write earlier, old men don't go to school to learn to write at that age. Why all the same writers writing at this particular time? Did they make more money by giving "live" sermons, and now at the end of their lives decide to pass on the money belt to their children or chosen students? (If they did live this long)

Is it more probable that the next generation wrote this crap and tagged the names on it to give authority. Gave them a religion to teach from as they did not possess the "real life" version from which to teach and earn. To teach/preach you must do so from either life experience or other authoritative data.
</font>
That's making a foolish assumption about written texts. ie that people always have thought about them in the same way that we do today. They values oral testimony and didn't think of it as a limiation on pr.


As for calling it crap, Keirkegaard said "he who mocks others mocks himself."
 
Old 05-21-2001, 01:36 AM   #8
Bede
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Roman life expectancy

There was no good medical care at all and the rich often led a very unhealthy life style so they didn't do much better than the middle class. Once you got through child hood, your chances of reaching a ripe old age were not as awful as you might think even if you were a middling person. Also, the leaders of the early church probably did enjoy a better standard of living than most people did by virtue of their position (yes, I admit it)

Yours

Bede

Bede's Library - faith and reason
 
Old 05-21-2001, 02:53 AM   #9
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Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by faded_Glory:
I don't have any satistics ready, but saying that it is unlikely that anyone could have witnessed Jesus (if he ever lived!) and written about it 40 years later doesn't seem a very strong argument.

What surprises me more is that it took that long for ayone to write about him in the first place, if there is more to him than a local travelling healer and religious zealot being put to death for troublemaking.

If I had been a companion of God for three years, and present when he did miracles and was executed, I'd write about it within days or weeks, not 40 years later!</font>
Although 70-80 AD or so are standard datings there are many people who would date the Gospels significantly earlier. (This does not really include me - I date Mark and Luke to the 60s and John to the 80s or so) Many people support dates of 45 AD for Mark with the others close behind. Is that close enough for you?
Really we have precious little way of telling. The only real evidence on the dating, if you choose to believe it (which I do), is the writings of the 2nd century Church.

Your point that you would not delay in the writing -so why did the disciples do so?- is a good question.
You must remember that you are a literate person living in a culture where writing is an extremely common form of mass communication. As far as we know, neither of these things was true for the disciples. Most of them were apparently illiterate at the time of Jesus' ministry... though of course it is quite possible that they learnt to write later on in their lives.
Writing and copying and further copying a written account of events would have been a massive undertaking and would at least require many literate people to do it. Clearly such an undertaking could not possibly be easily achieved until the Church expanded far enough among the educated classes to make it possible.
For many of the early years the Church remained centred in Israel. The people had already had 3 years of so of Jesus' ministry, and he had taught publically in the temple often. Anyone who hadn't heard him would easily be able to find out everything by asking someone who had. In addition to this there would have been the disciples leading the Church and all bearing witness to the resurrection and repeating Jesus' teachings. Under such circumstances what need is there of a written record?
(However the 2nd century Church fathers recount that Matthew was the first to publish his Gospel and that it was published in Hebrew among the Jewish people. So they may well have had a written account also.)

Only once the Church began extending past the area of living eyewitness would a written account be required.
As the Church began to include Gentiles in distant locations as a result of Paul and others' work there would become a need for a written account as these Churches would have no eyewitnesses among them. It is not difficult to believe that the Gospels of Mark and Luke were published as a result of this need, as the target audience for both Gospels appears to be Gentiles.
No doubt the Church would have begun to realise that the number of living eyewitness was growing small and as time passed the number would have dwindled. The eyewitnesses would surely have realised this too and so perhaps decided to make sure the true accounts were preserved for later generations. This would especially account for John and would possibly also apply for Mark and Luke too.

Now this is mostly conjecture and speculation, and although I consider it very believable, you may not. That is fine, but I hope you now understand that the question isn't all black and white.
 
 

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