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Genesis, Chapter 5 – Gods and Men

What is the meaning of the the exaggerated ages of the first names in the Sumerian King List, of those figures who reigned before the universal flood ? It is a reflection of views of the peoples who composed these genealogies who believed, as most of them seemed to, that human beings are descended from the gods. The logic of human descent from immortals demands an answer to the question: How did human descent from the gods take place; what was the nature of the transition from divine immortality to the limited time-span on earth allotted to mortal humans?

The formulators of this concept of human descent from the gods decided that there was an intermediate stage; a condition in which the gods created or gave birth to a demigod who was not immortal and not fully human as far as normal lifespan was concerned. In other words, while the gods are immortal, their immediate descendants in their descent from immortality to mortal humanity lived extraordinarily long lives. Thus, in the only full text we have of these early rulers of mankind; namely the Sumerian King List, the earliest kings, the direct descendants of the immortal gods, live and reign for periods which are less than eternal, yet far beyond normal human experience. Thus, these ages, the years of the regnal periods of the earliest royal ancestors of Sumer range from 43,000 to 18,000.14

We do not have the Babylonian King List, but that too contained a list of the earliest rulers who reigned for mutiples of myriads of years until the Flood. That the Greeks had a similar list is clear from the statement of Zeus following the Flood that the lives of human beings shall henceforth be limited to just a few years beyond one hundred. The biblical writers did not accept the idea, common to all of their contemporaries, that men descended from the gods, yet they were clearly influenced by the Babylonian King List, followed its pattern, and also declared, following the Flood, that human lives shall from this time forth be limited to 120 years.

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