Age of the apostles and average age of people then

How does one reconcile the fact that the average age of people living back in Jesus’s day was around 40 (from what I’ve read), but the apostles all lived into old age by today’s standard (70s onward)?

Just off the top of my head:

(1) Just because the average life span at the time of Jesus was quite low by our standards (more or less 40 years old) doesn’t mean doesn’t mean that there were no people who didn’t live past that age. Josephus claimed that most Essenes in his day lived as long as a hundred years; even if his use of “most” was hyperbolic, that would still mean that there were people at least who are known to have long lifespans.

In Warring States-period (15th-17th century) Japan, the average life span was said to have been just around 30 years, but that didn’t mean people dropped dead as soon as they hit their thirties. We know that quite a number of known historical figures who lived at time actually lived double than the average: Tokugawa Ieyasu, for example, died at 73.

See, here’s the thing. the same as average life expectancy.not Many people confuse the two, but they’re really different.

Discussions about life expectancy often involve how it has improved over time. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, life expectancy for men in 1907 was 45.6 years; by 1957 it rose to 66.4; in 2007 it reached 75.5. Unlike the most recent increase in life expectancy (which was attributable largely to a decline in half of the leading causes of death including heart disease, homicide, and influenza), the increase in life expectancy between 1907 and 2007 was largely due to a decreasing infant mortality rate, which was 9.99 percent in 1907; 2.63 percent in 1957; and 0.68 percent in 2007.

But the inclusion of infant mortality rates in calculating life expectancy creates the mistaken impression that earlier generations died at a young age; Americans were not dying en masse at the age of 46 in 1907. The fact is that the maximum human lifespan — a concept often confused with “life expectancy” — has remained more or less the same for thousands of years. The idea that our ancestors routinely died young (say, at age 40) has no basis in scientific fact.

‘Average life spans’ and infant mortality rates go hand in hand: if a lot of babies and children die before reaching adulthood, that would skew the average. In other words, the reason why average life spans are high today is because when compared to the past, infant and child mortality rates are lower.

From here:

A major determinant of life expectancy at birth, especially in our ancestral past and in many developing nations today, is infant and child mortality rate. Life expectancy in such societies is so low because many infants and children die before they reach adulthood. For example, Professor Anthony A. Volk of Brock University in Canada estimates that as many as half the children during our evolutionary history, and as recently as the 18th century in Europe, may have died before the age of 12. The figures are comparable in many poor African nations today, where as many as a third of the children die before the age of 5.

Think about it. If half the children die before the age of 12 (let’s say, at the average age of death of 6), then the remaining half would have to live on average to be 74, for the life expectancy at birth to come out to be 40, with the implication that roughly half of the remaining half – a quarter of all babies born – live to be older than 74. In many contemporary hunter-gatherer tribes, the modal lifespan for adults (excluding those who die in childhood) is between 70 and 80 years; in other words, most adults die when they are around 70 or 80. This is essentially the same as that in contemporary industrialized societies. The difference is that, in the latter, virtually everybody survives childhood.

(2) We don’t really know how old most of the apostles were at the time of death, because we don’t know when they were born, and we don’t know exactly when most of them died. We only have three apostles whose deaths we might pin a date to with some degree of certainty: James son of Zebedee (AD 41-44 - somewhere during Herod Agrippa’s reign), Peter (mid-to-late AD 60s), and John son of Zebedee (late 1st century?)

Of course, you also have to remember that most of the Twelve (with the exception of John) are said to have been martyred. In other words, they were killed. They didn’t really live for as long as they would have been had they not been beheaded or crucified or tortured or whatever.

1). Not all of the disciples lived long lives. In fact, except for S. John (who may have lived to be 100), all of them were martyred.

2). We should not assume that all of them were equal in age to our LORD; some of them may have been as much as 15 years younger, so if they then died in the 50s, they would not have been ahead of the curve.


What is your source for that?

Average life expectancy includes infant mortality and maternal mortality. Many infants died before the age of 2, so that skews the statistics downward, and more women died in childbirth than today. Today we expect all our children to survive their childhoods.

First century family: Mom dies in childbirth at age 41, dad dies at age 79. They have six children: three die before the age of one. The other three reach the ages of 9, 54 and 69. That would be pretty typical in those days. The average life expectancy of this family is 31 years, yet three out of the eight family members managed to reach the ages of 54-79. So not everyone died at a young age back then.

Nowadays it’s most likely that everyone in that family reached at least the age of 60, which would give them an average life expectancy of 60+ years, twice as long as the first century family.

I replied to a similar thread not long ago.

Josephus reports that the Essenes were known to live past the century mark.

Factor out infant mortality and death by accident, their life spans were probably close to ours.

As has been mentioned, the maximum human lifespan has actually been pretty much the same for thousands of years. Many ancient Greeks that we know of actually had similar lifespans as ours. The idea of ‘average life expectancy’ just gives the illusion of lower lifespans for many people.

In past centuries infant mortality brought down the average age tremendously. If you made it past infancy then there is no reason why you could not live into old age.

It would be similar today if we were to include abortion deaths in our figures. I’d suspect the average age of our own time would then drop to the 50’s. Again if you make it past infancy (and not aborted) today there is no reason why we can’t live to old age.