Life expectancy has increased every year. We can now safely say we’re on our way to living for 80 years on Earth. Just a few years ago, getting to 70 was a struggle. With the modern advances in medicine, we can live a lot longer. But what about those people who were almost 1,000 years old?
Religions and belief systems have made longevity claims as to how long certain people lived throughout history. Today we can verify easily if someone lives to be 120 years old. But the ones we’re going to see below are unverified.
All of these people existed, but we don’t know their exact age. If we had the technology to verify that each of these people lived over the age of even 200, we could be more certain that they lived longer than turtles.
Judaism and Christianity
The oldest known person in the Hebrew Bible is Methuselah at 969 years old. But that number might not be correct.
Mesopotamians had two ways of looking at numbers. One was the real way, where you physically count out the number of years. The other way was ideological. Certain numbers had a spiritual significance to their beliefs, making some numbers metaphorical. That’s why you usually see the numbers 3, 7, 12, and 40 within the Bible.
Mesopotamians also used what’s called a sexagesimal system, where all numbers are divided evenly into 6 or 60. We still use this to determine time (60 minutes in an hour, 60 seconds in a minute, etc.).
Later, when Mesopotamians met with Hebrews, the Hebrews brought their decimal system, which we still use today. There could have been a mix-up in how numbers were translated between different languages or different eras in history.
Some have also claimed that, instead of years, Methuselah was actually 969 months old, making him around 80 years old. Other scholars have claimed that, if he was literally 969 years old, life spans had to do with God’s plan for man to have everlasting life. Adam sinned in the Garden of Eden, ruining God’s plan. Each generation lived less than the previous generation until life expectancy stabilized to what it is today.
Scholars of the Koran have two different claims. The most popular one is Abdul Azziz al-Hafeed al-Habashi, who lived for about 674 years (695 in Islamic years). He was alive from 581-1276 of the Hijra.
Another popular candidate for oldest person in Islam is al-Khadir, as he’s immortal, even though it’s not explicitly stated in the Koran. He followed Moses around and had “more knowledge” than Moses.
Bhishma is the most famous old person in Hindu tradition. He is also the metaphor for immortality, as he is estimated to live between the ages of 130 and 370 years old.
But he’s not the oldest recorded person in Hinduism. Devraha Baba was said to have lived over the age of 700, and maybe even 750. There’s proof that he was more than 250 years old when he died in 1990.
In Jainism tradition, the Tirthankaras lived for thousands of years. Most lived for more than 10,000 years, but Shantinatha, the 16th Jain Tirthankara, was said to have lived for over 100,000 years.
There were a few men in the Chinese religion of Falun Gong who lived over 200 and 300 years. But Chen Jun, born in 881 AD and died in 1325 AD, was 444 years old, making him the oldest in Falun Gong.
The Eight Immortals are a part of the traditional Taoism beliefs. Even though they were immortal and ascended to heaven, Zhang Guo Iao, one of the Eight Immortals, was said to have lived for several hundred years.
Luang Phu Suang, a Buddhist saint, is said to have lived for 500 years. An ascetic living in the jungles of Thailand, he liked to fly kites and watch cock fights. Sometimes he would disappear for no reason, making his story legendary.
Babaji was living in the Himalayas for centuries until he ascended into heaven in 1998. And Ashwatthama, a hero in the Mahabharatha, is said to have lived for over 6,000 years and is still alive today.
So to put that in order, here are the oldest people in each religion, from the oldest to the youngest:
- The Eight Immortals — Taoism — Immortal
- Shantinatha — Jainism — 100,000 years old
- Ashwatthama — New Age — 6,000 years old
- Methuselah — Judaism/Christianity — 939 years old
- Devraha Baba — Hinduism — 700 years old
- Abdul Azziz al-Hafeed al-Habashi — Islam — 674 years old
- Luang Phu Suang — Buddhism — 500 years old
- Chen Jun — Falon Gong — 444 years old
Most religious texts do not have exact ages written down. Instead, their ages were spoken through word-of-mouth when historians would recite their religion’s oral history. But whether spoken or written, the math doesn’t lie. These guys were all really old!