It has been over 6,000 years since God created Adam and Eve. Because of the Curse, we have suffered and changed greatly. We do not have detailed records concerning the abilities of man when God created Adam. However, the Romans were very accurate at recordkeeping and give us a glimpse at what a few men could do as little as two thousand years ago. Let’s take a look at some of the abilities of men at that time so that we can get a better idea of the fantastic abilities God bestowed on Adam and his descendants in the beginning.
Herodotus1 tells us that around 564 BC the Spartans found a skeleton seven cubits long, which they assumed was the body of Orestes. This would make the man taller than Goliath! Goliath was six cubits and a span. Depending on what you use for a cubit, his height would be at least nine feet four inches or at most ten feet eight inches. Skeptics deride the Scriptures, saying this is impossible. Pliny2 also tells us that during the reign of Claudius, Gabbara, who was brought from Arabia, was nine feet nine inches tall. In the time of Augustus, there were two men, Pusio and Secundilla, who were measured at ten feet three inches tall. All these individuals were taller than Robert Wadlow, who according to the first edition of the Guinness Book Of World Records was 8 feet 11.1 inches tall.3 However, unlike Goliath, he suffered from many physical weaknesses and would be no match in a fight even with a child.
So we have four documented cases from ancient history of individuals being taller than Goliath. If you were on the field of battle and were being charged by a whole army of these giants, you might be excused for being a tad frightened. The Bible tells us that there were giants at the time of Noah. These giants may have been quite plentiful, and we can only guess how tall some of them may have been. There is no reason to doubt that some were over ten feet tall.
It is quite rare today for an individual to live more than 110 years. There are a number of ancient writers who ascribe ages that are hard to verify. However, Pliny documents a census conducted by Vespasian. What makes this more interesting is that Pliny said,
In addition there are the experiences of the last census, held within the last four years by the Emperors Caesar Vespasian father and son as Censors. Nor is it necessary to ransack all the records: we will only produce cases from the middle region between the Apennines and the Po. Three persons declared 120 years at Parma and one at Brescello; two at Parma 125; one man at Piacenza and one woman at Faenza 130; Lucius Terentius son of Marcus at Bologna 135; Marcus Aponius 140 and Tertulla 137 at Rimini. In the hills this side of Piacenza is the township of Veleia, where six declared 110 years, four 120, one (Marcus Mucius Felix, son of Marcus, of the Galerian tribe) 150. And, not to delay with further instances in a matter of admitted fact, the census registered in the eighth region of Italy 54 persons of 100 years of age, 14 of 110, 2 of 125, 4 of 130, the same number of 135 or 137, 3 of 140.4
One thing to note is that none of these people had died yet! Clearly they lived longer than these ages since no one takes a census in a cemetery!
John Trapp cites an example of an individual whom he personally met who was very old. In his commentary on 1 Kings 1:15, he states:
Ver. 15. And the king was very old.] Yet little more than half so old as a plain countryman whom I spoke with yesterday, being May 15, A.D. 1656, at Stratford-upon-Avon, who assured me, and gave good proof of it, that he was a hundred and twenty-eight of age, being born A. D. 1527. He is still hearty and healthy, living at Bedworth in Warwickshire, Thomas Egerton by name.5
It should be clear that people lived much older than they do now.
How much can you lift? These guys would win the Olympics in weightlifting and strength any day! Pliny records,
Vinnius Valens served as captain in the Imperial Guard of the late lamented Augustus; he was in the habit of holding carts laden with winesacks up in the air until they were emptied, and of catching hold of wagons with one hand and stopping them by throwing his weight against the efforts of the teams drawing them, and doing other marvellous exploits which can be seen carved on his monument. Marcus Varro likewise states: ‘Rusticelius, who was nicknamed Hercules, used to lift a mule; Fufius Salvius used to walk up a ladder with two hundred-pound weights fastened to his feet, the same weights in his hands and two two-hundred-pound weights on his shoulders.’ We also saw a man named Athanatus, who was capable of a miraculous display: he walked across the stage wearing a leaden breast-plate weighing 500 pounds and shod in boots of 500 pounds’ weight. When the athlete Milo took a firm stand, no one could make him shift his footing, and when he was holding an apple no one could make him straighten out a finger.6
How far can you run? Pliny tells us,
Phidippides’running the 130 miles from Athens to Sparta in two days was a mighty feat, until the Spartan runner Anystis and Alexander the Great’s courier Philonides ran the 148 miles from Sicyon to Ells in a day. At the present day indeed we are aware that some men can last out 128 miles in the circus, and that recently in the consulship of Fonteius and Vipstanus a boy of 8 ran 68 miles between noon and evening.7
If you thought the Boston Marathon was a tough slog, look at what these guys did—a child running the equivalent of three marathons in an afternoon, or men running almost six marathons in the Circus Maximus!
My vision has deteriorated considerably with age. I have a five-inch, illuminated, magnifying glass on my desk to enable me to read small print. How I envy these individuals! Pliny wrote,
Keenness of sight has achieved instances transcending belief in the highest degree. Cicero records that a parchment copy of Homer’s poem The Iliad was enclosed in a nutshell. He also records a case of a man who could see 123 miles. Marcus Varro also gives this man’s name, which was Strabo, and states that in the Punic wars he was in the habit of telling from the promontory of Lilybaemn in Sicily the actual number of ships in a fleet that was passing out from the harbour of Carthage. Callierates used to make such small ivory models of ants and other creatures that to anybody else their parts were invisible. A certain Myrmecides won fame in the same department by making a four-horse chariot of the same material that a fly’s wings would cover, and a ship that a tiny bee could conceal with its wings.8
I do not imagine that the Carthaginians were too impressed when all their ship movements in their harbour were known to the Romans, thus rendering a surprise attack very difficult. I wonder how big a bounty the Carthaginians placed on Strabo’s head?9
Do you have trouble remembering things? Imagine what we could do with memories like these individuals have. Pliny records,
King Cyrus could give their names to all the soldiers in his army, Lucius Scipio knew the names of the whole Roman people, King Pyrrhus’ envoy Cineas knew those of the senate and knighthood at Rome the day after his arrival. Mithridates who was king of twenty-two races gave judgments in as many languages, in an assembly addressing each race in turn without an interpreter. A person in Greece named Charmadas recited the contents of any volumes in libraries that anyone asked him to quote, just as if he were reading them. Finally, a memoria technical was constructed, which was invented by the lyric poet Simonides and perfected by Metrodorus of Scepsis, enabling anything heard to be repeated in the identical words.10
There are a few individuals whom I suspect had exceptional if not photographic memories. In working on Ussher, I found that he determined the time when Tiberius was made co-emperor with Augustus. He deduced the time by connecting two unrelated facts he found in two different Latin historians.11 Today everyone uses his deduction that this happened in A.D. 12. This establishes the starting year of the ministry of John the Baptist as A.D. 26. Incidentally, that was the last Jubilee Year before the destruction of the Jewish state in A.D. 70. John Gill12 is another man whom I suspect had an incredible memory. In commenting on Daniel 8:2 he had thirty-five footnotes from ancient writers! He must have had an amazing memory to know that all those writers had something to say to help illuminate that verse. Likewise in Spurgeon’s autobiography, Spurgeon stated that someone gave him a book to read one Sunday afternoon before supper. At supper, the man who gave him the book asked if he had a chance to look at it. Spurgeon surprised the gentleman by saying he had read it. His guest was incredulous. So Spurgeon asked him to give him a page number in the book; he then recited that page from memory! C. S. Lewis told a visitor one day that his mind was so cluttered because he could not forget anything. His visitor did not believe him; so Lewis asked him to select a book from his large library and give him the book title and a page number. As soon as he did, Lewis started to recite the page, much to the amazement of his guest.
Even today, there are a few rare individuals who can perform incredible feats of memory. There are some autistic savants like Daniel Tammet, who demonstrates phenomenal mathematical abilities.
Doing a single task well is an achievement, but multi-tasking is a rare gift. Pliny relates this interesting fact about Julius Caesar:
The most outstanding instance of innate mental vigour I take to be the dictator Caesar. . . . We are told that he used to write or read and dictate or listen simultaneously, and to dictate to his secretaries four letters at once on his important affairs—or, if otherwise unoccupied, seven letters at once.13
I love the dry English humor of the Roman historians!
We have seen from ancient history that there were individuals who lived much longer than modern man, had exceptional strength, endurance, sight, memory and mental abilities. It is not unreasonable to suppose that many of Adam’s early descendants were exceptionally gifted individuals. What must the minds of the descendants of Adam have been capable of with their minds untainted by thousands of years of genetic deterioration? In Genesis 4 we learn that Adam’s descendants were smart enough to build cities, to work with metals, to make musical instruments and to develop agriculture. Mankind is definitely not evolving and getting better; the effects of the Curse continue to deteriorate man’s abilities. This is plainly stated in the biblical record and confirms what we observe in history to be correct.