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A recent answer to an old question of mine said that Deuteronomy 31:2 showed what is called ‘the integral age of the prophets’. I had never heard of this before, so all I can do is give the link, and then the answer posted on 6/1/23 by Johannes can be checked.

The point was made that “Moses says in that verse, ‘I am a son of a hundred and twenty years today’ (Deut 31:2) in the sense that he was turning 120 years old that very day, in which he was later going to die.”

I note that not all translations have “a son of” in the text, and wonder if that is significant? It is, however, in Young’s Literal Translation of 1898, worded as, “A son of a hundred and twenty years [am] I to-day”.

... and he saith unto them, A son of a hundred and twenty years `am' I to-day; I am not able any more to go out and to come in, and Jehovah hath said unto me, Thou dost not pass over this Jordan, [Deuteronomy 31:2 YLT]

I have no problem with Moses dying aged 120 years, or even being precisely 120 years old on the day of his death, but I don't understand the suggestion that he was born on that same day and month, 120 years earlier. Is there anything in the text to suggest that Moses’ date of birth would correspond exactly to his date of death, a one-hundred-and-twenty-years gap inbetween? Or is that an understanding of the Jewish scribes, or an ancient tradition – that Moses’ birth day and month was exactly the same as his death day and month?

I am not asking about the topic of dates of birth and death with all the prophets having that correspondence – what some seem to call “the integral age of the prophets”. Or, have I quite misunderstood that point in the answer recently given to my old question?

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Since an answer of mine is quoted in the question, let me first state a clarification. In that answer I said only that "the notion of integral age of prophets [was] based on understanding the statement by Moses: "I am a son of a hundred and twenty years today" (Deut 31:2) in the sense that he was turning 120 years old that very day, in which he was later going to die". I did not say that that sense was actually correct.

Having cleared that, after further research I found out that Deut 31:2 is only one of the two verses supporting the "integral age of the righteous" theory. And I emphasize righteous, instead of prophets, because the other verse is part of the divine promise to the Israelites if they serve the LORD:

"And you shall serve the LORD your God, and He will bless your bread and your water; and I will remove sickness from your midst. There will be no one miscarrying or unable to have children in your land; I will fulfill the number of your days." (Exodus 23:25-26)

Again, just like the natural and original sense of "I am 120 years old today" is not "I have turned 120 years old today" but "I am 120 years old now", the natural and original sense of "I will fulfill the number of your days" is not "I will cause you to live a lifespan of whole years" but "I will cause you to live a long lifespan."

Nevertheless, by the time the Jewish chronology Seder Olam Rabbah was written, ca. 160 CE, the interpretation of Deut 31:2 in the sense that Moses died on his birthday was already present in Rabbinic Judaism [1]. And by the time the Jerusalem Talmud was compiled, ca. 500 CE, the interpretation of both biblical passages in the sense of the "integral age of the righteous" was already established in Rabbinic Judaism, as attested by two passages in the Gemara of tractates Rosh Hashanah and Kiddushin [2].

Now, the key question is: was this notion of the "integral age of the righteous" already present in Judaism by 30 AD? We do not know and probably will never be able to know for certain.

Note 1: A related notion that is implicitely - and most of the time unknowingly - held by everyone who builds chronologies by adding the fathering ages (FA's) of patriarchs is that each patriarch of the godly line begot his godly-line-continuing son on the day of his birthday (*). Because if those births happened on any day of the year, the mean time elapsed forward from the birthday of patriarch n (when he became "a son of FA.n years") to the birth of patriarch n+1 is 6 months, which by the birth of Noah (the 10th) adds to 4.5 years and by the birth of Abraham (the 20th) adds to 9.5 years.

(*) Except for the births of Shem and Arpachshad, which is logical in view of the Flood and necessary to make the chronological data in Gen 5:32, 7:11, 8:14 and 11:10 mutually consistent.

Note 2: Let us assume that a group of Jews hold at the same time a) that the righteous live to integral ages and b) that a person X, highly esteemed by that group, is righteous. Then it would be logical for that group to celebrate X's birthday NOT on the exact day, because X might die on that day, but on the day AFTER that, because if X does not die on his birthday he will live for at least another year!

Let us now add the conjecture that, as Jesus' circumcision was a prefiguration of his crucifixion, He was circumcised on the same date as that of his death in the Hebrew calendar according to John, i.e. Nisan 14, implying that He was born on Nisan 7 (consistent with the presence in the fields near Jerusalem of shepherds with their flocks, out of which the 1 year old lambs would be taken to Jerusalem on Nisan 10). Under that conjecture, if a group of Jews contemporary to Jesus who

  • were friends of Jesus,
  • held the "integral age of the righteous" notion,
  • held that Jesus was righteous, and
  • knew that Jesus was born on Nisan 7,

wanted to celebrate Jesus' birthday, they would host a dinner for Him on Nisan 8, or if that day was a Sabbath, on Nisan 9. Which is exactly what Lazarus, Mary and Martha, the family who were Jesus' friends, did according to John:

"Six days before the Passover, Jesus therefore came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. So they gave a dinner for Him there. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those reclining with Him at table." (John 12:1-2)

Let us count the days backward from Passover:

  • Passover day: Nisan 15 Saturday
  • Passover - 1: Nisan 14 Friday - Crucifixion when paschal lambs are slain
  • Passover - 2: Nisan 13 Thursday
  • Passover - 3: Nisan 12 Wednesday
  • Passover - 4: Nisan 11 Tuesday
  • Passover - 5: Nisan 10 Monday - Entry in Jerusalem when paschal lambs enter
  • Passover - 6: Nisan 9 Sunday - Dinner for Jesus at Bethany
  • Passover - 7: Nisan 8 Saturday - Day of rest for observant Jews

If that was the case, Lazarus was right about the "integral age of the righteous" notion, but did not know that Jesus would live to an integral age according to the solar calendar.

References

[1] "Seder Olam: The Rabbinic View of Biblical Chronology", Jason Aronson, Incorporated, 1 oct 1998, pp. 100-101. https://books.google.com/books?id=VQ-_AAAAQBAJ

On the seventh (Deut. 31:1-2) "Moses went and spoke these words to all of Israel. Hundred and twenty years of age I am today." Why does Scripture have to say 'today'? It says 'today' to teach us that on the seventh of Adar Moses was born and on the seventh of Adar he died

[2] Rosh HaShana 11a

From https://www.sefaria.org/Rosh_Hashanah.11a.12?lang=bi

The Gemara continues: The one who said that in Nisan the Patriarchs were born also holds that in Nisan they died. The one who says that in Tishrei they were born also holds that in Tishrei they died, as it is stated about Moses on the day of his death: “And he said to them: I am one hundred and twenty years old today” (Deuteronomy 31:2). As there is no need for the verse to state “today,” since it is clear that Moses was speaking on that day, what is the meaning when the verse states “today”? It is to teach that Moses was speaking precisely, as if to say: Today my days and years are exactly filled and completed. This comes to teach you that the Holy One, Blessed be He, sits and fills the years of the righteous from day to day and from month to month, as it is stated: “The number of your days I will fulfill” (Exodus 23:26). Similarly, the Patriarchs merited that their years be fulfilled to the day, and so they died on the same date they were born.

From https://halakhah.com/pdf/moed/Rosh_HaShanah.pdf

Note: "they" = "the Patriarchs", as is clear from the previous 2 paragraphs.

He who holds that they were born in Nisan holds that they died in Nisan, and he who holds that they were born in Tishri holds that they died in Tishri, as it says, I am a hundred and twenty years old this day. (Deut. XXXI, 2). The word ‘this day’ seems here superfluous. What then is the point of it? [As much as to say], This day my days and years have reached full measure, which teaches that the Holy One, blessed be He, sits and completes the years of the righteous from day to day and from month to month, as it says, The number of thy days I will fulfil. (Ex. XXIII, 26.)

Kiddushin 38a

From https://www.sefaria.org/Kiddushin.38a.7?lang=bi

The baraita continues: And from where is it derived that Moses was born on the seventh of Adar? It is as it is stated: “And he said to them, I am one hundred and twenty years old today; I can no more go out and come in” (Deuteronomy 31:2). As there is no need for the verse to state “today,” since Moses could have said simply: I am one hundred and twenty years old. What is the meaning when the verse states “today”? One can learn from it that Moses was born on that date, i.e., he was exactly one hundred and twenty years old. This teaches that the Holy One, Blessed be He, sits and completes the years of the righteous from day to day and from month to month, as it is stated: “The number of your days I will fulfill” (Exodus 23:26).

From https://halakhah.com/pdf/nashim/Kiddushin.pdf

And how do we know that he was born on the seventh of Adar? — For it is said: And he [Moses] said unto them, I am an hundred and twenty years old this day; I can no more go out and come in. (Deut. XXXI, 2.) Now, ‘this day’ need not be stated; why then is it stated? It teaches that the Holy One, blessed be He, sits and completes the years of the righteous [exactly] from day to day and month to month, as it is said,the number of thy days I will fulfil. (Ex. XXIII, 26.)

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  • Your clarifications are significant and show that the answer to my Q about that one Hebrew verse is, "No, it does not." Your Refs. 1 & 2 pertain to that: the understanding of the Jewish scribes, and traditions (which I wondered could be the main reason for "the integral age of the righteous" - a vital correction to my understanding). Now I will ask a new Q for the Christianity site, which most of your answer here would fit. The topic can be explained (as above) and I would value you copying much of that. There's crossover btwn Christianity & Hermeneutics but I'm trying to keep distinctions.
    – Anne
    Jan 10, 2023 at 10:23
  • This is the link to my new, follow-up Q in Christianity: christianity.stackexchange.com/questions/94114/…
    – Anne
    Jan 10, 2023 at 11:08
  • Genesis 6:3. Perhaps 120 years is not so much a reward for righteousness but an upper limit for humanity that even the righteous cannot breach. Jan 11, 2023 at 2:59
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The quintessential Hebrew idiom, "Son of ... years" simply means that a person has passed that age. We see this many times in Hebrew text. The following samples are all based on Young's literal translation:

  • Gen 21:5 - And Abraham is a son of a hundred years in Isaac his son being born to him
  • Num 33:39 - and Aaron is a son of a hundred and twenty and three years in his dying in mount Hor.
  • Deut 31:2 - and he said unto them, 'A son of a hundred and twenty years am I to-day; I am not able any more to go out and to come in, and Jehovah hath said unto me, You do not pass over this Jordan,
  • Deut 34:7 - And Moses is a son of a hundred and twenty years when he died; his eye hath not become dim, nor hath his moisture fled.
  • Joshua 24:29 - And it comes to pass, after these things, that Joshua son of Nun, servant of Jehovah, died, a son of a hundred and ten years,
  • Judges 2:8 - And Joshua son of Nun, servant of Jehovah, died, a son of a hundred and ten years,
  • 2 Chron 24:15 - And Jehoiada is aged and satisfied with days, and died -- a son of a hundred and thirty years in his death,

... and so forth - there are more but this sample shows the idea.

Now, whether Moses indicated in Deut 31:2 that he said that on his birthday is debatable, but in view of the Hebrew idiom, I think it is unlikely. Most versions correctly render the verse as something like:

(BSB) he said to them, “I am now a hundred and twenty years old; I am no longer able to come and go, and the LORD has said to me, ‘You shall not cross the Jordan.’

Other versions have almost the same thing such as:

  • NIV: I am now a hundred and twenty years old
  • TLV: I am now 120 years old
  • ESV: I am 120 years old today.
  • NASB: I am 120 years old today
  • NKJV: I am one hundred and twenty years old today

... and so forth.

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  • 'Most versions' . . . . 'something like'. This seems rather vague to me. It expresses a view on what the text ought to be, in your own opinion.
    – Nigel J
    Jan 8, 2023 at 8:50
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    @NigelJ - would you rather I quoted all of them? Most other versions are very similar to that quoted above with only slightly different wording.
    – Dottard
    Jan 8, 2023 at 9:04
  • Yes. Quoting one of them would be a good idea.
    – Nigel J
    Jan 8, 2023 at 9:14
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    @NigelJ - that is precisely what I did above!! I even quoted further examples but this does not add much.
    – Dottard
    Jan 8, 2023 at 9:16

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