The Gemara, starting in Megillah 27b, starts describing various situations where different sages were asked how they merited to reach a long life. Presumably, this was because, at the time they were asked, they were considered to be 'old'. Do any of the sources discuss how old they were when they were asked (or alternatively, when they passed away)?

Based on this handy chart from Wikipedia, average life expectancy from those times seemed to be in the 20-50 range, so does that mean someone in their 60's would be considered 'having merited old age'? On the other hand, there are the numbers found in biblical sources (which weren't that far back from those days...) and I seem to recall various midrashim speaking about Amoraim in the few-hundred-year range, so that would imply at least 100+ years for for someone to be notably old.

  • 2. Where do you think the Mishna in Avos 5 comes from? " בֶּן שְׁלשִׁים לַכֹּחַ, בֶּן אַרְבָּעִים לַבִּינָה, בֶּן חֲמִשִּׁים לָעֵצָה, בֶּן שִׁשִּׁים לַזִּקְנָה, בֶּן שִׁבְעִים לַשֵּׂיבָה, בֶּן שְׁמֹנִים לַגְּבוּרָה, בֶּן תִּשְׁעִים לָשׁוּחַ, בֶּן מֵאָה כְּאִלּוּ מֵת וְעָבַר וּבָטֵל מִן הָעוֹלָם:"
    – Al Berko
    Apr 1, 2019 at 19:54
  • 3. this gemmorah certainly contradicts another in Moed Koton 28a "אמר רבא חיי בני ומזוני לא בזכותא תליא מילתא אלא במזלא": Rava said: Length of life, children, and sustenance do not depend on one’s merit, but rather they depend upon fate.
    – Al Berko
    Apr 1, 2019 at 19:58
  • 2
    1. it says "If a person survived to age 20, they could expect to live around 30 years more." so 60 and 80 weren't uncommon. You might misunderstand the idea of "average life expectancy" - where a lot of kids died young the average was very low, but Rabbis never die young! So everyone who survived the childhood had a decent lifespan to enjoy. One of the reasons for improvement inour life expectancy is lowering the infant deaths.
    – Al Berko
    Apr 1, 2019 at 20:01
  • @AlBerko 1:Ok, so let's say instead of 50's I'll say 60's. The main gist of the question is the first paragraph, to find out how old the sages were that prompted the question. The second paragraph is mostly extra information to (I hope) make the question seem more full and interesting. 2:Are you suggesting that's an answer? If you can source and explain how that applies to the question above, you have the start of an answer (although specific numbers for the sages mentioned in the Gemarah would be the ideal answer). 3:Valid question how to understand that Gemara, although unrelated to this Q. Apr 1, 2019 at 20:27
  • Very related "No obligation to count years: : judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/86600/…
    – Al Berko
    Apr 1, 2019 at 21:58

1 Answer 1


Some of them, yes:

R' Elazar ben Shamua: Midrash Eileh Ezkerah says he lived to 105.

R' Preida: Tosafos there refers to a Gemara in Eiruvin (54b) that he lived to 400.

R' Yehoshua ben Korcha: Gilyon Hashas there refers to Tosafos to Bava Basra 113a, which argues that he must have lived to at least 140, since otherwise it wouldn't be much of a bracha for Rebbi to live to less than 70.

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