Pi and the Bible by Justin Day
December 18, 2008, 8:00 am
Filed under: Thought Initiative


by Justin Day

So how much is Pi? Since the birth of geometry, mathematicians have found Pi to be a constant value of 3.14… It seems that king Solomon, however, has a bone to pick with this.

In 1 Kings 7:23 we read, “Then he made the sea of cast metal. It was round, ten cubits from brim to brim, and five cubits high, and a line of thirty cubits measured its circumference.” Given that π=Circumference/ Diameter, it seems that 1 Kings records Pi as 3 (30 cubits/10 cubits), not 3.14…

1)How should we take this? Since the plain reading of the text is that Pi = 3 instead of the traditional value, does this lead us to believe that mathematics is wrong and Pi is actually 3? Is there another way that this should be interpreted?

2)Does this undermine Biblical innerancy?


7 Comments so far
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Well, 3.14 is wrong too 😛 Both are rounded numbers. I’ve come across this before, and I say there’s no undermining of biblical inerrancy here!

– Brian Baker

Comment by

An interesting article. Pi is Wrong!

Comment by Squatty

Here is one possible answer.

Comment by Ben Stevenson

“round” doesn’t have to mean a perfect circle. Also, who’s to say that they would report, in the bible, the nitty gritty details of all the numbers for the measurements. Much the same way when our wives (lady friends) talk about how they got a shirt for $20. It was probably $18.99, or something.

No, it doesn’t undermine biblical inerrancy. Just because we don’t have all the information, doesn’t mean the information we have is wrong.

Comment by Kevin Shipp

You can barely measure any circle with a straight unit of measure. Perhaps the author measured a 30sided polygon with cubits inscribed by the circle. It becomes a difficult argument to make that this is inappropriate was of measuring if such measurement was normal to the time.

Comment by Dave M

Kevin, if Solomon wasn’t building something perfectly round, it would have actually been greater than 31.4 cubits in circumference. The circle is the minimum value in this case.

But really, this is all about rounding. If the passage had come up with the circumference being 10 cubits letting pi = 1 we would have a problem. But saying 3 istead of 3.14 isn’t an issue. Our measurements are simply more precise than Solomon’s.

Comment by psteele

Obviously the Bible isn’t totally factual. They did the best they could with what they had. They were telling a story, not writing a technical manual. The Bible isn’t a census report, it’s poetry. If you’re looking for everything to be literally true, you’re missing the entire point.

Comment by sef650

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