Biblical value of pi

From Iron Chariots Wiki
Revision as of 08:01, 19 December 2009 by Murphy (Talk | contribs)
Jump to: navigation, search

The Bible indirectly claims that the value of π (pi) is 3. 1 Kings 7:23 Bible-icon.png says:

"And he made a molten sea, ten cubits from the one brim to the other: it was round all about, and his height was five cubits: and a line of thirty cubits did compass it round about."

If a circle has a diameter of 10 cubits, and a circumference of 30 cubits then the value of π is 30 cubits ÷ 10 cubits = 3.00.


Atheists often use this passage to demonstrate a mathematical error in the Bible, despite that fact that it is supposedly divinely inspired. Since the circumference of a circle is π × diameter, a round sea could only be ten cubits across and thirty cubits around if π = 3, rather than 3.1415...

This shows that the Bible is not inerrant in such a way that no amount of denying scientific observations can sweep the objection away, because it is based on mathematics, which is much harder to dispute.

Apologetic response

  1. If you make a molten sea with a circumference of thirty cubits, you'll find that the diameter is 30 ÷ π or 9.55 cubits. Or ten cubits, to round to the nearest integer.
  2. The Bible does not say that π must be three, unless you are going to assume that the numbers given are accurate to more than two significant figures, which is unjustifiable given the wording.
  3. Additionally, the Bible doesn't claim that the sea was a perfect circle, only that it was "round" or "circular".


While some atheists like to cite this as a demonstration against strict Biblical literalists, as we could certainly expect greater precision if the words of the Bible come directly from a god, the argument tends to be viewed as trivial. While the argument can be useful, it would seem to be vastly overshadowed by the wealth of errors, contradictions, ambiguities and atrocities contained in the Bible.

It is also worthy to note the inherent ambiguity of the cubit itself, based off of the length of the human forearm. Our ancient friends did not possess the accuracy of measurement that we do today.

v · d Arguments for the existence of god
Anthropic arguments   Anthropic principle · Natural-law argument
Arguments for belief   Pascal's Wager · Argument from faith · Just hit your knees
Christological arguments   Argument from scriptural miracles · Would someone die for a lie? · Liar, Lunatic or Lord
Cosmological arguments   Argument from aesthetic experience · Argument from contingency · Cosmological argument · Fine-tuning argument · Kalam · Leibniz cosmological argument · Principle of sufficient reason · Unmoved mover · Why is there something rather than nothing?
Majority arguments   Argument from admired religious scientists
Moral arguments   Argument from justice · Divine command theory
Ontological argument   Argument from degree · Argument from desire · Origin of the idea of God
Dogmatic arguments   Argument from divine sense · Argument from uniqueness
Teleological arguments   Argument from design · Banana argument · 747 Junkyard argument · Laminin argument · Argument from natural disasters
Testimonial arguments   Argument from observed miracles · Personal experience · Argument from consciousness · Emotional pleas · Efficacy of prayer
Transcendental arguments   God created numbers · Argument from the meaning of life
Scriptural arguments   Scriptural inerrancy · Scriptural scientific foreknowledge · Scriptural codes
Personal tools
wiki navigation