The Bible and the Value of PiIntroduction
The URL for the page on my website (with working links!) containing this short essay is http://www.geocities.com/Athens/Aegean/2260/bible/pi.html.
Many people claim God inspires the Bible. Yet, 1 Kings 7:23 indicates a value of 3 for Pi. The actual value of Pi is 3.141592654... Does this mean the Bible is wrong, and not inspired of God?
The Value of Pi
The value ofPi is a mathematical constant, which means it never changes. It is defined as the ratio of a circle's circumference to its diameter. Dividing a circle's circumference by its diameter always gives the same number. This number is equal to 3.141592654...
The Value of Pi as Determined from the Bible
1 Kings 7:23"Then he made the molten sea; it was round, ten cubits from brim to brim, and five cubits high, and a line of thirty cubits measured its circumference."
Dividing a circumference of thirty cubits by a diameter (brim to brim) of ten gives 3 as the value for Pi. This is clearly wrong.
The Case against the Bible being Divinely Inspired
Pi times ten cubits is 31.41592654 cubits, not 30. The circumference of the molten sea is out by about a cubit and a half. Since acubit is about 18 inches, this is quite a bit of error.
The value of Pi is a scientific fact that is not disputed by anyone, including creationists. Surely the God who created the laws that determined the value of Pi knows its value. Why did he not give the correct value in the Bible?
Some creationists say that the writer of this passage simply rounded off the circumference. However, if you were to measure the circumference, there is no way you could say it is 30 cubits. At worse, you would have to say it is 31 cubits.
Others claim that ancient Israelites did not know fractions. This is simply not true. (Numbers 29:9 )
To me, this indicates that the Bible was the work of men. However, I did find another side to the issue, which I will now present.The Case for the Bible Being Inspired
Some religions, such as the Jehovah's Witnesses, contend that God inspired the Bible but that He let the writers use their own style of writing. They say that many parts of the Bible were written in the language of the writer and often reflected the viewpoint of the common man, not what may be an airtight scientific fact. It is reasonable that a common person might use 3 as the value for Pi.
Skepticmagazine, Vol. 5, No. 4 1997, in the article "The Myth of Egyptian Pi", points out that the Babylonians used a value of 3 for Pi. It is possible that Israel had the same custom.
Instead of multiplying the diameter of the molten sea by Pi to get the circumference, what if you divided the circumference by Pi? 30 cubits divided by Pi is 9.549296586 cubits. This can be reasonably rounded up to give a diameter of 10 cubits. Then the description of the molten sea in1 Kings 7:23 could be considered accurate.
In my humble opinion, I believe that the incorrect value given for Pi is a small piece of the large body of evidence that the Bible is merely the work of men and not of God. However, I believe this argument is weak and is splitting hairs. It contributes little to the Biblical inerrancy debate.
So, although I believe that this shows that the Bible is wrong, I can see why others would not see it that way. I believe the use of the mistaken value of Pi to disprove the divine inspiration of the Bible is overblown.
Edited by - Skeptic on 30 October 2002 15:16:46
Edited by - Skeptic on 30 October 2002 15:21:20
Edited by - Skeptic on 30 October 2002 15:24:12