The Value of Pi: Proof the Bible Is Not From God?

by Skeptic 10 Replies latest watchtower bible

  • Skeptic

    The Bible and the Value of Pi


    The URL for the page on my website (with working links!) containing this short essay is

    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 of

    Pi 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 a

    cubit 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.


    magazine, 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 in

    1 Kings 7:23 could be considered accurate.

    My Conclusion

    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

  • rem


    I agree with your conclusion. It is an error, but it's one of those gray areas. Kinda like the one about insects having four legs in Leviticus, I think. By itself, it's not much to go on, but when taken with all of the other errors, it makes a case for a man-made book, uninspired of god.


  • patio34

    Very good thread Skeptic. And I concur with Rem's statement that by itself, it's not that significant, but combined with all the other reasons, it is very significant. Thanks for that info. I enjoyed visiting the site and will spend more time there, I'm sure.


  • A Paduan
    A Paduan

    Wow, no wonder you're a skeptic - you could use something a little less exacting, like fish that swallow men or a boat full of every creature - (it's a story).

  • pomegranate

    1 Kings 7:23-24
    He made the Sea of cast metal, circular in shape, measuring ten cubits from rim to rim and five cubits high. It took a line of thirty cubits to measure around it. 24 Below the rim,

    The rim would have SLIGHTLY extended the diameter of the basin. Which means the RIM would have been .65 cubits, or around 10 inches.


    Edited by - pomegranate on 30 October 2002 16:56:26

  • pomegranate

    I'll throw some Biblical support in there for good measure:

    1 Kings 7:24
    24 Below the rim, gourds encircled it-ten to a cubit.

    The gourds could NOT be under the rim unless the rim EXTENDED beyond the diameter of the tank. The gourds were applied to the diameter of the tank, UNDER the rim. The rim surely had measurement BEYOND the tank.

    That solves the seeming Pi discrepancy. Right? Right.

  • jws
    1 Kings 7:23-24
    He made the Sea of cast metal, circular in shape, measuring ten cubits from rim to rim and five cubits high. It took a line of thirty cubits to measure around it.

    I read about this years ago in a book on pi. While I would joke with people about this "proving the Bible wrong" to get a reaction, I think there's plenty of room for a plausible explaination.

    The verse seems to speak of the width around (circumference) being measured. It talks about a "line of 30 cubits" being used to measure it around. I would assume this is the starting point. This is what was measured. Whether the diameter (from rim to rim) was actually measured r merely calculated is uncertain. To start with diameter and multiply would then give you a false conclusion, especially when rounding is no-doubt involved.

    As stated, 30/pi = 9.549, which rounds up to 10. I don't recall seeing decimal points being used in the Bible, so numbers would probably be rounded off.

    While 9.549 rounds up to 10, it's real close to the half-way point between 9 and 10. Let's say the object was a little larger than 30 in circumference. Let's say 30 1/3, that makes the diameter 9.655 (about 9 2/3). 30 1/3 could easily be rounded down to 30 and 9 2/3 is now a lot closer to 10 and could easily be rounded up.

    Did the ancients even round up or down the way we do? That is, .5 or above, round up and below .5, round down? Or was everything above a whole number rounded up? Or down?

    Was the object really a perfect circle? If slightly oval, it could appear circular, but actually measure slightly smaller across at some points than others. We are talking about what? Approx. 15 feet across. That's a large circle. Although I could be biased and view all ancient civilizations as primitive, I'm not sure they had the means to make a perfect circular bowl (or whatever a "sea" is) of that size. I would think it's very possible it came out somewhat oval.

    While I do believe that the Bible has its inconsistencies, I think this is far from a smoking gun.

  • roybatty

    Most JWs would simply say that the Bible is not a book of science or engineering, so to bring out such oversights is nothing.

    Personally, I like the information. Thanks!

  • Skeptic
    Wow, no wonder you're a skeptic - you could use something a little less exacting, like fish that swallow men or a boat full of every creature - (it's a story).

    LOL! Ah, yes, but then I couldn't play with math! And I love analysing things to death, especially if I reach a conclusion that is out of the ordinary.


  • BluesBrother

    I just thought I would let the WTS comment on this:-

    Apparently this is not a new observation.

    *** it-2 425 Molten Sea (Copper Sea) ***

    Circumference. The circumference of 30 cubits is evidently a round figure, for more precisely it would be 31.4 cubits. In this regard, Christopher Wordsworth quotes a certain Rennie as making this interesting observation: "Up to the time of Archimedes [third century B.C.E.], the circumference of a circle was always measured in straight lines by the radius; and Hiram would naturally describe the sea as thirty cubits round, measuring it, as was then invariably the practice, by its radius, or semi-diameter, of five cubits, which being applied six times round the perimeter, or brim, would give the thirty cubits stated. There was evidently no intention in the passage but to give the dimensions of the Sea, in the usual language that every one would understand, measuring the circumference in the way in which all skilled workers, like Hiram, did measure circles at that time. He, of course, must however have known perfectly well, that as the polygonal hexagon thus inscribed by the radius was thirty cubits, the actual curved circumference would be somewhat more." (Notes on the King James Version, London, 1887) Thus, it appears that the ratio of three to one (that is, the circumference being three times the diameter) was a customary way of stating matters, intended to be understood as only approximate."

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