Does the Bible Contain a Mathematically Incorrect Value for "Pi"? | The Institute for Creation Research

Does the Bible Contain a Mathematically Incorrect Value for "Pi"?

Does the Bible contain errors in math? If it does, this calls into question its moral and spiritual authority. Much is at stake. Let's carefully examine one of the most frequent charges of error.

When describing Solomon's Temple and its fixtures, Scripture tells of a great basin cast of molten brass "ten cubits from the one brim to the other: it was round all about, . . . and a line of thirty cubits did compass it round about" (I Kings 7:23).

The circumference, c, of a circle is related to its diameter, d, by the ratio "pi" or "P" according to the equation c = Pd. Mathematical derivatives have calculated the precise value of P to many decimal places, but for most applications the approximation 3.14 is sufficient.

Inserting the value of circumference and diameter given by Scripture into the equation yields a value of P to be 3, and it is this apparent error which gives Bible detractors such glee.

Construction techniques in those days were surprisingly advanced. We can assume that their mathematics was precise and measurements handled with care. Notice that the basin "was an hand breadth thick, and the brim thereof was wrought like the brim of a cup, with flowers of lilies" (v.26). A "hand breadth" is an inexact distance of about four inches, but sufficient for this general description. The whole basin flared out at the top, much like a lily. So, exactly what do the dimensions given really represent?

The diameter of the basin would be the inside diameter, measured from side to side. But the circumference would be measured by placing a cord around the outside, then measuring the length of the cord. Furthermore, at what elevation along the tapered basin was the measurement taken? Obviously, these are not intended to be precise, but to give the overall impression of great size and beauty.

Engineers have adopted a technique to insure that reported measurements are properly understood. To do this they use the convention called "significant figures." The number 10 is quite different from the number 10.0 or 10.00 in the precision it implies. To an engineer the number 10 can actually mean anything between 9.5 and 10.5. Likewise, the number 30 can actually mean anything between 29.5 and 30.5.

While the number P is accurate to many decimal places, the other two numbers do not have this precision. When one precise number is multiplied by an imprecise number, the product should be reported with no more precision than the least precise factor. Multiplying the diameter, 10 (i.e., 9.5 to 10.5) by P, is properly understood as implying a circumference somewhere between 29.8 and 33.0.

When constructing an object for which extremely high precision is needed (e.g., the space shuttle), numbers are designed, reported, and fabricated to several decimal places, but to expect such precision in a lay description of this huge basin cast from molten brass is not only improper, it shows lack of understanding of basic engineering concepts. Properly understood, the Bible is not only correct, it foreshadows modern engineering truth.

Cite this article: John D. Morris, Ph.D. 2003. Does the Bible Contain a Mathematically Incorrect Value for "Pi"?. Acts & Facts. 32 (5).

The Latest
NEWS
Inside December 2020 Acts & Facts
What is ICR’s mission? Why are volunteers vital to our ministry? How do you prepare for creation ministry? What legacy does Dr. Henry M. Morris...

ACTS & FACTS
Perhaps Today!
When I was a young boy, I remember a small, humble plaque that hung on the wall in my grandfather’s ICR office directly opposite his desk. Painted...

APOLOGETICS
December, Winter Weather, and Washington
Wintry-mix weather dominated Christmas night in 1776 as General George Washington and his boat-ferried troops crossed the Delaware River to surprise...

ACTS & FACTS
How Do I Prepare for Creation Ministry?
Many of today’s creation researchers can testify that information from the Institute for Creation Research sparked a burning, lifelong passion...

ACTS & FACTS
Dr. Henry M. Morris III: A Kingdom-Focused Life
Dr. Henry M. Morris III has been at the heart of the Institute for Creation Research’s ministry work for decades, using his gifts as a leader,...

DISCOVERY CENTER
Volunteering God's Creation Truth
“Welcome to the ICR Discovery Center!” Kerry greets the guests with a smile as they walk into the exhibit hall. “Is this your first...

ACTS & FACTS
Are We Living in a Computer Simulation?
Scott Arledge and Brian Thomas, Ph.D. “The odds that we are in base reality is one in billions,” says famed inventor Elon Musk.1...

ACTS & FACTS
Osteostracans Aren't Ancestors
And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul. Genesis...

ACTS & FACTS
The Fossils Still Say No: The Cambrian Explosion
The modern theory of evolution has its roots in Charles Darwin’s 1859 book On the Origin of Species, in which he proposed the fundamental conjecture...

RESEARCH
Rogue Moths Didn't Start Out That Way
Butterflies and moths fluttering around a flower are a beautiful sight. They innocently lap up nectar and float on the wind. Countless plants depend...