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
ICR's New In-Depth Science Book: Chimps and Humans
Evolutionists frequently claim that human and chimp DNA are over 98% similar. They need this percentage to support their hypothesis that humans and...

Fossil Chromatin Looks Young
What are the odds that a buried animal would still have intact DNA after 125 million years? Researchers publishing in the journal Communications Biology...

Inside October 2021 Acts & Facts
How is the Lord’s handiwork on display at John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park? Does the universe look old? What can we learn about science and...

Two-Volume Series: Restoring the Truth about Origins
The subject of origins continues to attract interest from the public and the scientific establishment. Understanding our origins informs us of who we are...

Creation Kids: Floods Form Fossils Fast
Christy Hardy and Susan Windsor* You’re never too young to be a creation scientist! Kids, discover fun facts about God’s creation with...

A Battle for Hearts
Since the ICR Discovery Center for Science & Earth History opened in fall of 2019, tens of thousands of people have walked through our doors. They...

Eating Bugs Isn't Always So Simple
The Lord Jesus Christ deserves glory for why He made Earth’s diverse creatures, and He also deserves glory for the complicated details of how...

Does the Universe Look Old?
Since distant galaxies are billions of light-years away, some understandably assume that distant starlight must have taken billions of years to reach...

Hawaii Behind the Scenes
ICR Research Scientist Dr. Brian Thomas and ICR Video Producer Clint Loveness, with help from friends and family, recently shot footage in Maui, Hawaii,...

Mutation, Design, and Faith
Any alteration in a cell’s DNA sequence is a mutation. These changes can come from copying errors, exposure to chemicals or radiation, or from...