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
Control Loops in Humans and Nature
Ever had a blood test? Along with a value measured, there are also the normal max/min limits for that value. This implies that the body normally controls...

NEWS
Creation and Climate Science with Dr. Jake Hebert
ICR physicist Dr. Jake Hebert* recently made a guest appearance on Good Heavens! A Podcast About the Universe with Wayne and Dan. Dr. Hebert presented...

NEWS
Inside May 2021 Acts & Facts
How should Christians respond when authorities are in conflict with God’s Word? Can we trust scientific measurements and reports about fossil...

ACTS & FACTS
Creation Kids: Volcanoes
Christy Hardy and Susan Windsor* You’re never too young to be a creation scientist! Kids, discover fun facts about God’s creation with...

ACTS & FACTS
Tributes of Honor and Remembrance
At the end of a long day, a boss I had early in my career would often tell me, “No more today, Henry. My brain is full.” I found his comments...

APOLOGETICS
Guided by Lynx to Appreciate Christ
Not all tour guides in Alaska are human. Amazing animals of Alaska can guide us into learning creation truth. In fact, such animals should direct us—like...

ACTS & FACTS
Zion National Park: Evidence of Deep Water Sand Waves
Brian Thomas, Ph.D., and Tim Clarey, Ph.D.* It was like driving into another world when we emerged from Zion-Mount Carmel Tunnel right at dawn....

ACTS & FACTS
Is the Bible Evidence for Creation?
Have you ever had a skeptic tell you to keep the Bible out of it when discussing origins? Skeptics claim we Christians argue in a circle, that we are...

ACTS & FACTS
Vertebrate Origins on the Ropes…Again
In 1859, the Western world was turned upside down by the publication of Charles Darwin’s The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection or...

ACTS & FACTS
The Fossils Still Say No: Enigma of the Carboniferous Explosion
Many creationists and evolutionists alike are familiar with the initial huge explosion of complex marine life buried in the Cambrian rock layers at...