thirty cubits

1 Kings 7:23

7:23 thirty cubits. Critics who try to find scientific “mistakes” in Scripture nearly always settle on this verse as one of their prime examples. Solomon’s sea, ten cubits in diameter, had a circumference of thirty cubits, supposedly showing that the writer thought the value of p, or “pi,” (the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter) was exactly 3.0, instead of 3.1416. The critics do not understand the principle—always applied in careful scientific calculations—of “significant figures.” The dimensions as given were not intended as precisely 10 or 30, but were obviously round numbers. To say the diameter was 10 means only that it was somewhere between 9.5 and 10.5. Similarly the circumference was somewhere between 29.5 and 30.5. Thus the implied value of p was somewhere between 29.5/10.5 and 30.5/9.5—that is, between 2.81 and 3.21. The precise value of p is clearly within this range, and it would have been incorrect to try to specify a more precise value.

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