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Pi in the Bible?

Posted by: David Carroll

2 Chronicles 4:2 (NIV)

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.

This is a physical description of the molten sea of bronze which was used as a laver for ceremonial cleansing in the Temple. Many Bible critics have pointed to the mathematical error embodied in this description as proof that the Bible cannot be trusted to be accurate. If the diameter of the circle is 10 cubits then the circumference should a factor of Pi (3.14) larger than that, or 31.4 cubits, not 30 cubits as this verse indicates. This sort of complaint, seems silly to me. First of all, the Bible never claims to be a mathematics book. Secondly, the writer most likely had no knowledge of Geometry and was simply writing a general historical account. Well, you might argue, if it was inspired of God, it would have been correct regardless. OK, I'll buy that argument. I'll even go further and say that where the Bible does touch on scientific subjects, it is accurate. So are we left with an error?

Until you have perfect knowledge, you cannot claim a contradiction is final. There might be an explanation. Let's see if we can come up with a reasonable one. Suppose the ten cubits was dimension from outside edge to outside edge and then suppose the circumference of thirty cubits were the measurement around the inside edge of the bowel. Taking a cubit to be 18 inches, if the thickness of the rim were exactly 4 inches, then these measurements would corroborate with Pi to a very high degree of accuracy.

In verse five, the rim of this molten sea is described.

2 Chronicles 4:5 (NIV)

It was a handbreadth in thickness, and its rim was like the rim of a cup, like a lily blossom. It held three thousand baths.

Notice that it was a handbreadth in thickness. I just measured the width of my hand. Guess what it was?


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