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The Blue Letter Bible

Don Stewart :: Does the Bible Give an Inaccurate Value for Pi?

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Don Stewart
The following Scripture seems to give an inaccurate value for pi.

Then he made the Sea of cast bronze, ten cubits from one brim to the other; it was completely round. Its height was five cubits, and a line of thirty cubits measured its circumference (2 Chronicles 4:2).

Some see this three to one ratio as inconsistent with an inerrant Scripture. The true value of pi is 3.14159 rather than 3.0. Is this a scientific error?

Two Possible Solutions

There are two basic ways that this problem can be approached without admitting to a scientific error. The first solution sees the writer as speaking in approximate terms. As we have already said, the Bible does not claim to give technical scientific explanations for things, but rather speaks from the viewpoint of an observer. This is the same thing we all do in everyday speech. Therefore, in this instance, the writer is only speaking in approximate terms.

However, there is another solution that has the biblical writer speaking very precisely. Charles Ryrie explains:

The ten cubit measurement was from brim to brim; that is from the outside edge to the other. But verse 5 states the width of the edge was a handbreath or about 4 inches. So the insider diameter was ten cubits (180 inches) minus two handbreaths (8 inches). Multiplying 172 inches by pi, the total is 540 inches, the same circumference given in verse 2. (Charles Ryrie, Basic Theology, Wheaton, Illinois: SP Publications, 1986, p. 99).

Whichever solution is adopted, it is clear that one not need assume a scientific error.
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