Bible: “Pi is Exactly Three!”

There is an episode of “The Simpsons” in which the nerdy professor, John Frink, silences a room of academics by shouting, “PI IS EXACTLY THREE!”

Once the room is silent, he apologizes and tells his audience that he needed to take desperate measures.

But there’s more to this story… Read 1 Kings 7:23 (ESV):

Then he made the sea of cast metal. It was round, ten cubits from brim to brim, and five cubits high, and a line of thirty cubits measured its circumference.

Notice anything strange? It’s summer, so I’ll give your brain the benefit of the doubt and go over it.

Any basic arithmetic, geometry or algebra class teaches us that (Circumference) = (Diameter) * π. So if this thing had a diameter of ten and a circumference of 30… then:
30 = 10 * π
(30/10)  = π
3 = π

Now this is from a document that is several milennia old. Normally you could blame it on a less advanced culture and move along. But this puts me in a difficult place.

Now I don’t know what to think. Most of the Christians I know would say outright that the Bible is literally true. Since I believe in Man’s complete depravity, I am guarded when anyone claims to represent God or to correctly interpret His will. I have trouble trusting that a thousands of years-old document rooted in oral recitation, contradictory source texts, and multiple translations can be 100% accurate and literally true. Then again, I refuse to trust in even my own judgement, as I, too, am fallible. Call it a gut feeling which I noted, and waited to make my own decision until I could see more proof one way or the other.

If God wills the Bible to be 100% accurate, of course it will happen. But I don’t know if God does will it. Overall, it would not be a horrible thing to accept that he does by faith.

But π = 3?

From my own observations, I cannot accept that pi equals three. OK, big deal. But at this moment, from what I see right now, I cannot believe that the bible is 100% literally true.
Some argue that they were simply rounding up. Fine by me, but that is not literal.
Some argue that they made improper measurements. Fine by me, but that is not truth.

This is in no way threatening my relationship with Christ or most of my central beliefs. I’m just really surprised to see this. Does anybody have some wisdom or insight that would help here?

One comment

  1. Perhaps the brim was a different part of the cauldron than where the circumference was measured. Maybe the brim was at the top, but the circumference was measured in the middle?

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