The Biblical Value of Pi

This one puzzles me a little. Apparently, I should give up my religion because the Bible says pi=3.

So says:

The Biblical text under scrutiny is 1 Kings 7:23. It says the big bronze laver in the temple had a diameter of 10 cubits, and a circumference of 30 cubits. So, it is said: the Bible says pi=3.

As an engineer and a Christian, I would say “You are joking... right?”, but it keeps coming up, so here we go...

Short answer: the Bible does rounding! And now for the long answer...

Let’s just say, for example, that the bronze laver was between 30.0 and 30.4 cubits in circumference. I’m simply speculating on the unstated 3rd significant figure of precision.

I’ll assume that figure was the outer circumference. By modern mathematical opinions on the fine thing called pi, and assuming the nature of space-time hasn’t fundamentally changed in the last 3,000 years, then the laver’s outer diameter was between 9.55 and 9.68 cubits (to 3 significant figures).

Now let’s assume that the ancient craftsmen and/or Biblical writers understood the concept of rounding. Let’s just say that for their purposes of conveying to us, the reader, the dimensions of the temple laver (rather than, for example, making a mathematical declaration on the value of pi according to the greatest extents of their mathematical prowess), they were content to record it rounded to the nearest cubit. Check the numbers—they are:

  • circumference = 30 cubits
  • diameter = 10 cubits

So, everything is looking fine and mathematically correct to me. Everyone is happy, I hope.

Final Thoughts

This of course begs the question: is the value of pi the most serious objection to the Bible? Surely critics should dig a little, nay a lot, deeper into the Biblical text and consider its more substantial implications. Then discuss the serious stuff. Questions like:



I'm an atheist, but I've

I'm an atheist, but I've never been fond of this argument or thought of it as making much of a point. On the other hand, just as there are many types of atheists (the ones who oppose religion absolutely; those who don't believe in god, but don't really care that others do, etc), there are many types of christians. And at least one type is the bible literalists (I live in the US south, btw). And, the value of PI actually becomes relevant in these arguments (well, if there's rounding, then it's not all that literal, is it? etc..) So this is all very context dependent.


Thanks for your comments. The business of "Biblical literalism" intrigues me. From a literary analysis point of view, posing the question as "literal vs figurative" for any serious piece of literature is an over-simplification. We should aim to read it the way the author intended, whatever that is.


Still, a better argument against your Southern US Biblical literalists would be that insects have six legs, where the Bible refers to them as creeping on all fours.

It is said that we don't have

It is said that we don't have to put the god on test. God has made a human like himself. That is why, unlike other animals human beings can laugh and cry. And even the most significant feature of humans is power of judging on every single thing. God has endowed such an extraordinary capacity to human that is why, human can study about even a micro particle.

look it up please on Koinonia House

Hi very nice article, I recently came across a site that holds a very profound answer to this question / debate.
It seems this is a way God works, draw attention to a superficial problem, when properly digged there is no more problem and instead a treasure is found. God wants us to dig deep into His Word. I found an article that properly deals with this 'problem' Look it up please:

greetings from the Netherlands

Koinonia House

Hidden Codes in the Bible:

The Value of Pi
by Chuck Missler

''A Spelling Lesson

The common word for circumference is qav. Here, however, the spelling of the word for circumference, qaveh, adds a heh (h).

In the Hebrew Bible, the scribes did not alter any text which they felt had been copied incorrectly. Rather, they noted in the margin what they thought the written text should be. The written variation is called a kethiv; and the marginal annotation is called the qere.

To the ancient scribes, this was also regarded as a remez, a hint of something deeper. This appears to be the clue to treat the word as a mathematical formula.

Numerical Values

The Hebrew alphabet is alphanumeric: each Hebrew letter also has a numerical value and can be used as a number.

The q has a value of 100; the v has a value of 6; thus, the normal spelling would yield a numerical value of 106. The addition of the h, with a value of 5, increases the numerical value to 111. This indicates an adjustment of the ratio 111/106, or 31.41509433962 cubits. Assuming that a cubit was 1.5 ft.,3 this 15-foot-wide bowl would have had a circumference of 47.12388980385 feet.

This Hebrew "code" results in 47.12264150943 feet, or an error of less than 15 thousandths of an inch! (This error is 15 times better than the 22/7 estimate that we were accustomed to using in school!) How did they accomplish this? This accuracy would seem to vastly exceed the precision of their instrumentation. How would they know this? How was it encoded into the text?
'' end of quote