In mathematics, the number pi, or π, is defined as the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter. The value is approximately 3.14159265…, with infinitely more digits to follow.
Does the Bible define π as exactly 3 when it describes one feature of King Solomon’s temple?
Mathematics and Geometry Introduce Pi
One equation from geometry states that c = 2 * π * r = π * d, where:
- ‘c’ is the circumference of a circle, or the distance around the circle.
- ‘r’ is the radius from the center of a circle to any point on the circle.
- ‘d’ is the diameter across the center of a circle, or exactly twice the radius.
A circle’s circumference is c = π * d. We can solve for π = c / d if we have accurate measurements of ‘c’ and ‘d’.
The Biblical Measure of Solomon’s Bronze Sea
In the Old Testament of the Bible, the book of First Kings includes a description of the temple that Solomon built. In I Kings 7: 23, ”And he made a molten sea, ten cubits from the one brim to the other: it was round all about, and his height was five cubits: and a line of thirty cubits did compass it round about” (KJV).
The King James Version (KJV) has been considered to be authoritative by many, but some modern translations are simpler. The New International Version (NIV) reads, “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“. Footnotes for this verse indicate the length of a “cubit” to be about 1.5 feet.
A cubit is the distance from the elbow to the tip of the middle finger, although that definition begs the question of “whose forearm will we use?”
So the Bible states that this circular cast-metal (or “molten”) basin (or “sea”) had a diameter of 10 cubits and circumference of 30 cubits.
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