If the bible is literally true then π is 3 and my odometer is wrong

“What is not possible is not to choose.” (Jean-Paul Sartre)

Consider the following:

  • “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.” (1 Kings 7:23). See also 2 Chronicles 4:2.
  • π is the ratio of the circumference (30 cubits) of a circle and its diameter (10 cubits).
  • ∴ π is 3.

Either the bible is literally true, and π is represented as the ratio of the two integers 30 and 10, or π is irrational with a value of around 3.1415926. We recently set up new odometers on our bikes. The manual for the device instructs the user to multiply the diameter of the bike’s wheel by 3.14, yielding the wheel’s circumference. So, for a 700 mm wheel, that’s about 2198 mm for a π of 3.14 and 2199 mm for a π of 3.1415926. But what if π is 3? That circumference becomes 2100 mm.

Now, for say 50 revolutions of the wheel:

  • for a circumference of 2.199 meters we have 109.95 meters (if π is 3.1415926);
  • for a circumference of 2.198 we have a 109.9 meters (if π is 3.14);
  • for a circumference of 2.1, we have 105 meters (if π is 3).

If π is 3, the wheel traverses almost 5 meters less. So is π 3?


Read more about the π saga than you probably want to in this Gospel of Reason blog entry and follow-up comments.

“It makes sense to revere the sun and stars, for we are their children.” (Carl Sagan)

Consider the following:

  • The world was made by God in 6 days (see Genesis), including all living things.
  • Massive stars exist for millions of years before exploding as supernovae, the only known means by which elements heavier than iron are created.
  • Our bodies contain elements heavier than iron, e.g. iodine.

Either the bible is literally true and the world and us (including heavier-than-iron elements) were really created in 6 days, or the universe really is old.


“What is not possible is not to choose.” (Jean-Paul Sartre)

8 Responses to “If the bible is literally true then π is 3 and my odometer is wrong”

  1. jim whitley Says:

    i have read and reread the passages about the big brass pot and i see no mention of or hint of pi would you please quote the part about pi
    here a copy and past

    i don’t think the molten sea was a example of PI it’s just instructions on how to cast a big pot. it would have been done upside down i.e. dig a hole carve decorations in the wall, to make the inside volume by stack bricks one hand from the outside wall (circumference 30 cubits) 5 cubits high minus one hand (the thickness of the bottom of the pot) using the 21st century cubit our hand is only off by .050 of a inch not bad for mere humans

  2. dbenn Says:

    Hi Jim

    The bible itself does not mention PI, so I cannot provide such a quote. But the bible does not need to mention PI. The numbers speak for themselves.

    As a counterpoint I looked at a different translation, The Good News Bible, which gives the values in metric rather than cubits. Both the 1 Kings and 2 Chronicles passages give a diameter of 4.4m and a circumference of 13.2m. PI is the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter. In this case, that’s 13.2:4.4 which is exactly 3.

    If the bible is the literal word of God, then He is saying that PI is 3. PI is a time-independent notion that God would know since He created it. The foregoing amounts to a proof by contradiction that the bible is not the literal word of God.

    Now, you may object that the Good News Bible or some other translation, X, is not a faithful translation from the original text. But where is the original, and which, if any translations of it are faithful? When I have time I will take a look at other sources and report here.

    But just suppose for a moment that the canonical original text had diameter and circumference values whose ratio would yield something like 3.1415926 instead of 3, and that translations have introduced errors into these values. Then we are still left will the weaker conclusion that the bible translations that people today refer to as the literal word of God are in error and the claims made by (some) Christians about certainty derived from the bible are unfounded. If something as simple as these values has been mistranslated, then what other errors have been introduced? The Genesis narrative? The nature of Jesus or the resurrection?

    Either way, the claim that the bible is the literal word of God is in doubt.

  3. jim whitley Says:

    here’s a very helpful bible http://companionbiblecondensed.com/

    King Solomon, a man of wisdom? son in-law to the pharaoh of Egypt. he fetched Hiram Labonen who was filed with 1 wisdom and 2 understanding and 3 skill (emphasized three times) Solomon liked the master builders of Lebanon they had cut and moved the largest stone in world history with wisdom, understanding and
    skill. we would be unable to do that today because we lack wisdom, understanding and skill
    do you think that the best master hired by the wisest man would think that a pot w/a dia. of 10 would have a circumference of 30 ? look at the measurements of the mold they are a perfect. Pi cant be written but it can be expressed using two different measuring systems. i don’t think i said that right. I have worked fifty years I’m called master and teacher by many men but when i see what these true master builder have done . I feel like a child. there are plenty of places in the bible that don’t make since to me but this isn’t one of them.

    The Western Wall Stone has a length of 13.6 meters, a width estimated between 3.5 to 4.5 meters; estimates place the weight at 570 tons. (Ref: Wilkopedia.org)

    here’s the big one http://www.ancient-wisdom.co.uk/top50stones.htm I specially like the up hill part. (GE Diesel-electric locomotives are 100 tons how would you drag 15 of them up hill)
    Ba’albek, Lebanon.
    Measures 20.9m x 4.8m x 3m = 300m³.

    Estimates on the original weight of this stone vary from 1,000 tons to a regular 1,500 tons (1), and upwards. The highest estimate of the unfinished stone’s weight was 2,000 tons (7, 11).

    three other smaller stones under ‘The Grand Terrace’ are also estimated to weigh from between 750 and 1,000 tons each (9), and there are several other colossal stones to be seen around the great ‘Temple of the Sun’ at Ba’albek.

    The stones were cut from red granite, with the largest ‘The stone of the south’ (as seen above), still attached to the bedrock. All the large stones used for the temple of the sun at Ba’albek were quarried from the same location, and taken over half a mile uphill to build the great temple.

    As the largest megaliths known to man, this site qualifies as one of the wonders of the ancient world. However, in an embarrassingly regretful indication of our age this phenomenal relic has been recently vandalised and defaced beyond repair.

    enjoy Jim Whitley

    Quoting a famous Texan, and world leader “If God wanted youall to talk messcan he woodahave ritt the bible in messcan not English !” ,,,,good news bible

  4. dbenn Says:


    All very interesting but mostly tangential to the main argument. Also interesting is the comment the companion bible you cite above makes about: 1 Kings 7:23: “the proportion of the diameter to the circumference (1 : 3) was revealed, while human wisdom was still searching it out.” Revealed by…God? He seemed keen to reveal many other things in elaborate detail. Why not the correct ratio here?

    Re: the “famous Texan’s” semi-illiterate comment, if we are serious, perhaps we should learn Hebrew and Koine Greek in which the early OT and NT writings were apparently written, in order to get us closer to the original meanings than either English or messcan, er, Mexican might.

  5. skepticssa Says:

    Jim said “Pi cant be written but it can be expressed using two different measuring systems.”

    Exactly Jim, there is the useful one that most people use that can make predictions that can be measured using a ruler, e.g. given the diameter what is the circumference. This is useful and our entire civilisation is built, literally, using it.
    Then there is the measuring system in your book which is useful for say building things that fall down or trying to design machines that can never be made because you got the math wrong.

    “i don’t think the molten sea was a example of PI it’s just instructions on how to cast a big pot.”

    In that case the instructions are wrong.
    What’s god doing giving bad instructions?
    … oh, wait…

    PS I can’t work out if your “quote” is meant to be funny, offensive or stupid. Could be an idea to change it, especially as it’s not a real quote?
    An example of funny would be “If God wanted you to to talk Hebrew he would have written it in Hebrew, not English”. I think you’ve already got offensive and stupid covered.

  6. jim whitley Says:

    OK boys I’ll say it a different way. the cookie dough is rolled out you take a water glass and cut out a cookie the diameter of the glass is 10 the circumference of the cookie is 30 how thick is the rim of the glass.
    i was loosely quoting Ann Richards when she was asked how Bush got elected.

  7. Regan Says:

    Seems you’re being a bit nitpicky to me. If you were going to round off pi to the nearest whole digit, it would be 3.

    And if God has all power, why couldn’t He create a supernova and all the heavy elements on earth just as well as anything else in those six days?

    I have a question for you. Where did the matter that makes up the universe come from in the first place?

    I know I am very late to this discussion, but it popped up on a google search, and I just couldn’t resist.

  8. longload Says:

    Inside diameter 10 Outside circumference is 30
    No problem:) As always… The Bible is correct!

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