[asa] Pi in Bible's face

From: George Cooper <georgecooper@sbcglobal.net>
Date: Sat Oct 04 2008 - 15:21:20 EDT

I have seen it mentioned a number of times how the Bible claims that the value of pi is exactly 3.  [It's not hard to guess why some folks would do so.]  The latest comes from Astronomy magazine (Nov. 08, pg. 12) found in Bob Berman's article. He references the mathematical account found in1 Kings 7:23 and 2 Chronicles 4:2.  [Perhaps y'all have addressed this topic before, but here are my thoughts on why their claim is erroneous.]  This is the version I attempted to send to the editor, but, this is 3x too long for their 150 word limit. The Bible was likely not in error regarding the inferred value of pi when it gave the dimensions for the large washing bowl found in 1 Kings 7:23 (and 2 Chronicles 4:2).  Here are the verses in 1 Kings (KJV):    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.   Although this suggests a value of 3 for pi, we must take into consideration the subsequent verses.   24      And under the brim of it round about there were knops compassing it, ten in a cubit, compassing the sea round about: the knops were cast in two rows, when it was cast. … 26      And it was an hand breadth thick, and the brim thereof was wrought like the brim of a cup, with flowers of lilies: it contained two thousand baths.   It seems probable that this bowl had a brim (lip) that encompassed the entire bowl.  This brim was the width of a hand.  If we subtract this brim width from the 10 cubits then divide this value into the stated 30 cubit circumference, we will find a value much closer to pi.   Here’s how…   A cubit is the length between the elbow and tip of the middle finger.  [I understand that the standard was taken from Pharaoh’s arm.]  I do not know which portion of the hand was measured in those ancient times, so I took measurements from several locations across my hand, as well as, the measurement of my own “cubit” and got the following results.   vertical arm from elbow to middle finger tip: 1 cubit 18.5 inches bowl diameter from outer brim edges 10 cubits 185 inches bowl circumference underneath brim 30 cubits 555 inches           Measurements, Bowl     inches Inside Dia. Pi width across fingers: 3.625 177.75 3.122 width across knuckles: 3.875 177.25 3.131 broad hand, not pressed flat on table: 4.125 176.75 3.140 broad hand, pressed flat on table: 4.375 176.25 3.149   Given from verse 24 that 600 knops (10 per cubit and a second row, too) were required of the craftsmen, it is logical that they, like us, would have favored the KISS system and benefited from having these simple measurements (10 cubits minus two hands for a circumference), which would have made their knop symmetry so much easier than most other sets of measurements.   Please don’t take this as a “pi in the face”, as I thoroughly enjoyed the article.  Thanks, Bob, for such enlightening and, often, colorful portrayal of so many interesting astronomical and mathematical things.   "Coope"

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Received on Sat Oct 4 15:22:05 2008

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