Bible skeptics often claim that the Bible makes this error, but it doesn’t. Here is the relevant verse (which occurs twice); it concerns a large circular basin in front of the temple in Jerusalem.

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. (1 Kings 7:23; 2 Chron 4:2)

So the basin had a diameter of 10 cubits and a circumference of 30 cubits. For any circle, the ratio of the circumference to the diameter is equal to π. Hence, it is argued, the Bible says π=3.

However, there are at least two problems with this.

  1. The Bible gives the measurements in whole cubits and we do not know the measurement error. It is reasonable to assume that the values are given to the nearest cubit, in which case “10 cubits” means anything between 9.5 cubits and 10.5 cubits, and “30 cubits” could mean anything between 29.5 and 30.5 cubits. On that basis, the value of π is somewhere between 29.5/10.5=2.81 and 30.5/9.5=3.21. The actual value of π is about 3.14 which falls within the implied range.
  2. A basin has some thickness (1 Kings 7:26 says its thickness was a “handbreadth” or about 1/6 of a cubit) and it is possible that the diameter is from outside the rim while the circumference is obtained by placing a cord around the inside of the rim. If the 10 cubits and 30 cubits were exact measurements, this would give an implied rim width of (10-30/π) = 0.45 cubits. Allowing for some measurement error, a rim width closer to 1/6 of a cubit is well within the possible range of values.
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