I’m a mathematics graduate student, and everytime my Catholic faith comes up around my peers, they mention something about how the bible says that the number pi (the ration of a circle’s circumference to its diameter) is exactly 3, when in reality pi is around 3.1415926… What is this passage that they are talking about and does it really mean that? Any other information or ideas anyone has would be appreciated. Thanks.
Pi in the bible.
[quote=bobby_bambino]I’m a mathematics graduate student, and everytime my Catholic faith comes up around my peers, they mention something about how the bible says that the number pi (the ration of a circle’s circumference to its diameter) is exactly 3, when in reality pi is around 3.1415926… What is this passage that they are talking about and does it really mean that? Any other information or ideas anyone has would be appreciated. Thanks.
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Ask them for a verse. Why would they argue with your faith? What is theirs?
This website discusses most of the particulars… I didn’t read much of it, but it does give the bible scripture this is based on…
[quote=bobby_bambino]I’m a mathematics graduate student, and everytime my Catholic faith comes up around my peers, they mention something about how the bible says that the number pi (the ration of a circle’s circumference to its diameter) is exactly 3, when in reality pi is around 3.1415926… What is this passage that they are talking about and does it really mean that? Any other information or ideas anyone has would be appreciated. Thanks.
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Bobby,
The link that Shiann posted is an extremely good one (thank you, Shiann, I knew about the practice of “gematriot” but that particular one I had not heard of before) and well worth a full read. The Bible is not giving the exact value of pi as three, it is giving an approximate value of pi as three. Your peers are simply bashing your faith.
By the way, I can confirm from my HebrewEnglish interlinear Old Testament that the received text (“kethib”) version of the word for “circumference” is indeed spelled kophvavhe while the usual form used in reading (“qere”) is spelled kophvav. And the numerical values of the three letters are 100, 5, and 6. So the analysis of the gematria is definitely sound. The next time your buddies start bringing up the “Bible says that pi is 3,” you can present them with that bit of numerology. I daresay it will either floor them or else they will reject it in a case of cognitive dissonance.
 Liberian
I Kings 7:2326
Yo, that article was pretty sweet!! He does bring up an interesting point though, towards the end in the “sound exegetical” section.
You might expect the circumference of the “sea” to be 31.416 cubits, but the text says that it took a line of 30 cubits to measure around it. So, supposedly, it is 30 cubits in circumference.
Here’s 2 thoughts on that:

Perhaps you could measure around it with a line that’s 30 cubits long, and still have a little bit more measuring to do. That is, the 30 cubit line didn’t stretch all the way around the pool, but it did get close enough that you could easily finish measuring with it.

Perhaps, given that the “sea” was a handbreadth in thickness, it’s possible that there’s something we’re not accounting for in the outside diameter and the thickness of the metal. Given the unknown, ie. is the rim to rim ID or OD, then that might help us out significantly. In the event that it was ID 10 cubits, then it would be noticably less than 30 cubits in circumference, and therefore a 30 cubit line would easily measure it. No problem.
However, the rim to rim is most likely OD, the Circumference is an approximation, and pi is 3.1415926…!
[quote=DeFide]1. There can be approximations in the Bible.
 Who said the pool was perfectly circular?
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It must be  because if it is, then that makes the Bible easier to refute
From the Skeptic’s Annotated Bible:
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.
http://www.skepticsannotatedbible.com/images/sci1.gif This verse implies that the value of p is 3. (The actual value is approximately 3.14159.)
skepticsannotatedbible.com/1kg/7.html
And, for a reply:
[quote=bobby_bambino]I’m a mathematics graduate student, and everytime my Catholic faith comes up around my peers, they mention something about how the bible says that the number pi (the ration of a circle’s circumference to its diameter) is exactly 3, when in reality pi is around 3.1415926…
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Your friends are entirely too gullible. Anyone who falls for internet hoaxes isn’t qualified to discuss what the Bible really says.
– Mark L. Chance.
Tell them that the value of pi is 3…
…to one significant digit.
Even if the Bible had said that pi = 3.14, this would still only be accurate to 3 significant digits, and then we’d have obnoxious atheists pointing out how this is inaccurate and that pi is really 3.14159 and therefore the Bible can’t be true, blah, blah, blah. This game can be played forever because pi is irrational. It would be physically impossible to give the value of pi with perfect precision.
Perhaps the sacred author figured that giving pi to just one significant digit was perfectly acceptable for his purposes.
Also, the ancient Hebrews did not have the mathematical notation to express pi to a greater degree of precision, even if they wanted to.
[quote=BillyHW]Tell them that the value of pi is 3…
…to one significant digit.
Even if the Bible had said that pi = 3.14, this would still only be accurate to 3 significant digits, and then we’d have obnoxious atheists pointing out how this is inaccurate and that pi is really 3.14159 and therefore the Bible can’t be true, blah, blah, blah. This game can be played forever because pi is irrational. It would be physically impossible to give the value of pi with perfect precision.
Perhaps the sacred author figured that giving pi to just one significant digit was perfectly acceptable for his purposes.
Also, the ancient Hebrews did not have the mathematical notation to express pi to a greater degree of precision, even if they wanted to.
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You can Eat
Measurements were not standardized back then. A cubit somewhere could have been more or less than a cubit somewhere else. It could have been a perfect circle.
That verse should never be used to knock someone’s faith. The point is he made a pool not that it was a perfect circle. It’s not a math primer.
I would also ask them, if they doubt Scripture, why the that verse must be literally. Why force an exacting literal interpretation on something they don’t believe anyway?