1 Kings 7:23
— The number Pi in the Bible —
Here at Abarim Publications we rarely get nervous, but the pi-challenge presented in 1 Kings 7:23 is formidable, and required more volume of coffee per volume of Twila Paris than any other challenge we were tempted to meet so far. Let's have a look at:
The problem with Pi in the Bible
—1 Kings 7:23—
1 Kings 7:23 King James
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.
Pi in the Bible
"Pi is not merely the ubiquitous factor in high school geometry problems; it is stitched across the whole tapestry of mathematics, not just geometry's little corner of it. Pi occupies a key place in trigonometry too. It is intimately related to e, and to imaginary numbers. Pi even shows up in the mathematics of probability" (Quote abridged).
—Robert Kanigel—The Man Who Knew Infinity; A Life Of The Genius Ramanujan.
This is very very awful. Ask any high school student the value of pi and they'll say, "Three point one four, and then some." Then what on earth is a value of 3 doing in the infallible Word of God? Anything else we can translate and interpret into neat fashion but numbers stand like diamonds: they're either right or they are wrong. And the value of 3 for pi in the Bible is wrong. Now what?
π is the ratio between the circumference and diameter of a circle
π = 3.1 4 1 5 9 2 6 5 3 5 8 9 7 9 3 2 3 8 4 6 2 6 4 3 3 8 3 2 7 9 5 0 2 8 8 4 1 9 7 1 6 9 3 9 9 3 7 5 1 0 5 8 2 0 9 7 4 9 4 4 5 9 2 3 0 7 8 1 6 4 0 6 2 8 6 2 0 8 9 9 8 6 2 8 0 3 4 8 2 5 3 4 2 1 1 7 0 6 7 9 8 2 1 4 8 0 8 6 5 1 3 2 8 2 3 0 6 6 4 7 0 9 3 8 4 4 6 0 9 5 5 0 5 8 2 2 3 1 7 2 5 3 ...and then some.
The first 144 digits of pi add up to 666, which is not as freaky as it seems. Any sum of random digits from 0 to 9 gets in general 4.5 larger per step (666/144 = 4.625). The chance that such a sum hits any specific number is 22.22%. That this happens in pi on the 144th digit is kind of cool, but not necessarily significant. In fact, the chance that a random string of numbers that actually hits 666 does so in 144 steps is very high. Yet a prime quality of a random string of digits is that its digits are not equally dispersed. If they were, there'd be a pattern and the string would not be random.
In September 2002 Yasumasa Kanada and team computed pi to 1,241,100,000,000 (that's 1.241 trillion) decimal digits.
In 1996 Bailey, Borwein and Plouffe, created a way to calculate digits of pi without having to calculate previous digits. The quadrillionth (=1,000,000,000,000,000th) digit of pi is 0.
When the value of pi appeared to be surely a bit more than 3, panic ripped through the realm. A wide variety of excuses have been devised to rescue the infallibility of the Book of First Kings, and explain this erroneous value of pi in the Bible.
We've hand-picked some of the lamest, and made up a few more...:
Pi in the Bible: Proposed solutions and their rebuttal
• The Bible isn't a science book. It's more like a story. Like an analogy.
Fine. Science the way we do it didn't exist until the seventeenth century. But if the Bible isn't a science book, there should be no pi in the Bible. The Bible shouldn't make any scientific statement. Now that it did, we see that it states a fallacy.
• The vessel was super-holy! It was described as something that can't exist in normal space-time. Like an Esher drawing. The artist that made the vessel also drew cherubim. How does a cherub look, huh?
First Kings painstakingly states every detail imaginable, like a true record. The vessel was no less holy than all the other articles in the temple, and certainly not more holy than the Ark, which is carefully specified in Exodus. First Kings does not speak of vague and esoteric concepts, but reports who was making what and how it looked. Like a newspaper article. And a cherub has a human form (Ezekiel 1:5).
• The vessel's rim was a hand-width thick. So the diameter was measured along the outside of the vessel and the circumference was measured along the inside of it. Et voila! And the vessel could have been oval shaped. Voila once again.
Nope. The writer makes sure that no question remains: both the diameter and the circumference are taken over-all. It states that the vessel was round, not oval.
• The Bible is full of codes! This number 3 was only for dummies. Really clever people would recognize that the word for measuring line is usually קו (qw), while in 1 Kings 7:23 it's קוה (qwh). Now establish the numerical value of each word: q+w = 100+6 = 106; q+w+h = 100+6+5 = 111. Now divide 111 by 106 and multiply the outcome with the 3 for dummies. What do you get: 3,1415094339622641509433962264151! Taraaaa!
The outcome of this little (and delightful) trick deviates from the real value of pi from the fifth decimal digit on and is just as wrong as 3 or 27,5. For its time it would have been an uncanny achievement, if it weren't that there is no evidence that the Hebrew letters were assigned numerical values during Bible times. And there's certainly no indication that this number trick was known to either the vessel builder or anybody else during that time, or that this reference to pi in the Bible was deliberately put there this way.
The number trick here displayed makes use of a so-called orphan method. An orphan method is a method that is not part of a larger system, and can only be used once, to explain one thing. Allowing orphan methods to explain the world around us will allow the conclusion that we're indeed in a yellow submarine, in the hollow tooth of an intergalactic whale that hums O When The Saints...
Q: Why is a fire truck red?
A: Okay. A fire truck holds water. Water is the home of fish. Fish have fins. Fins live in Finland. Which is next door to Russia. Which is or used to be red. And that's why.
Another one, from the excellent movie PI:
If you add the numerical value of father and mother, you get the numerical value of child!
This would have been a marvelous discovery if the values of uncle and aunt added up to cousin; they don't and the method is an orphan.
Same with the numerical values for East (vaguely connected to Paradise, which was 'to the east') and Tree Of Life: 144 and 233: they are sequential Fibonacci numbers! Yoohoo!
This would have been jolly great if the rest of the Fibonacci sequence also popped out of the Paradise cycle; it doesn't.
Looking for information in the vast crypt of Biblical Scriptures is intensely gratifying. But in any text this large, anything can be found if one wants it bad enough. A golden rule that this number trick transgresses is that information from the crypt should never contradict information in the narrative layer. Assuming that God dictates something completely wrong for all to hear and then hides something—that still isn't true!—for the numerically adroit among us, may be safely considered a heresy.
• The brilliant sage Maimonides (1135-1204) once stated in response to the pi-conundrum of First Kings, "The ratio [we know as pi] cannot be known. Since it is impossible to arrive at a perfectly accurate ratio, they assumed a round number... "
Maimonides makes an astounding statement, because the irrationality of pi wasn't proven until 1761 (by Johann H. Lambert). And the transcendence of pi wasn't proven until 1882 (Ferdinand von Lindemann). Still, who are they to assume a round number? It's in the Bible and that ain't hay. What about other numbers in the Bible? Should we take those also not too accurate? What about the 7 creation days? Or the 10 commandments? What about Christ's 3 days in the grave, or the 144,000 thousand saints of Revelation? And what if they stuck more of those assumptions in Scriptures, in parts not pertaining to numbers? Isn't the whole stitch work of the Bible going to fall apart when we prove at least one wrongful assumption to have slipped into its pages?
• God revealed that pi is in fact 3, and we should alter our scientific usage of this ratio accordingly.
Oy, for crying out loud! Read Romans 1:20, 1 Corinthians 2:10, 1 Thessalonians 5:25, "Prove all things; hold fast that which is good," 2 Timothy 2:7, "...the Lord will give you understanding in everything."
God doesn't lie, not even about pi. Our study of nature, in which can be seen the character of God, depends heavily on our accurate usage of pi. Nowhere in the Bible are we told to act like a bunch of dummies. In fact, we are urged to investigate all things and understand the workings of God. If God gives us understanding of pi, we are not authorized to ignore it.
So yes, the pi-value of 3 is incorporated in the Bible, and that is incorrect. In 2002 pi was calculated up to 1.241 trillion decimal places, which, if it had been in the Bible, would have made the Bible a whole lot thicker, but also a little bit better. But what if the best isn't good enough? Maybe we're missing a point...