Dealing with Biblical Contradictions; Or, Does Pi Equal 3? (Long)

How do Bible-believing Christians deal with all those contradictions in the Bible?

The Bible, while claimed by many to be the literally inspired Word of God, is chock-full of what at least APPEAR TO BE internal contradictions as well as statements that APPEAR TO contradict observed fact.

Anybody who believes in the Bible (uses it as a guidebook for life) but interprets it other than literally, this thread is not really directed at you. I have no intellectual problems with a less rigid, more questioning faith that can treat the Bible as a flawed human work.

Where I begin to have an intellectual problem is with the Christians who claim the Bible is perfect, 100% accurate, literally word-for-word Inspired By God[sup]TM[/sup] and containing not a single error. In other words, the Jack Chick approach to the Bible, although there are many far better men than he who have had the same approach.

My college-educated father is one of these, as is my brother. I was raised in a different household, so the concept of actually practicing Biblical Literalism is foreign to me. These people really do it, every day. They really believe that since God dictated the Bible, every last word, the Bible (in the original Hebrew and Greek autographs) is therefore necessarily perfect and entirely free from error.

Any perceived error or contradiction is, in principle, explainable or resolvable. The trouble is, the explanations and resolutions I receive from my family are becoming more and more unlikely. It pains me to see my father performing mental gymnastics in order to preserve his view of the perfection of the Bible. It really pains me when he offers up a pathetic “explanation” that we BOTH know is pathetic. He’s a smart guy and unfortunately his faith seems to require him to actively repress his intelligence at times.

Down to the meat of the OP. Here is a very short list (2 items) of supposed “contradictions” in the Bible, selected by me, with the “explanations” I have received.

How can an intelligent Christian (who believes in the perfection of the Bible) see these contradictions, accept the explanations, and be totally unperturbed in his faith in the Bible? Thinking along these lines utterly destroyed my faith in the Bible, and in the process, destroyed faith in the kind of religion that requires one to believe utterly in the factual, literal truth of all parts of the Bible, or any Holy Book.

I want to hear from Bible-believing Christians whose very faith depends on the 100% accuracy of the Bible. Taking a metaphorical or literary approach is really not germane to this discussion - it solves ALL these problems instantly, and maybe that’s philosophically the correct way to go, but it is not the path chosen by people I love and must talk to often. I’m related to a bunch of Bible-Totally-Inspired-By-God[sup]TM[/sup] people who are banging their heads against the wall trying to get through to me, and me to them.

Let’s start with my very favorite Biblical difficulty:

Pi = 3!

This old chestnut seems to have great irritation power on this board when it’s just casually mentioned (like I did a few weeks ago, in another thread), so let’s look into it.

“He then made the Sea of cast metal; it was round in shape, the diameter from rim to rim being ten cubits; it stood five cubits high, and it took a line thirty cubits long to go round it.” (1 Kings 7:23)

“He also made the Sea of cast metal; it was round in shape, the diameter from rim to rim being ten cubits; it stood five cubits high, and it took a line thirty cubits long to go round it.” (2 Chron. 4:2)

Obviously there is a problem: either the God of the Bible refers to special circles (for which Pi = 3), unlike the ones we know (for which Pi approximately = 3.1415927); or his cubits shift around in length from one part of the equation to another; or when God says “round” he means “somewhat round”; or the measurements given just aren’t entirely accurate.

Which of these explanations grates the least on the Bible-believer? I am told that the Bible is never wrong and never fudges. If it says 30 cubits, it means EXACTLY 30 cubits. If it describes something as round, it is an EXACTLY ROUND PERFECT CIRCLE. Given this mindset, I can’t work my way out of the puzzle. Does God fudge, does he lie, or does Pi really = 3?

(I suspect a reasonable explanation might be on the order of: “The ancients didn’t know the precise value of Pi. For them, using the value 3 was close enough, given the limitations of measuring equipment at the time. The metal Sea in the Bible looked round to the author, but obviously it was not a perfectly round circle, or the measurements of the diameter and circumference were slightly off, so that there really is no contradiction.” I must reject this explanation, because we are still talking about a 100% accurate Bible which was inspired word-for-word by an omniscient God. He said it was ROUND, darn it, and he said it was 30 cubits around and 10 across! Did he fudge, or didn’t he? Is there no word in Hebrew for “approximately”? Is it unreasonable to ask that a book that claims to be written by God, be really accurate?)

Onward. Let’s talk about the genealogy of Jesus. If Jesus were my Lord, I’d be interested in His ancestry, and I’d read in Matthew Chapter 1 that his genealogy runs like this, for the first 14 generations into the past:


Seems straightforward. Everybody has only one father, so it’s hard to be ambiguous about a patrilineal genealogy. Of course, according to other parts of the Bible, Joseph was not Jesus’ biological father (apparently, Jesus didn’t have a biological father). But I think according to OT prophecy the Messiah must have certain characteristics in his genealogy - like descent from King David - so right away, it looks like a “fudge” to me that Joseph is given as Jesus’ father in both genealogies. (If I claimed direct descent from King Henry VIII, what would you all think if I used my stepfather’s ancestry to prove the claim?) However, so long as all the genealogies are consistent in using Joseph as Jesus’ father, this problem can be set aside.

And sure enough, over in Luke Chapter 3, the genealogy is given again. This time we have:


That’s 14 generations back, I think. Now, I’m listing these names from recent to past in both genealogies, for clarity. That’s not the way the Bible has it - in Matthew, the genealogy is given from Abraham forward, but in Luke it’s given from Jesus backwards.

Still, shouldn’t we see more than just a passing similarity in the two genealogies? Either the laws of human biology were very different in Biblical times, or someone has the facts mixed up. Why, there’s hardly a name in common on the two (partial) lists. I wish I could use an HTML table in this post to make that fact crystal-clear; it’s pretty striking to me.

Would a Bible-believer please tell me what’s up with that? My father, who reads the Bible every day, had never even heard of the above contradiction until I mentioned it. He had to do some research and get back to me, and came back later with a story about how when Luke says “Heli,” he REALLY means “Jacob,” which is a variant of the name. And so, down the line. Also, he mentioned that the two genealogies had different purposes: to show different aspects of the ancestry of Jesus. With all respect: WTF? Jesus had only one patrilineal ancestry. There is no shade of meaning when talking about who your father is, and who his father was, etc. There’s only one answer to the question, and it sure looks to me like the Bible just plain got it wrong at least once.

I must accept that my own father believes this series of unbelievably lame (and self-contradictory) “explanations” for such a glaring problem in the Bible. Myself, I’m forced to draw one of three conclusions:

  1. God made terrible mistakes when talking about the ancestry of Jesus;
  2. Human writers made terrible mistakes on this subject, and God let the mistakes appear in the Bible;
  3. Heli and Jacob really are the same person, Matthat = Matthan*, Eleazar = Levi, Eliud = Melchi, and so on, down the line; and God saw fit to dictate to one Gospeller or the other in some sort of bizarre cypher code when talking about Jesus. There is no contradiction; faithless people just think there is, and I need to pray harder.

*Plausible, but raises the question: Why can’t God, in Holy Writ, spell the name of Jesus’ great-grandfather consistently?
I’m shaking my head at the fact that intelligent people like my own family STILL believe in the 100% inerrancy of the Bible. Guess what, folks: it’s full of errors. Lots of them.

Prove me wrong. If Bible-believers can dispose of the two problems I lay out, under the logic and evidence standards of this message board, I will salute you. But then I can go on to provide many other apparent problems; I could start (if it hadn’t been done to death already) with the implication of Biblical Literalism that the universe is around 6,000 years old. Yep, Dad believes that too, which means the commonly accepted conclusions of astronomy, geology, biology, anthropology, paleontology, etc., are all off-limits for discussion. In his mind, humans and dinosaurs coexisted, Noah’s Flood laid down the entire fossil record, and the stars were created with “light on the way.”

I hope I can be forgiven by most of the folks on this Board for my obvious impatience with this kind of thing. Most of the time, it just makes me angry. Today, it’s making me really sad.

Certainly not a Christian, and certainly not bible literalist, but I once received this in an email regarding the measurement of the well. I’ve not seen it anyplace else, and as my biblical Hebrew isn’t quite up to snuff, I can’t speak to its legitimacy. Seems interesting though…

Looking in my Heberew-English Tanakh, the discrepancy in spelling is certainly there, but I can’t say what if any legitimate rules of biblical Hebrew might have created it.

Goodness. I’m not sure where I fit into this. I believe Jesus is God, so I guess I’m a Christian. I also believe that He, and not any book, is the Word of God, so I guess I’m not a Bible Literalist. However, I do believe that there are much better biblical errors to spot than these, and I believe I can add something germane to the two issues in the Opening Post. Despite brutally exact checking, cross-checking, footing, and cross-footing to several layers of redundancy, people are bound to have made mistakes in biblical transcriptions and transliterations, not to mention the fact that the original authors themselves were fallible men.

You can see what is on the Hebrew Scroll yourself (with English transliteration and Romanized orthographs of the Hebrew roots), and follow the links to Strong’s commentary. Masafer’s e-mail seems to be refering to the word for “line” or “cord”, whose root is “qav” or “qaveh”, depending on whether you take the kethiv reading or the qere reading. At any rate, the root of the “of thirty” is “sh@lowshiym”. Chaim or Zev might correct me on this, but I don’t see where there is any mystical insight to be found with respect to making the measurement of the circumference more accurate. Mind you, it cannot possibly be perfectly accurate, as Masonite demands, or else the authors would still be writing it and would have to continue writing it after the universe has ended because the perfectly accurate number is irrational.

But there is the matter of the “cord” and the “did compass” (go around, or partly around). If the cord were sufficiently non-rigid (say, a woven or spun cord), it could quite conceivably be stretched around the sea. Personally, even as a non-literalist, I see this as what Jesus called straining gnats and swallowing camels. Even if the authors could calculate pi, you could easily complain that they stopped at a thousand digits when a thousand-and-one would have been more accurate. As I said, there are much better errors than this one.

Regarding Matthew versus Luke, Matthew traces paternal linkage (which is irrelevant, in my opinion) and Luke traces maternal linkage. (Heli was Mary’s father, etc.) Both Mary and Joseph were descendants of David, making Jesus the Son of David no matter how you look at it. Being the Son of David was not trivial for purposes of Messianic claims. As Matthew Henry put it, in his famous “Complete Commentary of the Whole Bible”,

I’m Jewish, not Christian, so I won’t address the genaeology issue, which is fromthe New Testament, a document I don;t believe is divine.

However, your “pi” thing was addressed centuries ago by the Rabbis. The simple answer is that the diameter of 10 is from outer edge to outer edge, and the circumference of 30 is of the inner rim. The outer rim’s circumference was, in fact, 31.4… cubits.

Okay, masonite asked how inerrantists reconicle Biblical contradictions. There are few fundies on the SDMB, and the few we have (JerseyDiamond, Wildest Bill) tend to do hit-and-run religious postings, never sticking around to defend their positions. If you’re really interested in the issue, I suggest you subscribe to the mailing list by sending an e-mail with “subscribe” in it to that address. Now on to the question.

Most fundamentalists use wild, improbable, ad hoc excuses to reconcile Biblical problems. These apologetics are so absurd that they would never consider using them at any other time in their lives. But, because they have so much riding on the inerrancy of the Bible, they are forced into irrationality in defense of their worldview.

Here are some examples of real Biblical discrepancies, with real fundy responses to show you the type of thinking that goes on.

Problem #1: Who carried Jesus’ cross? Matthew, Mark, and John say it was Simon the Cyrene. John says it was Jesus himself.

Solution: Both accounts are accurate! Jesus carried the cross part way, and Simon carried it part way. None of the four accounts says that either person carried the cross the entire distance. So it’s possible that there was a cross hand-off somewhere along the line, even though we have no evidence of it. Problem solved.

Problem #2: Who tempted David to take a census of Israel? 2 Samuel says it was God; 1 Chronicles says Satan.

Solution: You’re misreading the text. What 1 Sam. really means to say is that God allowed Satan to tempt David by not interfering. Saying that God did it himself is just a short cut.

Problem #3: How did Judas die? Matthew says he hanged himself. Acts says that his bowels fell out.

Solution: The accounts are complementary. Judas hanged himself, and while he was hanging there, his bowels fell out. Simple. Both accounts just tell the part of the story that interested the authors.

Problem #4: What was in the Ark of the Covenant? 1 Kings and 2 Chronicles say only the tablets of Moses, but Hebrews says it contained Aaron’s rod and a golden pot as well.

Solution: They’re both right. At one time in history, the Ark contained only the two tables. At another point, some more stuff was put in it.

We can go on like this for years. Every error, no matter how obvious, has some wildly improbable “how-it-could’ve-been” solution. Problems in the English text are “mistranslations.” Problems in the original Greek and Hebrew texts (especially numerical discrepancies)are “copyist errors.” Mistakes only appear to be mistakes because us evil skeptics aren’t infused with the power of the Holy Spirit.

What we have to do is understand the mindset of the fundamentalist. Most fundies have grown up in devoutly religious households. But many do not actually know the Bible that well. They tend to know only snippets that they hear in church or see in the church’s annual passion play. They very rarely sit down and read straight through 1-2 Kings and 1-2 Chronciles, carefully jotting down each author’s take on every piece of minutiae. They spend their whole lives hearing that the Bible is inerrant, but actually knowing precious little about it.

So what happens when you corner a fundy with a contradiction? He instantly feels threatened. You are attacking his entire worldview which is built upon the supposition that the Bible is the word of God. If this worldview is incorrect, then his whole life up to this point has been wasted: his years of devotion to his church, all his friends from church, his nightly prayers to Jesus, etc. They’re all meaningless because they’re built upon a false foundation.

Now few people want to have their entire lives shattered by the truth like that. So we get an instant defense. The fundy’s first response to an alleged error is “No! That can’t be!” This thought comes along before he even sees what the error is. So when he’s presented with an error, he goes right to his preacher, or a Christian apologetics website, or a “Bible problems solved” type book to a look for a solution.

As ridiculous as these solutions sound, they’re not ridiculous from the fundy point of view. We have to remember what the alternative is. From a skeptic’s point of view, the two choices look like this:

  1. Jesus and Simon both carried the cross part way, even though none of the four accounts say anything like this.

  2. Simon carried the cross. John made a mistake.

Clearly, choice 2 is more reasonable for the skeptic. But to the fundy, the choices look more like this.

  1. Jesus and Simon both carried the cross part way, even though none of the four accounts say anything like this.

  2. The Holy Writ contains an error. Jesus isn’t the son of God, despite all the evidence that his resurrection was real. Every prayer I’ve had answered in my entire life is just one big coincidence. Every time I’ve heard God speak to me in prayer, I was really hallucinating. My minister, one of the smartest and nicest people I know, is really either a moron or a liar.

Now, choice 1 is clearly more rational. This is why masonite’s father is so eager to believe that Heli=Jacob, despite absolutely no evidence that this is the case.

(A side note on the genealogy problem. There are a different number of names in each genealogy, which makes the “same person, different names” approach untenable. Also, Matthew skips some generations mentioned in the OT in order to get the magical three sets of fourteen. Most fundies argue that Matthew was just including the “important” people in Jesus’ ancestry, skipping over the lesser ones. They also believe that the two different ancestries are the result of either a Levirate marriage, or that one is actually the genealogy of Mary, who is called “Joseph” in the way that a modern woman might be called “Mrs. John Smith.” So we have three different harmonizations of a problem, none of which agree with each other!)

I realized a little while ago that beating Biblicists over the head with obvious contradictions is futile because they are simply looking at the picture from a different angle. So I’ve recently embarked upon a more “soft-sell” type approach, playing up the greatness of the Bible while arguing that it should be read as a work in progress, not a snapshot. See these three essays I’ve written for examples of soft-selling Biblical errancy:

P.S. If you really want to see how absurd people can be trying to defend Biblical inerrancy, check out the thread entitled Why is G-d so cruel in the OT? where you get to see cmkeller defend genocide on the grounds that some of the victims were homosexuals, and the children needed to die too, because they might try to return to their parents’ evil ways if they were allowed to grow up. I asked in that thread whether anyone would defend any extra-Biblical genocides, and have yet to receive a straightforward response.

Wow, some great responses.

masafer, I’m certainly no expert either, but The X-Files even did a show on Hebrew numerology, man. I know some people still practice it, but hasn’t it been demonstrated on this board that you can get equally good results using the text of Moby Dick? I’m not at all ready to take it seriously.

Lib, thank you for appearing and offering me your take. As you say, and as I mentioned near the end of my OP, there’s many more possible errors to talk about. I said the Pi thing was my favorite, not that I thought it was the best refutation of literalism. I think a lot of people mention it, perhaps with some nastiness, because to the modern mathematically-trained mind, it’s such an obvious laugh-out-loud moment to some folks, as you’ve noticed.

Neither of us is a literalist, so we have no problem talking about inexact measurements, stretchy strings, or whatever. I’m trying to get at the problem from the mindset of the firm literalist. Opus’s comments about the literalists simply looking at the Bible from a different angle were right-on, I think. It should be obvious to me by now, I know.

Oh, and Lib, wonderful link there. I think I’ll be spending a lot of time on that site.

I’m not sure about the Matthew Henry quote, but I think this:

looks to me, sorry, like the kind of fudging Opus and I are talking about. I got my Bible right here, and it clearly says (Luke ch.3) “Joseph, son of Heli, son of Matthat,” etc. The word “daughter” does not appear anywhere in vs. 23-38. A matrilineal genealogy where the women are called “sons”? I honestly don’t get it. Or are you saying that after Heli, who is a male, everyone is father to the next name? Making the only error calling Joseph the son of Heli, not the son-in-law.

But if the purpose of the passage, as you say, is to show descent from David on both sides, why not make that clear by saying so? Mary is not mentioned. Joseph is said to be the son of Heli, not the son-in-law. The Bible makes these kinds of familial distinctions really clear in other places. Why not here? We’re talking about Jesus. I’ll listen to you talk all you like about the significance of Jesus’ genealogy, but is it not significant to you, a Christian, that the Gospel gives the facts just slightly different from, oh say, the literal truth? When writing the literal truth in this particular case would have been the easiest thing in the world, and quite illuminating too? It’s clear to me we have a flawed, human work. I don’t think I’m arguing with you, Lib, on that particular point.

Regarding measuring on the inside of the Sea for the circumference, and the outside for the diameter:

No offense to you or the rabbis, but I had heard this suggested as a joke by an atheist. If someone actually believed that’s what God had in mind when writing those passages, I’d have to call it, paraphrasing Opus1, an absurd apologetic. There you have it.

Let me add, though, that in general I have the greatest respect for and some fascination with ancient rabbinnical scholarship. I don’t personally believe that’s the right path to God, but I guess that’s really none of my business, is it?

You’re so right, and that’s just the part that gets me. Yes the pastor IS a moron or a liar (IMHO) if he’s a literalist, and I speak from very personal experience. But it’s really a case of throwing out the baby with the bathwater. I firmly believe that rational intelligent people MUST disard literalism, but there’s a lot left in Christianity (and Judaism) without it. I would guess Polycarp finds his Christianity suits very well without literalism.

But some of the literalists (NOT my dad, BTW) will tell Poly he’s going to hell. These are the people I really can’t cope with, and I bet every Southerner on this board has these folks in his/her family. God love 'em.

I should have titled my OP “Resolved: The Body of Christ should discard literalism” and gone from there. I admit it was a bit of a rant as it was.

This seems to be the most common explanation of this particular contradiction, and I’m wondering if there is any basis for making this claim about the geneaology of Luke other than “Well, the Bible can’t possibly just be flat out wrong here”.

The respective genealogies may be found in Matthew 1:1-17 and Luke 3:23-38. Here are the especially relevant bits:


Although there is some minor numerical weirdness with that whole “fourteen generations”, for the most part no one seems to care to monkey around much with Matthew’s genealogy; i.e., I’ve never seen anyone claim that Matthew was really giving the genealogy of Jesus through Mary.

So, looking at Luke, what basis is there for saying this really has something to do with Mary? (There’s just Something About Mary, I guess…sorry.) There doesn’t seem to be anything in the text of any English translation to indicate that Joseph is anything other than the son of Heli (like “the son-in-law of Heli”–and does any translation render it that way; I don’t mean in a footnote, I mean render the text “He was the son, so it was thought, of Joseph, the son-in-law of Heli, the son of Matthat…”). I don’t read Biblical Greek, but looking at the Blue Letter Bible’s concordances for Luke 3, I don’t see any obvious difference in the grammar of phrases which are rendered into English as “Joseph, which was the son of Heli” and such clearly biological (as opposed to marital) relationships as “David, which was the son of Jesse”. If every other link in Luke’s genealogy is a father-son relationship, why suddenly throw in a father-daughter relationship, but put the name of the daughter’s husband instead of the daughter herself, and not give any indication in the text that this has been done? And, again, is there some subtle point I’m missing here to indicate that this is in fact what Luke has done?

Regarding measuring on the inside of the Sea for the circumference, and the outside for the diameter:

No offense to you or the rabbis, but I had heard this suggested as a joke by an atheist. If someone actually believed that’s what God had in mind when writing those passages, I’d have to call it, paraphrasing Opus1, an absurd apologetic. There you have it.

Let me add, though, that in general I have the greatest respect for and some fascination with ancient rabbinnical scholarship. I don’t personally believe that’s the right path to God, but I guess that’s really none of my business, is it?

The pi = 3 thing is a mino quibble. You can find many more examples of errors, contradictions, and the like, a many a great dea more subtle. Don’t think most of these haven’t already been addressed by believers.

I’m agnostic, myself, but I don’t think the deal with the Molten Sea’s eccentric value of pi is unanswerable. I’ve given the following respons at least twice before on the SDMB.

One way that the value of the circumference divided by the diameter turns out to be exactly three is if you define “measure” as “walking a compass around the cicumference”. I suggest this odd method because it actually was used, at leas in recent times. Coopers (guys who make barrels) routinely determined the radius of the circular end covers for their barrels by a trial-and-error process of setting their compass points to an assumed radius, then “walking” them around the circumference o the slot they were to fit n. If they could alk the compass points exactly six times around the edge, then they knew they had it right.
What hey were really doing as measuring the perimeter of an inscribed hexagon, of course. The perimeter of an inscribed hexagon divided by the diameter of the circle is exactly three (3).

I know this “explanation” of the biblical value was sort of proposed by German theologians in the nineteenth century, an derided by Petr Beckman in his generally excellent book The History of pi, but the Germans didn’t draw the paralel to the coopers that I do. All I say is that, given that definition of circumference, the value of “pi” does turn out to be three. (And yes, I know that the “Molten Sea” was on the big side to be measured with a set of dividers, unless they were a giant set.)Bt the method works in principle, and would certainly work on a model. My point is that the suggestion of “pi = 3” is defensible.

Are you suggesting there might be no distinction available in Hebrew between “son” and “son-in-law”?

That can’t be right, can it?

It’s a nitpick, but it’s significant. I believe Hebrew is capable of making the distinction, and the fact that it didn’t here, indicates God wasn’t inspiring the very words - unless we wish to get into some extremely roundabout reasoning for God to be having.

We can’t know His mind, of course, but cheezit! This passage may or may not be an obstacle to Christianity but it should definitely be an obstacle to literalism. IMHO.

There are definitely different Hebrew words for “son” (ben) and “in-law” (chatan), although the one for “in-law” tends to be used rather flexibly (father-in-law, brother-in-law, etc.).
Not that I spend much time contemplating New Testament contradictions (Jew checking in). Besides, I don’t think that this answers the problem here - wasn’t the NT written in Greek originally?


You left out something, IMHO. From what I’ve seen, your average flaming fundie is, at best, a borderline illiterate, and just flat out can’t read, let alone understand, the Holy Writ they’ve elevated to a status higher than deity.

The funny thing, in a sad way, is that someone who doesn’t know what’s said in the Book worships that book.

Well, no. First of all, as was already pointed out, the genealogy in question is from the New Testament, and was written in Greek. I don’t know Greek, but my point is that surely there was some way to make the distinction between “Joseph, the son of Heli” and “Joseph, the son-in-law of Heli”, and yet the text doesn’t make that distinction. It’s commonly claimed by believers in Biblical inerrancy that that’s what the text really means, since otherwise you have to conclude that one genealogy or the other (or perhaps both) are wrong.

And it would appear that Greek is quite capable of expressing the concept of “son-in-law”. Yet Luke didn’t.

Understood - I didn’t actually think you thought that. And my bad on the Hebrew/Greek goof. Duh.


Yes, “there I have” your refusal to accept a perfectly rational explanation for that mathematical inaccuracy. It’s so much more fun to label the Bible and its adherents “absurd.”

Call back when you’re in the mood to ask questions to which you actually want answers.

Chaim Mattis Keller

Some points:

  1. I don’t think it’s “fun” to label the Bible absurd, nor its adherents. I don’t think I actually did that, did I?

  2. I said I thought that particular point was absurd, for which I’d like to apologize. I realized my comments might be offensive and wish I could have edited them.

  3. My question about Pi has been asked before, and answered before. Cmkeller’s rabbinical explanation is not the only one out there.

  4. I am not comfortable with Cmkeller’s explanation, because it sounds to me like the answer to a trick question. It’s a neat solution, but in my mind sets God up as a Martin Gardner-type figure: See if you can figure out this little puzzle. I’m not convinced this passage is actually a puzzle, and I’m not able to picture the mind of God measuring something that way. If a human measurer did that, he’d be cheating, or just doing it the wrong way. Also, the thickness of the Sea isn’t mentioned, nor is any suggestion given that a measuring irregularity such as you describe is going on here.

  5. On pondering the Pi question some more, I’d like to announce, I now consider it answered to my own satisfaction, and I consider Lib to have answered it. He hit the nail on the head. I have to admit I am demanding too much.

I knew going into this question that it’s impossible to have any true circle with integer measurements. It sounded like I was asking the circumference to be given as 31.41593 cubits - and even then I might have claimed THAT couldn’t be quite accurate.

This error of mine comes from so much indirect exposure to the mindset of strict Protestant literalism. Having heard it claimed so many times that the Bible deals only in exact numbers, that spot is one of the many that stick out to me (and others). There would never had been a problem if (a) I never heard people stressing the literalness and exactitude of the Bible; or (b) if the Bible had said the Sea was about 30 cubits around, or if that concept were just generally understood and read into the text.

Again, I very humbly apologize for any offense given. I respect you guys and would like to continue learning from you.

We all learn a lot from each other around here. If learning is your bag, you’ve come to the right place. Welcome.