Is the Bible Wrong About the Diameter of a Bowl? 2 Chron 4:2

Some argue that the Bible is wrong about the diameter of a bowl (2 Chronicles 4:2). Learn how to answer this objection against the Bible.
Bible "contradictions"
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Quick Answer

The Bible is probably simply rounding the diameter of a bowl to the nearest whole number and is not intending to be mathematically precise. Rounding numbers is a common practice in the Bible.

The argument

Some argue that the Bible is incorrect concerning the diameter of a bowl, which means it cannot be infallible or inerrant. It says the diamater of a bowl is 3 instead of 3.14, which is the value of pi. Here is the relevant verse.

2 Chronicles 4:2 - Then he made the Sea of cast bronze, ten cubits from one brim to the other; it was completely round. Its height was five cubits, and a line of thirty cubits measured its circumference.

We know that mathematically, the circumference of a circle divided by its diameter should always equal the value of pi, or 3.141592... However, in 2 Chronicles 4:2, the circumference is 30 and the diameter is 10, and 30 divided by 10 is 3, not 3.14.

The solution

2 Chronicles is just rounding numbers

The Bible is not intended to be a math or science textbook. It often rounds numbers and speaks in generalities. That is the case here. 2 Chronicles 4:2 is simply rounding numbers for the sake of simplicity, and did not mean to provide exact numbers. That explains why the circumference divided by the diameter of this bowl ends up being a clean, whole number, rather than pi, which is a decimal.

The Bible often rounds numbers

There are numerous places in the Bible where numbers are rounded, so 2 Chronicles 4:2 is not at all out of the ordinary. Here are some examples:

Numbers 31:32-34 - The booty remaining from the plunder, which the men of war had taken, was six hundred and seventy-five thousand sheep, 33 seventy-two thousand cattle, 34 sixty-one thousand donkeys,
Joshua 8:25 - So it was that all who fell that day, both men and women, were twelve thousand—all the people of Ai.
Judges 7:3 - Now therefore, proclaim in the hearing of the people, saying, ‘Whoever is fearful and afraid, let him turn and depart at once from Mount Gilead.’” And twenty-two thousand of the people returned, and ten thousand remained.
2 Chronicles 1:14 - And Solomon gathered chariots and horsemen; he had one thousand four hundred chariots and twelve thousand horsemen, whom he stationed in the chariot cities and with the king in Jerusalem.

Conclusion

There is clearly no problem with the Bible rounding numbers in 2 Chronicles, since it does the same thing in many other places.

"I don't buy that explanation"

Some people have trouble accepting possible explanations to alleged contradictions in the Bible, especially ones that they consider a stretch. For example, Dan Barker, president of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, says this:

I have received numerous replies from Christians who think that these contradictions are either trivial or easily explained. Yet not a single "explanation" has been convincing.

Fact vs Opinion

The fact is that there are plausible explanations for every alleged contradiction in the Bible. That there is a plausible explanation for an alleged contradiction does not mean that it is definitely the correct explanation for the alleged contradiction.

However, as long as a possible explanation has been suggested, then it has been objectively demonstrated that there is no necessary contradiction regarding the Bible verses and passages brought up.

When people like Dan Barker say that they don't find a particular explanation for a contradiction "convincing," then that is merely their opinion. A plausible explanation has been suggested that eliminates the necessary alleged contradiction. They simply don't like it, which is not at all a relevant argument against the explanation.

Additional Resources

To read more about solutions to Bible contradictions and difficulties, check out Norman Geisler's The Big Book of Bible Difficulties: Clear and Concise Answers from Genesis to Revelation. While we do not agree with some of Geisler's theology, particularly concerning his view of predestination, this book is still an excellent resource. It is thorough and filled with research.

Another book to check out is Tim Chaffey's Demolishing Supposed Bible Contradictions: Exploring Forty Alleged Contraditions, which also answers many alleged contradictions in the Bible.

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