George M. Hollenback, «The Value of Pi and the Circumference of the "Molten Sea" in 3 Kingdoms 7,10», Vol. 79 (1998) 409-412
The dimensions of the "molten sea", the huge vessel fabricated for King Solomons temple, are given in 1 Kgs 7,23.26 (MT) and 3 Kingdoms 7,10.12 (LXX). All measurements of the MT correspond exactly to those of the LXX except one, the circumference. The MT gives "thirty cubits" and the LXX "thirty-three cubits". It seems probable that the MT used the value attributed to pi by the Old Babylonian (pi = 3), whereas the LXX may have known the more accurate value discovered by Archimedes and presumably known in Alexandria (pi = approximately 3 1/7).
translations were being undertaken and kept up correspondence with other Greek intellectuals there. His 3 1/7 approximation of pi would have been considered the state of the art value in Alexandrian mathematical circles. It is not at all unreasonable to assume that well-educated, Greek-speaking, Alexandrian Jews such as a LXX translator or editor could have become familiar with the value as well.
Although Scotts calculation of a 32.47 cubit circumference from the assumed diameter and pi value is correct, his rounding of that value up to 33 cubits is simply not tenable. The 32.47 cubit figure can for all practical purposes be considered as 32 1/2 cubits or "thirty-two cubits and a span". The half-cubit span (trz, Greek spiqamh\) was the distance between the tip of the thumb and the tip of the little finger of a spread hand. One of the most well-known measurements in the Bible, the height of Goliath, is given in the format "so many cubits and a span" (1 Sam 17,4). It is unlikely that the LXX translator/editor after meticulously factoring wall thickness into his diameter calculation, multiplying that diameter by a state of the art pi value and coming up with an answer that is an almost perfect "so many cubits and a span" figure would have then compromised such an accurate result by needlessly rounding up to the nearest whole cubit.
Furthermore, the premises on which Scott predicates his assumed diameter may not be tenable either. According to the given description, the brim of the sea was like the brim of a cup or the blossom of a lily. In other words, the walls of the sea flared out around the top of the sea to form the brim. The maximum outside diameter of the vessel as measured from brim to brim would therefore have to be greater than Scotts 10 1/3 cubit measurement which takes into consideration only the thickness of the walls but not the width of the brim itself.
The maximum outside brim to brim diameter can easily be calculated by dividing the 33 cubit circumference by the 3 1/7 pi value. The result is exactly 10 1/2 cubits, a perfect "ten cubits and a span." This cannot have been mere coincidence; on the contrary, it demonstrates that the LXX translator/editor deliberately chose a number that when divided by 3 1/7 would yield the precise figure of 10 1/2. A 10 1/2 cubit outside diameter indicates that the width of the brim encircling the top of the sea must have been exactly one-fourth of a cubit: 1/4 + 10 + 1/4 = 10 1/2.
It should be noted that the LXX translator/editor did not have to tamper with the circumferential measurement in order to make the passage conform to the more accurate pi value of 3 1/7 instead of the less accurate value of 3. By interpreting the given 10 cubit diameter and 30 cubit circumference as two separate measurements and then dividing the circumference by 3 1/7, he would have come up with an inside diameter of approximately 9.54 cubits, indicating a brim width of approximately 0.23 cubit. This is essentially the same interpretation of the measurements later given by Rabbi Nehemiah in the Mishnat ha-Middot, a Hebrew geometry text dating from c. AD 150 5. The reason for the LXX translator/editors not accepting the