There is no limit to the extremes that skeptics will go trying to find mistakes in the Bible. One recent case involves cubit pi. An atheist claimed that the Bible was full of mathematical mistakes and impossibilities indicating the primitive nature and lack of knowledge of the authors. The case used was 1 Kings 7:23-26 and 2 Chronicles 4:2,5 where a laver is described, and numbers are given for its dimensions in cubits. The Bible says that the circumference of the round laver was 30 cubits and that the diameter was 10 cubits from rim to rim. The formula for the circumference of a circle is pi (3.14) times the diameter, so in this case it would be 31.4 cubits, not 30. A Hebrew cubit was 17.5 inches, a Babylonian cubit was 19.8 inches, and an Egyptian cubit was 20.63 inches, so this seems to be about a 19-inch mistake.
One might suggest that the rounding of numbers is the issue here since ancient measuring devices didn’t measure to two decimal places. But there is another interesting possibility. The ten cubits is measured rim to rim which would mean that the outside circumference was 31.4 cubits. However, if 30 cubits is the inside circumference of the laver, that would make the inside diameter 9.55 cubits. Subtracting 9.55 cubits from 10 would leave a difference of .45 cubits. So the thickness of the walls of the laver would be one-half of .45 cubits or .225 cubits (about 3.8 inches). First Kings 7:26 and 2 Chronicles 4:5 states that the walls of the laver were a “handbreadth” in thickness. Excavations of artifacts from ancient times frequently find lavers with that thickness, so the numbers are totally reasonable.
I try to read a book every week, and people help me in that attempt by sending me books on about every topic that you can imagine. Atheists and religious fanatics send me their books to attempt to convert me to their view or at least to get into the “Book of the Month” review in our quarterly publication. Recently a Christian and an atheist both sent me a copy of the same book titled Fountain of Fairytales and subtitled A Scholarly Romp Through the Old Testament. This book is an attempt to discredit the Bible and is a product of The Barnes Review. Begun by Harry Elmer Barnes, the Barnes Review claims that their mission is: “To separate historical truth from propaganda and to bring history into accord with the facts.” The problem with this group is not their mission, but the fact that their view of the facts means to make sure the views stated support secular humanism and atheism. Fairness, accuracy, and credibility of sources is not a part of their mission, and this book shows that rather clearly.
One giveaway as to the intent of this book is shown in the bibliography, author, pictures, and structure of the book. Major misunderstandings of the Bible are clear before one even starts to read the book itself. The story of Jonah is titled “Jonah’s Whale” when even atheists should know the Hebrew word doesn’t say whale. It says “fish” and whales are not fish. Pictures are lifted from twentieth-century Hollywood productions and denominational publications. The bibliography is very short and almost totally dominated by atheist and secular humanist writers. The author John Tiffany is not a scholar and has no advanced degrees or recognition from the academic community. His credit line says he did graduate work in biology and studied law but apparently didn’t graduate in these areas and has done no peer review work.
The tone of the book is one of ridicule, denigration, and sarcasm. There are no footnotes and documentation is marginal at best. In some cases deliberate misrepresentation is clear. One example is the “contradiction” between, Numbers 20:22-29 and Deuteronomy 10:6. Numbers says Aaron died and was buried at Mount Hor and Deuteronomy says Aaron died and was buried at Moserah. This is cited as a discrepancy in the Bible. Moserah is the area where Mount Hor is located. There are a large number of similar misrepresentations in the book. We wrote an article in our printed journal about misrepresenting the facts of the Old Testament titled “Maligning God in Ignorance” dealing with some of these issues. It was published in the January/February 2009 issue page 7 and you can read it online at http://www.doesgodexist.org/JanFeb09/MaligningGodinIgnorance.html