Reported in April 23, 1990 Christianity Today
A recent Barna Research Group survey conducted among a random probability sample of 641 adults demonstrated that many Americans have a woeful knowledge of the Bible.
Among Christians in the survey:
- 22% thought there actually is a Book of Thomas in the Bible, while 13% said they did not know whether Thomas is a book of the Bible or not. 65% correctly stated that Thomas is not a book of the Bible.
- 61% knew that Jonah is a book of the Bible, 27% said it is not, and 12% had no idea.
- Three quarters of the Christians surveyed knew that the Book of Isaiah is located in the O. T. , while 11% thought it is in the N. T, and 13% did not know where Isaiah could be found
- Seven out of 10 Christians knew where Christ was born while 16% named Jerusalem as Jesus' birthplace, 8% said it was Nazareth, and 6% did not hazard a guess.
- The question that gave the most people trouble was "Is the expression &ls;God helps those who help themselves' in the Bible?" Only 38% of all Christians correctly stated that that phrase cannot be found anywhere in the Scriptures. Forty-two percent thought that this was a Biblical quotation, and 20% had no idea.
Among non-Christians in the survey:
- 29% knew that the Book of Jonah could be found in the Bible, while 27% said it could not, and 34% were not sure.
- 50% knew that Isaiah is located in the O. T.
- 55% knew Christ was born in Bethlehem.
- Regarding the axiom 40% said that axiom was part of the Word, 26% knew it was not, and 34% were not sure.
Why is there so much ignorance about the Bible? Most likely, it comes from a lack of Bible readership. Half of all Americans do not read the Bible. The majority of all born-again Christians read the Bible once or twice a week, or not at all. The survey found that only 18% of all Christians said they read the Word every day, while another 18% read the Bible between three and six days a week, 37% read it once or twice a week, and 23% said they do not read the Bible at all. Among non-Christians, 70% do not read the Bible. Is this because many people do not own a Bible? No. Our research has shown that 93% of all American own at least one Bible, and most own more than one.
Suggestions: 1) The KJV is too difficult and mentally taxing for many people. While this is not an exhortation to drop the KJV from use, Christian leaders need to either use translations appropriate to the audience, or facilitate people's understanding of the KJV if they choose to use it. 2) Biblical illiteracy is at least as large a problem to the Christian community as functional illiteracy is to the nation as a whole. 3) Make the Scriptures more relevant and applicable to the average person. When we teach from the Bible, we need to concentrate on practical, applicable lessons for life. In other words, we must provide people with useful principles, rather than rigid laws. 4) Get people involved in small group Bible studies.