January 19, 2008
Basic Bible Literacy
A week ago on Jeopardy, the clue was”Jezebel’s husband”. None of the three contestants knew the answer was King Ahab. A day or so later, I was doing a crossword puzzle and the clue was Samuel’s teacher. I happen to know that Eli was Samuel’s mentor. But it got me to thinking about how little the average American knows about the Bible.
A Gallop poll in the 90’s concluded that only half of the adults nationwide could name ANY of the four gospels. That same survey found that only 42% could name even 5 of the 10 commandments. The Barna Research Group reports that 12% of American adults believe that Noah’s wife was Joan of Arc. And 75% believe that “God helps those who help themselves” (a quote from Benjamin Franklin, not the Bible).
In years past, the American education system was centered on the study of God’s word. In the early days of our country, a child learned to read from the pages of scripture. Bible stories were commonly known and discussed in polite society. Writers drew inspiration from Biblical characters.
Go back a bit further in history, and consider how many references there are to the Bible within the pages of Shakespeare’s writing. God is mentioned in 30 of his 37 plays, for a total of over 700 times. Countless references, allusions, and paraphrases of scripture can be found in his work. The pages of his work are so saturated with God’s Word that Shakespeare’s writings were referred to as the “Lay Bible.” This was true because, “In Shakespeare’s time, the bible was the standard literature of his country” (William Burgess in The Bible in Shakespeare). Sadly, the Bible is not the standard literature of our day.
So what has happened? 92% of Americans claim to own a Bible. They may own one, but they do not seem to know what’s in it! Truth is, we are more likely to be able to quote endless lines from a movie or rattle off song lyrics with ease than to know even the most rudimentary things about God’s Word.
TEST: Can you list the Ten Commandments? Can you name the 12 Apostles? Do you know what book comes after Hosea in the Old Testament? Any guess who wrote the book of Ephesians? Do you think you could you pass a basic Bible knowledge exam?
If you didn’t sail through the test, or have any idea who King Ahab was…consider II Timothy 2:15 where we are told to study and “present ourselves to God, as one approved, a workman that does not need to be ashamed and correctly handles the word of truth.” Let’s start studying God’s Word with some serious intent. (Maybe download a “Read the Bible Through in One Year” chart and start keeping track!)
Along the way, we will be able to answer the Jeopardy questions…but more importantly, we will “hide God’s Word in our hearts so that we might not sin against Him” (Ps. 119:11).
Warmest Regards in Christ,
Sherry L. Worel
Stoneybrooke Christian Schools