The Crisis of Biblical Illiteracy

by | Jul 14, 2014 | 2014, Musings | 0 comments

Historically, literature and other media expressions have drawn heavily from the scriptures. Unfortunately, our culture is becoming more and more biblically illiterate and we miss the intended reference. The BBC radio website has a brief survey to test one’s basic biblical knowledge. Try a few questions:

  1. jane-eyreThe very last line of Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre is: “amen, even so come Lord Jesus.” Which New Testament book do these words come from? (Answer: Revelation)
  2. In the Old Testament, the prophet Jonah is rescued from a great fish. Which nautical novel quotes this story at length? (Answer: Moby Dick)
  3. In Act two of Hamlet, Shakespeare refers to Polonius as which biblical character who sacrificed his daughter? (Answer: Jephthath-Judges 11)

In years gone by, Christians were known as “people of the book.” As a group, we were known as students of God’s word. We read it, studied it, memorized it and we meditated on it. Our knowledge of the book informed the rest of our lives.

For example, did you know that the New Testament writers included more than 300 direct quotations from the Old Testament in their writings? Not to speak of the hundreds of allusions of the Hebrew Scriptures. Think about it for a second. There is no evidence that they had copies of each of the Old Testament scrolls so they could check each of their references. They knew the Word by heart!

Today, you and I are in the midst of a Bible famine. We have become so distracted. We “adore the technologies that undo our capacity to think.” (Neil Postman in Amusing Ourselves to Death) Our TV time, social media experiences and fun with video games of one kind or another have grabbed our attention and we can’t seem to let go.

A recent study by the Barna Group (the annual State of the Bible) reports that only 37% of adults in the US report spending time in Scripture at least once a week. And the younger we are, the less time we spend in God’s Word.

Pretty soon, we won’t even know the names of Jesus’ earthly parents, or who the first three kings of Israel were, or what Cain did to Abel. We will miss a ton of references and nuances in literature, but worse we will shrivel up from a dearth of God’s living water.

So this week, let’s drink deep. Let’s set aside just a few minutes every single day to read and think about His word. Let’s memorize one verse before next Monday. Let’s talk about a passage at dinner with our kids. Let’s protect our Biblical literacy!

By His Grace and For His Glory,
Sherry L. Worel


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