Biblical Illiteracy

Gallop Poll’s Newest Research Findings

June 4, 2014

Three in Four in U.S. Still See the Bible as Word of God

But 21%, near the 40-year high, consider it fables and history

by Lydia Saad

PRINCETON, NJ — Twenty-eight percent of Americans believe the Bible is the actual word of God and that it should be taken literally. This is somewhat below the 38% to 40% seen in the late 1970s, and near the all-time low of 27% reached in 2001 and 2009. But about half of Americans continue to say the Bible is the inspired word of God, not to be taken literally — meaning a combined 75% believe the Bible is in some way connected to God. About one in five Americans view the Bible in purely secular terms — as ancient fables, legends, history, and precepts written by man — which is up from 13% in 1976.

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Barna Group Commissioned by American Bible Society: State of the Bible 2013.  Goal was to see what impact the Bible had on Americans


The vast majority of adults (88%) say their household owns a Bible.

One-fourth of adults (26%) say they never read the Bible, 12% read it less than once a year, and 10% read it only once or twice a year.


When presented with a number of potential frustrations when it comes to reading the Bible, 40% of adults who read the Bible at least once a week say they never seem to have enough time to read it. Along Bible readers other frustrations that that were assessed included: finding the language difficult to relate to (10%), not understanding the background or history of the Bible (7%), never finding the stories or verse they are looking for (4%) and not feeling too excited about reading it (3%).


The majority of adults (69%) consider themselves moderately or somewhat knowledgeable about the Bible. Twelve percent of adults say they are highly knowledgeable; 13% said not too knowledgeable; and only 6% said not at all knowledgeable.

The Scandal of Biblical Illiteracy: It’s Our Problem

Albert Mohler

While America’s evangelical Christians are rightly concerned about the secular worldview’s rejection of biblical Christianity, we ought to give some urgent attention to a problem much closer to home–biblical illiteracy in the church. This scandalous problem is our own, and it’s up to us to fix it.

Researchers George Gallup and Jim Castelli put the problem squarely: “Americans revere the Bible–but, by and large, they don’t read it. And because they don’t read it, they have become a nation of biblical illiterates.”

How bad is it? Researchers tell us that it’s worse than most could imagine.

Fewer than half of all adults can name the four gospels.

Many Christians cannot identify more than two or three of the disciples.

According to data from the Barna Research Group, 60 percent of Americans can’t name even five of the Ten Commandments. “No wonder people break the Ten Commandments all the time. They don’t know what they are,” said George Barna, president of the firm. The bottom line? “Increasingly, America is biblically illiterate.”  [see Barna Group’s web site]

Multiple surveys reveal the problem in stark terms. According to 82 percent of Americans, “God helps those who help themselves,” is a Bible verse. Those identified as born-again Christians did better–by one percent. A majority of adults think the Bible teaches that the most important purpose in life is taking care of one’s family.

Some of the statistics are enough to perplex even those aware of the problem. A Barna poll indicated that at least 12 percent of adults believe that Joan of Arc was Noah’s wife.

Another survey of graduating high school seniors revealed that over 50 percent thought that Sodom and Gomorrah were husband and wife.

A considerable number of respondents to one poll indicated that the Sermon on the Mount was preached by Billy Graham. We are in big trouble.

Secularized Americans should not be expected to be knowledgeable about the Bible. As the nation’s civic conversation is stripped of all biblical references and content, Americans increasingly live in a Scripture-free public space. Confusion and ignorance of the Bible’s content should be assumed in post-Christian America.

The larger scandal is biblical ignorance among Christians. Choose whichever statistic or survey you like, the general pattern is the same. America’s Christians know less and less about the Bible. It shows.

This really is our problem, and it is up to this generation of Christians to reverse course. Recovery starts at home. Parents are to be the first and most important educators of their own children, diligently teaching them the Word of God. [See Deuteronomy 6:4-9.] Parents cannot franchise their responsibility to the congregation, no matter how faithful and biblical its may be. God assigned parents this non-negotiable responsibility, and children must see their Christian parents as teachers and fellow students of God’s Word.

Testimony of Scripture

Matthew 4:4 Jesus in His wilderness temptation.  “Man Shall not live by bread alone…”

Deuteronomy 32:46.  “Take to heart all the words by which I am warning you today, that you may command them to your children that they may be careful to do all the words of this law.  For it is no empty word for you, but your very life, and by this word you shall live long in the land that you are going over the Jordan to possess.”

Joshua 1:7-9 “Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you.  Do not turn from it to the right or left that you may have good success wherever you go.  This book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it.  For then you will make your way prosperous and then you will have good success.

Psalm 119:105 “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”

Psalm 119:11 I have stored up your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.”

James 1:21 “Receive the Word implanted which is able to save your souls.”

Ephesians 6:17 “And the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of god.”

Great Quotes

God’s Word alone tethers us to God’s reality

The word of God hidden in the heart is a stubborn voice to suppress.–Billy Graham

It is impossible to rightly govern the world without God and the Bible. –George Washington

I am profitably engaged in reading the Bible. Take all of this Book that you can by reason and the balance by faith, and you will live and die a better man. It is the best Book which God has given to man. –Abraham Lincoln

Biblical Illiteracy

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