A national survey of religious knowledge, including Bible knowledge, conducted by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life found that, on average, adults could only answer 16 of 32 questions correctly. Read a summary of the report here. Atheists, agnostics, and Jews did better than Protestant Christians. You can take a short 15-question version of the quiz here. The full set of questions can be found here. The results of this latest survey are not new. In 1996, George Barna reported that 80 percent of Americans “believe that the Bible includes the statement that ‘God helps those who help themselves.’” ((George Gallup, Jr., Index of Leading Spiritual Indicators (Waco, TX: Word, 1996), 80.)) This is not surprising because seven years earlier a survey of religious beliefs were less than spectacular:
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. . . . This lack of Bible-reading explains why Americans know so little about the Bible that is the basis of the faith of most of them. For example, eight in ten Americans say they are Christians, but only four in ten know that Jesus, according to the Bible, delivered the Sermon on the Mount.
Fewer than half of all adults can name Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John as the four Gospels of the New Testament, while many do not know that Jesus had twelve disciples or that he was born in Bethlehem. In addition, a large majority of Americans believe that the Ten Commandments are still valid rules for living today, but they have a tough time recalling exactly what those rules are.” ((George Gallup, Jr., and Jim Castelli, The People’s Religion: American Faith in the 90s (New York: Macmillan, 1989), 60.))
Over the years I have given a simple Bible quiz to Christian groups as a way of getting the attention of the audience. So many people have asked for the quiz that I’ve decided to publish it. I’m doing this against my better judgment since now people will have the answers. I give the quiz knowing that no one will answer all the questions correctly. (This doesn’t count the questions I throw in for fun. They are marked with an *.) When people who take the quiz don’t do very well, it makes my task easier when I speak on a controversial subject. Christians are more apt to listen to someone who takes a biblical position different from their own when they just flunked a simple Bible quiz.
Many Christians read the Bible through an established grid of interpretation based on what they’ve heard the Bible teaches. There’s nothing new in this. Jesus spent time clearing up a similar problem in His day (Matt. 5:21–48). Many disagreements over theological issues come about over a simple misreading of the Bible. Before the Bible can be interpreted, knowing what it actually says is a prerequisite. The following questions are of the Sunday school variety. No interpretation is needed. Questions marked with an * are thrown in for fun. Let me know how well you did in the comment section. Please. No lying. That is in the Bible!
1. Is the following phrase found in the Bible? “Ashes to ashes and dust to dust”? If so, where? If not, then where? ((This phrase in not found in the Bible. It appears in the Anglican Book of Common Prayer. See Genesis 3:19; 18:27; Job 30:19.))
2. Noah’s ark landed on Mt. Ararat. True or false? ((False. The ark rested on the “mountain_s_ [plural] of Ararat”: “And in the seventh month, on the seventeenth day of the month, the ark rested upon the mountain_s_ of Ararat” (Gen. 8:4).))
3. Who cut off Samson’s hair? ((Many will answer “Delilah.” This is incorrect: “And she [Delilah] made him [Samson] sleep on her knees, and called for a man and had him shave off the seven locks of his hair [lit., head]” (Judges 16:19).))
4. Absalom’s mule went under an oak in the battle of Ephraim, and his hair became entangled in the branches, and he hung there while the mule went on. True or false? ((False. “For Absalom was riding on his mule, and the mule went under the thick branches of a great oak. And his head caught fast in the oak, so he was left hanging between heaven and earth, while the mule that was under him kept going” (2 Samuel 18:9). The misconception that Absalom’s hair was caught in the oak has been encouraged by the statement that Absalom cut his hair only once a year, and the sheared hair weighed out at two hundred shekels, i.e., several pounds (2 Sam. 14:26).))
5. Name the third, fifth, and seventh commandments? ((3. “You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain” (Exodus 20:7); 5. “Honor your father and mother” (20:12); 7. “You shall not commit adultery” (20:14).))
6. Who was the judge of Ruth? ((Joshua-Judges-Ruth. Joshua is the judge of Ruth. Get it?))*
7. What was Boaz before he married Ruth? ((Ruthless.))*
8. Complete the following: “Pride goeth before _____________, and a haughty spirit before a _______________.” ((Most people have heard that Proverbs 16:18 reads this way: “Pride goeth before a fall. . . .” Actually, it reads this way: “Pride goeth before destruction. . . .”))
9. Complete the following: “The lion shall lie down with the ______________.” ((“Lamb” is incorrect: “And the wolf will dwell with the lamb, and the leopard will lie down with the kid, and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little boy will lead them” (Isa. 11:6) and “The wolf and the lamb shall graze together, and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. . .” (65:25).))
10. Jonah was swallowed by a whale. True or false? ((False. Jonah was swallowed by a “great fish”: “And the LORD appointed a great fish [Heb.: dahg gadol: see Ps. 8:8] to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was in the stomach of the fish three days and three nights” (Jonah 1:17; see 2:1, 10). The KJV uses the word “whale” in Job 7:12 and Ezekiel 32:2 but not in the book of Jonah. The KJV, RSV, and ASV translate the Greek word ketos as “whale” in Matt. 12:40. The Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Hebrew OT) used ketos in Jonah 1:17 where it was translated as “great fish” by the KJV translators. The highly respected Greek scholars Arndt and Gingrich offer only one definition for ketos: “sea-monster.” It’s a mystery why the KJV translators use “great fish” in Jonah but “whale” in Matthew’s gospel.))
11. Elijah was taken to heaven in a fiery chariot. True or false? ((False. “And it came about when the LORD was about to take up Elijah by a whirlwind to heaven, that Elijah went with Elisha from Gilgal” (2 Kings 2:1). A “chariot of fire and horses of fire” separated Elijah and Elisha (2 Kings 2:11).))
12. How many wise men came to visit Jesus while he lay in the manger? ((First, the Bible does not tell us the number of magi who visited Jesus. We do know that there were more than one and that they presented Him with three gifts (Matt. 2:11). Second, by the time the wise men met Jesus, He was in a house: “And they came into the house and saw the Child with Mary His mother” (2:11). Matthew 2:1 states: “Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem.” The magi began their travels from the east after first seeing the star. We do not know how long it took them finally to reach Jerusalem and then Bethlehem.))
13. Jesus sweat great drops of blood. True or false? ((It’s hard to say. The text does not say that Jesus sweat “great drops of blood”: “And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were [hosei] great drops of blood falling down to the ground” (Luke 22:44, KJV). Even so, there is a medical condition “commonly referred to as hematidrosis or hemohidrosis . . . . [T]his condition results in the excretion of blood or blood pigment in the sweat. Under conditions of great emotional stress, tiny capillaries in the sweat glands can rupture. . . , thus mixing blood with perspiration.”))
14. “Money,” the Bible says, “is the root of all evil.” True or false? ((False: “For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith, and pierced themselves with many a pang” (1 Tim. 6:10).))
15. Where in the Bible do you find 6-6-6? ((“Here is wisdom. Let him who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for the number is that of a man; and his number is six hundred and sixty-six” (Rev. 13:18; also see 1 Kings 10:14).))
16. Where in the Bible does it say that Jesus will reign on the earth for a thousand years? ((No verse in the Bible specifically states that Jesus will reign on the “earth” for a thousand years: “And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given to them. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of the testimony of Jesus and because of the word of God, and those who had not worshipped the beast or the image, and had not received the mark upon their forehead and upon their hand; and they came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years” (Rev. 20:4).))
17. What is the biblical definition of “antichrist” and in which books is he mentioned the most? ((1 John 2:18; 2:22; 4:3; 2 John 7. The word “antichrist” does not appear in Revelation.))
18. Where is Shakespeare found in the Bible? ((Some people believe that the translators of the King James Bible asked William Shakespeare (1564–1616) to help them put at least some of the Psalms into English verse. There is not much support for this rumor, but staunch believers in this theory think that Shakespeare left a hidden clue in Psalm 46. Look at a KJV version of the psalm. Count 46 words from the beginning. Then count 46 words from the end. (Do not count the “Selahs.”) What do you come up with? Did you know that in 1611, the year the King James Bible was completed, Shakespeare would have turned 46 years old? Mere coincidence? Maybe: “Though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof” (46:3) . . . . “He maketh wars to cease unto the end of the earth; he breaketh the bow, and cutteth the spear in sunder; he burneth the chariot in the fire” (46:9).))*
19. Where does Jesus give us permission to watch television? ((“And as they were coming down from the mountain, Jesus commanded them saying, ‘Tell the vision to no one until the Son of Man has risen from the dead’” (Matthew 17:9).))*