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Chapter and worse

Three out of ten British children have next to no understanding of the Bible and their parents aren't in a position to educate them. So revealed a survey released last month by the Bible Society, which was founded in 1804 to spread knowledge about the Scriptures.

Results suggested that most boys and girls aged 8 to 15-years-old did not know that Adam and Eve, Noah's Ark or Jesus' birth were found in the Bible. More than a third of the 800 children surveyed did not know that David and Goliath and the story of the Good Samaritan were Bible tales. More curiously, one in ten children believe that the stories about King Midas or Icarus were in the Bible.

Many of the parents who responded - the society commissioned YouGov to survey almost 6,000 adults - did see the Bible as a source of good values for their children. But almost half of them did not recognise the story of Noah's Ark as coming from the Bible, and many confused actual Bible stories with plotlines from modern books and films such as Harry Potter.

The Bible Society published the research to mark the launch of its 'Pass It On' campaign, which aims to encourage parents to keep the Bible alive by passing its stories on to their children. The society said the findings were 'symptomatic of the fact that many children indicate they have never read, seen or even heard these stories'. The survey comes just a few months after Ofsted found that many pupils were leaving school with a 'very limited understanding' of Christianity because of a dip in standards of religious education.

In a foreword to the report, Richard Chartres, the Anglican bishop of London, said sharing Bible stories 'is as vital now as it has ever been. Too few children have the opportunity to hear and reflect on what this life-changing book contains. Even those that do when they are young often take its awesome stories for granted when they become adults.' He added - somewhat superfluously - 'There is work to be done.'