According to one survey, only 20 percent of Americans have read the entire Bible. Forty-three percent of respondents said they've only read a few passages and stories ... even just a few sentences. What's going on? Well, despite the fact that many Christians would say that the Bible is the most important book in their lives, many of them only hear it read by someone else -- in church services, usually.
Before you start getting judgmental -- or casting the first stone, as the Bible itself would say -- consider that the Bible is a thick, dense book. Also, a large part of it, the Old Testament, takes a certain amount of historical background knowledge before you can really understand what's going on. This is especially true of all the intricate laws and rituals, found in Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy, that the Israelites of old had to follow.
Fortunately, there are other parts of the Bible that are as familiar as favorite movies from childhood, or old family stories. These include the creation story, the nativity story, the story of Noah's ark, and of Jonah and the whale. And each of these stories, in turn, tends to have a certain "best-known" verse.
So, if you're one of those people who falls in the 43 percent mentioned above, never fear. We've got a quiz for you, covering the Bible's best-known and most-often-recited verses. Even so, the quiz will get a little tougher as you get deeper into it. Think you're up to the challenge? Find out now!
These famous words open the gospel of John, the "non-synoptic" gospel. "Non-synoptic" means that John takes a different and more mystical approach to telling the story of Jesus.
This verse is John 1:5, following shortly after the one about "In the beginning was the Word." It is very popular among Christians.
Jesus says this while speaking to the disciples privately. He is discussing the worth of the kingdom of God, versus that of the world we live in.
You might have seen this on banners or plaques in a church. It's one of the better-known of Jesus's sayings.
You might know the famous command "Let there be light" in Latin: "Lux fiat." This is the motto of more than one university, including the University of California.
This is the second verse of Genesis. It makes clear that God didn't create something out of absolute nothing in the beginning, but gave shape and light to a void of earth and water.
This is part of the curse God laid on humankind, in casting Adam and Eve out of the garden. The verse implies that life was easy in the garden of Eden, but will not be so outside in the "real world."
Abel was the first murder victim, and Cain the first murderer. The quote above is Cain's response when God asks him where his brother is.
John 3:16 is famous in part for because Christians hold it up at televised sporting events, so it'll be seen by millions of people. We have to wonder, though: Has this ever actually converted anyone? If you known of such a case, let us know in the comments!
This is in Genesis chapter 1. It's a little confusing, because here it says "male and female he created them," but in the next chapter, God decides "It is not good for man to be alone," and creates Eve from Adam's rib.
This is a question many skeptics have asked about the fall-from-grace story. Why, if the consequences to eating the fruit were so drastic, did God put it right in the center of the garden? Sunday-school teachers tend to say it was a test of man's obedience, while some theologians say that it means that humankind's fall from grace was predestined.
"Be fruitful and multiply" are God's first words to the new humans he has created. He said the same thing to the animals he created on the fifth day. (Note: If you chose "Live long and prosper," go to your room!)
This is Psalm 23: 2-3. The Hebrew word for "soul" here means "vitality" or the spark of life.
The Magnificat, named for the phrase "magnifies the Lord," appears just before the nativity story in the gospel of Luke. It closely parallels one sung by Hannah in 1 Samuel.
Lazarus is a friend of Jesus, like his sisters Martha and Mary. Jesus appears to raise him from the dead out of simple human emotion, not because Lazarus goes on to play a key role in the early church (if he did, this is not recorded in the scriptures).
This is part of the poetic version of the nativity story told in Luke. The angels famously visit the shepherds by night, so that their glory shines even brighter in the darkness.
These are the words of God to Jesus just after his baptism in the Jordan river. The heavens also open at this point, and the spirit of God descends in the form of a dove on Jesus.
1 Corinthians 13 is the famous meditation on love. It is often chosen as a text for weddings.
Jesus says this to the disciples in the passage that's called the Great Commission, when he sends the disciples out to preach to the Jews (but not yet the Gentiles). Jesus tells the disciples that their lives are worth far more than those of sparrows, so not to worry about their welfare, but to trust in God to protect them.
Jesus used a simple teaching tool, a coin, to instruct the Pharisees on the correct attitude toward paying taxes. Showing them that Caesar's image and name were on the coin, he told them the above adage. If you're wondering why there would be any debate about whether it was right to pay taxes, remember that Judea was occupied territory -- to pay taxes to the Romans might be seen as treasonous.
The text of the book of Proverbs is mostly attributed to King Solomon, considered to be one of the wisest men who ever lived.
Peter, often portrayed as rash in the gospels (as opposed to the mature, later Peter), swears on the night of Jesus's arrest that he will not deny Christ. But the prediction comes true before the rooster crows.
This is Jesus's instruction to the disciples at the very end of the gospel of Matthew. It's important that he specifies "all nations," because earlier, he gave them instructions to preach only to the Jews.
This has become a popular saying well beyond religious contexts. It's often used as a way of exhorting someone to come clean, i.e., "You'll feel better afterward."
This is a favorite verse that Christians cite in times of trouble. Compare it to the non-religious idea "Everything happens for a reason."
This is Revelation 6:8. Many supernatural novels and films have used the idea of the Four Horsemen, including the popular series "Supernatural."
Death and Hell are given dominion over a quarter of the earth in this part of Revelation. Pestilence is one of the ways they afflict the earth, along with the sword, famine and wild animals.
This verse is from Revelation, near the end, which describes the new heaven and earth. You were, hopefully, tipped off by the words "beginning and the end," which are the same as "Alpha and the Omega", just not in Greek.
This is John the Baptist, quoting Isaiah. John cites himself as the one who prepares the way of the Messiah, Jesus.
OK, we'll admit it: We knew this one because of Thomas Harris's book, "Red Dragon," and not because of church. (The "red dragon" appears in the next verse).
These are Jesus's words to the money-changers in the temple. The scripture he is quoting is from the prophet Isaiah.
Jesus was crucified between two criminals, one of whom mocks him, and the other who says that Jesus does not deserve to be there, on the cross. Jesus tells that thief that he will share in Paradise after his death.
This is a favorite verse that Christians cite when nonbelievers accuse them of "blind faith." This verse in Hebrews (11:1) suggests that blind faith is a virtue, not a failing.
The book of Job is the famous story of a man who is severely tested by God, at Satan's suggestion. The verse above is taken from near the beginning of the book, in which Job curses the day he was born -- but not God himself.
This is part of the story in which Abraham nearly sacrifices his son Isaac on Mount Moriah, as God has (seemingly) commanded. Abraham gives the place that name because the Lord provides a ram for the offering instead.