Britons who don't know where Jesus was born|
By Jonathan Petre, Religion Correspondent
Last Updated: 3:01am GMT 08/12/2007
The extent of Britons' ignorance about the Christmas
story is illustrated today in a new report which shows more than a
quarter of adults do not know where Jesus was born.
A survey found 27 per cent of Britons aged 18 and
over were unable to identify Bethlehem as Jesus's birth place, while
the figure rose to 36 per cent of people aged between 18 and 24.
One in ten of those questioned thought the answer
was Nazareth and a similar number said Jerusalem.
The poll also found that more than one in four
people - 27 per cent - were unaware that an angel told Mary that she
would give birth to a son, with some saying she was informed by the
Most people surveyed believed that Joseph, Mary and
Jesus fled to Nazareth rather than Egypt when they escaped from King
Herod, and a few even said the holy family's destination was
The survey also revealed that just over half did not
know that John the Baptist was Jesus's cousin.
Only 12 per cent of adults could answer all four
questions about the Christmas story correctly.
The results of the survey, conducted among 1,015
adults last month, are likely to refuel the debate about the
secularisation of Christmas.
The poll found that people's knowledge dips
significantly with age, with only seven per cent of 18 to
24-year-olds able to answer all four questions correctly. Middle
aged people, aged 55 to 64, knew the most, with 18 per cent getting
all the questions right.
The findings followed research by the Sunday
Telegraph last weekend showing that only
one school in every five was planning to stage a traditional
Nativity play this year.
Paul Woolley, the director of Theos, the theological
think-tank which commissioned the survey, insisted the survey showed
the Christmas story, in its classic formulation, was still "very
much" in the "cultural bloodstream" of the nation.
But he said when people were asked in detail about
the story, their knowledge and understanding was "rather more
"The fact that younger people are the least
knowledgeable about the Christmas story may reflect a decline in the
telling of Bible stories in schools and the popularity of Nativity
plays," he said.
"No one seriously thinks that being a Christian or a
member of the established Church is the same thing as being British
"But, at the same time, if we are serious about
social cohesion we can't afford to ignore the stories that have
bound us together as a culture for a thousand years.
"Any attempts to down-play the Christmas story in
order to help social cohesion are likely to be
The region with the highest proportion of people who
answered all four questions correctly was the South East, at 19 per
cent, followed by the South West, which scored 17 per cent.
Yorkshire and Humberside and London had the highest
percentage of people who got all four questions wrong, at 15 per
Unsurprisingly, Christian churchgoers knew the story
best, with 36 per cent answering all questions correctly, compared
with only five per cent of those describing themselves as
1. According to the story in the Christian Bible,
where was Jesus born?
73 per cent correctly said Bethlehem. Of the 27 per
cent who were wrong, 10 per cent said Nazareth and 9 per cent said
2. Who told Mary that she would give birth to a
73 per cent correctly said an angel. Of the 27 per
cent who were wrong, six per cent said the wise men, five per cent
said the shepherds and four per cent said Joseph.
3. Who was Jesus' cousin?
48 per cent correctly said John the Baptist. Of the
52 per cent who were wrong, 12 per cent said Peter, six per cent
said Luke and six per cent said James. 26 per cent said they did not
4. Where did Joseph, Mary and Jesus go to escape
from King Herod when Jesus was a young child?
22 per cent correctly said Egypt. Of the 78 per cent
who were wrong, 52 per cent said Nazareth, five per cent said
Babylon and one per cent said Rome.
Original article: Telegraph
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