More than half the nation's adult population reads the Bible at least monthly, but barely more than a third can name the four Gospels.
Those statistics dramatize one of the major findings in a recent report prepared by the Princeton (N.J.) Religion Research Center: The Bible is probably the most widely read book in America, but ignorance of its content is widespread.
The 28-page report, entitled "The Role of Bible in American Society," is based on a telephone survey of 1,021 randomly selected adults that was conducted in November by the Gallup Organization.
According to the survey, 17 percent of the adult population reads the Bible at least daily, while 23 percent reads the Bible at least weekly and 13 percent at least monthly. One-quarter of the population reads the Bible less than monthly and 20 percent rarely or never.
A majority of Protestants are frequent Bible readers, the survey showed, with 24 percent reporting daily readings and 28 percent weekly readings, compared with 7 percent and 16 percent, respectively, by their Roman Catholic counterparts.
A summary of the report, published in the November issue of "Emerging Trends," the research center newsletter, said that "Failure to read the Bible at all probably is more a matter of lack of faith or interest than illiteracy, as nonreaders are found in about equal proportion among people of all levels of academic attainment."
The survey found that 37 percent of adults can name all four Gospels -- Matthew, Mark, Luke and John -- and 50 percent at least one. In a 1982 Gallup survey, 42 percent were able to name the Gospels.