Two-Thirds of American adults take well-known Bible stories “at face value,” according to a new survey by the Barna Group. Presented with six specific stories from the Bible, respondents were asked if they thought the story was “literally true, meaning it happened exactly as described in the Bible,” or whether they thought the story was “meant to illustrate a principle but is not to be taken literally.”
The story of Jesus Christ rising from the dead was the most widely embraced. Seventy-five percent of adults said they interpreted that narrative literally; one out of five (19 percent) said they did not. The more highly educated respondents were, the less likely they were to take the story literally, although 68 percent of college graduates believe the resurrection narrative is literally true.
One of the most substantial differences of opinion occurred between mainline Protestants (83 percent of whom take the resurrection literally) and non-mainline Protestants (95 percent). Overall, 82 percent of Catholics embrace the resurrection narrative as being true.
Other stories on the list: Daniel in the lions’ den, Moses’ parting the Red Sea, David killing Goliath, Peter walking on the water with Jesus, and the six-day account of creation in Genesis. Barna conducted the nationwide telephone survey in August 2007 among a random sample of 1,000 adults, age 18 and older.