January 31, 2011

Isn’t your religion quiz wrong about when the Sabbath begins?

Q. On the Religious Knowledge Survey devised by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, I believe that the specified “correct” answer to question No. 4 — When does the Jewish Sabbath begin? — is, in fact, incorrect. The Sabbath was Saturday and almost all peoples 2000 or more years ago, including the Jews, began each day at sundown — not at midnight — not at sunrise — but at sundown. The Sabbath is Saturday and no day can start on the day before itself. Your question did not specify using “modern” convention. Therefore, your answer commits the fallacy of amphiboly (a faulty interpretation). I chose the correct answer on all the other questions and anyone who answered question No. 4 with your answer was, in fact, wrong.

Thank you for your wonderfully erudite inquiry; we are going to award you an honorary “15″ on the religious knowledge quiz. Indeed, you would have had a very strong case if we had conducted the survey in Hebrew, in which case the correct answer would have been Yom haShabbat and not Yom Shishi. But the survey was NOT conducted in Hebrew. It was given in English, and 94% of Jews who took the survey answered this question by saying that the Jewish Sabbath begins on FRIDAY (4% of self-identified Jews gave other answers, and 2% said they didn’t know). The 94% of Jews who said “Friday” could all be guilty of amphiboly, of course. Worse things have been said. But there was no question in the entire survey about which there was greater unanimity among the members of a religious group as to the correct answer. Not even Mormons were as monolithic in their answers about the Book of Mormon.

Alan Cooperman, Associate Director, Research and Gregory A. Smith, Senior Researcher, Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life

Cite this publication: Michael Suh. “Isn’t your religion quiz wrong about when the Sabbath begins?.” Pew Research Center, Washington, D.C. (January 31, 2011) http://www.pewresearch.org/2011/01/31/isnt-your-religion-quiz-wrong-about-when-the-sabbath-begins/, accessed on July 23, 2014.