December 21, 2012

Misidentifying the Birthplace of Jesus

25%

A quarter of respondents in our 2010 religious knowledge survey incorrectly identified Jerusalem or Nazareth, instead of Bethlehem, as the birthplace of Jesus.

In 2010, the Pew Research Center Forum on Religion & Public Life conducted a survey asking 32 questions about various aspects of religion: the Bible, Christianity, Judaism, Mormonism, world religions, religion in public life, and atheism and agnosticism. The average respondent answered 16 of the 32 religious knowledge questions correctly. (Take a 15 question version of the Religious Knowledge quiz).

The New Testament questions included the birthplace of Jesus. While Most Americans (71%) correctly said it was Bethlehem, 25% gave either Jerusalem or Nazareth as an answer.

In addition to the Bible questions, the survey contained five items about elements of Christianity, including one question about the Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation (the belief that during Communion, the bread and wine become the body and blood of Jesus).

About half of those polled (52%) say, incorrectly, that Catholicism teaches that the bread and wine used for Communion are symbols of the body and blood of Jesus. Just four-in-ten people correctly answer that, according to the Catholic Church, the bread and wine actually become the body and blood of Jesus. Even many Catholics are unaware of their church’s teaching on this topic; while 55% of Catholics get the question right, more than four-in-ten Catholics (41%) say the church teaches that the bread and wine are symbols of Christ’s body and blood, and 3% say they do not know what the church’s teaching is. Read more