The National Biblical Literacy Survey carried out by St John's College, Durham University, found that young people believe the Bible is "old-fashioned", "irrelevant" and "for Dot Cottons" - in reference to the churchgoing character in the BBC One soap Eastenders.
A survey of more than 900 Britons from faith and non-faith backgrounds revealed that as many as 60 per cent could say nothing at all about the Good Samaritan.
"Wasn't he the man who helped the woman at the well?" asked one respondent, while 62 per cent of respondents did not know the parable of the prodigal son.
And only one in 20 interviewees were able to name all of the Ten Commandments. Sixteen per cent said they knew none of them.
But the study showed many still turn to the Bible at times of emotional stress and for support and guidance at key moments, and as many as 75 per cent own the Holy Bible.
Researchers at the survey, funded by a consortium of national churches, charitable trusts and Bible agencies said that their findings showed that the church and Christians could no longer make assumptions about people's knowledge of the Bible, especially those under 45.
The study said half of under 45s failed to accurately recount information about Samson and Delilah, while a third were clueless when quizzed about the feeding of the 5,000.
It also revealed that 40 per cent did not know that the tradition of giving Christmas gifts came from the story of the wise men bringing gold, frankincense and myrrh to the baby Jesus.
One respondent said David and Goliath was the name of a ship, while another thought Daniel - who survived being thrown into the lions' den - was the Lion King.
Rev Brian Brown, a Methodist minister and visiting fellow in media and communication at St John's College, Durham University told BBC News: “The church and political leaders should take serious note of the findings and recognise that we cannot make the assumptions we used to make about the Bible and its place in contemporary people's lives and culture.”
Vijay Menon, an evangelist who turned to Christ from Hindu background was quoted by a blogger at geero.net as saying, “Ignorance of the Bible is ignorance of God, which is ultimately the world's biggest problem.”
The findings are partly behind the Methodist Church's decision to designate 2011 as the Year of the Bible.