University Challenge contestants thin on the Bible, says Paxman

Students battling it out in the latest series of the BBC’s University Challenge do not know very much about the Bible, says presenter Jeremy Paxman.

Speaking to the Radio Times, Mr Paxman said the contestants were becoming more knowledgeable in computing and science than the classics and the Bible.

“It’s interesting to see how, as years go by, they know less and less about classics and the Bible, and more and more about science and computing,” he said.

His comments came as the Church of England celebrated a seven-year increase in the number of students taking the Religious Studies A-level.

Figures out yesterday showed that 21,233 students took the A-level this year, a 0.7 per cent increase on last year’s 21,079 Religious Studies students, and a total increase of 47.3 per cent since 2004.

The Church of England’s Rev Janina Ainsworth said the figures bucked the suggestion that young people have no interest in religion.

In spite of the continued popularity of RE among students, regulatory body Ofsted warned that Christianity was not being taught properly in schools.

It said that many of the primary and secondary schools it had visited “did not pay sufficient attention to the progressive and systematic investigation of the core beliefs of Christianity”.

Ofsted warned that students were left “confused” by RE lessons and that the parables of Jesus were used more to “explore personal feelings or to decide how people should behave” instead of being taught in the context of their religious significance.

Earlier in the year, David Suchet, the Christian and actor best known for his turn as Hercules Poirot, said the Bible was “under-appreciated” in society.

“The Bible I’ve always said, sadly, is the biggest selling yet most under-appreciated – and possibly one of the least read books cover to cover,” he said.

In February, Christian organisations including the Evangelical Alliance, Scripture Union and Bible Society united together to launch BibleFresh, a movement aimed at dispelling the notion that the Bible is tedious and irrelevant to today’s world.

It was launched in response to a church survey last year which found that only one in seven churchgoers were confident in their knowledge of the Bible.