WAS Noah's wife named Joan of Arc?
That answer made sense to 10 percent of the 1,015 adults surveyed recently by the Barna Research Group in Glendale, Calif.
Even more people - some 16 percent of respondents - had no doubt that the New Testament contains a Book of Thomas.
A whopping 38 percent said the entire Bible, including, of course, the Old Testament, was written within decades after the life of Jesus.
A reader can only wonder what percentage of participants shrugged their shoulders and said, in effect: ``What does it matter?''
The words ``knowledge'' (as in the knowledge industry) and ``information'' (as in the information superhighway) are said to define the coming culture of the 21st century - a time when, by all predictions, knowledge and information will literally be the world's business.
But obviously this is not knowledge, this is not information as previous generations understood the terms when fathers and mothers wore the gilt off the family Bible, steeping themselves and their children in the passionate history of the prophets, the poetry of the Psalms, the healings of the New Testament.
It was no coincidence that family history was recorded on the pages provided by a family Bible - the Bible was the Book of Life.
To be Bible-literate then was to be literate - and literate in a sense that went beyond the letter to the spirit.
The hearts of people throughout history have sought out their religious texts for knowledge of what is right and what is wrong, and for the profoundest information about what makes life worth living, even in the darkest of circumstances.
Those who flunked their Bible quiz in the Barna survey can probably access the name of Noah's wife on a computer - and even find out who Joan of Arc actually was in the process. But can computer literacy really access the Sermon on the Mount, even with the sophisticated help of a CD-ROM?
The Barna poll may be, on one level, just another trivia test. But it is also a warning indicator that a country forever wailing about its lost values has forgotten an important place to look for them.