Nearly half of Britons believe the Bible is an important book but many fail to realise its influence on everyday language, a survey suggests.

More people believe the expression “a drop in the bucket” originated from Tony Blair – at 12 per cent – than from the Bible – at just seven per cent – an online poll for the Bible Society has shown.

The research into the views of 2,379 people carried out earlier this month showed nearly the same proportion believed the phrase “the writing on the wall” was from the Beatles, at 18 per cent, as from the Bible, at 19 per cent.

Fewer than one in 10 people, at nine per cent, knew the expression “eat, drink and be merry” was from the New Testament, with 41 per cent saying they thought it was from Shakespeare.

The only Bible phrase to be identified correctly out of a list of five by a majority of Britons, at 56 per cent, was the expression “my brother’s keeper” – from the words of Cain in Genesis “Am I my brother’s keeper?”.

The findings come in spite of nearly half, or 46 per cent, saying they believed the Bible was an important book and had valuable messages.

The survey was released as the Bible Society in England and Wales and the Scottish Bible Society launched a project inviting people to handwrite parts of the Bible using a digital pen to mark the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible.

The results will be uploaded onto the internet and available online.

The People’s Bible tour of Britain will begin at Edinburgh Castle on June 19 on the anniversary of the birth of King James VI of Scotland at the castle in 1566.

Organisers are hoping the project will feature contributions from senior public figures and celebrities with part of it presented at a service of celebration at Westminster Abbey to mark the 400th anniversary later this year.

Luke Walton, culture programme manager at the Bible Society, said: “It’s clear that people’s knowledge of the Bible is limited and they just don’t realise how significant and wide-ranging its influence has been.

“We hope that this project will help people, once again, to value the Bible.

“Making a connection with the text helps us both to appreciate its role in our own culture, history and politics, and it can enrich our lives personally.

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