More than half of young adults have never heard of the King James Version of the Bible, according to a new survey.
The influential translation, which will celebrate its 400th anniversary next year, is believed to be the biggest selling book ever produced.
But a new poll has revealed that 51 per cent of under-35s have never heard of the King James Bible, compared to 28 per cent for those over the age of 55.
A spokesman for the King James Bible Trust, which commissioned the poll, said: “There has been a dramatic drop in knowledge in a generation.
“Yet this is a work which was far more influential than Shakespeare in the development and spread of English.”
These opinions were echoed by Labour MP Frank Field, who said: “It is not possible to comprehend fully Britain’s historical, linguistic or religious development without an understanding of this great translation.”
Work on the King James translation began in 1604, at the request of James I of England, and carried on until 1611.
A team of 47 of the best Bible scholars of the day worked on translating the text into English, and the King James translation became the version read by many English speaking nations.
In October BBC Radio 4 revealed that it is planning to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible by devoting a Sunday to readings from its text.
The commemorative event, which is due to take place in January, will last for seven hours, broken up into 28 readings, each of which will be 15 minutes long.
According to reports the readings will be selected from “the most powerful stories in the Bible”, and each of them will begin with an introduction explaining its literary significance.
Earlier this year it was revealed that the Royal Mail is planning to commemorate the anniversary of the King James Version of the Bible with a series of special stamps.
The commemorative stamps, which are due to be produced next year, have been prompted by numerous requests from members of the general public.
The move was welcomed by Mervyn Storey, MLA for North Antrim, who was one of those who petitioned.
Mr Storey said: “The Authorized or King James Version of the Bible is the most influential piece of literature in the English Language.
“However the King James Version didn’t just influence our literature and language. It also had a beneficial influence upon political and constitutional affairs.”