Her Majesty the Queen’s diamond jubilee weekend celebrations are now past. They seem to have resonated with a majority of the British public, but how many, one wonders, stopped to think about the meaning and origins of the word ‘jubilee’?
The same question occurred to the Bible Society, which – not unnaturally – wished to discover the extent to which people knew that jubilee has a Biblical derivation (Leviticus), the jubilee year marking the end of seven cycles of sabbatical years.
The Society commissioned ComRes to ask a representative sample of 2,056 adult Britons aged 18 and over ‘Where does the term jubilee come from?’ Fieldwork was undertaken online on 25-28 May 2012, and the data tables are available at:
Only 12% of all respondents knew that jubilee had its roots in the Bible, and even among professing Christians it was no more than 14% (with 10% each for those of other religions or no religion).
The over-65s (22%) were most knowledgeable, twice the number in all other age cohorts. The top social group (the ABs) were also good at identifying the Biblical link (18%), while men – perhaps surprisingly – scored better than women (16% versus 9%).
The most popular answer to the question was Queen Victoria (30%), reflecting the fact that she was the only monarch before Queen Elizabeth II to celebrate a diamond jubilee. 7% said William Shakespeare, but 49% had no idea where jubilee came from.
This is not the first time that Bible Society has surveyed public knowledge of the biblical origins of common words or phrases. Just over a year ago, in connection with the quatercentenary of the Authorized Version, the Society funded ComRes to ask Britons to name the source of five quotations, all of which came from the Bible.
On that occasion, while 56% knew that ‘my brother’s keeper’ derived from the Bible, just 7% to 19% identified it as the origin of the other four quotations. Biblical literacy was again found to be highest among the over-65s and the ABs. See BRIN’s coverage at: