Two Truths and a Lie: The Bible Quiz



By: Torrance Grey

7 Min Quiz

Image: boonchai wedmakawand / Moment / Getty Images

About This Quiz

One of the first things that kids learn in Sunday School is that it's a sin to tell a lie. That's true, but lies have a complicated history in the Bible. Its famous figures do, in fact, speak untruths. One of the three major patriarchs in Genesis, Jacob, lies to his father about being Esau, his older brother, and steals his father's blessing that way. The prostitute Rahab lies about sheltering Joshua's spies in her home. The disciple Peter lies three times about knowing Jesus -- then breaks down and weeps upon realizing that Jesus had prophesied this very thing. 

The first two of these lies actually caused God's will to be carried out: Jacob became the father of the 12 tribes of Israel, and Rahab's deception allowed the Hebrews to claim Jericho from the heathens who occupied it. Lies bringing about the will of God? Things get confusing fast in Bible study! 

For our part, we're going to play it straighter: We're going to lie in this quiz, with every question -- but we're being honest about it. Your job is to separate the one untrue statement from the two true ones. It might be a bit harder than you expect ... a lot of people believe things are in the Bible which aren't, or vice versa. (Our favorite was a person who insisted that "All men are created equal" was from the Bible.) You'll need to have studied the Good Book a lot to get a perfect score on this quiz, or even close to one. Good luck!

Can you spot the untruth about the creation story?

Though an extra-biblical tradition holds that Adam had a first wife named Lilith, she does not appear in the creation story. Rather, God puts Adam to sleep, removes one of his ribs, and creates a woman from it (the first surgery, right there in Genesis!). Adam names his wife "Eve."


The prophet Jonah is famous for being swallowed by a great fish. What's not part of his story?

Joppa, now called Jaffa, is famous for its oranges. That's why the British treat, Jaffa Cakes, are orange-flavored under their coating of chocolate. And while Jonah sailed from Jaffa, intending to get to Tarshish, he didn't have a orchard there.


Sarah was the wife of Abraham in Genesis. Which of these is not true about her?

Sarah's name was changed as part of God's covenant with her and Abraham (formerly "Abram"). She was also Abraham's half-sister -- hey, the rules were different back then! But she did not cause Hagar's death. She treated Hagar cruelly after Hagar became pregnant with Abraham's child, and the maid did run away, but she survived to become the mother of a new nation, the Ishmaelites.


Sarah gave the son of her old age the name "Isaac," for "laughter." What isn't true about him?

Isaac preferred his older son Esau, the hunter, to Jacob, the trickster. This is why Jacob tricked his father into believing he was Esau by covering his arms with hairy goathide -- Esau was very hirsute -- and letting his blind father touch him, to ascertain his identity. Isaac then mistakenly gave his blessing to the wrong son, the younger-born Jacob.


Everyone knows that Jesus had 12 disciples. Which of the following statements isn't true about them?

Peter was "the rock," which is why in addition to his original name "Simon," he was given the name "Peter," for "rock (petra)." Jesus identifies him clearly as his choice for leader of the early church -- or, in the Catholic tradition, the first pope.


Prophets play a vital role in the Bible. Who among these is not, however, one of them?

Ham is one of the sons of Noah, and the one who disrespectfully looked upon his father's nakedness when Noah was drunk. Ham is also called "Canaan," linking him with the pagan nations who occupied the land marked by God for Israel. Altogether, he's not one of the Bible's best-loved figures.


King David performed many feats before and during his reign. However, one of them was not ...

In his waning years, David was given a young woman, Abishag, to sleep in his bed with him and keep him warm. They did not have a child together. In fact, it is possible that Abishag's role was a kind of test: if David could not consummate a relationship with her, then he had lost his sexual potency and could no longer be king. This idea is not commented on in the Bible itself; it is a suggestion made by historians with a special interest in the scriptures.


Christians spend a lot of time reading the gospels. Which of these is untrue about them?

Generally speaking, if you want to read about Christ's time on earth, you turn to the gospels. However, the book of Acts opens during the days after Christ's resurrection. In these pages, Jesus walks and talks with the disciples on earth, giving last instructions before ascending to heaven.


Bathsheba is one of the Old Testament's more famous women. Which of these isn't true about her?

Bathsheba was married to Uriah when she was seduced by David, so her pregnancy was a vexing problem for the king, which he solved by sending Uriah to his death at the front lines. Bathsheba's child died a few days after its birth, and it was only later that she and David had Solomon.


Can you spot the lie about Methuselah, the Bible's oldest man?

Methuselah had at least one son, Lamech. We know this because the Bible notes that Methuselah lived "after the birth of Lamech seven-hundred and eighty-two years." Fun fact: His father Enoch is believed to be one of two people in the Bible who never died, because Genesis says "God took him," instead.


One of these is not a tribe of Israel. Can you tell us which one?

Luke is the author of the third gospel and, it is believed, the book of Acts; some theologians consider these two books to be "Luke-Acts," best considered as one work. The other two names above are tribes of Israel -- which includes Dan, though that's a very modern-sounding name!


Moses was one of the greatest leaders found in the Bible. However, what wasn't true about him?

In Egypt, Moses killed a slave overseer who was beating a Hebrew. God appears to have forgiven that, choosing Moses to lead the people out of Egypt. Later, though, God denied Moses the chance to enter into the land of Canaan because he altered, if not outright disobeyed, God's orders (Num. 20: 2-10).


Jacob is a complicated trickster figure in Genesis. What is not true of him?

The story of Leah and Rachel is a famous one. Jacob wanted Rachel, but his father-in-law Laban tricked him into marrying Leah, the oldest, first; this was the custom of Laban's people at the time. That must have been a thick bridal veil!


Which of these is just not true about Samuel, the wise prophet of Israel's early years?

Samuel recognized Saul as the man who God had ordained to be the first king of Israel. Later, though, he anointed David as the future monarch. This earned Saul's enmity for both of them, and the king was an increasingly unstable man in his later years.


Can you identify the untruth about the Bible's famous chapter about love ("the greatest of these is love")?

If you didn't guess that "2 Corinthians 13" was the lie, well, this one was sneaky. It's 1 Corinthians 13 -- very close. This passage, which ends with "These three remain: faith, hope and love, but the greatest of these is love," is a favorite for reading at weddings.


The book of Revelations is complex, mystical and kind of scary! Which of the following isn't true about it?

It's true that Revelation is the only book dedicated wholly to the story of the end of the world. However, Matthew 24 contains another, shorter description, given by Jesus himself. Johnny Cash, religious in his later life, cited it in one of his songs: "Matthew 24 is knocking at the door."


One of these is not the name of an enemy of Israel. Which is it?

Calormen was a country in the "Chronicles of Narnia" by C.S. Lewis. It was a thinly-veiled depiction of the Arab-Muslim world, and the enemy of (Euro-Christian) Narnia, though the countries weren't usually at open war.


Which of the following isn't true about the book of Judges?

Deborah, the prophetess, was a judge of Israel. The judges served as the Israelites' highest authority before the people demanded a monarchy, and chose King Saul by casting lots -- not to be confused with "votes." This was a form of divination, not democracy.


Can you identify the untruth about Joseph, the son of Jacob exiled to Egypt?

There's no reason to disbelieve the Bible about Joseph's coat of many colors. It's one of the better-known facts about Joseph. Far fewer people have heard of Asenath, but she was the Egyptian wife of Joseph, and the mother of Manasseh and Ephraim with him.


Can you tell us which of these is not true about the gospel of John?

Matthew, Mark and Luke are the "synoptic" gospels, the ones whose structure and content closely mirror each other. John takes a more philosophical approach, and one of its verses, John 3:16, is held up on signs at ballgames in an attempt to spread the word of God. Its text: "For God so loved the world that he sent his only son, that whoever believes in him may not perish, but have eternal life."


Can you spot the lie among these "meta" facts about the Bible?

Malachi is the last book of the Old Testament, or Jewish Bible. However, the final book of the Christan Bible is "Revelations," or, "The Revelation to St. John." The book which does not mention God is the book of Esther.


More meta facts about the Good Book! However, one of them is wrong ...

Numbering the verses was a later innovation, of about Shakespeare's day. The other two facts cited above are true. We're indebted to "" for their fascinating list, "50 Amazing Bible Facts," from which we learned this "meta" material.


Matthew was the disciple Jesus called away from being a tax collector. What's not true of the gospel bearing his name?

Matthew was written, scholars believe, too long after Christ's death to have been written by the disciple Matthew. However, it does contain parables, as well as Matthew 24, in which Jesus describes the end of the world. (You'll see this verse mentioned elsewhere in this quiz!)


Can you identify the "fact" that isn't true about the book of Revelations?

"Armageddon" was a 1998 sci-film about a killer asteroid and the space cowboys out to stop it; it had nothing to do with the events of Revelation. The curse is found just before the final word "amen," in verses 18 and 19.


King David's bloodline, or the "house of David," is a very important one in the Bible. Who among the following is not part of it?

Melchizedek, in Genesis, is both king and priest. So, in the Christian tradition, he prefigures Christ. However, nowhere is he identified as one of Jesus's ancestors, though Jewish tradition associates him with Noah's son Shem.


We can't give someone as important as Moses just one question! What else is not true about this major biblical figure?

Moses married Zipporah, the daughter of a Midianite priest. Later in Exodus we learn that Aaron and Miriam criticized for Moses foir marrying "a Cushite woman." However, the text is unclear on when this happened, or if the Cushite woman was, in fact, Zipporah.


Can you spot the lie about the book of Acts?

Acts is the story of the early Christians, and some of it is narrated by someone who uses the pronoun "I." However, though women were involved in the early church and thus appear in Acts -- they include Dorcas and Sapphira --there is no evidence for a woman writer.


The book of Isaiah is one of the Bible's major books of prophecy. What's not true about it?

The Byrds wrote "Turn! Turn! Turn!" using verses from Eccelesiastes: "For every thing there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven." The words "Turn, turn, turn" are a refrain between verses, and not nearly as emphatic as the exclamation points make it seem.


Can you spot the untruth about Jeremiah, the prophet?

Ahab and Jezebel were the enemies of the earlier prophet Elijah. Jeremiah lived later, during Josiah's reign, and he prophesied the Babylonian invasion and the Jews' exile as slaves. From his dour predictions, we get the word "jeremiad," meaning "a long sad story or lament."


Can you spot the lie about the gospel of Mark?

For a time, Matthew was believed to be the first gospel written, and thus is placed first in the New Testament. Gradually, opinion came around to the idea that Mark was written first, and the other two "synoptic" gospels draw from it. (John, as we've noted elsewhere, was really doing his own thing!)


Which of the following isn't true of the book of Obadiah?

Obadiah is only 21 verses long, and describes the coming destruction of the Edomites, the enemy of Israel. However, Obadiah isn't the final book in the Old Testament; that would be Malachi, as noted elsewhere in this quiz.


Can you identify the untruth about the book of Jude?

Jude really is part of the Bible, though not nearly the most famous of its books. It's a short, but fascinating, epistle in the New Testament. What makes it so interesting? Among other things, it refers to the archangel Michael and the Devil fighting over the body of Moses.


Which of these things is not true about Jael, found in the book of Judges?

Women dominate the early part of the book of Judges. Deborah was the judge of Israel in chapters 4 and 5, when she tells Barak, a warrior, that the Lord "will deliver Sisera into the hand of a woman." This does indeed happen, with Jael giving Sisera shelter from his enemies, but then driving a tent peg through his head as he sleeps.


The book of Titus is found in the New Testament. What is not true about it?

It is the book of Philemon which argues on behalf of Onesimus, a truant slave who committed an unspecified offense against his master (besides, apparently, running away). Titus is a book mostly concerned with the duties of bishops in the early church; its authorship is disputed.


Can you identify the lie about the epistle of 3 Peter?

The apostle Peter, or "Saint Peter," undoubtedly wrote more than two letters to various groups of early Christians. However, only two are in the New Testament -- 1 Peter and 2 Peter. They are the ones that mention the "harrowing of hell" (Jesus preaching to the pre-Christian dead in the afterlife) and the Second Coming.


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