The biggest bestseller in Norway is the Bible

Norway is considered a hyper-secularized country, but its biggest bestselling book today is a new translation of the Bible.

From the London Telegraph:

The Bible has become the number one bestseller in Norway, outselling Fifty Shades of Grey.

Yet the Bible, printed in a new Norwegian language version, has outpaced Fifty Shades of Grey to become Norway’s most popular book, catching the entire country by surprise.

The sudden burst of interest in God’s word has also spread to the stage, with a six-hour play called “Bibelen,” Norwegian for “the Bible,” drawing 16,000 people in a three-month run that recently ended at one of Oslo’s most prominent theaters.

Officials of the Lutheran Church of Norway have stopped short of calling it a spiritual awakening, but they see the newfound interest in the Bible as proof that it still resonates in a country where only one percent of the five million residents regularly attends church.

“Thoughts and images from the Bible still have an impact on how we experience reality,” said Karl Ove Knausgaard, one of several famous Norwegian authors enlisted to help with the translation.

Scholars explained the runaway success of the Bible by saying that that faith is a deeply personal – and therefore private – matter for Norwegians. As such, “church attendance is a poor measure of the Norwegian state of faith,” said post-doctoral fellow Thorgeir Kolshus at the University of Oslo.

Anne Veiteberg, publishing director of Norway’s Bible Society, said that increased immigration also probably has been a factor. More than 258,000 immigrants have settled in the country during the last six years alone, adding diversity of race and religion. The Church of Norway estimates that around 60 percent of immigrants are Christian, while the rest are Muslim, Buddhist or Hindu.

“Now that we’re exposed to other faiths, Norwegians have gotten more interested in their own faith,” Ms Veiteberg said.

Released in October 2011 by the Norwegian Bible Society, the new translation replaces a 1978 edition, with the goal of improving readability and accuracy.

What do you think of the comment ““church attendance is a poor measure of the Norwegian state of faith”?  I have heard other scholars make the same point, that going to church every single week–while the norm for religious Americans–is not considered necessary in European and Latin American cultures, even among serious Christians.

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.


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