The Bible in American life

The Bible in American life March 19, 2014

A major study has been released exploring the role of the Bible for contemporary Americans.  It’s entitled The Bible in American Life .  You can access it here.  Among its findings:  48% of Americans report reading the Bible sometime during the course of last year.  29% believe it is inerrant, with 48% believing it is inspired.  African-Americans read the Bible more than just about anybody.  And “Nones”–people who claim no religious affiliation– read it quite often, considering.

One of the most surprising findings:  the most popular and fastest-growing Bible translation by far is the King James translation.  After the jump, details about that.

From The Most Popular and Fastest Growing Bible Translation Isn’t What You Think It Is | Gleanings |

When Americans reach for their Bibles, more than half of them pick up a King James Version (KJV), according to a new study advised by respected historian Mark Noll.

The 55 percent who read the KJV easily outnumber the 19 percent who read the New International Version (NIV). And the percentages drop into the single digits for competitors such as the New Revised Standard Version, New America Bible, and the Living Bible.

So concludes “The Bible in American Life,” a lengthy report by the Center for the Study of Religion and American Culture at Indiana University–Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI). Funded by the Lilly Foundation, researchers asked questions on what David Briggs of the ARDA, which first reported the results, calls “two of the most highly respected data sources for American religion”—the General Social Survey and the National Congregations Study.

The numbers are surprising, given the strong sales of NIV translations in bookstores. The NIV has topped the CBA’s bestselling Bible translation list for decades, and continued to sell robustly in 2013.

The high numbers of KJV readers confirm the findings of last year’s American Bible Society (ABS) State of the Bible report. On behalf of ABS, Barna Group found that 52 percent of Americans read the King James or the New King James Version, compared with 11 percent who read the NIV.

The KJV also received almost 45 percent of the Bible translation-related searches on Google, compared with almost 24 percent for the NIV, according to Bible Gateway’s Stephen Smith.

In fact, searches for the KJV seem to be rising distinctly since 2005, while most other English translations are staying flat or are declining, according to Smith’s Google research.


Among the reasons the study gives for reading the Bible is “to get information about health and healing” (36%) and “to learn about obtaining wealth” (22%), suggesting that the “prosperity gospel” may be more common that many of us assumed.  Also “to learn about the future” (35%) shows that the apocalyptic strain of Christianity is still going strong.  The biggest reason, though,  is for prayer and devotion (72%).

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