Which Bible Really Gets Read?
A couple of years ago a group from Indiana University-Perdue set out to research actual Bible reading in the U.S. What they found goes against the accepted view that the modern Bibles have taken over the Bible reading world.
First of all they found that “...nearly eight in ten Americans regard the Bible as either the literal word of God or as inspired by God.” However, they discovered that American Christians have a “complex relationship to their scripture,” with “surprising gaps in Americans’ biblical literacy.”
Pastors have long been frustrated by parishioners who claim to revere the Bible but are “slow to read it for themselves.”
The study found that only 50% of Americans read any kind of scripture in the past year. And of those who did read, 95% listed the Bible as their choice. The rest claimed to read other “scriptures” such as the Qur’an, Torah or other religious material. Of the half who read no scripture, two-thirds of them still claimed to view the Bible in very high regard.
In the last 25 years, much has been made about the New International Version (NIV) overtaking the King James Version (KJV) as Bible best seller. But do they read it? The study says, not as much as the KJV! Of the people who regularly read the Bible, the KJV was preferred 55% of the time. Only 19% used the NIV. The next four in popularity come in with only single digits.
When the study looked at the Bible used during congregational worship, 40% reported preferring the KJV. Ten percent of the others used the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV). Other versions were less than 10% each.
The authors of the study said that, although the possible reasons for KJV preference was outside the scope of their research, they mentioned the belief by the “King James Only movement” that it was the “literal words of God.”
Author David W. Daniels says, “Guilty as charged!” If you believe the Bible at all, you have to deal with the several places where God says He will preserve His words. (See Ps. 12:6-7; 119:140, 160; Prov. 30:5, etc.) Jesus assured the disciples that heaven and earth shall pass away, but His words would not (Matt. 5:18; 24:35; Mark 13:31; Luke 21:33). “So, if that is true, where are they?” asks Daniels.
He points out that all the other versions have “doubting notes” laced in the text, raising questions about whether certain verses belong in the Bible. In some cases, whole verses or words that appear in the KJV, are omitted in the others.
The researchers in this study expressed surprise that “...the King James Version is the top choice —by a wide margin— of Bible readers.” Daniels points out that it’s a matter of trust. The KJV has a 400-year history of sparking powerful revivals in Western countries. And when it was translated into other languages on the mission fields, the same message was clearly understood by the humblest of peoples and hearts were renewed by the Spirit of God.
The researchers speculated that the appeal of the classic language of the KJV might be a factor in its popularity. Daniels says that they are close. The classic English is far more precise in conveying God’s exact words than modern Bibles that attempt to adapt to the ever-changing nuances of today’s English.
It makes a lot of sense that the Creator of the precisely designed universe would inspire one precise Bible in English for us to simply learn and obey. It is obvious that man’s attempt to “update” it has only led to confusion.
Daniels has several books and dozens of YouTube videos on this subject.