The #1 Read Bible vs The Bestselling Bible

When it comes to Bible translations, I’m apparently out-of-sync with the majority according to The Barna Group and the ECPA (below). My #1 preferred Bible translation is the Holman Christian Standard Bible. I expected to change to the updated version of it, see my review of the Christian Standard Bible, when it came out in 2017, but I didn’t. The gender neutrality language was a big factor, but, more importantly, my two daughters gave me the Holman Christian Standard Study Bible as a Christmas present in 2012. So, it tugs at my heartstrings and it has my name nicely engraved in gold on the front leather cover. The HCSB has some shortcomings, but, by-and-large, I find it to be the most accurate and readable.

My morning devotions at Cape Cod, MA

The New American Standard 2020 update is in the works. The previous link will take you to my ongoing review of it. I had great expectations for this update. So far, however, I’m not thrilled by the 2020’s passages that the Lockman Foundation has been releasing. It’s a plus/minus kind of the thing. They’ve improved the translation of some passages, but they’ve also downgraded the translation of others by making them annoyingly wordy. To date, the negatives slightly outnumber the positives.

But this post is about the #1 Read Bible translation by all Bible readers, not just me. I was totally surprised to find — drum roll please — that the most often READ translation, according to The Barna Group in 2018, is the King James Version with the New International Version a distant second. Statista reports the following:

However, the King James Version is not the Bestselling Bible. I find this very interesting. According to the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association’s Bible Bestseller List, the New International Version is actually the BESTSELLING Bible, with the KJV in second place, and the English Standard Version ranking third in both lists.

Yes, I see that my favored HCSV is not on either list, and I see that the Christian Standard Bible is in fifth place. That’s okay. The question, though, is how can the King James Version be the most read while the New International Version is the Bestselling? For me, and everyone I know, the KJV is the least readable. From a readability standpoint, I would expect the New King James version to be preferred over the King James Version.

So, how can it be the most read??? I believe there are two reasons. First, the KJV has been around for the longest time. It’s tradition. Also, a good many churches believe it is the only English version authorized by God. Trevin Wax, via The Gospel Coalition, wrote an excellent article summarizing the King James Only Controversy.

The second, is that the KJV is in public domain. Which means anyone can publish it for free, plus publishing costs of course. It also means, that anyone can quote it, at length, free of copyright infringement considerations. This makes it more available, in print and online, and less expensive than all other options.

I don’t know which translation you favor, but, in addition to the Greek and Hebrew originals, I regularly consult several when studying, researching, or teaching. However, for my personal devotions, I’m sticking with the Bible my daughters lovingly gave me for Christmas in 2012. To this day, they are fully devoted to Christ in every area of their lives. This is the goal of every translation. So, go for it King James readers! What’s most important is that we are reading it! 

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Dr. Rob Oberto is the award-winning author of “Intimacy With God” available from Amazon. ©2019. All Rights Reserved.

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