Bible Translation Sales Rankings (June, 2021)

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Pilgrim

Puritanboard Commissioner
True enough. But conversely, little Jimmy's granny buying him a KJV doesn't mean it can't be read.

One could argue that no liberal arts education could be complete unless or until one had read the Authorized version of the Bible. But I suppose even college educated people can't be bothered with such things these days. The dumbing-down of America continues apace.
I think that's correct. KJV Nevers should be denounced as anti-intellectual. I once had a pastor who was quite negatively disposed toward the KJV, in part due to KJV onlyism. But I'm pretty sure he is one who also said that Bible readers ought to have a copy due to its historical significance. (This was when the availability of Bible versions online was in its infancy at best. Most people who were online were still on dial-up. I'm not sure what he would say now over 2 decades later.)

I've seen some surmise that the KJV may still lead today in what is actually read. It has been pointed out that Google searches for Bible passages followed by KJV (like Psalm 23 KJV) are very popular and that there are more searches like that than there are with any other version. But it may also be true that people searching like that seldom do so, and that people who are really looking at the Bible online with any frequency go to Bible Gateway or another similar site.

One reason why the NLT is so popular today is that there are some people who find the NIV too hard to read. And most of them don't have English as a second language either.
 

greenbaggins

Administrator
Staff member
I am, to be honest, a bit disgusted that the NIV is still at number 1. Back when the stealth NIV controversy was heating up, I thought even at the time that Zondervan was being more than a little underhanded in the way they were going about things. Fast-forward to 2011, and Zondervan put many of the gender-neutral changes into the NIV without changing the title, or alerting anyone to what they had done. No doubt feminism has advanced to the point where such changes are not objectionable to a majority anymore. The original NIV says, in 1 Timothy 2:12, "I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent." The 2011 version says, " I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet." The inceptive translation of authenteo is extensively argued by egalitarian scholars. This would allow for women to exercise authority over men as long as it has been granted to them, and they didn't take it on themselves.

Of course, the last phrase "she must be quiet" negates the inceptive translation, since it is impossible to assume authority over a man while remaining quiet, though one wonders why the NIV translates hesuchia as "silent" in the original and "quiet" in the 2011. Maybe the new translation is not intended to forbid all speech in front of men? But then, the original would not have done so either.

When a cultural moment of ideology dictates a change in translation of God's Word, we can be assured that the game is up. We all know that the English language changes over time. Such changes may be good or not, and there needs to be wisdom and discernment in translating the Bible in such a way that people can understand it, without making the Bible subservient to the ideologies of the day. I do not trust the NIV.
 

Edward

Puritanboard Commissioner
One could argue that no liberal arts education could be complete unless or until one had read the Authorized version of the Bible.
Since I'm so liberal and tolerant, I'd give the option of reading the complete works of Shakespeare as an atlternative. Because any college graduate should be literate.
 

Pilgrim

Puritanboard Commissioner
I was surprised by the soon to be released Grace & Truth Study Bible that Mohler edited. I received a Christianbook.com catalog earlier in the week and it caught my eye on the cover. There is a promotional video for it where Mohler explains why the NIV 2011 was selected as the first translation for this new study Bible.

Do you have a link to that video? I saw some others but none where he addresses the NIV specifically. (EDIT: I found it here under the title of "Using the NIV Translation.") Sometimes the choice of Bible version comes down to money. For example, I understand that the New Geneva Study Bible (later renamed the Reformation Study Bible) was supposed to come out in the NIV. But Sproul & co. couldn't come to terms with Zondervan and it came out in the NKJV instead. I think that may have also happened with MacArthur and the NKJV. I would think he would have preferred it be in the NASB. But the NKJV may have also helped it gain a wider audience.

I can recall many instances where the new NIV was discouraged from being used in SBC churches when it first came out and here we are today with the President of Southern Seminary featured in a cameo talking about how reliable and trustworthy the NIV is. I couldn't help but call to mind the Resolution that was brought forward at the 2011 Southern Baptist Convention here with the following remarks:

A resolution is basically just something that the majority of messengers at the convention assent to. This case is a perfect example of resolutions having no official status. The resolution asked Lifeway not to carry it. (Lifeway hadn't carried the TNIV due to the gender neutral issue.) But Lifeway carried the NIV2011 anyway. Their response was basically "Thanks for your opinion."


For the record I don't have an issue with the NIV 2011 and like it better than the CSB, which in my opinion is a wholly unnecessary translation -- no disrespect intended to the fine scholars who contributed to it.

I don't think that I like it better than the CSB. I do think that the CSB fills a niche, although it will be interesting to see what direction it takes in the future.

I picked up a NIV Heritage Bible a couple of years ago at a good price because I really liked the formatting. I liked it so much that I actually wanted to like the translation. The weird font aside, I think it just goes a bit too far with the gender neutral renderings. Among people who allow for some gender neutral rendering in cases where it doesn't affect doctrine (which would include some ESV people--the ESV is more gender neutral than the NIV84 is) I think there are only a handful of passages in the NIV11 that are truly controversial. But they removed "Son of Man" from Psalm 8. And other passages were totally rearranged to accommodate gender neutral language. Maybe I'll read it at one point, but it's not on the top of the list at this point to be sure. But sometimes I'll see things that I've missed when reading an unfamiliar translation.


I noticed something similar when attending a Bible Study for a time at a PCA Church. Several older folks used either the Scofield or Ryrie, which amused me endlessly.

Dispensationalism definitely had a presence in the PCA in the 70s and maybe the 80s. Seeing that in a Dutch Reformed (which has confessional membership) or Lutheran church would be much more surprising. The people I was referring to were in a congregation that originated with a split from a PCA congregation. And given their age, they probably grew up in the PCUS if they had been Presbyterian all along. So they weren't the typical OPC church members. Some of the older people there just sort of tolerated the confessional pastor.
 
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JM

Puritan Board Doctor
I bought two NKJV last year for personal use but still buy KJVs to handout. I'm back to using the KJV mostly.
 

Pilgrim

Puritanboard Commissioner
I would be willing to hazard a guess that those who read the KJV are indeed buying KJV Bibles. More research may still need to be done, but I think the preliminary results are quite persuasive.

The problem for the ESV, without getting into translation and textual issues, is that it's an ugly and perfunctory translation. It has no elegance, no poetry, nothing to recommend it as English literature. The NIV cornered the market for the modern, easy-to-use English translation with mass appeal (across liberal and evangelical churches) long ago. As has been noted above why would someone switch to the ESV? The more charitable reading of the ESV project is that it was conceived as a "conservative" alternative to the NIV. But if that has ever been true how long will that last? A less charitable reading (and the more accurate in my opinion) is that it was a money-spinning project. Well I suppose it succeeded there. But does anyone actually love the ESV? I find that impossible to conceive.
There is a whole generation of pastors here who will likely never abandon the ESV unless it takes a hard left turn in the future. (Most of them had been raised on the NIV and many had little familiarity with the KJV.) There are young laypeople who have only known the ESV. Many people do in fact love it. It is here to stay. It has been THE translation among Calvinistic and Reformed people since about 2003 or 2004, maybe 2005 at the latest. The same goes for many Lutherans. Some joke about "ESV Only" because some people are so attached to it. Perhaps it hasn't gained that kind of traction in the UK, but I understand that it is more popular there than the NKJV or NASB ever were. Several years ago, I viewed a FCoS service on SermonAudio. The minister preached from the ESV.
 

alexandermsmith

Puritan Board Junior
There is a whole generation of pastors here who will likely never abandon the ESV unless it takes a hard left turn in the future. (Most of them had been raised on the NIV and many had little familiarity with the KJV.) There are young laypeople who have only known the ESV. Many people do in fact love it. It is here to stay. It has been THE translation among Calvinistic and Reformed people since about 2003 or 2004, maybe 2005 at the latest. The same goes for many Lutherans. Some joke about "ESV Only" because some people are so attached to it. Perhaps it hasn't gained that kind of traction in the UK, but I understand that it is more popular there than the NKJV or NASB ever were. Several years ago, I viewed a FCoS service on SermonAudio. The minister preached from the ESV.

I could accept there is an ideological attachment to it, but not an emotional one. Many phrases of the KJV are threaded throughout the English language (even as spoken today). It is loved by its readers for its beauty and nobility as well as its faithfulness and accuracy. The ESV was an ideological project and the intellect is as far as it reaches. It is the Bible translation equivalent of easy-believism.
 

Pilgrim

Puritanboard Commissioner
I could accept there is an ideological attachment to it, but not an emotional one. Many phrases of the KJV are threaded throughout the English language (even as spoken today). It is loved by its readers for its beauty and nobility as well as its faithfulness and accuracy. The ESV was an ideological project and the intellect is as far as it reaches. It is the Bible translation equivalent of easy-believism.
Many of the worst purveyors of easy-believism use the KJV, for what its worth. Many heretics and cults do too. (There are some groups that are widespread in some parts of the USA that are probably unheard of if not nonexistent in the UK.) Usage of the KJV does not necessarily equate with soundness. In the USA, more often than not, it is the opposite. That's one reason why many who weren't raised on the KJV are suspicious of it. That's not my view, but it is one that is widespread. The belief that the KJV is inaccurate is also widespread.

People are going to tend to have an emotional attachment to whatever version they first used, or have used most often. For an increasing number of people, that's not the KJV. The fact that you apparently can't conceive of that doesn't mean that it isn't true. Adherence to the ESV on the part of the minister as well as the laypeople in many churches may be higher than it ever was with the NIV. In some churches, you hardly see anyone carrying anything other than the ESV. To be sure, no version will ever have the dominance that the KJV had until the 1950s.

Some might say that the KJV was an ideological project. Would it have been produced at all if the Geneva Bible didn't have features that offended the King and the Bishops?
 

Taylor

Puritan Board Graduate
They chose one possible interpretation and excluded all others. The ESV was originally sold on the idea that "essentially literal" translation doesn't do this, that it provides "transparency" or whatever for the original text.
In their defense, they do give a footnote with an alternate rendering. Furthermore, the rendering in question isn't new to the ESV. The NET went with that rendering at least a decade prior, giving extensive defense of it in a characteristically lengthy footnote. I'm not saying it's right—although it could be, feminists notwithstanding. All I am saying is that the ESV didn't invent this rendering.

The ESV Study Bible teaches ESS or EFS or whatever it is called. It was basically produced by the same people that produced the ESV itself, Grudem in particular. So that controversy soured some people on the whole ESV brand.
I don't know about the ESV Study Bible, but I have found that the charge that the ESV translation teaches ESS holds no water. Several writers and some on this board have accused the ESV itself of teaching this heresy on the basis of translating ἐμαυτοῦ in John 8:28 (and other places) as "on my own authority." Yet the NKJV does the same thing in several places, but nobody accuses the NKJV of teaching ESS. This is not even to mention that this rendering originates from the RSV, not the ESV. The ESV merely retained it, except in John 5:30. Furthermore, several old Reformed commentators (I quoted them in another thread a while back), including Calvin, assert that these passages speak to Jesus as Messiah. These passages do seem to me to entail some eternal significance.
 

JM

Puritan Board Doctor
I'm thankful my Pastor and Elders use the KJV to preach from. During devotionals, studies, etc. they often refer to other translations but use the KJV for the Lord's Day.
 

alexandermsmith

Puritan Board Junior
Many of the worst purveyors of easy-believism use the KJV, for what its worth. Many heretics and cults do too. (There are some groups that are widespread in some parts of the USA that are probably unheard of if not nonexistent in the UK.) Usage of the KJV does not necessarily equate with soundness. In the USA, more often than not, it is the opposite. That's one reason why many who weren't raised on the KJV are suspicious of it. That's not my view, but it is one that is widespread. The belief that the KJV is inaccurate is also widespread.

People are going to tend to have an emotional attachment to whatever version they first used, or have used most often. For an increasing number of people, that's not the KJV. The fact that you apparently can't conceive of that doesn't mean that it isn't true. Adherence to the ESV on the part of the minister as well as the laypeople in many churches may be higher than it ever was with the NIV. In some churches, you hardly see anyone carrying anything other than the ESV. To be sure, no version will ever have the dominance that the KJV had until the 1950s.

Some might say that the KJV was an ideological project. Would it have been produced at all if the Geneva Bible didn't have features that offended the King and the Bishops?

The best days of Protestantism were also when the KJV was the exclusive English translation. Go figure.
 

Taylor

Puritan Board Graduate
The best days of Protestantism were also when the KJV was the exclusive English translation. Go figure.
Be careful. Correlation does not equal causation. The "best days of Protestantism" were not only when the KJV was the exclusive English translation, but also when the Word was preached faithfully, worship was done rightly, the Sabbath was sanctified properly, families worshipped in their homes daily, and the Lord was recognized in every part of society. These things are not because of the KJV's dominance, though, unless you can demonstrate it. But I don’t know how that could be objectively demonstrated.
 

Charles Johnson

Puritan Board Sophomore
I don't know that the KJV as a particular version in distinction to others was the chief cause of the best days of protestantism, but the decline of protestantism has definitely led to more bible versions. The RSV would not have existed without higher criticism, and it being the first non-KJV, a whole lot of others probably wouldn't either.
 

iainduguid

Puritan Board Sophomore
I don't know that the KJV as a particular version in distinction to others was the chief cause of the best days of protestantism, but the decline of protestantism has definitely led to more bible versions. The RSV would not have existed without higher criticism, and it being the first non-KJV, a whole lot of others probably wouldn't either.
I think you may be confusing the RSV (1952) with the Revised Version (1885). Prior to that liberals used the KJV, just like conservatives, though it didn't make them any more conservative....
 

JM

Puritan Board Doctor
Be careful. Correlation does not equal causation. The "best days of Protestantism" were not only when the KJV was the exclusive English translation, but also when the Word was preached faithfully, worship was done rightly, the Sabbath was sanctified properly, families worshipped in their homes daily, and the Lord was recognized in every part of society. These things are not because of the KJV's dominance, though, unless you can demonstrate it. But I don’t know how that could be objectively demonstrated.
Not always...but sometimes. Thomas Sowell's line isn't biblical.
 

J.L. Allen

Puritan Board Sophomore
Be careful. Correlation does not equal causation. The "best days of Protestantism" were not only when the KJV was the exclusive English translation, but also when the Word was preached faithfully, worship was done rightly, the Sabbath was sanctified properly, families worshipped in their homes daily, and the Lord was recognized in every part of society. These things are not because of the KJV's dominance, though, unless you can demonstrate it. But I don’t know how that could be objectively demonstrated.
I don't think it's a mystery that I'm a KJV-preferred kinda guy. Taylor, what you say here about the practice in the Church is spot on. May we find ourselves back in that practice.
 

Taylor

Puritan Board Graduate
Not always...but sometimes. Thomas Sowell's line isn't biblical.
Huh?

I don't think it's a mystery that I'm a KJV-preferred kinda guy. Taylor, what you say here about the practice in the Church is spot on. May we find ourselves back in that practice.
Amen. I’m not at all against the KJV. I love it. But we shouldn’t fool ourselves into believing that our Bible translation is the primary mark of a healthy church.
 

JM

Puritan Board Doctor
"Correlation does not equal causation."

That statement doesn't disprove causation only points out that correlation ISN'T ALWAYS causation.
 

KMK

Administrator
Staff member
Liberal churches used the Good news Bible, complete with tacky line drawing illustrations.
That was my first Bible, given to me upon my Methodist sprinkling. Even at 12 years old, I thought those illustrations were weird. I remember the Living Bible being popular as well. (It had a padded cover!)
 

bookslover

Puritan Board Doctor
I would be willing to hazard a guess that those who read the KJV are indeed buying KJV Bibles. More research may still need to be done, but I think the preliminary results are quite persuasive.

The problem for the ESV, without getting into translation and textual issues, is that it's an ugly and perfunctory translation. It has no elegance, no poetry, nothing to recommend it as English literature. The NIV cornered the market for the modern, easy-to-use English translation with mass appeal (across liberal and evangelical churches) long ago. As has been noted above why would someone switch to the ESV? The more charitable reading of the ESV project is that it was conceived as a "conservative" alternative to the NIV. But if that has ever been true how long will that last? A less charitable reading (and the more accurate in my opinion) is that it was a money-spinning project. Well I suppose it succeeded there. But does anyone actually love the ESV? I find that impossible to conceive.

I love the ESV. I've been reading it almost since it was first published twenty years ago this September (I think it had been out around six months or so when I first started reading it). There - now you can conceive of it.
 

Taylor

Puritan Board Graduate
"Correlation does not equal causation."

That statement doesn't disprove causation only points out that correlation ISN'T ALWAYS causation.
That’s not true. Logically speaking, correlation per se can never prove causation. Causation proper always needs other means as proof than simple correlation. We can never say, “These things are correlated, therefore one caused the other.” Such an argument always fallacious, even if one fact indeed caused the other, because correlation logically speaking needs more to prove causation. Furthermore, “correlation might equal causation” is just as much a logical fallacy as “correlation equals causation,” both being subsets of the “questionable cause fallacy.”

To say, “The KJV was the dominant translation during Protestantisms greatest era, and therefore caused it,” is just a bad argument, logically and biblically. That is not to say the KJV is a bad translation. Of course it isn’t. It’s a remarkable translation. But asserting that its mere presence was the cause of general church health—as opposed to faithful preaching of the Word, proper administration of the sacraments, and godly church discipline, all of which Scripture says actually causes church health—is wrong-headed.
 
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KMK

Administrator
Staff member
What percentage of the Christian world still buys Bibles anyway? Most of the people in my church read it for free on an app. It might be these Bible sales are made up of gifts/evangelism/pews more than personal study.
 

JM

Puritan Board Doctor
That’s not true. Logically speaking, correlation per se can never prove causation. Causation proper always needs other means as proof than simple correlation. We can never say, “These things are correlated, therefore one caused the other.” Such an argument always fallacious, even if one fact indeed caused the other, because correlation logically speaking needs more to prove causation. Furthermore, “correlation might equal causation” is just as much a logical fallacy as “correlation equals causation,” both being subsets of the “questionable cause fallacy.”

To say, “The KJV was the dominant translation during Protestantisms greatest era, and therefore caused it,” is just a bad argument, logically and biblically. That is not to say the KJV is a bad translation. Of course it isn’t. It’s a remarkable translation. But asserting that its mere presence was the cause of general church health—as opposed to faithful preaching of the Word, proper administration of the sacraments, and godly church discipline, all of which Scripture says actually causes church health—is wrong-headed.
I disagree. The Christian church in the West was united with one ecclesiastical text, one translation and now there are divisions within over translations. It's difficult to claim the word of God is "kept pure in all ages" and able to settle disputes, when the eclectic text is always changing.
 

JM

Puritan Board Doctor
What percentage of the Christian world still buys Bibles anyway? Most of the people in my church read it for free on an app. It might be these Bible sales are made up of gifts/evangelism/pews more than personal study.
Good point. Me being somewhat of a conspiracy nut I buy Bibles to handout believing the State will one day shutdown or alter our beloved Bible apps.

I live in Canada...
 

Smeagol

Puritan Board Senior
I disagree. The Christian church in the West was united with one ecclesiastical text, one translation and now there are divisions within over translations. It's difficult to claim the word of God is "kept pure in all ages" and able to settle disputes, when the eclectic text is always changing.
I do not believe that is a right understanding or proper application of “kept pure in all ages”.

It doesn’t hold water. Otherwise why did we not just stay with the vulgar English translations that existed prior to KJV?
 

JM

Puritan Board Doctor
I do not believe that is a right understanding or proper application of “kept pure in all ages”.

It doesn’t hold water. Otherwise why did we not just stay with the vulgar English translations that existed prior to KJV?
I won't go back and forth over this issue on this forum. I'm way out numbered and don't have the time. Jerusalem Blade has plenty of posts worth reading on the subject and he's a lot smarter than I am.

God bless you for asking.

jm
 

J.L. Allen

Puritan Board Sophomore
@Grant it has to do with the underlying text rather than the translation primarily. I think most of us here on the forum who hold to the superiority of the Authorized Version say so primarily because of the underlying Greek and Hebrew. That and the ability of the translation committee on the AV move us to take more confidence in that translation than others. I'm sure those of us who are TR and/or strongly prefer the AV have varying degrees of how or why we would defend our position. I'm open to updated translations provided they don't have modernist glosses and are based on the Ecclesiastical Text.

@JM has rightly pointed you to @Jerusalem Blade for resources on the topic. It is a defensible position and strongly so. I, for one, was won over by those arguments from a Critical Text position. I think both sides need to calmly and thoughtfully address the claims brought forth. We don't need to dismiss each other because of a few bad players either. I say that about KJVO cults and tinfoil hat wearing types. That's not Confessional Bibliology and nor should it be misrepresented as such.
 
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