Saturday, February 12, 2011

Bible Rankings by sales, 2005

*Bible Translation Market Share for March and April 2005

  1.   NIV                        (New International Vers, 1984 rev  Basis: BHS, UBS2/NA26 )
  2.   KJV                       (King James Version,  1769 Oxford: TR Stevens/Beza )
  3.   NKJV                     (New King James Version, 1979 Basis: TR (scrivener), HF?)
  4.   NLT                       (New Living Translation [TLB], 2nd ed 2004 BHS, UBS4/NA27)
  5.   The Message         (The Message, 1993, 2002 )
  6.   NASB95                 (New Amer. Standard 1995rev Basis: ASV, BHS N23/NA26)
  7.   NCV                      (New Century Version 1978-91 : N23/NA26 )
  8.   TNIV                     (Todays New International Version, 2002:  BHS, etc., NA27 )
  9.   ESV                      (English Stand. Vers. 2007 rev: from RSV71, BHS2, UBS4 )
  10.   HCSB                  (Holman Christian Standard Bible 2010,   BHS5, NA27 )
* Reflects cumulative Bible sales at all Mardel stores for March and April 2005 

The chart above is quite interesting.  Although the publisher listed the NIV as the top seller (no doubt pushed by hardcore promotion from the publishers), the KJV and NKJV together probably outstripped it in sales, even in the USA.

Almost all other bibles are based on the latest available 'critical Greek NT texts', essentially just one text: the UBS2-4  and/or NA26-27.   Both are based on the Westcott/Hort text, updated and modified by Aland, who adopted the Nestle-text (23rd ed.) and then made some 500 changes to that.  Aland was also a heavyweight player in the UBS text(s), which adopted his text, then adopted his apparatus and punctuation, finally making the UBS4 and NA27 essentially identical.  RC Cardinal Martini also got involved in the 60s, but then retired. 

Most of the modern versions have been adopted and simultaneously printed along with Apocrypha by the Roman Catholic church, in an attempt to supplant the English Bible (KJV).

"Back in 2005 a rough estimate set the number of Bibles sold at around twenty-five million copies. That was just in the United States! Back then the amount spent on Bibles sales was estimated to be more than half a billion dollars per year. The American Bible Society distributed over 60 million Bibles last year in the U.S. alone. The Gideon's distributed 59,460,000 Bibles worldwide last year. This is an average of over one million Gideon Bibles every week, or about 113 per minute. One publisher has 350 different editions of the Bible in print this season alone."


  1. The CBA (Christian Booksellers Association) also has some figures, ranking the top 10 best-selling Bibles in the USA. KJV, NKJV, and Reina-Valera (Spanish) were all in the top ten of at least one Top-10 list (one list for dollars made, and one list for the number of Bibles sold.)

    Unfortunately, I couldn't find references to the exact amounts of how many Bibles were sold, or how many of the "Bibles" were complete Bibles or New Testaments or whatnot. (If a Gospel of John tract is sold, did that count as a Bible sale? It could skew the stats, one way or the other.)

    It was interesting to see that the Textus Receptus is still the NT base-text of three of the Top 10 best-selling Bible versions in the USA.

    Yours in Christ,

    James Snapp, Jr.

  2. Interesting: the top selling Bible of last year is now out of print this year, to be replaced by a rebranding of the #8 translation.

    Another thing that can skew the figures is the large number of parallel translation editions. Regardless of what's in the other columns, one of them is almost always the KJV.

    More comments: HF is not the base-text of the NKJV; it is only reflected in the notes, as is NA26/7. The NKJV, moreover, has a slightly different base for the OT than the KJV does--not that the difference comes through perceptively in the translated text. It should be noted, however, that the KJV & NKJV are based on a somewhat eclectic text in both testaments, being heavily influenced by the Vulgate at many points.

  3. The secondary dependence or use of the Vulgate is interesting, because it is not well documented, and seems to be downplayed in much of the apologetic literature.

    The rationale seems sound, as Latin was the major Lingua Franca of the Empire, and the most popular and prolific transmission line for the NT. But it was rejected by early Unitarians and also most 19th century Protestants seeking to improve the text.

    Greek priority became 'Sola Hellenica' in the same way that Scripture priority became 'Sola Scriptura'.