Tradition! According to the Canadian Bible Engagement Study people tend to read the translation used in their denomination. To be precise, 40% of Canadian Christians privately read the same translation that’s publicly used in their church worship service. Stereotypically speaking, that means if you’re an Evangelical you’re more likely to be reading the NIV and if you’re a Mainline Protestant or Catholic it’s the NRSV or RSV.
There are hundreds of good English versions of the Bible, but we generally aren’t persuaded to read a particular version because of the translation philosophy or reading level of the translation. While our age is an influence in the translation we choose to read, this is a secondary factor. What ultimately guides our choice of translation is what we see and hear others reading. That is, the version found in our home is often the same version read by our pastor, found in our church pew, cited in our prayer book, read by our parents, or used in the Sunday sermon PowerPoint slides.
That’s not to say we only read one version of the Bible. Protestants (more so than Catholics), and Evangelicals in particular, often read from multiple versions. The ESV is popular as a study Bible and the NLT for readability. Interestingly, the ESV and NLT are each read by 1% of Canadians. In fact just 14 versions of the Bible are read by the majority of Canadians, with 40% of Canadians who read the Bible saying they read the KJV or NIV.
The frequency of Bible reading should also be mentioned as a contributing factor. People who read the Bible regularly (a few times a week) are more likely reading the NIV (23% of Bible readers in Canada) or the KJV (21% of Bible readers in Canada).
Finally, it should be noted that the KJV is the only version that isn’t buttonholed by one or two denominations. Unlike the other versions, it’s read by a significant number of people in all denominations. Why the KJV? Tradition! It has a history of being used with a broad range of English speaking audiences for more than 400 years.
For more information on Bible Translation Choice in Canada, click here to read the full report: www.bibleengagementstudy.ca
© Scripture Union Canada 2014