There has been an amazing shift in the sales of Bible translations in less than a year. After years of relative stability, the King James Version (KJV) lost its number two ranking. In fact, the KJV dropped two spots to number four. The modern language translation of the KJV, the New King James Version (NKJV), fell one spot.
While the New International Version (NIV) is still ranked as number one, the New Living Translation (NLT) has moved to the number two spot, followed by the English Standard Version at number three. We realize that The Message is a paraphrase, not a translation.
Let’s look at the rankings, followed by a few of my observations.
Rankings as of March 2022 (numbers in parentheses are June 2021 rankings).
- New International Version (NIV) (1)
- New Living Translation (4)
- English Standard Version (ESV) (3)
- King James Version (KJV) (2)
- Christian Standard Bible (CSB) (5)
- New King James Version (NKJV) (6)
- Reina Valera (RV) (7)
- New International Reader’s Version (NIrV) (8)
- The Message (Message) (9)
- New American Standard (NASB) (not ranked)
Observations and Notes:
- If the King James Version remains at this level, it will signal a major shake-up in Bible translation preferences. It has held the number two spot for many years. Is it a reflection of the decline or closings of smaller KJV-only churches? Or perhaps, it reflects cultural shifts. If a family wanted a Bible for the coffee table, they typically would pick a KJV. Families may not want a Bible at all in their homes.
- Is the New Living Translation (NLT) headed toward replacing the NIV as the number one preferred translation? While we don’t have market share data, we hear anecdotally that many pastors have moved to the NLT. Their congregations are likely following.
- The New American Standard Bible (NASB) is back in the top ten after a year’s absence.
- The New King James Version (NKJV) was number three ten years ago. It has gradually lost its ranking over the years to number 6 today.
- Here is the link to the rankings: https://christianbookexpo.com/bestseller/translations.php?id=0322
There was an error in the June 2021 rankings in the original article. It has been corrected.
Posted on March 28, 2022
With nearly 40 years of ministry experience, Thom Rainer has spent a lifetime committed to the growth and health of local churches across North America.
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