IUPUI study: Half of respondents read it outside of worship services —>
(Scott L. Miley | CNHI News Indiana)
Christians are still favoring the King James version of the Bible, but they’re also reading it outside of worship service, according to a survey by a trio of IUPUI researchers.
“This isn’t exactly a surprise in the survey, but one response was 50 percent — exactly half of the people had read the Bible outside of a worship service in the past year,” said Arthur E. Farnsley II, director of the Indiana University Center for Civic Literacy at IUPUI and associate director of the Center for the Study of Religion and American Culture.
Farnsley, Philip Goff and Peter J. Thuesen, all Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis School of Liberal Arts religious studies professors, have edited a new book, “The Bible in American Life.”
With a grant from Lilly Endowment, the professors added questions to the General Social Survey and the National Congregations Study in 2012. Participants were asked to name which translation of the Bible they most often read, if they had read the Bible outside of worship services within the last year, the extent and purpose of their usage, if they read it on electronic devices and more.
Also, the 400-year-old King James Bible is the most-read version.
“No translation of the Scriptures has had more influence on American culture than the King James Bible,” Thuesen said. “Over the four centuries it has been in use, people have come to think of its language as sacred in itself. Our poll reveals that many people still prefer to hear God speak in that language, even though it’s archaic.
“For King James readers, God uses words like ‘behold’ rather than ‘see.’ Newer Bible translations may be clearer in meaning, but they don’t have the grandeur that people have come to associate with 17th-century English,” he said.
Reading the Bible — the King James version — is a daily experience for members of Lighthouse Baptist Church in Lafayette where congregants are encouraged to memorize Scripture. Worshipers there believe the King James version is the preserved word of God.
Although someone might bring in a New International Version, King James is used exclusively at the church.
“Folks come in and tell me about the different passages they’re memorizing,” said Pastor W.B. Murdock of Lighthouse Baptist. “By far it’s easier to memorize than any other translation. I can tell you that from experience. It has its own meter.”
He added, “Before I preach on Sundays, we’ll have a Bible reading. We go to the text and have the congregation reading together. If somebody has an NIV, they’re lost. It just doesn’t tie in.”
Among the researchers findings were that African-Americans read the Bible at a higher rate than other races; women read it more often than men; older citizens read it more than younger; and the American South had higher readership than the Midwest, West and Northeast.
“As expected, Protestants read their Bibles outside services more than Catholics, although Catholics are not far behind mainline Protestants. Evangelicals read it most among White Protestants. Among the most interesting things we found were the different reasons these traditions read the Bible,” said Goff, executive director of the Center for the Study of Religion and American Culture at IUPUI.
“For instance, ‘Nones,’ those who do not belong to any tradition, read the Bible to learn about attaining wealth at about the same clip as White Evangelicals — about 16 percent.
And while we were expecting to see African Americans read the Bible at a higher rate, we were surprised by how much higher it was — 70 percent for African Americans, compared to 46 percent for Hispanics, 44 percent for Whites, and 28 percent for other races.”