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The Most Popular Book of All Time

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The Most Popular Book of All Time

Unsurprisingly, the most popular book of all time has an interesting history. With thousands of translations, over forty original authors, and a two millennium history, let’s take a look at the trails, tribulations, changes, and status of the world’s most popular book.

The Bible:

Date of Publication: 1500 BC to 100 AD[1]
Authors: 40 authors over the period of 1600 years
Note: On average 1 author every 40 years.

How it Stacks Up:

(number of copies printed compared to other famous books)

The Bible: 6 billion+
Quotations from Chairman Mao: 800 million+
The Qur’an: 800 million+
Xinhua Dictionary: 400 million+
Le Petit Prince: 200 million+
A Tale of Two Cities: 200 million+
The Lord of the Rings: 150 million+
The Book of Mormon: 120 million+
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone: 107 million+
And Then There Were None: 100 million+
The Hobbit: 100 million+
Dream of the Red Chamber: 100 million+
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe: 85 million+
The Da Vinci Code: 80 million+

Short and Long:
Books with the largest word count:[2][5]

Mission Earth, L. Ron Hubbard: 1,200,000
Sironia, Texas, Madison Cooper: 1,100,000
Clarissa, Samuel Richardson: 969,000
Poor Fellow My Country, Xavier Herbert: 850,000
The King James Bible: 788,258
A Suitable Boy, Vikram Seth: 593,674
Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand: 565,223
Remembrance Rock: Carl Sandburg: 532,030
Gai-Jin, James Clavell: 487,700
Infinite Jest, David Foster Wallace: 484,001

Books, Chapters and Verses

66 books*/ 1,189 chapters/ 31,102 verses

Shortest Book: [1]
3 John– 1 chapter or 299 words.

Shortest Chapter: Psalm 117– 2 verses
Shortest Verse: John 11:35– 2 words, “Jesus wept.”

Longest Book: [1]
Psalms–150 Chapters or 43,743 words

Longest Chapter: Psalm 119– 176 verses
Longest Verse: Esther 8:9– 90 words.
Longest Word: Mahershalalhashbaz (Isaiah 8:3)

Fact: The Bible didn’t have Chapters until Cardinal Huge de S. Caro added them in 1238. Robertus Stephanus added verse divisions in 1551.

*in the Protestant canon

A Work in Progress

100 million+ new Bibles are sold yearly[6]
98% of the world’s population have access to parts of or the whole Bible

Number of translations to new languages in progress: 1,300[2]
Number of languages with New Testament translation: 1,185
Total number of languages spoken in the world today: 6,900
Equals 2485 languages in translation
And 4415 to go

Thousands of editions of the Bible have been printed, copied, or released.

Continuum of Bible Translations

Word-for-Word Translations:(one end of the spectrum)[7][8]
NASB: New American Standard Bible
AMP: Amplified Bible
ESV: English Standard Version
RSV: Revised Standard Version
KJV: King James Version
NKJV: New King James Version

Thought-for-thought Translations:
HCSB: Holman Christian Standard Bible
NRSV: New Revised Standard Version
NAB: New American Bible
NJB: New Jerusalem Bible
NIV: New International Version
TNIV: Today’s New International Version
NCV: New Century Version
NLT: New Living Translation

Paraphrase Translations:
NirV: New International Reader’s Version
GNT: Good News Translation
CEV: Contemporary English Version
TLB: The Living Bible
MSG: The Message

Most Popular Translations:[9]

ESV–
Word for Word: Yes
Based on Earliest Greek and Hebrew Manuscripts: Yes
Publication Year: 2001
NLT–
Word for Word:No
Based on Earliest Greek and Hebrew Manuscripts: Yes
Publication Year: 1995
NKJV–
Word for Word: Yes
Based on Earliest Greek and Hebrew Manuscripts: No
Publication Year: 1963
NIV–
Word for Word: No
Based on Earliest Greek and Hebrew Manuscripts: Yes
Publication Year: 1978
KJV–
Word for Word: Yes
Based on Earliest Greek and Hebrew Manuscripts: No
Publication Year: 1511

Timeline:

300 BC-300 AD:
Bibles only in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Koine Greek [# if you do this as a flow chart, this might be a good side note as the versions progress. This description should apply to versions before the Latin Vulgate made in 405 AD]

100 AD-400 AD:
Latin translations spread through the Roman Empire. In the words of St. Jerome there were “almost as many texts as manuscripts” all slightly different.

Pope Damasus asks St. Jerome to complete a definitive version.

In 405 AD the Latin Vulgate is completed.

360 AD:
Ulfilas, a missionary to the Goths writes down the language of the Goths (only oral before this point) and translates large sections of the Bible.

Original Manuscripts

700 AD-1300 AD:
The Roman Empire falls and Latin is lost to all but the learned. The Latin Vulgate is largely held as a privilege of the educated (mostly priests) and they are thought to be the only one’s worthy of interpreting the text.

Late 1300’s AD:
John Wycliffe and helpers produce full English versions of the Bible, slightly democratizing the text.

1516-1537 AD:
In a 1516 Latin translation Erasumus notes in the preface his wish that the Bible be in every language so that even Scots and Irishmen can read it.

The Reformation gathers steam as Martin Luther completes a German translation of the New Testament in 1522.

William Tyndale translates the New testament into English in 1526. Tyndale is burnt at the stake as a heretic in 1536.

1604-1611 AD:
47 scholars edit the King James Bible, meant to provide an authorized English copy of the Bible. The KJB takes heavily from Tyndale.

1800-1900’s AD:
During the 1800’s, the Bible is translated into 400 new languages, the 1900’s offer a much greater number of translations.
Translation of Bible’s into new languages is seen as crucial to spreading the word of God.

bible-mini

Citations:

  1. http://www.whatchristianswanttoknow.com/10-amazing-bible-facts/
  2. http://www.statisticbrain.com/bibles-printed/
  3. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/07/30/the-15-biggest-bestseller_n_664029.html#s115965title=Quotations_from_Chairman
  4. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_best-selling_books
  5. http://listverse.com/2009/06/06/top-10-longest-novels-in-the-english-language/
  6. http://gcblc.org.au/discover-the-bible/
  7. http://www.ucg.org/files/images/articleimages/types-of-bible-translations.jpg
  8. http://www.getraptureready.com/appendix/img/bibletranslationcomparison_photo_0.gif
  9. http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-URNDYLPTGYk/TfE1AKoJEDI/AAAAAAAAD4k/BBeCmMHRPkU/s1600/five_leading_bible_translations1.gif
  10. http://www.historyworld.net/wrldhis/PlainTextHistories.asp?historyid=ac66
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