What one version of the Bible pastors personally rely on most for their work, by denominational group...

Protestant pastors name the New

International Version as their favorite Bible

(Original release date:  May 4, 2004)  Study results released in the May/June edition of Facts & Trends magazine show the version of the Bible Protestant ministers are most likely to rely on for their work is the New International Version, or NIV.  Thirty-one percent of all Protestant ministers name this as the Bible version they rely on most. 

 

The study was conducted for Facts & Trends by Grey Matter Research (formerly Ellison Research), a full-service marketing research firm in Phoenix, Arizona.  The research was conducted among a representative sample of 700 senior pastors of Protestant churches throughout the United States.

 

After the New International Version come the King James Version, or KJV (23%), the New Revised Standard Version, or NRSV (14%), the New King James Version, or NKJV (13%), and the New American Standard Bible, or NASB (10%).  Although there are dozens of other Bible versions and translations available, together they are named by only 9% of all Protestant pastors.

 

Preferences vary considerably among different types of churches.  Pastors of smaller churches, and pastors who are 60 or older, more often lean toward the traditional King James Version.  The King James is also the favorite of ministers in the southern United States.  The New International Version is strongest in the Midwest and the western U.S., while the New Revised Standard has its greatest popularity in the Northeast.

 

Much of the geographic difference is due to differing strengths of certain denominations in specific regions of the country, and the fact that Bible preference differs strongly by denomination.

 

Methodists tend to rely either on the NIV (45%) or the NRSV (38%).  Those two versions are also dominant among Lutheran ministers, but in reverse order (48% NRSV, 23% NIV).  Southern Baptist ministers are split almost equally among four versions:  26% NIV, 25% New King James, 23% King James, and 22% NASB.  Other Baptist ministers (American Baptist, Conservative Baptist, General Baptist, etc.) are strongly on the side of the King James (51%), with the NIV a second-place finisher (24%).  Pentecostal and charismatic ministers are similar; 45% rely most on the King James, while 23% prefer the NIV.

 

Ministers tend to select their top Bible versions based on the perceived accuracy of the translation (40%), its readability (16%), their preference for its language style (14%), and its solid reputation (13%).  Very few said the main reason they rely on a specific version is because their congregation prefers it or their denomination requires it.

 

The top reasons for using the NIV are readability and preference for the language style, while the New King James is preferred for a variety of reasons, the most common of which is accuracy.  Those who prefer the KJV like it for its accuracy and its solid reputation.  The NASB is preferred primarily due to its accuracy.

 

In the study, ministers were also asked to rate 12 different Bible versions for members of their congregation to use.  They used a five-point scale, from poor to excellent.  Versions rated included the Contemporary English Version, Holman Christian Standard Bible, King James Version, Living Bible, The Message, New American Standard Bible, New Century Version, New International Version, New King James Version, New Living Translation, New Revised Standard Version, and Today’s New International Version.

 

Among all Protestant pastors, the version most likely to be rated as excellent by pastors is the NIV (rated as excellent by 42% of ministers), followed by the New King James (33%), the NASB (32%), the King James (31%), and the NRSV (23%).

 

The Bible versions ministers are most likely to recommend against for their congregation include the Living Bible (26%), Today's New International Version (which is not the same as the NIV - 18%), The Message (15%), and the King James Version (15%).  The King James is the only one among the 12 included in the study to be listed as one of the most recommended and least recommended.

 

The research also points out that many ministers lack familiarity with the broad range of Bible versions available today.  Versions which are unfamiliar to at least one out of every four ministers include the brand-new Holman Christian Standard Bible (65%), the New Century Version (55%), Today's New International Version (37%), the Contemporary English Version (31%), the New Living Translation (30%), and The Message (28%).

 

Which versions ministers would recommend differ strongly by denomination.  For instance, the New Revised Standard is considered excellent by 60% of Methodists, but only 5% of Pentecostals; the Holman Christian Standard Bible would be strongly recommended by 20% of Southern Baptists, but virtually no Lutherans.

 

Here are the top recommendations from six different major denominational groupings:

 

Southern Baptists:

· New American Standard (43%)

· New King James (41%)

· New International Version (38%)

 

Other Baptists:

· King James (56%)

· New King James (40%)

· New International Version (38%)

 

Methodists:

· New International Version (61%)

· New Revised Standard (60%)

· Today's New International Version (23%)

 

Lutherans:

· New Revised Standard (40%)

· New International Version (25%)

· New American Standard (18%)

 

Pentecostals:

· King James (56%)

· New King James (49%)

· New International Version (36%)

 

All other denominations:

· New International Version (44%)

· New American Standard (35%)

· New King James (28%)

 

Ron Sellers, president of Grey Matter Research, said the study found that while there are many different Bible versions available today, at least among the clergy, the market continues to be dominated by just five.  "The NIV, King James, New King James, New American Standard, and New Revised Standard are clearly the versions of choice for most clergy, as well as the ones they would recommend to their congregations," Sellers noted.

 

Sellers also pointed out that new versions continue to be introduced, even though most new versions do not make much of a splash.  "We can't say from this study that there is no need for new versions or translations, because that would disregard new scholarship discoveries and a constantly changing language,"  Sellers said.  "But when new versions are introduced, publishers need to have something to say that will convince clergy of the need for something new.  The new versions introduced over the last couple of decades have not made much of a dent in the clergy market."

 

Study Details:

The study was conducted by Grey Matter Research (formerly Ellison Research), a marketing research company located in Phoenix, Arizona.  The sample of 700 Protestant ministers included only those who are actively leading churches.  The study's total sample is accurate to within +/-3.6 percentage points at the 95 percent confidence level with a 50 percent response distribution.

 

The study was conducted in all 50 states, using a representative sample of pastors from all Protestant denominations.  Respondents' geography, church size, and denomination were carefully tracked to ensure appropriate representation and accuracy.

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How pastors rate various versions of the Bible for their congregation to use...

How pastors rate various versions of the Bible for their congregation to use, by denominational group...

Bible Versions/Ratings

Southern Baptist 

Other Baptist 

Methodist

Lutheran

Pentecostal

All Others

Contemporary English Version:

 

 

 

 

 

 

     excellent

4%

5%

16%

15%

4%

9%

     poor

12

29

3

11

5

6

     not familiar

32

27

24

18

39

35

Holman Christian Standard Bible:

 

 

 

 

 

 

     excellent

20

7

--

--

1

5

     poor

4

19

5

12

2

5

     not familiar

28

50

82

68

80

72

King James Version:

 

 

 

 

 

 

     excellent

32

56

12

8

56

16

     poor

8

5

34

29

5

17

     not familiar

3

2

3

5

1

4

Living Bible:

 

 

 

 

 

 

     excellent

3

11

7

2

23

5

     poor

28

40

25

38

9

24

     not familiar

4

6

1

5

8

6

The Message:

 

 

 

 

 

 

     excellent

6

4

18

8

13

13

     poor

17

29

5

12

5

13

     not familiar

25

31

19

37

34

25

New American Standard Bible:

 

 

 

 

 

 

     excellent

43

34

22

18

26

35

     poor

2

14

1

--

6

2

     not familiar

5

6

16

18

14

9

New Century Version:

 

 

 

 

 

 

     excellent

7

4

10

5

2

5

     poor

9

22

1

9

3

3

     not familiar

43

53

54

53

59

59

New International Version:

 

 

 

 

 

 

     excellent

38

38

61

25

36

44

     poor

5

17

4

4

2

5

     not familiar

3

3

1

9

3

5

New King James Version:

 

 

 

 

 

 

     excellent

41

40

18

13

49

28

     poor

3

13

11

14

--

4

     not familiar

5

3

9

16

5

7

New Living Translation:

 

 

 

 

 

 

     excellent

14

8

14

7

17

16

     poor

12

28

8

20

5

17

     not familiar

25

28

35

34

36

28

New Revised Standard Version:

 

 

 

 

 

 

     excellent

12

12

60

40

5

24

     poor

15

25

1

8

7

7

     not familiar

12

14

4

4

30

9

Today's New International Version:

 

 

 

 

 

 

     excellent

8

9

23

14

6

11

     poor

24

31

8

8

12

14

     not familiar

35

33

30

47

48

36

 

Bible Versions

All Pastors

Southern Baptist

Other Baptist

 

Methodist

 

Lutheran

 

Pentecostal

All

Others

Contemporary English Version

--

--

--

--

2%

--

--

Holman Christian Standard Bible

--

--

1%

--

--

--

--

King James Version

23%

23%

51

7%

--

45%

7%

Living Bible

--

--

--

--

--

--

--

The Message

--

--

--

--

--

1

--

New American Standard Bible

10

22

11

1

5

5

13

New Century Version

--

--

--

--

--

--

--

New International Version

31

26

24

45

23

23

36

New King James Version

13

25

10

1

5

15

17

New Living Translation

4

1

--

3

5

7

5

New Revised Standard Version

14

1

--

38

48

--

16

Today's New International Version

--

--

--

--

--

--

--

Any other version

4

2

3

4

12

3

4

Bible Versions

1 (Poor)

2

3

4

5 (Excellent)

Not Familiar

Contemporary English Version

11%

12%

21%

16%

8%

31%

Holman Christian Standard Bible

8

6

11

5

6

65

King James Version

15

17

19

16

31

3

Living Bible

27

23

22

14

9

5

The Message

15

11

17

19

11

28

New American Standard Bible

5

9

18

25

32

10

New Century Version

8

8

15

9

5

55

New International Version

7

8

14

26

42

4

New King James Version

7

8

19

27

33

7

New Living Translation

16

9

17

14

13

30

New Revised Standard Version

11

10

20

24

23

13

Today's New International Version

18

10

10

14

11

37

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