9 Things You Should Know About the Bible

The primary thing everyone should know about the Bible is that, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness…” (2 Timothy 3:16). But here are an additional 9 things that you should know about the best-selling book of all time:

1. The English word Bible is derived from the Koine Greek τὰ βιβλία (ta biblia – “the books”). While Christian use of the term can be traced to around A.D. 223, the late biblical scholar F.F. Bruce noted that Chrysostom in his Homilies on Matthew (between A.D. 386 and 388) appears to be the first writer to use the Greek phrase ta biblia to describe both the Old and New Testaments together.

2. The word “testament” (Hebrew berîth, Greek diatheke), means “covenant.” The term “Old Testament” refers to the covenant which God entered into with Abraham and the people of Israel, and “New Testament” to the covenant God has entered into with believers through Christ.

3. The practice of dividing the Bible into chapters began with Stephen Langton, an Archbishop of Canterbury in the early 13th century. Robert Estienne, a 16th-century printer and classical scholar in Paris, was the first to print the Bible divided into standard numbered verses.

4. The first complete Bible printed in the Western Hemisphere was not in English or other Europeans languages. The “Eliot Indian Bible,” published in Cambridge, Massachusetts, between 1660 and 1663, was a translation in the Natick dialect of the Algonquin tribe of indigenous Americans. There were no English language Bibles printed in America until the late 1700’s, mainly because they were more cheaply and easily imported from England up until the embargo of the Revolutionary War.

5. The first red-letter New Testament (i.e., words of Christ printed in red) was published in 1899, and the first red-letter Bible followed two years later. The idea of printing the words of Christ in red originated with Lous Klopsch, editor of Christian Herald magazine, who got the idea after reading Jesus’ words, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you” (Luke 22:20).

6. The Bible is not only the best-selling book of all-time, it is consistently the best-selling book of the the year, every year. (Even in 1907, the New York Times noted that the “daily sales of the Bible, 40,000 copies, exceed the annual sales of most popular novels.”) Currently, an estimated 25 million copies are sold or distributed in the U.S. every year, approximately one new Bible for every 12 Americans.

7. According to the Christian Booksellers Association, the most popular versions (ranked based on dollar sales) are: (1) New International Version, (2) King James Version, (3) New Living Translation, (4) New King James Version, (5) English Standard Version, (6) Common English Bible, (7) Holman Christian Standard Bible, (8) Reina Valera 1960, (9) New American Standard, and (10) New International Readers Version.

8. There are two general approaches to Bible translation, formal equivalence and functional equivalence. Formal equivalence seeks to reproduce the grammatical and syntactical form of the donor language as closely as possible in the receptor language, making only such changes as are necessary for intelligibility. Functional equivalence focuses on the meaning and attempts to accurately communicate the same meaning in the receptor language, even if doing so requires using different grammatical and syntactical forms. As Rodney J. Decker explains, all translations include both formal and functional equivalents and thus fall on a different part of the translation spectrum (e.g., KJV, and ESV are more formal while the New Living Translation is more functional).

9. All the books of the Old Testament except Esther, Ecclesiastes and the Song of Solomon are quoted or referenced in the New Testament. Jesus quoted or made references from Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Psalms, Proverbs, 1 Kings, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Hosea, Amos, Jonah, Micah, Zechariah, and Malachi.


Recent posts in this series:

9 Things You Should Know About Fathers and Father’s Day 

9 Things You Should Know About Mothers and Mother’s Day

9 Things You Should Know About Human Cloning

9 Things You Should Know About Pornography and the Brain

9 Things You Should Know About Planned Parenthood

9 Things You Should Know About the Boston Marathon Bombing

9 Things You Should Know About Female Body Image Issues

9 Things You Should Know About the Gosnell Infanticide and Murder Trial

9 Things You Should Know About Edith Schaeffer

9 Things You Should Know About Duck Dynasty 

9 Things You Should Know About Holy Week

9 Things You Should Know About the Papacy

9 Things You Should Know About Pope Benedict XVI

9 Things You Should Know About Martin Luther King, Jr.

9 Things You Should Know About George Washington (and his Birthday)

9 Things You Should Know About Roe v. Wade

9 Things You Should Know About the Bible in TV and Film

  • Joshua Arnold

    It would be interesting to know how many bulk orders make up the total amount of Bible sales per year…customers ordering thousands of units at a time to fill the back of pews, hotel dressers, etc. The Bible, unlike any other book, is likely one of the most popular gift items as well. It may be fair to speculate that the Bible is perhaps the most purchased, yet least read, book of all times.

    • Darren Blair

      Actually, it’s been my experience that your “speculation” is close to the truth.

      As a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (that is, “The Mormons”) I often find myself discussing the Bible with others of different faith traditions.

      There have been numerous instances in which some of the people who have tried to debate with me have confessed to not having read the Bible all of the way through. On top of that, I’ve only met a handful of people who were familiar with more than one translation of the Bible,* and far too many of the people I’ve debated with know the history of how the Bible was compiled and transmitted.

      *Some of the arguments used against us Mormons rely solely on the debater and audience only being familiar with a specific translation; reference a verse in another translation and the argument deflates.

    • http://www.saltformation.com Britt McCrimmon

      What would it look like if we could get all those copies opened and read?

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  • Bruce Hoyt

    Of course it depends on how you define Western Hemisphere. Technically everything west of Greenwich, England, is in the Western Hemisphere. That being the case many English Bible were published prior to the Eliot Indian Bible.

    But I suppose you actually mean to define Western Hemisphere as the Americas.

  • http://www.knowableword.com Peter Krol

    Great post, Joe. It’s helpful to have a few quick facts gathered in one place.

    You wrote, “All the books of the Old Testament except Esther, Ecclesiastes and the Song of Solomon are quoted in the New Testament.”

    Can you please give references for where Judges, Ruth, Ezra, Lamentations, Ezekiel, Obadiah, Jonah, Nahum, and/or Zephaniah (I’ll take examples for any or all of them) are quoted in the NT? Certainly, figures like Gideon, Barak, and Samson are referenced in Hebrews 11, but is there anywhere in the NT where the text of Judges is directly quoted?

    I ask because I’ve been compiling my own list of the NT use of OT texts, and I’d love to know what I’ve missed. Thanks for your help!

    • Joe Carter

      ***Can you please give references for where Judges, Ruth, Ezra, Lamentations, Ezekiel, Obadiah, Jonah, Nahum, and/or Zephaniah (I’ll take examples for any or all of them) are quoted in the NT?***

      Oops. I thought I had written “quoted or referenced” as I did for the statement about Jesus. Sorry about that. I updated the post to add that.

      As for the reference, I included any book in which and reference — however tangential — could be made. I figured on this point it was better to more inclusive than exclusive. Here are the books you cited and the references where they are made:

      Judges — Gideon, Barak, and Samson

      Ruth — mentioned in Jesus’ genealogy in Luke 3

      Ezra — Luke 24:44-45 mentions “the prophets” which included the book of Ezra

      Lamentations – Luke 24:44-45 mentions “the prophets” which included this book by Jeremiah

      Ezekiel – Ezekiel 37:27 in 2 Corinthians 6:16

      Obadiah — Obadiah 1:15 in 1 Thessalonians 5:2, 2 Peter 3:10, Acts 2:20, 1 Corinthians 5:5, 2 Corinthians 1:14 (use of “day of the Lord”).

      Jonah – Jonah mentioned in Lk 11:30

      Nahum — Nahum 1:15 in Romans 10:15

      Zephaniah — Zeph 1:15 in Matt 24:29 (Not positive about this one)

      Obviously, some of these are debatable. But with the exception of Zephaniah (and maybe Obadiah) I think a solid argument could be made for the claim that they were referenced, at least indirectly.

      • http://www.knowableword.com Peter Krol

        Thanks for the clarity, and for taking the time to provide these references. It’s beautiful to see the unity of the Scriptures.

      • http://www.knowableword.com Peter Krol

        For any who are interested in further statistics (which books quote/are quoted the most), you can view the data at Knowable Word.

        I tracked only direct quotes of OT texts (not every NT reference to OT people or events), and I just updated the lists with some of Joe’s data from his comment above.

      • Femi Osunnuyi

        Hi Joe, thanks for the series, I am always eager to see what next you’ll tackle.
        One thing though, I see that you left Numbers out as one of the books Jesus quotes (or references). Was that intentional, because He does refer to Numbers 21:9 in his discourse with Nicodemus in John 3:14?
        God bless

        • Joe Carter

          Good catch. Thanks, I’ve added that one.

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  • http://dyingtolive.org Phil Higley

    Yeah, it should say Americas instead of Western Hemisphere. That’s not accurate.

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  • eugene lim

    For #9. Isn’t Ecclesiastes referenced in the New Testament in John 3:6-8? “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

    Ecclesiastes 11:5. “As you do not know the way the spirit comes to the bones in the womb of a woman with child, so you do not know the work of God who makes everything.”

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