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Who Keeps Buying the KJV?

Every month, the CBA posts the sales of Bible translations in terms of dollars spent and units sold. Every month the KJV remains toward the top. In November, the KJV was #2 in terms of dollar sales and #4 in terms of units sold. I am mystified at how this keeps happening.

Doesn’t everyone own a KJV by now? Are these numbers coming from people replacing their KJVs with new KJVs? For example, it is not surprising to see the “newer” translations have high sales as people continue to adopt these translations. Do the KJV only people go buy another KJV every month?

To state this another way: will people ever stop purchasing the KJV? While the KJV set the standard for more than 300 years, we have translations today that are more accurate than the KJV. Not that the KJV was not accurate for its time, but because we have more manuscripts and other archaeological discoveries to help us better understand the original language. We have a greater knowledge today of Greek and Hebrew than we did 400 years ago. For example, we have the Dead Sea Scrolls which gave us great insight into the Old Testament. Further, I believe people who read the KJV today will be prone to misunderstand the scriptures. English words in the 1600s and 1700s do not mean the same thing today. One example of this is 2 Timothy 2:15-

Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. (KJV)

Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. (NKJV)

The word “study” in our language today does not mean “to make every effort” and “give great diligence.” Today it means “the devotion of time and attention to acquiring knowledge on an academic subject, esp. by means of books.” The KJV sounds like a person must study the Bible to be approved of God. While that may be true, that is not what the apostle Paul said. Paul taught for us to be diligent in every area of our service as workers of God.

Anyway, I have found the KJV sales phenomenon interesting. As always, I encourage our readers to use multiple translations in their studies. It is a great benefit and blessing that we have today.

Here is the full list, if you are curious:

Bible Translations- Based On Dollar Sales

  1. New International Version – various publishers
  2. King James Version – various publishers
  3. New Living Translation – Tyndale
  4. New King James Version – various publishers
  5. English Standard Version – Crossway
  6. New American Standard Bible update – various publishers
  7. Holman Christian Standard Bible – B&H Publishing Group
  8. The Message – Eugene Peterson, NavPress
  9. New Revised Standard Version – various publishers
  10. Reina Valera 1960 (Spanish) – various publishers

Bible Translations- Based On Unit Sales

  1. New International Version – various publishers
  2. New King James Version – various publishers
  3. English Standard Version – Crossway
  4. King James Version – various publishers
  5. New Living Translation – Tyndale
  6. Reina Valera 1960 (Spanish) – various publishers
  7. Holman Christian Standard Bible – B&H Publishing Group
  8. The Message – Eugene Peterson, NavPress
  9. New American Standard Bible update – various publishers
  10. New Revised Standard Version – various publishers

By the way, the NRSV fell back to #10 in unit sales. The boost in September sales seems to have been the fact that the NRSV is the translation used in most universities.