– Four hundred years after it debuted as the first widely distributed Bible for
the English-speaking world, the King James Version (KJV) of the Bible still
holds a place of distinction among Americans, according to a new survey by
The poll, conducted to mark the 400th anniversary of the King James Version,
found that more than half of all American adults (62 percent) own a KJV Bible.
Among those who read the Bible regularly the percentage of KJV owners is even
higher. A full 82 percent of Americans who read the Bible at least once a month
own a KJV. Sixty-seven percent of American adults who own a Bible have a KJV.
Published in 1611 under the direction of England’s
King James I, the KJV has wielded significant influence over both religion and
language among English speakers, generating now-common phrases such as “fight
the good fight,” “reap the whirlwind” and “feet of clay.”
“Christians believe that God’s Word is truth and that truth is conveyed through
language –thus translations have always been integral to the spread of
Christianity,” said Scott McConnell, director of LifeWay Research. “It is hard
to overstate the influence of the KJV not just on language and idioms, but
because it brought the Word of God to English-speaking peoples in the first
widely available format.”
When asked to indicate whether five specific statements had been their
experience with the KJV, many Americans responded positively to: “I have found
the language to be beautiful” (31 percent) and “I have found the language to be
easy to remember” (23 percent).
The experience of some is less complimentary, responding, “I have found the
language to be hard to understand” (27 percent) and “I have found the language
to be outdated” (16 percent).
More than a quarter of adult Americans (27 percent) indicate they have never
read the KJV for themselves. An additional 4 percent did not feel any of the
statements matched their experience and 4 percent “don’t know.”
Women are more likely than men to own a KJV, with 72 percent of women who own a
Bible having a KJV copy compared with 62 percent of men.
Age is also a significant factor related to KJV ownership. While 76 percent of
Americans 55 years and older who own a Bible have a KJV, 67 percent of those
ages 35 to 54 own a copy. For those under 35 years old, the percentage owning a
copy drops to 56 percent.
Younger Americans also have less experience reading the KJV. Thirty-five
percent of those under 35 have never read a KJV. Twenty-nine percent of those
between 35 and 54 have never read a KJV along with 19 percent of those 55 and
However, the lower readership among young Americans does not seem to indicate
that they have more difficulty understanding the language than their older
counterparts. Only 21 percent of those under 35 say they find the language “hard
to understand,” compared with 31 percent ages 35 to 54 who say the same and 28
percent 55 and older.
Readers of all generations find the KJV’s language beautiful. However,
Americans in the South are more likely to say they “have found the language to
be beautiful” (44 percent).
and reading the Bible
When all translations are included, 89 percent of American households own at
least one Bible, with the average household owning 4.1 Bibles.
Yet there is a significant gap in Bible ownership between those who read the
Scriptures regularly and those who do not. Americans who read the Bible at
least once a month own an average of 5.8 Bibles while those who read it less
than once a month own an average of 2.2.
Women own an average of 4.7 Bibles compared with 3.6 for men.
Approximately half of all adult Americans (53 percent) indicate they personally
read the Bible once a month or more. There are fewer non-Bible readers ages 55
and older than in any other age group. Eighteen percent of those age 55 and
older never read the Bible, whereas 26 percent of Americans 35 to 54 and 28
percent of those under 35 never read it.
Women are more likely than men to be Bible readers, with 60 percent of women
and 46 percent of men reading the Bible once a month or more.
“The power and inherent truth of Scripture comes from having God as its author,”
McConnell said. “One’s willingness to engage the Bible determines its effect
upon a life. Numerically, Bible ownership is similar to the percentage of
Americans who indicate they are Christian. But owning a Bible and reading it
are two different things.”
The survey was based on 1,004 telephone interviews conducted March 2-6.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is a pastor and writer in Shelbyville,
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