More than 20% of all Bibles distributed by the United Bible Societies (UBS) fellowship in 2017 were downloaded from the internet. It’s the first time Scripture downloads have been recorded separately by Bible Societies – and it shows that online distribution is increasingly significant.
While overall Scripture distribution fell by 12% globally, the number of full Bibles made available around the world topped 34 million for the third year running. Of these, more than 7.9 million Bibles were downloaded, primarily on apps such as YouVersion. In total, more than 107 million full Bibles have been distributed by the UBS fellowship since 2015.
Nearly 355 million Scripture items, including Bibles, Testaments, Gospels and smaller Scripture items like booklets for people learning to read, were distributed (or downloaded) in 2017. UBS continues to be largest translator and distributor of Scripture on the planet; around 70% of the world’s full Bible translations have been provided by Bible Societies.
The figures are compiled from annual Scripture distribution numbers reported by Bible Societies around the world, and include local sales and exports of Scripture material and unique internet downloads.
God’s Word at our fingertips
The full Bible was downloaded more than 7.9 million times in 2017 as unique downloads – but this is a conservative figure and it’s likely the real number of downloads was much higher. Around 90 Bible Societies are now making their Scripture translations available online, using hundreds of different websites, such as bibles.org, and apps such as YouVersion. In addition, more than three-quarters of Bible Societies have received training in how to make the Bible available digitally.
The Europe-Middle East region had the highest proportion of Bible downloads; 44% of all Bibles distributed there were provided online. But the Americas saw the biggest number of Bible downloads – some 5.4 million.
The download data for 2017 has been collated from YouVersion and tracking within individual Bible Societies. It errs on the conservative side, with downloads under- counted, but the data collection is a step forward from last year – and will become increasingly accurate in the coming years.
Most Bible Societies now store their texts in the Digital Bible Library (DBL), which is developed and maintained by UBS in partnership with other Bible agencies. It was launched in 2011 and has grown rapidly since then, making the Bible more accessible than ever before. By the end of 2017, the DBL contained 1,735 Scripture texts in 1,269 languages, spoken by 5.6 billion people.
Scriptures for conflict zones
More people are displaced today than ever before; an unprecedented 65.6 million people have been forced from their homes around the world. It’s a humanitarian crisis that has touched almost every region of the world. And it’s led to a huge demand for Scripture among people who long for God’s comfort, hope and healing.
In South Sudan, where four million people have been driven from their homes, Scripture distribution has increased dramatically. The Bible Society there has distributed more than 250,000 Bibles since the conflict began in December 2013, compared with an average of around 6,000 Bibles a year before the war started.
After four years of conflict in eastern Ukraine, 4.4 million people are in a ‘dire humanitarian situation’, according to the United Nations. Last year, the Ukrainian Bible Society distributed more than 190,000 Scriptures, many of them to people affected by the fighting, including refugees, soldiers and hospital patients. Half of those distributed were special editions of the New Testament, including a waterproof one for the military and another that highlights verses about hope.
“Amid tension, people are looking for the comfort and stability that is found in the Word of God,” said Bible Society General Secretary Rev Oleksandr Babiychuk.
Meanwhile, two million Scripture items, including more than 350,000 full Bibles, have been distributed in Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq since conflict hit the region in 2011. A record number of Scripture portions – 200,281 – were distributed in Syria in 2017. George Andrea, who leads the team of four Bible Society staff in Syria, said the Aleppo bookshop has remained open almost every day throughout seven years of war.
“During Christmas we organised our greatest distribution ever,” said George. “You should see the children when they receive these gifts. They feel the Bible is a gift from God, special for them. In this way, we give children hope that God will help them pass through this bad time.”
15 million print Bibles in five nations
Five countries accounted for more than 40% of the global distribution of full printed Bibles by Bible Societies.