Apr 7, 2015

From the Archives

Americans’ Perceptions of the Bible’s Global Reach

Of the world’s 6,901 languages actively used as first languages, less than half have a completed Bible or even a completed Bible portion. If this number surprises you, you aren’t alone. Nearly three-quarters of Americans mistakenly believe the Bible is currently available in all of the world’s languages (72%). In fact, only two in 10 adults recognize there are still languages in the world without a Bible translation (21%).

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In a recent survey, conducted in partnership with the American Bible Society, Barna Group discovered that, while most Americans support—and advocate for—global access to the Bible, they are largely unaware of how much work remains to be done in order to give every person access to the Bible in his or her own language.

Nearly all Americans—98%—believe people should have access to the Bible. And indeed, most people in America not only have access to the Bible, but they also own a Bible. Nearly nine in 10 American households report having at least one Bible, with the average household owning four copies. Of course, ownership does not equal readership; three out of five Americans say they want to read the Bible more (60%).

Much of the globe, however, does not enjoy such free access. More than half of the world’s languages still do not have a completed Bible translation (57%). Three in 10 active first languages do not have even a translation begun in that language (31%). An additional one-quarter have only segments of Scripture completed, with more portions in the translation process (26%).

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About the Research
Two research methodologies were used for the study, providing a larger sample size for key questions and ensuring even greater representation among all age groups. The first study included 1,010 telephone interviews (including cellphone interviews) with adults in the continental U.S., while the second study consisted of 1,000 online surveys using a nationally representative panel. The telephone interviews were conducted Jan. 8 – 20, 2015 and included U.S. adults 18 years of age or older. The online surveys were conducted between Feb. 3 and Feb. 11, 2015. The estimated maximum sampling error for both studies is plus or minus 3.1 percentage points at the 95 percent confidence level.

These findings are part of an annual State of the Bible study commissioned by American Bible Society, the go-to source for all things Bible (

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About Barna

Since 1984, Barna Group has conducted more than two million interviews over the course of thousands of studies and has become a go-to source for insights about faith, culture, leadership, vocation and generations. Barna is a private, non-partisan, for-profit organization.

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