As books go, the Bible is the favorite among Blacks in the US according to a new Harris Poll. In fact, the polling of about 2,500 adults shows that it’s the hands down favorite among Americans, irrespective of race. In 2006 alone, United Bible Societies distributed nearly 400 million copies of the Bible either in whole or part. One translation in particular, the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures (initially printed by the Watch Tower Society in 1950), tops out at 150,381,954 in 87 languages! Since 1455, when German inventor Johannes Gutenberg’s invented the printing press, the Bible has been in such demand that the ink barely dries before it’s shipped.
With from five or six billion copies having been distributed the world over, it is the perennial all-time bestseller. No other book comes close in circulation. Rounding out the top ten bestsellers of all time are: (2) Quotations from Mao [1966, Chinese, 900 million], (3) The Qur’an [610-632 CE, Arabic, 800 million], (4) Don Quixote [1605, Spanish, 500 million], (5) Xinhua Dictionary [1957, Chinese, 400 million], (6) Book of Common Prayer [1549, English, 300 million], (7) Pilgrim’s Progress [1678, English, 250 million], (8) The Count of Monte Cristo [1844, written by Alexander Dumas, a Black man; French, 200 million], (9) Scouting for Boys [1908, English, 150 million], and (10) Foxe’s Book of Martyrs [1563, English, 150 million]. (The Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, and the Book of Mormon were 11th, 12th, and 13th respectively.)
The Bible is also the most translated book in history, with African languages leading the way. According to one source, as of 2005, “It is found in its entirety or in part in 2,355 of the approximately 6,500 languages that exist...665 languages in Africa,... 585 in Asia, 414 in Oceania, 404 in Latin America and the Caribbean, 209 in Europe, and 75 in North America. The United Bible Societies are presently assisting in Bible-translation projects in some 600 languages.”
The Harris Poll found that the second-favorite book following the Bible varied with race. For Whites and Latinos, it’s Gone With the Wind (1936, 30 million), whereas African Americans prefer Dan Brown’s Angels & Demons (2000, 25 million). Interestingly, other books, not on traditional lists, have much broader universal appeal than many “bestsellers.”
For instance, according to official figures supplied by the publisher, 107,293,197 copies of The Truth That Leads to Eternal Life (1968), a book explaining basic Bible doctrines in 110 languages, were produced before going out of print. An iteration of the basic-Bible-doctrine theme, Knowledge That Leads to Everlasting (1995), reached 100,947,359 copies in 166 languages. And the most recent thematic incarnation, What Does the Bible Really Teach? (2005), has a current printing of 83,366,728 in a staggering 176 languages. All three books are produced by the same publisher. When compared to these figures, Angels & Demons are Gone With the Wind!
Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind deals with slavery, the Old South, the Civil War, and Reconstruction. Angels & Demons mixes conspiracy theories, secret societies, and the Roman Catholic Church. While Whites and Latinos are intrigued with the dynamics of slavery, theology still captivates the interest of African Americans, even as a second choice tome. For example, the Bible Teach book mentioned above contains chapter titles like, “Where Are the Dead?,” “Are We Living in ‘the Last Days’?,” and, “Why Does God Allow Suffering?” Actually, these questions have universal appeal.
It would appear that as the interest of others centers on the interplay of Blacks and Whites in the Old South; up to and including the Civil War; and even beyond this internecine conflagration; the interest of African Americans today is focused on the same book that strengthened their forebears to endure the brutality of slavery in America. And though they say the most segregated time of the week is Sunday church service, the Bible is still the book for all people. So, what does this latest Harris Poll really reveal about the interest of individuals of all races? The answer is simple: When people want to read a good book, well, they pick up the Good Book. And, good for them!...Amen.
[Dr. Firpo Carr is a world-renown Bible scholar who has authored 16 books, and is the founder of Scholar Technological Institute of Research, Inc. Email: