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Blog / How We Read the Bible: Bible Gateway’s 2014 Year in Review

How We Read the Bible: Bible Gateway’s 2014 Year in Review

Bible Gateway has published its 2014 Year in Review. Based on over 1.5 billion pageviews and over 150 million unique visitors to Bible Gateway from December 2013 through November 2014, the data we’ve gathered provides a glimpse at how people engaged with the Bible in 2014.

You can view our findings here. Our Year in Review draws on data from English- and Spanish-language Bible readers in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, and Australia, and includes:

  • A breakdown of the popularity of each chapter in the Bible.
  • A chart showing the “paths” people took through the Bible.
  • Lists of the most popular Bible verses and keyword searches.
  • A chart showing how the popularity of certain keyword searches rises and falls throughout the year.

A chart showing the relative popularity of every chapter in the Bible.

That’s a lot of data to take in, but diving into the details illuminates some interesting things about the ways people approach and read the Bible. What are some of the key findings?

1. People really do read the Bible throughout the year.

The Bible isn’t always an easy text to read—especially if you start at the beginning and try to read it straight through—and it’s common for attempts to read through the entire Bible to peter out within a month or two. However, our findings show that a significant core of Bible readers stick with their Bible reading all the way through the year, something that shows up clearly in our chart of popular verses by day.

2. The New Testament is read much more than the Old Testament.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the New Testament—widely considered more accessible for modern Bible readers than the Old Testament—is read much more than the Old (the NT is one-third the size of the Old Testament). That said, specific sections of the Old Testament remain very popular; over 30% of Old Testament pageviews are in Psalms and Proverbs, two books known for their poetry and wisdom. The opening chapters of Genesis, best known for the Bible’s creation story, made up another popular section this year. Our general fascination with the creation story can explain that, but high profile discussions about creationism and evolution in 2014—such as the Bill Nye-Ken Ham debate in February no doubt played a part as well.

3. The most popular Bible search terms remain consistent from year to year…

The keywords and verses people looked up in the Bible this year remain very consistent from year to year (see our 2013 and 2012 data). And those keywords are strikingly personal—faith, peace, marriage, children, joy, hope, grace, and similar words fill the list of popular English keywords. Notably, the word “love” was the top search term for 200 days out of the year. And that’s broadly true for Spanish Bible readers, as well; there’s a great deal of overlap in the top keywords in Spanish and English.

There’s a personal and devotional sense to many of these search terms, which may echo the Bible in American Life Report’s findings that most Bible readers look to Scripture to find answers to personal challenges and big questions in their lives, rather than for political or “culture war” purposes.

Similarly, the most popular Bible verses in 2014 are much the same as they have been in previous years. The most popular verses (John 3:16, Jeremiah 29:11, Philippians 4:13, and others) overwhelmingly offer messages of comfort, reassurance, and encouragement.

4. …but major world events do affect what people look for in the Bible.

People look for different things in the Bible depending on what’s going on in the world around them. This is most obvious in the seasonal surge of searches related to religious holidays like Christmas, Easter, and Pentecost—as well as big but not especially religious holidays like Mother’s Day and Father’s Day.

But holidays aren’t the only events that have an observable impact on Bible reading. “Blood moon” is hardly a common Bible search term, but searches for it spiked in April and October when the lunar tetrads were in the news. Searches for “Noah” jumped in the spring, when Darren Aronofsky’s Bible blockbuster arrived on the big screen (with a similar spike around the movie’s DVD release date). On the movie’s opening weekend, visits to the Noah story in Genesis 6-9 at Bible Gateway saw a 223% increase over the previous weekend. Our Year in Review page features an interactive chart where you can see for yourself how several dozen different keywords trended throughout the year.

What does it all mean?

There’s much more to be gleaned from the data, and we invite you to look through our Year in Review findings to see what jumps out at you. Considering this data, we’re gratified again to see how important the Bible is to people on an everyday, practical basis.

“The Bible, written thousands of years ago, remains amazingly relevant today to people the world over,” notes Rachel Barach, Bible Gateway’s general manager. “We continually search its pages for knowledge, wisdom, and understanding—especially during seasons of heightened social activity. Bible reading is part of everyday life for millions of people, and what they read there is remarkably personal and practical. Our Bible reading also reflects our efforts to spiritually process world news and events: the number of people searching for the Bible’s words about ‘peace,’ for example, remained high all throughout a year marked by disturbing and difficult to understand outbreaks of violence. ‘Blood moon’ was a top Bible search in April and October when lunar eclipses were in the news. And ‘Noah’ was Bible Gateway’s top search when Noah was being hotly discussed by film critics and in churches around America. People today continue to turn to the Bible for insight into life’s questions, big and small, and we are honored that people use Bible Gateway every day to search, read, and listen to the Bible as it relates to their lives.”

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