No, the Bible isn’t a long book—and other interesting facts about the world’s number one bestseller

Really, it isn’t.

If you have Christian friends (or are a Christian) you’ve probably heard people talk about how the Bible is soooo long, and indeed, most people who set out to read it take a year or two to do so.

Some years ago I decided to actually find out how long it was, and to my surprise, The Authorised Version is a mere 788,000 words.

Now, yes, that’s long, except, except, guess what’s longer?

Photo by Liam Truong on Unsplash

Harry Potter.

The unarguably most popular children’s book of the last two decades comes in at a whopping 1.084 million words. Read that again. Everything after the decimal place? That’s a whole extra novel.

I finished them all in two weeks.

In fact, I checked again, and the Order of the Phoenix, book number five, clocks in around 257,000 words.

The New Testament? 184,600.

I finished one of them in two days, and it certainly wasn’t the shorter one.

Now of course the Bible is harder to read than Harry Potter. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be understood, and it certainly doesn’t mean you have to understand it by yourself. What do English students do when they study a book they don’t understand? What do people do when they read about a news event they don’t understand? They go and read other people’s comments about it.

We can do the same with the Bible. It’s perfectly alright. And the resources we have to do so are unparalleled. Hamlet is the number two commented on work in English. Number one? The Bible. The JFK assassination is the most studied non-religious event in history, with over 2,000 books written about it. What about the most studied non-religious event in history? I don’t have a number, but I’m willing to take an educated guess and say it’s the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

And as I said in the title, it’s the world’s number one bestseller. But of course, you say. It’s been around for several millennia. It had a head start. But even if you take just the last fifty years of sales (sadly, we don’t have sales receipts from the first century), the Bible sold 3.9 billion copies, which crushes all its competitors in the top ten list, combined.

That, sadly, doesn’t mean a lot of people read the thing. I can hear the excuses coming in. “Sure, getting a commentary to understand the text is helpful, but just like Hamlet, it doesn’t make the Bible any more readable.”

And yes, if you’re the KJV it will be unreadable. But just like how SparkNotes or CliffNotes has a simplified Hamlet, there are easier translations of the Bible. Loved Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code? The NKJV has the same reading level, and what’s more, it’ll show you 95% of the Da Vinci Code‘s claims about the Bible, Jesus, and the Catholic Church is 100% fiction. Still too hard? My friends in high school were all swooning over Pride and Prejudice, and that’s equivalent to the NLT. Still too hard? Favourite book is Goodnight Moon? Well, there’s the ICB for you. There are so many English translations of the Bible (since you’re reading this, I assume you read English) you can definitely find one you understand.

(And if you’re a literary snob who only reads Faulkner and wants a difficult Bible to read, fear not. The KJV is waiting for you with open arms.)

Before you ask, yes, of course, the Bible is the most translated book in history. But what’s interesting to me is that when I first checked in 2018, it had 670 complete translations. Now? It’s 698, which sounds like a small increase, but that’s 28 languages. I can’t even handle three.

All this to say that without even opening the book there’s so much to say about the Bible.

Now, of course, you might be wondering why on earth I dug up all these facts.

Well that’s because I was creating this infographic.

If you’re a long time visitor of my blog you would know that I like design. And facts. So I made a honking big poster for those people who love spouting interesting facts at dinner parties so they can look well read (when in reality, all they’re doing is just looking at the cool pictures on my poster and reciting the facts).

You can get in on here, or, if you’re lucky and happen to live in Singapore and don’t want to pay the shipping from the U.S., you can contact me via Twitter, Instagram, or Telegram @dylankwok.

Support me pls. I love to eat food. The preceding two statements may or may not be related. Thanks!

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