When pastors choose a Bible, what do they use? According to a new survey, it's either the New International Version or the King James Version.
But among pastors in different denominations, there is little consensus. Southern Baptist pastors are split evenly between the NIV, KJV, New Kings James Version and the New American Standard Bible. Methodist pastors prefer the NIV and the New Revised Standard Version. A plurality of Lutheran ministers choose the NRSV. And close to half of Pentecostal pastors favor the King James Version.
The study of 700 pastors was conducted by Ellison Research for Facts & Trends magazine, a publication of the LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention. The data, involving 12 different Bible versions, will appear in the May/June issue.
"The NIV, King James, New King James, New American Standard and New Revised Standard are clearly the versions of choice for most clergy, as well as the ones they would recommend to their congregations," Ron Sellers, president of Ellison Research, based in Phoenix, said in a news release.
Most of the pastors - 65 percent - said they were not familiar with the recently released Holman Christian Standard Bible.
Among the study's findings:
Forty percent of ministers said they tend to select their favored Bible versions on the perceived accuracy of the text; its readability was second, at 16 percent; its language style, 14 percent; and its reputation, 13 percent.
Thirty-one percent of all pastors use the New International Version, while 23 percent use the King James Version. Other versions used are the New Revised Standard Version (14 percent), New King James Version (13 percent) and the New American Standard Bible (10).
Southern Baptist pastors are split evenly between the NIV (26 percent), NKJV (25 percent), KJV (23 percent) and NASB (22 percent). However, those same pastors put the NASB on top when asked how they would rate Bibles for use in their church. Forty-three percent rated the NASB "excellent," while 41 percent gave the New King James Version and 38 percent the NIV the same rating.
Fifty-one percent of "non-Southern Baptist" Baptist pastors said they use the King James Version, 24 percent the NIV.
Forty-five percent of Methodist ministers use the NIV, 38 percent the New Revised Standard Version. When asked to rank Bibles for use in their church, Methodist pastors gave an "excellent" rating to the NIV (61 percent), the NRSV (60 percent) and Today's New International Version (which is different from the NIV, 23 percent).
Forty-eight percent of Lutheran pastors use the NRSV, 23 percent the NIV. Forty percent of Lutheran pastors gave an "excellent" rating to the NRSV, 25 percent gave that rating to the NIV.
Forty-five percent of Pentecostal pastors use the King James Version, 23 percent the NIV and 15 percent the New King James Version. Pentecostal pastors gave an excellent rating to the King James Version (56 percent), the New King James Version (49 percent) and the NIV (36 percent).
Among all pastors, 42 percent rated the New International Version excellent. Following the NIV, which led the list, were the NKJV (33 percent), NASB (32 percent), King James Version (31 percent) and New Revised Standard Version (23 percent).
The Bible versions ministers rated as “poor” included the Living Bible (27 percent), Today’s New International Version (18 percent), New Living Translation (16 percent), The Message (15 percent) and the KJV (15 percent). The King James Version was the only version to be listed in both the “excellent” and “poor” lists.
By geographic regions, Ellison reported that the KJV is the favorite of pastors in the southern United States. The NIV is strongest in the Midwest and western parts of the country; and the NRSV is strongest in the Northeast.
Pastors of smaller churches and those 60 years of age and older, meanwhile, tend to prefer the KJV, the study said.