Christian Retailing

A party for the ‘People’s Bible’ Print Email
Written by Gary Davidson, senior vice president and Bible group publisher, Thomas Nelson   
Wednesday, 22 June 2011 09:02 AM America/New_York

Davidson_GaryAn industry-wide opportunity to build on global interest in God’s Word

Our industry is celebrating a significant birthday this year: The King James Version (KJV) of the Bible turns 400. It’s time for more than a rousing, industry-wide chorus of “Happy Birthday.” It’s a rich opportunity to pay tribute to the version of the Bible that made God’s Word more accessible to people all over the English-speaking world. 

As we’ve seen at Thomas Nelson, where we are in the midst of “400 Days of Celebration” that kicked off last November, the opportunities extend beyond our Christian retailing world to the broader culture. 

Interest in this landmark occasion is widespread and has been acknowledged in major national press. A recent New York Times editorial noted, “It’s barely possible to overstate the significance of this Bible. Hundreds of millions have been sold. ... to Christians all around the world, it is still the ancestral language of faith.”

The Wall Street Journal, in an essay on the KJV’s influence on the English language, said, “The translators of the KJV understood the dignity and moving directness of the original Hebrew, which is why, after 400 years, the King James Bible remains a stylistic model that writers might well want to emulate.”

As the world’s leading publisher of KJV Bibles, Thomas Nelson has fielded numerous media inquiries from Christian and mainstream journalists working on anniversary stories. National media such as USA Today, National Public Radio, major metropolitan daily newspapers such as The Dallas Morning News, wire services such as Religion News Service and many more have been seeking to convey to their audiences the remarkable theological, literary and cultural impact of the King James Version of the Bible.



Dozens of media outlets covered the “Living Legacy of the Bible” exhibit that we hosted at this year’s National Religious Broadcasters (NRB) conference in Nashville. The exhibit, which featured more than 4,000 years of Bible history, including Dead Sea Scrolls’ fragments, numerous historic Bibles and an original 1611 KJV Bible, was a hit with NRB attendees.

We expected Christian media to be interested in the exhibit, but we were pleased to see how that interest was matched by counterparts in the secular media. The exhibit was the subject of a satellite media tour to TV news outlets in 20 markets. 

A crew from the PBS TV program Religion & Ethics Newsweekly traveled to Nashville to film the exhibit and interview Nelson representatives as well as NRB attendees who were able to share their love of the Bible and talk about their interest in the KJV anniversary—all for a large mainstream television audience. 

In addition, 18 other Christian TV and radio programs taped interviews at the historic Bible exhibit as part of their KJV400 coverage. All told, these stories will reach millions of people around the world.

Our partners in the KJV400 Celebration offer another example of the crossover interest in the historic mile marker: among them, The History Channel Magazine and the History Channel Club, which reach a community of engaged and active history buffs.

Meanwhile there has been media interest, too, in the recent launch of The Green Collection, one of the largest private collections of biblical manuscripts and artifacts in the world gathered by the family behind Hobby Lobby and our industry’s Mardel Christian & Education stores, and unveiled in celebration of the KJV anniversary.

The robust mainstream media interest in the legacy of the King James Version is evidence of how the Bible continues to inspire people from all walks of life. Even in the broader culture, which we often assume is dismissive of Christian faith and of the Bible’s role in the life of the nation, there are opportunities to celebrate God’s Word. 



This is good news for all of us in the Christian retailing industry and the church at large. It’s not too late for Christian retailers to initiate their own in-store celebrations of the KJV400, leveraging the interest in this historic event in their own communities.

The numbers tell an impressive story: The King James Version is the No. 1-selling Bible of all time. There’s no way to pinpoint the exact number of KJVs printed or sold in the last 400 years, but our company alone has sold 60 million copies since the 1980s when we began keeping records. 

Based on those records, we estimate that we’ve sold well more than 100 million copies. And sales are growing: industry reports show that sales of the King James Version increased 11% over the previous year.

Retailers can be encouraged by what we have learned about the King James Bible buyer—it’s everyone. There is no single group or demographic who use it. Men and women from all walks of life and of all ages embrace the translation.

The KJV is a magnificent treasure for retailers to share with their customers. It has been called “the noblest monument of English prose” and “the most beautiful piece of writing in all the literature of the world.” Its impact can be seen in great works of art and in everyday speech. 

It is the source of some of our most common phrases, with its wording and imagery used to such a degree that we often don’t realize we’re quoting the Bible. Sayings like “the salt of the earth,” “the apple of his eye” and “the writing on the wall” all come from the King James Bible. No other translation has found its way into our culture like the KJV has. Its impact on literature, politics, language and religion is unmatched.



As “the people’s Bible,” the KJV brought the Word of God to more people than ever before, the beginning of a centuries-long legacy of inspiring and empowering believers. Aware of the curiosity about why this particular version has had such a lasting impact, as part of our KJV400 celebration we have released a number of well-received, limited-edition commemorative Bibles, such as a replica of the 1611 edition and a new KJV Study Bible.

Committed to showing how the KJV legacy is alive and growing today, we want to join with colleagues and partners in the Christian retailing industry to encourage people to respond to God’s call to share His Word and offer hope and inspiration to the world. To that end, we have launched “God’s Word in Action” as part of the anniversary celebrations.

This effort is inspired by 2,000-plus verses in the Bible that deal with God’s view on justice and poverty, particularly Ps. 82:3 “Defend the poor and fatherless: do justice to the afflicted and needy” (KJV). God’s Word in Action seeks to start a movement of people helping others in tangible ways and inspiring others to do the same. 

One way we’re doing this is through a partnership with World Vision: “Buy a Bible, Help a Child.” For every Thomas Nelson Bible purchased at a U.S. Christian retail store through March 31, 2012, we will donate 10% of year-over-year net revenue growth achieved during that period to World Vision.