1.8 billion bits of the Bible spread worldwide since 2015

United Bible Societies had a record year of distribution in 2019

Almost 2 billion pieces of Bible-related material have gone out across the world during the past five years, according to the latest United Bible Societies figures.

Last year marked a record year for Bible distribution worldwide, helping to bring the total number to more than 184 million full Bibles distributed by Bible Societies since 2015. And the Oceania region – including Bible Society Australia – leads the way with its share of providing full Bibles.

The teams serving in Brazil, China, USA, India and Nigeria distributed one full Bible every two seconds throughout 2019.

If every piece of Scripture distributed by the Bible Society network since 2015 was added up, it totals more than 1.8 billion items – enough for almost a quarter of the world’s population.

These achievements are revealed in the latest United Bible Societies (UBS) Scripture distribution figures.

The annual distribution of full Bibles has gone up from more than 34 million in 2015 to just short of 40 million in 2019. A decade ago, annual Bible distribution was below 30 million. The huge and growing quantities of Bibles provided reflect the ongoing demand for Scripture – and the commitment of Bible Societies to put God’s Word into the hands of everyone who wants it.

Looking back at last year, global Bible distribution is being influenced more and more by the internet. Almost a quarter of Bibles distributed were digital downloads, compared to 17 per cent digital the year before. Regions such as Asia, Central and South America, Europe and the Middle East all saw an increase in the number of full Bibles distributed – primarily because more people are downloading Scripture.

The number of New Testaments provided reached 15 million for only the second time in the last decade. And in total, more than 315 million Scripture items were distributed around the world in 2019.

But, behind the numbers, an even more encouraging story is emerging: more people are reading Scripture in more formats, which means they’re able to engage with God’s Word in ways that are right for them.

  • Nearly 3.7 million Scriptures specially designed for children were distributed in 2019, with the largest number (1.27 million) provided in Africa, the continent with the world’s biggest youth population.
  • Adults learning to read and write also received bespoke Scripture material. More than 4.5 million booklets for new readers were provided in 2019, the majority in Central and South America.
  • Bibles with the deuterocanonical books, used by Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox communities, have been distributed all around the world; 1.7 million in 2019.

Michael Perreau, UBS Director General, said, “It’s heartening to know that, through our efforts in 2019, millions more people are able to face the challenges of 2020 with Scripture in their hands.”

“May God’s Word bring comfort and hope in these difficult days. And while record-breaking Bible distribution is something to celebrate, what’s more important is that we’ll see God’s Word transform individuals, their families and communities, as people engage with Scripture and its life-changing message.”

The figures are compiled from annual Scripture distribution numbers reported by Bible Societies around the world, including Bible Society Australia.

The UBS Fellowship continues to be the largest translator and distributor of Scripture on the planet; around 70 per cent of the world’s full Bible translations have been provided by Bible Societies.

Full Bible distribution worldwide 2019
Focus on full Bibles

Bible Societies around the world are committed to providing full Bibles – and the proportion of Bibles compared with all Scripture reached a record level in 2019.

One in eight of all Scriptures distributed last year was a Bible.

In 2015, Bibles only made up one in 13 of all Scripture items provided around the world.

Oceania, which includes countries such as Australia, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea, tops the list for the largest proportion of full Bibles distributed. Four out of every five Scripture items provided was a full Bible.

top 5 countries Bible distribution 2019
Top five for Bible distribution

More than 18.3 million full Bibles – 46 per cent of the global provision – were distributed in just five countries. Between them, the teams serving in Brazil, China, USA, India and Nigeria distributed one full Bible every two seconds throughout 2019.

Brazil topped the list with 7.7 million Bibles distributed. In fact, one in five Bibles provided around the world were in Brazil, and this Bible Society continues to provide more Scripture than any other on the planet.

Meanwhile, five languages account for 62 per cent of all full Bibles distributed by the UBS Fellowship in 2019.

One in five full Bibles provided was Spanish, and the overwhelming majority of these were in Central and South America. A further 6.5 million full Bibles were in Portuguese – and two-thirds of these were distributed in Brazil. The most widely-spoken language in the world, Mandarin, accounted for 3.5 million Bibles – just under 10 per cent of the global full Bible distribution.

United Bible Society download stats 2019

Almost one quarter of Bibles downloaded

Almost 25 per cent of all full Bibles distributed in 2019 were downloaded from the internet. This strong growth compared to the previous year reflects the global picture of internet use; more than 4.5 billion people (59 per cent of the world’s population) are active internet users.

Central and South America saw the biggest number of downloads by far. The Bible in Spanish was downloaded nearly 3.2 million times in Central and South America. And in Brazil, there were over 1.7 million downloads of the Portuguese Bible.

Bible Societies in Europe saw record numbers of downloads in 2019; more than half of all Bibles were distributed online. But while the downloads are attributed to the Bible Society responsible for the text, most of these Bibles were actually downloaded outside Europe. For example, only 4.5 per cent of the downloads of a Bible in English by the British and Foreign Bible Society took place in the UK, while almost a third (29 per cent) were in the US. Likewise, only around a third of the downloads of French Bible translations by the French Bible Society were in Europe.

In Asia, full Bible downloads topped more than one million for the first time in 2019.

Much of the Scripture available through YouVersion comes via UBS’ Digital Bible Library (DBL), which has doubled in size over the past five years. It now holds 2,500 texts in 1,622 languages used by 5.7 billion people.

Set up in 2011, the DBL stores Scripture translations by UBS and about 60 other contributors, and makes them available through apps and websites.

Almost three-quarters of the full Bible texts in the DBL are provided by UBS.

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