Do Protestants read the Bible more than Catholics?


Recently I decided I wanted to get a new Bible for my general reading. I have a good NAB Study Bible and a compact NRSV Bible that I received as a gift years ago. After doing more research on the different translations and the strengths/weaknesses of each, I decided I wanted to get a RSV-CE. I specifically wanted a medium size leather bound RSV-CE. All that was left was to buy it…

After visiting 3 mega book stores and multiple smaller Christian book stores, I came to the depressing revelation that you have to hunt if you want to find a Catholic Bible. These stores had hundreds if not thousands of Bibles including a large variety of KJV, NKJV, NIV, ESV, The Living Bible, so forth and so on, but on average they had less than 1 shelf of Catholic approved translations and in some cases not even that. I could hunt through the aisles and at times find a random Jerusalem Bible or a New American Bible that found its way in but these were rare.

This was not just inconvenient for myself personally trying to find a new Bible but it honestly made me a little depressed to realize how lopsided these national book chains bible selections are. However, myself being in business, I do not know if I can hold this against the stores themselves. I know these national chains do extensive research to determine which inventory to buy to meet customers needs and drive sales. Which brings me to the depressing part of my revelation. Do Protestants simply purchase and read the Bible more than Catholics?

I could see a few different arguments but I am not sure if I know of one that would hold up to multiple book chains making the decision that if they want to sell more Bibles then they need to carry more than 10x the KJV than the NAB. It was an alarming discovery and one that I am very sad about. Now I will be turning to the internet to purchase my new Bible, but what do you all think about this reality? :ehh:


I don’t know where you live, but where I live Protestants outnumber Catholics. This could be part of the explanation.


I’ve noticed the same thing where I live, although I think as the population goes, there are more Catholics than Protestants.

That being said, I think the Protestant culture is more permissive about individuals coming to their own conclusions about the Scriptures, and consequently numerous and different translations abound. I think people buy the Bibles that conform more to their own understanding, rather than to a particular church’s teaching.

Isn’t it odd that in America, the KJV typically omits the Apocrypha? Even though it was included in the original AV? That is pure prejudice on the part of Protestants, who obviously prefer to buy Bibles with part of the Scriptures omitted.

So I think Catholics are just as immersed in the Scriptures as Protestants, but they do not buy as many Bibles, simply because fewer translations suffice for them.


Not all of the Protestant versions of the Bible may be good. And generally, it’s the commentary that is different, not the Scripture.


If you figure in the original method of receiving the Scriptures–hearing–I think Catholics imbibe more Scripture, more frequently, than most Protestants.

A blue-haired grandma praying the Rosary, even if she doesn’t own a Bible, is reciting more Scripture and meditating on the saving work of Jesus Christ in the mysteries. She might not identify this as “reading the Bible” but she is actively, heartfully, meditatively, physically, and vocally engaging with the Scriptures.

Mass includes more Bible texts in the readings and the cycle of readings in the Lectionary than the amount of favorite texts that a particular Protestant pastor will preach on. The prayers of the Mass are from Bible texts and the recent revision gets truer to the wording of the Scripture (instead of being a “dynamic” translation). From the rising of the sun to its setting vs. the previous from east to west, for example.

Many of our hymns and songs are Scripture. As Catholics, we might not know the chapter and verse*, but we know the song. :thumbsup: :smiley:

*Chapters and verses are a medieval Catholic invention. LOL :wink:

Remember, we are not a People of the Book, but a People of the Word - Jesus Christ.


I think you mean the Deutero-Cannonical books, which are Scripture, not the apocryphal books, which are not. Tho some Protestants lump them together and do not consider the Deutero-Cannonical books to be inspired.


In my circle of family and friends, I would say yes.

You do have to remember that Protestants read the Bible more because their faith is based solely on Sacred Scripture, as Catholics, our faith is based on both Sacred Scripture and Sacred Traditions (The Mass) where we “hear” or “listen” to Sacred Scripture.

Outside of Mass, I would say the majority of Catholics do not read the Bible on a daily basis. I am assessing my own family and friends though. And also those that were “cradle Catholics” that left the CC for one of the 33,000 Protestant sects, read their Bibles now where before they didn’t even know who Jesus was, so good work Protestant brethren! The point is for all people to develop a relationship with Jesus - Has the teachers of the Catholic faith done the best they possibly could over the past 40 years?? I would say no in light of the amount of people I know that are Catholic and do not read their Bibles and those that are now practicing their faith elsewhere… the answer is sadly no.

But the good news is that this is the year of the faith and combined with the New Evangelization, I say we email or Facebook every family and friend member a link to the Bible and tell them reading God’s Word is right at your fingertip - just a click away and to open God’s Word and let Him speak to your heart:


The AV calls them Apocrypha, but yes, that is what I mean. Even calling them ‘Apocrypha’ reflects the prejucice against Catholicism.

I remember when I first found the AV with Apocrypha. I was astounded. It caused me to question Protestantism as a whole.


Many large Catholic churches have their own gift shops that sell bibles, spiritual books, rosaries, medals, etc.
Also Catholic gift shops that are not in churches carry Catholic bibles of various translations.

A large secular bookstore chain near me has a meager choice of Catholic bibles or spiritual books. Most of my friends buy them on line, or in Catholic shops.

Bible studies in Catholic churches are beginning to flourish, and scripture reading as well. It needs to flourish even more!


There are two bookstores where I live that I frequently visit. One bookstore sells new books; they sell hundreds of Protestant versions. I am rather baffled that I can find 30 different KJV Bibles but only 1 or 2 NAB:RE’s. I find that a lot of Protestant versions are also “themed;” we have Bibles for girls/boys, Bibles for sports, hunting, people in the military, “green” living, etc. So many it’s ridiculous. They turn the Bible into a buffet line.

I think in general these Protestant translations are well-known, popular with evangelicals, and therefore more likely to bring in a profit. That’s the point of a business, right, to make money? Then there are Family Christian Stores, a mostly Protestant/evangelical bookstore that doesn’t really sell Catholic-anything though they do have some NAB’s/NRSV translations. I think these stores are also fairly anti-Catholic even if they don’t outwardly tell you; it’s the superstition that if you have anything “Catholic” in your store is committing idolatry. In the eyes of many Protestants, we are not “real” Christians.

All it means is that Protestant Bibles are marketed better. My guess is if you told a Protestant what the “New American Bible: Revised Edition” or “Jerusalem Bible” translations were they would look at you funny and claim that they have never heard of those translations. I would hope some evangelicals would at least know the names of some Catholic Bible translations as I would know all the gajillions of Protestant Bible translations.

The fact that there are so many Protestant Bible translations I would think, would mark them at a disadvantage. It shows the diversity of denominational beliefs in their English Bible translations, meaning they can’t agree on anything. Where as the number of Catholic English Bible translations is small and therefore more united.

I do not see the correlation between “many Protestant Bibles available” versus “Catholics don’t read the Bible as much as Protestants.”


Just to add to what others have said above, another reason there are more Protestant Bibles offered is because Protestants buy more Bibles. And one of the reasons (not excluding the reasons already mentioned) is a practical one: you simply get more use out of your Bible if you are a Protestant. Typically, a Protestant will take his Bible to church on Sunday to read along with the sermon. You might also have a Bible study on Sunday (usually based on the sermon) as well as a Bible study later in the week. For daily personal and family devotions, rather than use a prayer book or rosary (even though these contain Scripture), the devotions consist of readings from the Bible.

So, from a practical standpoint, if you’re going to use your Bible on such a consistent basis, you are going to look for a good Bible that really meets your particular need. A lot of these Bibles are “niche” editions trying to appeal to those special needs. And that’s how they’re marketed.


A more appropriate question might be, “am I (not do they or do we) living (and not merely reading) the scriptures (and certainly nothing about doing so more or less than someone else or some other group)?”

Humility is a virtue.

Peace and all good!


Let’s be honest. Yes, non-Catholic Christians are currently more engaged in Bible production than Catholics are. Yes, they do sell and buy a lot of Bibles. And there’s actually quite a number of reasons for this.

One of the things that the sola scriptura (as interpreted by 18th-19th century evangelicalism) brought us is the idea that the Bible is the cure for all of life’s problems, a self-interpeting, complete-in-itself divine manual of answers for all questions. This mentality is basically a product of sola scriptura fused with the popular evangelistic ‘Puritanic Biblicism’ movement with its romantic idealization of 16th- and 17th-century Puritan piety, that ‘good ol’ days’ back in time when everything was (supposedly) simpler, without all that fancy claptrap. What the theologian John W. Nevin wrote in 1861 pretty much sums up the ideology behind this movement:

In this sacred volume, we are told, God has been pleased to place his word in full, by special inspiration, as a supernatural directory for the use of the world to the end of time; for the very purpose of providing a sufficient authority for faith, that might be independent of all human judgment and will … The great matter accordingly is to place the bible in every man’s hands, and to have him able to read it, that he may then follow it in his own way. The idea seems to be, that the bible was published in the first place as a sort of divine formulary or text book for the world to follow … so that the dissemination of its printed text throughout the world, without note or comment, is the one thing specially needful and specially to be relied upon for the full victory of Christianity, from sea to sea and from the river to the ends of the earth.

This idea was actually novel at the time: even the Reformers’ and historical Protestantism’s definition of sola scriptura did not go so far. Nevin’s statement about “the dissemination of its printed text throughout the world, without note or comment” is an allusion to the American Bible Society, founded in 1816, the sole objective of which was “to encourage a wider circulation of the Holy Scriptures without note or comment.”

The logical conclusion then is that the Bible, usually taken to mean only the pure text with no note or comment, must get into the hands of as many people as possible because it is the only one which can save the modern world. The ABS’s original stipulation that ‘just the words’ are to be printed with no additives of any kind reflects the Puritanic Biblicist ideal that the Bible was complete unto itself, spoke for itself, and required no supplemental explanations or interpretations. This so-called ‘Puritanic biblicism’ then gave rise to Bible societies and groups like the Gideons, which are all committed to saving society by taking the Word out to the public by producing new translations and publishing and distributing Bibles or stuff. The end result of all this, of course, is the highly-successful (admittedly Protestant-dominated) modern Bible publishing industry.

But does that mean that Bible reading is more common among non-Catholics? Not necessarily. The irony is, while we are currently experiencing high Bible sales (publishing and selling Bibles is actually a lucrative business nowadays), biblical literacy is generally low, even among self-professed ‘Bible Christians’. Why is that?


I dunno. Do we? :wink:



A guy named Timothy Beal wrote a book called The Rise and Fall of the Bible. Don’t let the title mislead you; he’s not so much talking about the “fall” of ‘the Holy Scriptures’ per se but the modern popular-culture image of the Bible. The first part of the book is dedicated to investigating the very odd phenomenon of high Bible sales and the high regard for ‘the Bible’ in popular culture contrasting with low biblical literacy. Just to give you an idea about how much money Bible publishing makes nowadays, I’m gonna quote him (he’s writing in 2011):

The biggest Bible publishers in this highly competitive business guard their sales data closely, but reliable industry sources estimate that 2007 saw about 25 million Bibles sold, generating revenues of about $770 million in the United States alone. That was an increase of more than 26 percent since 2005, which saw U.S. sales of about $609 million. In fact, the Bible-publishing business has been enjoying a healthy compounded growth rate of close to 10 percent per year for several years. Even during the high point of economic crisis in late 2008, when other book sales were hurting badly, Bible sales continued to boom, with an estimated $823.5 million that year. Indeed, Bible publishing tends to thrive during times of war and financial disaster. Although it’s too early to know for sure as I write, it may well turn out that the latest economic bust will be another boom time for Bible business.

He is of the opinion that this oxymoron of high Bible sales and low biblical literacy could be attributed partly to ‘biblical consumerism’ replacing biblical literacy:

Could it be that biblical literacy is being replaced by biblical consumerism? In today’s consumer culture, we are what we buy, wear, and carry. We identify ourselves by our patterns of consumer choices, by the market niches we buy into. It’s gone beyond that post-Cartesian proof of existence, “I shop, therefore I am.” Today, it’s closer to “I shop for what I am.” The culture industry makes and markets identities. I want to be outdoorsy, so I buy a lot of Gore-Tex, some “Life is good” shirts, and a Yakima rack for my Subaru. High school and college students identify the cultures on different campuses by brands: this school is very Hollister; that one’s more American Apparel.
At the same time, we consumers are convinced that the shortest route to self-improvement is through new products. Products change lives, right? My big New Year’s resolution might be to become an organized person. So the first thing I do is go to the home store and buy a bunch of plastic boxes. Never mind the empty ones in my basement that I bought a year ago.
Or say that I want to strengthen my identity as a Christian and grow deeper in my faith. I want a more God-centered life. I want to be “in the Word.” I feel like I should be reading the Bible a lot more than I do. After all, like most people, I believe that the Bible is God’s Word, that it’s totally correct in all of its teachings, and that it holds the answers to all of life’s most basic questions. So what do I do? Buy a Bible. Or, more likely, buy another Bible. A marketing executive at a major evangelical publishing company told me that, according to their research, the average Christian household owns nine Bibles and purchases at least one new Bible every year.


As mentioned above, since the Bible is the sole authority to most lay Protestants belief system, then I think maybe more attention is given to the Bible than the lay Catholics, since Catholics should be concerned about not only the Bible but the whole Catholic Doctrine with the liturgy of the Church. As for me personally, I was a Baptist who was in ministry, and I was troubled by the lack of enthusiasm by fellow Baptists for the Bible. And also as for how much time I studied Scripture as a Baptist vs me as a Catholic, I’m even more zealous about the Bible now as a Catholic, and that is really saying something because I was very zealous as a Baptist.



Just to give a concrete example of this low biblical literacy, just look at Mike Huckabee (who is also a Southern Baptist minister) and his speeches loaded with Biblical references, for instance the one delivered on February 5, 2008.

Tonight, we are making sure America understands that sometimes one small smooth stone is even more effective than a whole lot of armor. And we’ve also seen that the widow’s mite has more effectiveness than all the gold in the world.

(Yeah, the link misspelled “widow’s mite” as “widow’s might.” Huh…)

(In case you didn’t get what he was talking about, two hints: 1 Samuel 17 and Mark 12:41-44.) Timothy Beal poses the question: “Just how broad was Huckabee’s base? How many actually had ears to hear? Probably not as many as he hoped.”

National Public Radio’s Barbara Bradley Hagerty did a little Jay Leno-style research on the National Mall to see how many passersby recognized the candidate’s smooth stone and widow’s mite as biblical. One conjectured that the smooth stone might have something to do with war. Or maybe peace? None seemed to recognize it as biblical. What about the widow’s mite? A mite’s a bug, right? Maybe a spider?

The above shows the Biblical illiteracy that plagues modern society (something that is no surprise to people like religious historian Stephen Prothero - who told Hagerty that Huckabee’s “[had] an exceedingly small target audience, about as small as the percentage of animals climbing on Noah’s ark” :stuck_out_tongue: - and groups like the Bible Literacy Project). In addition Beal provides a few revelations based on recent polls and surveys and personal experience, and I quote:

[INDENT]Less than half of all adult Americans can name the first book of the Bible (Genesis, in Hebrew Bereshit) or the four Gospels of the New Testament (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John).

More than 80 percent of born-again or evangelical Christians believe that “God helps those who help themselves” is a Bible verse. I suspect that many would also say that “The Serenity Prayer” and the “Footprints in the Sand” parable are in there somewhere.

More than half of graduating high school seniors guess that Sodom and Gomorrah were husband and wife, and one in ten adults believes that Joan of Arc was Noah’s wife. (Those two must’ve been multiple-choice questions.)

Almost two-thirds of Americans can’t name at least five of the Ten Commandments. Some of these people, moreover, are outspoken promoters of them. Georgia representative Lynn Westmoreland, cosponsor of a bill to display the Ten Commandments in the chambers of the Houst of Representatives and Senate, could remember only three when Stephen Colbert asked him to recite them on The Colbert Report (Colbert, who I hear teaches Sunday school at his church, would have done considerably better).

Let me add another daturm, albeit more or less anecdotal. Among the few hundred students I’ve taught in college-level introductions to biblical literature over the past couple of years, I estimate that more than half came to class on the first day with more ideas about the Bible derived from Dan Brown’s 2003 novel The Da Vinci Code than from actual biblical texts. In the old days, biblical studies professors talked about demythologizing the Bible in order to, for example, sort out the “Jesus of history” from the “Christ of faith.” Nowadays we might want to add demythologizing Da Vinci to the learning objectives.[/INDENT]

There are of course exceptions to this rule - there are indeed people out there who actually crack open the covers of their Bibles, know it inside and out like the back of their hand, and conduct or attend Bible studies. But as the author notes:

[W]e’re talking about a truly exceptional population – a remnant, to use a biblical metaphor that they might appreciate. Even among the majority of Christians who identify themselves strongly with the Bible, Bible reading is a rare activity. In a 2005 nationwide survey of religious values, practices and behaviors like Baylor University’s Institute for Studies of Religion, more than half of those identifying themselves as “Bible-believing” said they had not participated in any kind of Bible study or Sunday school program at all in the past month.


(Last post, I promise)

One might argue that biblical literacy is simply a subset of book literacy in general, which is clearly declining these days as the book is losing its preeminence as the dominant medium for reading. But the odd thing is, while biblical literacy is extremely low in America, many Americans still have reverence for the Bible in some way.

The decline in overall book reading is part of the story. But other puzzling details call for further explanation. First, while biblical literacy is extremely low, popular reverence for the Bible is extremely high. …] About three-quarters of Americans believe that the Bible is the Word of God, and almost half of those say that it should be taken literally, word for word, as such. Roughly half of all Americans believe that the Bible “answers all or most of the basic questions in life” – and 28 percent of them admit that they rarely or never read it! There seems to be no correlation between reading the Bible and revering it. The Bible appears to be the most revered book never read.

The other odd thing is of course, the aforementioned boom in Bible sales and ‘biblical consumerism’ replacing biblical literacy. But that’s still only part of the story - after all, buying a Bible wouldn’t prevent a person from reading it, right? Many people (especially Christians) buy a Bible, but apparently relatively few ever actually get the guts to read through it. Beal attributes it to the fact that the ‘cultural image’ of the Bible as this self-explaining “book of clearly-defined solutions” is not what people see when they crack open its pages.

Far from being a book of ready-made, black and white answers (as John W. Nevin and his ilk thought it to be and what popular culture believe it to be), the Bible is really a library of endless questions upon questions and a fount of ambiguity and ostensive ‘contradictions’, many of them not so easy to reconcile at first glance. As per the author, “the experience of reading biblical literature doesn’t sync with the common idea of the Bible as God’s textbook on what to believe and do.” So people worry that they’re not getting what they’re (or rather, what they thought they were) supposed to get from it and feel intimidated and frustrated. The source of frustration is not so much the Bible itself, note, but the expectations that come with it. Confronted with this, readers are thus discouraged from going any deeper. They don’t feel that this particular Bible they’re reading right now gives them what they expect - they go off and buy another one, rinse and repeat.

This is really what the modern Bible publishing business gets into: it knows that there is a huge market of people who hold this cultural stereotype of the Bible and want to experience it for themselves. And this is the reason why there are countless Bibles of every size and shape: different translations, different editions, different media. (Yes, all those “niche” Bibles are part of this phenomenon.) In other words, the Bible publishing business is seeking to fill in that void and so often ‘reinvent’ the Scriptures over and over in order to answer to that demand, as Fidelis pointed out in post number 11. (Besides, it would send them some bucks their way. :D)

A quick look through Bible catalogues would show you that a variety of items are all being marketed as “the Bible,” many equipped with different aids and devices that purport to speak for and supplement the biblical words but in most cases practically supplanting them. These ‘values-added’ Bibles help give the public a feel of ‘reading’ the Bible without being confronted by the actual text itself. These supplements are often designed to grab the reader’s attention, effectively becoming the Scripture in place of the Scriptures. (John Nevin’s and the ABS’s original ideal of the Scriptures being disseminated “without note or comment” has ultimately failed really.)


I assert that Catholics know more about Christ’s life and teaching, because we include Gospel readings at each Mass (and we show proper honor by standing for the King).

I have found that many Protestants are not very familiar with the teaching contained in Christ’s Parables. Example: a student commented about how his ex-wife is going to Hell (adultery, leaving him, apparent Satanist). I asked if she was dead yet. He said no. I said that she might be a laborer who shows up late in the day and gets the same generous wages that the rest of us get who have labored longer. He had no clue what I was talking about! I had to teach him the parable. This is a student who carries his Bible everywhere, even on our field trips.

I contend that we have it in our bones.

Many Catholics think they don’t “read the Bible” but they read their daily missal or follow the daily Mass on TV or radio or in person. We get exposed to a lot more Scripture in our way.

And yet I support Vatican II’s call to make worship, devotions, catechesis, evangelization, and theology more Scriptural and there has been a lot of progress in this regard.


I’ve also detected an attitude in a lot of Protestants that the Bible is something they carry to church and their pastor preaches about it but they don’t really follow through with their own Bible reading every day. They can be a lot more lax than they claim.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit