The United Bible Societies (UBS) announced that around 32.6 million copies of the Bible were distributed in 2021, a 5.5% increase compared to the previous year.
According to UBS, they are seeing a slight stabilization in providing Bibles after the pandemic caused a major impact on Bible distribution worldwide.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has severely restricted the work of many Bible societies,” revealed Horst Scheurenbrand, Head of World Bible Aid at the German Bible Society. “Numerous projects ended up being scrapped, and events had to be canceled due to contact bans. Also, production and supply chains were temporarily restricted.”
The Scripture Distribution Report also showed that while full Bibles saw an increase in distribution, Bible editions containing only the New Testament dropped in distribution to 5.1 million from 5.7 million in 2020. There was also a decline in circulation of Bible selection writings with 132 million copies in 2021, compared with 155 million writings in 2020, reports Evangelical Focus.
Increase in digital Bibles
One upside of being indoors because of the Covid-19 health restrictions was an uptick in digital Bible downloads. In 2020, more than one in three Bibles, or 38%, were downloaded from the internet. This is more than double of the number of Bibles used for computers, smartphones and tablets compared to 2019. People from Brazil, the US, Mexico, Colombia and the Philippines were frequent users of digital Bible editions.
The UBS report said the distribution of digital Bibles “is playing an increasingly important role, especially in crisis regions.” It highlighted the Bible Society in Mozambique which “was able to provide a digital Bible edition to a total of 51,000.”
Despite the increase in Bible distribution last year, Scheurenbrand disclosed that there are still many challenges Bible societies face because of the pandemic. “The worldwide distribution figures reflect the acute crisis of many Bible societies during the pandemic.” He explained that, “In particular, Bible societies that reach people through events and conduct distribution campaigns continue to be limited.”
There are currently 160 Bible societies in the world, but 88 of them were at risk of closing due to Coronavirus. A Solidarity Fund of US$4.1 million prevented the closure and helped continue its operation. Bible societies accept donations to expand their work of making the Bible accessible and available to everyone.