In Norway, people are buying more Bibles than any other book. The Bible topped best seller lists in 2012 and is still popular in 2013, outselling works like Fifty Shades of Grey and Justin Bieber’s autobiography.
In any European country this would be newsworthy, but especially so in Norway. Only 1 percent of Norwegians attend church regularly.
The excitement started when The Norwegian Bible Society published a new Bible translation in 2011. Contributors included many Greek and Hebrew scholars, as well as many well known authors and poets. They worked from the original Greek and Hebrew texts, aiming to produce an accurate translation with a good flow of the modern Norwegian languages, Bokmal and Nynorsk. The Society made available iPad and Internet editions.
People lined up outside stores to be the first to purchase the new translation. A year and a half later, it is still the No. 1 best seller in Norway, with 160,000 copies sold.
Interest in the Bible is even trickling into popular culture. A six-hour play based on the Bible attracted 16,000 viewers. Abraham’s Children sold 52,000 tickets last year, and well-known actor Svein Tindberg staged three popular Bible-based monologues. The productions take liberties with the text, but highlight a spiritual hunger.
The recent immigration of 258,000 foreigners—mainly Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu and Christian—may be one reason for the renewed interest. Bible publishing director Anne Veiteberg explains, “Now that we’re exposed to other faiths, Norwegians have gotten more interested in their own faith.”