How Many Words Are in the Bible?

Translating the bible has been an arduous and “bloody affair”. Two reformers, Hus and Wycliffe from Bohemia and England, wanted the bible translated into a language all could read and understand. However, in 1415 during that time it was heretical to do so and ultimately Hus was charged and burned at the stake by the Council of Constance, while Wycliffe, already dead from natural causes, had his bones exhumed for burning.

In the movie, “The Day After Tomorrow”, as books were being burned in the library, someone asked the character why was he holding on to the bible so tightly, even though he did not believe in it, he said: “The bible is the first book ever printed. It represents the Dawn of Reason.”

The King James Version bible, the New International Version, and the new American Standard bible comprise a total of 2,293,921 words.

It is unclear how many words are in the bible – as there are many versions. More than what will be discussed here. This could be because it is based on the Dead Sea Scrolls and other translations. There are also extra-biblical texts that were discovered over the years which are still in question by some laymen and scholars due to the nature of the texts.

King James Version

The King James Version of the bible, one of the most classically loved bible versions of all time, has approximately 783,137 words.

A Translation for Unity

The King James bible was commissioned by King James 1 of England in 1611. Around 1536 it became permissible to commission a new translation of the bible without dying for it, and King James is not one of the oldest bibles, but it was founded on “pure” reasons.

King James “wanted to unite the warring religious factions” of his time by producing a bible that all would be fond of. While reading the King James bible, some have expressed its beautiful language as Shakespearean, poetic and clear.

However, for many, this language is too outdated and does not connect well with those who may want to evangelize to the nonbelievers. There has to be a solution.

New International Version

The New International Version bible was a response to those who just did not connect well with the KJV bible.

The New International Version bible has approximately 727,969 words and is unique in that it was found by Howard Long, an engineer who wanted to give the Gospel to an unbeliever. The King James version he was using did not resonate with the listener.

A Unique Path

This version took a tremendous amount of effort to produce and it all began in 1955 when Long decided to embark on this path of putting together something clear for all.

In the preface of most NIV bibles, particularly those published around 1984 or 1990, it mentions that the responsibility of the New International Version(NIV) is to “answer the deepest need of humanity, shed light in a dark world”.

Another novel method that the translators of the NIV used, was testing and starting over from scratch. The earliest translated sample was tested for clarity and ease of reading by allowing laypeople, scholars, the less educated, and well-educated alike to read it.

The translators for the NIV also did not rely on the King James bible as a foundation. Every translation had to be from scratch, using the “grammatical details of the Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek texts”.

The NIV remains in constant editing process to this day. The latest version is the 2020 NIV study bible.

New American Standard Bible

The New American Standard has approximately 782,815 words in bible.

The Lockman Foundation first published the New American Standard Bible (NASB) 49 years ago and just like the other two versions, the KJV and NIV, it has not been well received.

Breaking Ground

The NASB Bible is based on the newer codices of the Dead Sea scrolls and the “Novum Testamentum Graeca” and was compiled by Biblical Scholar Kurt Aland.

Even though this translation took painstaking work, it was still labeled by most as a “liberal threat”.

Together, all of these translations have over 2 million words. Words that are constantly changing to suit the needs of people who dearly want to read and enjoy the word of God.

Each bible has a sordid history that birthed a success. When the NIV was being written it took a long process (from 1955-1978), but there was a team of experts who did not mind the arduous task.

The KJV arrived at a time after translators were being persecuted. Here, a king wanted the religious wars to cease.

Finally, the NASB offers even greater understanding of God’s word.

It could be 2 million words or 2,000, it does not matter how many words are in the bible however many words it took to put together the bible, it has provided clarity for many.

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