Ranking Title Author/Publisher
1 New International Version various publishers
2 New King James Version various publishers
3 King James Version various publishers
4 English Standard Version Crossway
5 New Living Translation Tyndale
6 Today’s New International Version Zondervan
7 The Message Eugene Peterson, NavPress
8 New Century Version Nelson
9 New American Standard Bible update various publishers
10 New International Readers Version Zondervan

This list is based on actual sales in Christian retail stores in the United States and Canada during December, using STATS as the source for data collection. All rights reserved. Distribution and copyright ©2006 CBA and Evangelical Christian Publishers Association.


The above list is the sales figures available now in February 2007, showing the actual sales of the ten best-selling Bible versions in December 2006.

At the top is the perennial favorite and marketing champion, the NIV. No surprise there. Zondervan has done a masterful job of selling the NIV to almost anybody and everybody. Sometimes I think Zondervan could sell the NIV to Muslims – say the Muslim Devotional Bible! It’s pretty obvious that Zondervan is in the business of marketing Bibles, and they’re good at it!

In second place is the NKJV. Don’t get me wrong, the NKJV is a fine translation. It’s not my favorite, but I own two of them. It’s based on the same manuscripts as the KJV, not so good. Why is it #2? I don’t know. I guess it’s simply to publisher Thomas Nelson’s credit.

Number 3 is the venerable old King James, the Authorized Version. Not bad for a 400-year-old!

In fourth place is the English Standard Version, the ESV. This is news. Apparently Crossway is doing an excellent job of marketing, taking some pages from the Zondervan book. It also helps that there are evangelical pastors, and others for that matter, using this version and pushing their congregations to buy it. It’s not an easy read, but it’s quite accurate, and it’s getting noticed.

The NLT is in fifth place on the list. The New Living Translation from Tyndale is the heir to the old “The Living Bible”, (better known in many evangelical circles as “The Dead Bible”) It’s now in its second version. The first NLT, several years ago, was much more of a paraphrase. The new one is more literal, and seems to be a more acceptable version for most Christians. I don’t know if these sales figures are for the second version exclusively, or if it includes any continuing sales of the first version as well.

Sixth is the inclusive-language TNIV, selling strongly and moving up the list, thanks to the Zondervan marketing machine. To be perfectly honest, it is a more accurate translation in many cases than the NIV, but its inclusive language will tend to hold it back among evangelicals.

Seventh is Eugene Peterson’s “The Message“, everybody’s favorite paraphrase of the Bible. The scriptures it’s not, but it’s proving to be extremely popular. I hope it means that the curious will be moved to try and find out what the Bible really says!

Eighth is the New Century Version. Who ever heard of it? Few people I’ve ever talked to have, but Max Lucado and Nelson are on the job with this one.

Number nine is my current favorite, the NASB. Holding its own, and staying on the list. Not bad for the most literal version.

Rounding out the top ten is Zondervan’s NIrV. It’s designed for children and people who don’t speak English very well…yet. I don’t think I’ve ever seen one of these, but it’s obvious somebody has!

Is your favorite on the top-ten list? If not, why not? And probably just as important, if it is on the list, why is it?