The Bible is central to the Christian faith, yet many Christians have not actually read the full text cover to cover. If you’re wondering how many Christians have read the Bible from start to finish, read on for a detailed analysis.
If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: research shows that only about 11-37% of Christians say they have read the entire Bible.
Defining Key Terms
Who Qualifies as a Christian
There are a few key qualities that generally define someone as a Christian:
- Professes faith in Jesus Christ – This means believing that Jesus is the Son of God and the savior of humanity.
- Baptized – Most Christian traditions baptize people to signify their faith and membership in the church.
- Active churchgoer – Regularly attends church services and participates in church activities.
- Seeks to follow Christ’s teachings – Strives to apply Jesus’ moral teachings on love, forgiveness, charity, etc. in their own life.
- Self-identifies as a Christian – Considers themselves a follower of Christ and part of the Christian faith.
However, the exact qualifications vary across denominations. Some have more rigid requirements than others for what constitutes an official “Christian.”
What Constitutes Reading the Bible
There are several degrees of Bible reading that could count:
- Reading extended passages – Spending time each day reading multiple chapters or books of the Bible in a continuous fashion.
- Daily devotional reading – Reading a selected Bible verse or short passage each day, often along with an accompanying meditation.
- In-depth study – Carefully studying a particular Bible passage or book and analyzing its meaning.
- Listening to audio recordings – Listening to the Bible being read aloud via recordings.
- Following along at church – Reading short passages referenced during a sermon or Bible study.
For statistical surveys, Bible reading is often defined as reading the Bible on one’s own at least 3-4 times per week for at least a few minutes at a time. However, any regular engagement with the Biblical text could reasonably qualify in a general sense.
Bible Reading Statistics
Self-Reported Bible Reading Rates
Multiple surveys and studies have attempted to quantify how many Christians actually read the Bible on a regular basis. According to a 2019 LifeWay Research survey, only 30% of Americans read the Bible daily. This number increased to 39% among practicing Christians specifically.
Another Barna survey found the percentage to be slightly higher – 43% among practicing Christians opening their Bibles on a regular basis.
There appear to be discrepancies between self-reported Bible reading rates and actual time spent reading Scripture. LifeWay found that 36% of those who identified as Christians said they read their Bible daily, but when asked how many days they had read the Bible in the past week, only 9% said they had actually read it every day.
This suggests many Christians may overreport their Bible reading frequency. Additional factors like Bible reading duration and comprehension also impact true Biblical literacy.
Factors Influencing Bible Reading Habits
Christians cite various reasons for their Bible reading frequency. The most common factors positively influencing engagement include participating in a small group Bible study (51%), using a Bible app (37%), and attending worship services regularly (35%).
Challenges impacting consistency include lacking time due to busy schedules (34%), lacking discipline or forgetting (19%), and struggling to understand Biblical passages (18%).
Other demographic elements also relate to varying degrees of Scripture interaction. For example, Bible reading rates tend to increase with age – only 17% of Christian millennials (born 1981-1996) read the Bible every day compared to 31% of Gen X and 48% of Baby Boomers.
Women open the Word more frequently than men across generations. Geography plays a role as well, with Bible Belt residence reading at higher rates than people residing on the West Coast of the U.S. Clearly, life stage, gender, region, life pace, comprehension ability and community engagement all contribute to Christians’ depth of Scripture familiarity.
Reasons Christians Don’t Read the Bible
Lack of Time
In today’s busy world, finding time to sit down and read the Bible can be a real challenge for Christians (Barna research). Long work hours, family commitments, church activities and other responsibilities often take priority.
According to a 2019 report, only 9% of Christians read the Bible daily even though 67% believe they should. Without a regular Bible reading routine, it’s no wonder Bible reading falls through the cracks for many believers.
While the Bible is a precious book, it is not always the easiest read. Parts of the Old Testament especially, with strange laws and customs, can confuse modern readers. Jesus also taught in parables open to interpretation. All this can make the Bible seem complex.
Additionally, differences in translation can alter the meaning of key passages. With challenging vocabulary and some bloody battle scenes, maintaining comprehension is not effortless. Is it any wonder some struggle to understand the Bible fully?
Continuing anything daily takes self-discipline – and reading the Bible is no exception. Starting the year fired up to read the Bible daily often leads to discouragement a few weeks or months later. Good intentions alone do not lead to changed behavior.
By February many Christians have fallen off the Bible reading bandwagon, according to this eye-opening survey. Without a plan to fight through boredom or confusion, keeping focused is an uphill battle.
Perhaps if Christians found connected ways to engage with God’s Word enthusiasm could be more lasting.
Tips for Reading the Bible
Set Aside Regular Time
Setting aside regular time each day to read a passage of the Bible is key to developing a healthy devotional life. Even 10-15 minutes per day allows you to systematically work through books of the Bible. Consistency breeds familiarity with the narratives, poetry, history, and themes of Scripture.
One helpful tip is to read the Bible first thing in the morning to start your day focused on God’s word and truths. Morning readers have shared that it provides encouragement and focus for everything else that follows throughout the busy day.
Another option is the lunch hour or an evening wind-down routine. Find a regular rhythm that works for your schedule.
Use Study Tools and Resources
Supplementing your reading with study tools and resources can greatly deepen your understanding of the Bible. Excellent online tools like BibleGateway.com and BibleStudyTools.com provide cross references, commentary, dictionaries, maps, and more to illuminate the meaning of passages.
Mobile apps like YouVersion also make study resources easily accessible. For group study, materials like the Navigators and InterVarsity topical and book-specific studies take you deeper with reflection questions.
Consider investing in an in-depth study Bible as well, with annotations and references conveniently printed on the pages with the biblical text. Resources to dig deeper will make your reading more meaningful.
Join a Bible Study Group
Studying the Bible in community with other believers allows you to glean additional insights, share perspectives, find encouragement, and keep one another accountable. According to a 2021 Barna report, 36% of practicing Christians participate in some form of small group for Bible reading or study.
Groups meet at churches, coffee shops, homes, and even online to discuss and reflect on passages together. You can join an existing group at your church, or gather a group of friends interested in studying a particular book or topic together.
Setting group expectations around confidentiality, non-judgement, and listening well to one another is important. The shared wisdom and fellowship make group Bible study impactful.
While the Bible is foundational for Christianity, statistics show that a minority of Christians have actually read the entire text. Lack of time and difficulty understanding are common barriers. Setting aside regular reading time, using study resources, and joining a Bible study group can help more Christians achieve the goal of reading God’s complete Word.