“The low use of the Bible among Catholics and Protestants is surprising”

In Germany, only 1.6% read the Bible every day, although half of the population is a member of one of the historic churches.

Evangelical Focus

04 JULY 2023 · 11:00 CET

A German Bible translation. / Photo: <a target="_blank" href="https://unsplash.com/@hanneskrupinski">Johannes Krupinski</a>,
A German Bible translation. / Photo: Johannes Krupinski

Half of Germans (52%) have a Bible at home but most do not read it.

A new research published by the University of Leipzig (east of Germany) shows that only 1.6% of the population reads a portion of the Bible every day. In 2014, they were twice as many (3.1%).

3.2% say they read the Bible once a week, and one in ten open the ‘book of books’ once a year.

The research found that more men than women read the Bible. The first contact with Scripture usually happens in church contexts or in religious education at school. It is difficult to find population who starts reading the Bible for the first time after the age of 14.

These figures seem to confirm the perception of head of the German government, Olaf Scholz, who recently said he was “one of the few in Germany who has read the whole Bible”. Chancellor Scholz then went on to say he was not comfortable speaking in public about his personal faith or lack of it.


Low interest among mainline churches

In Germany, around half of the population is still a member of either the Roman Catholic Church or the Lutheran Protestant Church (Evangelische Kirche Deutschland). With this in mind, “it is surprising the low use of the Bible among Catholics and Protestants”, the researchers said.

A survey in 2019 found that only 67% of self-identified Protestants believed in the existence of God.

Faith minorities such as evangelical Christians members of free churches show a higher commitment to the Bible’s teachings and attend church more.


Not read but still influential

Those who do not read the Bible told the researchers they do not find the themes of the Bible relevant for their personal life (80% said so). Nevertheless, the researchers conclude the Christian Scripture is still seen as “as an important social legacy” in Germany.

90% of Bible readers and 63% of those who do not read it believe that the Bible transmits central norms and values for society. Among those who read it frequently, 46% believe that politics and public life should be founded on biblical values.


Digital and creative uses of the Bible

Gert Pickel, one of the researchers, suggested expanding the existing digital services related to the Bible, which are increasingly used by younger people. He could also imagine joint Bible reading sessions in church retirement homes, for example.

However, for now digital formats are not replacing the printed Bible. According to the study, about 11% of Bible readers frequently use the Bible as an e-book, as an app or on websites on the internet. The audio Bible is used frequently, especially by older respondents (9%).


Published in: Evangelical Focus - europe - “The low use of the Bible among Catholics and Protestants is surprising”

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