The Dutch Bible Society releases a study on the meaning, reading habits and impact of the Bible in the Netherlands.
The research, which was carried out for the first time also in Flanders, shows that 41% of Dutch adults consider themselves Christian, a drop of 2% compared to the same study in 2017.
However, “the perceived relevance of the Bible has slightly increased”, say the authors of the study, with almost a third of all respondents, both Christian and non-Christian, stating that the Bible is a relevant book for them, after a significant decline between 1996 and 2017.
Among the Christians respondents who find the Bible relevant (74%), 33% read it daily or at least once a week, 10% read it every month, and over 50% at least once a year, “which means that almost half of the Dutch Christians rarely or never open the Bible”.
Most of those who read it regularly (75%) still prefer to do it on paper, but the use of a digital edition of the Bible “has risen sharply”, from less than 10% in 2017 to 25% today.
[photo_footer]Among Dutch Christians, 12% say they read the Bible more during the pandemic but 8% less. / Graph: bijbelgenootschap.nl
The research points out that “the pandemic did not lead to a change in reading behaviour for most people (80%)”. However, the share of people who started reading more intensively is higher than those who do it less intensively (12% versus 8%), and a third of young people between 18 and 29, read the Bible more often than before the pandemic.
According to the study, the main motivation to read the Bible is that “it gives hope” (35%), closely followed by “it teaches me life lessons” (31%) and “helps me trust God” (30%).
Other motivations are that it gives them courage to go on (29%), it comforts them (29%) and it puts them in touch with God (28%).
When asked why and with whom do they open the Bible, the vast majority of people (71%) say they read it for their own faith building. Church activities or professional Bible use represent a quarter of the responses. Other reasons for reading are wanting to to look something up (30%) and that reading tha Bible was part of a church activity (23%).
There has also been a decline in the number of people who read the Bible in group, due to all the months that churches were close during the pandemic, and in those who read the Bible at home with their parents or children.
Those surveyed who read the Bible regularly recognise that they read less than they would like to, mainly because of a lack of time (26%), but also due to “contradictory message and difficulty in understanding the text” (24%, 20%); “the complicated language” (18%) and that “it determines what I can and cannot do” (12%).
[photo_footer]Those who do not use digital means to read the Bible (apps, internet, etc) are 52% now, compared to 69% in 2017. / Graph: bijbelgenootschap.nl
Meanwhile, non-Bible readers say there is no reason to read it (38%); they “don't know what to do with it (16%); it “has not of value for their daily life” (16%); “it is no longer relevant today” (16%); and “it interests them too little” (15%).
The study underlines that “those who do read the Bible generally experience its impact”. 4 out of 5 readers find the hope they are looking for in the Bible and feel connected to God.
Furthermore, it “influences the way you interact with others” and their decisions of “making sustainable choices, looking after the creation, and engaging in good causes”.
“Based on this conviction, we as the Dutch Bible Society continue to look for opportunities to bring the hopeful message of the Bible close to people today. This research strengthens us in the urgency of our work, and provides insight into needs and possible means and ways to carry out our mission”, concludes the director of the NBG, Rieuwerd Buitenwerf.
You can see the full study of the Dutch Bible Society (NBG) here (in Dutch).