A very familiar book has made its way onto Norway's list of bestselling books in 2011.
In October of last year, the Norwegian Bible Society (NBS) released new translations of the Good Book in the two most popular Norwegian languages, “bokmål” and “nynorsk,” after 12 years of work. All that work seems to have paid off, as around 80,000 copies have been sold over the course of just a few months.
But the overwhelming response to the new Bible, which is the first new Norwegian translation in 30 years, was completely unexpected, Stine Smemo Strachan of the NBS told The Guardian. They originally printed 25,000 copies that were expected to last up to nine months, Strachan said, but in less than three months, 79,000 copies were gobbled up by consumers.
Strachan described the sales success of the Bible as “incredible” and “a bit ironic seeing that the content has been available for quite some time now.”
"It certainly can't just be actively religious Christians who are buying it because it just wouldn't make these numbers," he said.
He also indicated that the Oslo bombings and the Utoya shooting massacre that occurred in Norway during the summer of 2011 made a significant impact on the country, but those events aren't likely to be the main cause of interest in the new Bible translations. The book's sales success, he says, is a “cultural event” and has more to do with “its readability.”
The new translations, which began only as slight revisions in 1999 before growing into a total overhaul, were completed with the help of three full-time translators, theologians, Greek and Hebrew scholars and professional authors from Norway who served as language experts, NBS General Secretary Stein Mydske explains in an article on the organization's website.
To promote the new translations, Mydske wrote, three marketing experts also worked on a volunteer basis for a year and a half to see how they could best generate a widespread appeal for the Bible.
It appears they have done something right. In addition to its outstanding sales, people actually camped outside of bookstores as they awaited the midnight or early morning release of the new translations on Oct. 19, 2011.
The Church of Norway is the official religion of the Norwegian government, but Norwegians are given the right to practice whatever religion they choose. According to the government's website, eight out of 10 Norwegians belong to the Church of Norway, though only 10 percent of the population attends church services or Christian meetings more than once a month.
The NBS belongs to a bigger organization called United Bible Societies (UBS), an organization made up of 146 national Bible societies that operate in over 200 countries and territories around the world.
On Dec. 30, UBS posted the following to its Facebook account, “Norway: The most important event for us this year is the launch of the new Bible translation in our two main languages. Through this translation we hope to reach new groups of people and challenge them to read and listen to the Word of God. Pray that we will be able to collaborate closely with all Churches in both promoting the new Bible and helping people to interact with it.”