Written by: Richard Ostling
Article source: religionunplugged.com

BibleGateway.com, which claims to be “the world’s most-visited Christian Website,” recently posted articles about the themes, words and sentences that dominated 2020 scriptural searches. This site provides searchable full texts of dozens of English translations of the Bible as well as in many other languages.

The Gateway data have been noticed by editors at a handful of religious sites but not, so far as I could find, outlets for general audiences that would also be interested.

The story could be enriched beyond the initial press releases by asking Gateway content manager Jonathan Petersen (616-656-7159 and jonathan.petersen@biblegateway.com) for more details on the number of people who searched for each item and how trends have varied over recent years.

A few specifics to get you thinking about this. Four subject areas generated 10 times more searches in 2020 than 2019.

First, societal-related terms such as justice, equality, oppression and racism. The results directed searchers to such verses as “when justice is done it brings joy to the righteous, but terror to evildoers” (Proverbs 21:15) and “learn to do right; seek justice; defend the oppressed” (Isaiah 1:17).

Second, “pandemic” and disease-related terms hit a high point during the spring lockdown, with searches pointing to “I will take away sickness from among you” (Exodus 22:25) and “I will bring health and healing” (Jeremiah 33:6).

Theme three was politics and government. Bible references included the urging of prayers “for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness” (1 Timothy 2:1-2) and the perpetually debated “let everyone be subject to the governing authorities” (Romans 13:1f).

Fourth, there was the inevitable increase of interest in Bible prophecy, Jesus Christ’s Second Coming and the end times. Here searches turned up Jesus’ teaching that “about that day or hour no one knows” (Matthew 24:36) and the warning in 2 Timothy 3:1-5 that “there will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God …”

Each year for the past decade one Bible verse was read and shared the most often on Gateway. No surprise that it is this: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

Your audience might be surprised that through the decade this has been equally consistent as the second most popular verse: “For I know the plans I have for you, says the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil to give you a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11).

Six of the favorite verses came from only one chapter, the beloved 23rd Psalm. The other two in the top 10 were 2 Chronicles 7:14 (“If my people, who are called by name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways…”) and Romans 8:28 (“We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him…”).

The most popular word searches in 2020, as they’ve been year after year, were “love” and “peace,” but in 2020 “hope,” which was in fifth place the preceding two years, moved up to number three. Rounding out the 2020 top ten we find joy, faith, fear, pray, heart, light, and spirit.

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Date published: 12/01/2021
Feature image: Image for illustrative purposes only.

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