By Aaron Earls
Bible Gateway noted four themes that were unusually prominent in Bible searches during 2020: pandemic, social, political, and end times.
Searches for pandemic related terms, such as disease, pestilence, and plague, spiked in March when lockdowns and quarantines related to COVID-19 first began closing events and businesses.
Key verses filling those searches were Exodus 23:25 (“Serve the Lord your God, and he will bless your bread and your water. I will remove illnesses from you.”) and Jeremiah 33:6 (“Yet I will certainly bring health and healing to it and will indeed heal them. I will let them experience the abundance of true peace.”).
After video of Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd’s killings went viral, thousands of Americans took to the streets in protest and many turned to the Bible as well. Early summer Scripture searches were dominated by topics like justice, equality, racism, and oppression.
Readers took solace in verses like Proverbs 21:15 (“Justice executed is a joy to the righteous but a terror to evildoers.”) and Isaiah 1:17 (“Learn to do what is good. Pursue justice. Correct the oppressor. Defend the rights of the fatherless. Plead the widow’s cause.”).
A presidential election year with significant discussion about proper governmental response to the pandemic and police killings meant more people were searching Scripture for what the Bible says about praying for leaders and government authority.
Popular verses were 1 Timothy 2:1-2 (“First of all, then, I urge that petitions, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for everyone, for kings and all those who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity.”) and Romans 13:1 (“Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.”).
While biblical searches for end times topics didn’t spike as high as the other topics, several events throughout 2020 brought an uptick in interest. Many were looking for topics like signs of the end times and end of the world.
Readers found verses like 2 Timothy 3:1 (“But know this: Hard times will come in the last days.”) and Matthew 24:36 (“Now concerning that day and hour no one knows—neither the angels in heaven nor the Son—except the Father alone.”).
The Bible verses read and shared most often in 2020 are the same they have been for at least the last decade—John 3:16 and Jeremiah 29:11. The third most popular verse, 2 Chronicles 7:14, shot up from 51st in 2019. Last year’s third most popular verse, Philippians 4:13, fell to 12th in 2020.
“Love” and “peace” remained the two most popular search terms, but both “hope” and “fear” saw increases this year. Hope moved from 5th to 3rd, while fear climbed from 13th to 6th.
Fear and God’s presence with us in the midst of it also drove users of YouVersion. The most popular verse of 2020 both in the United States and among all users of the Bible App around the world was Isaiah 41:10 (“Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be afraid, for I am your God. I will strengthen you; I will help you; I will hold on to you with my righteous right hand.”).
“This has been a challenging year with many people facing devastating loss, loneliness, and fear,” said YouVersion founder Bobby Gruenewald. “While 2020 is a year so many say they’d like to forget, we see it as a year to remember how God used the Bible App to help so many people who are searching for answers. Through every hardship, people continue to seek God and turn to the Bible for strength, peace, and hope.”
YouVersion reported nearly 600 million searches on the app in 2020, an 80% increase over 2019.
Like visitors to Bible Gateway, Bible App users also searched for timely topics throughout 2020. As COVID-19 began spreading in the U.S., the top search was “fear.” As the pandemic wore on, “peace,” “hope,” and “faith” began to grow in popularity. At several points throughout the summer, “justice” rose to the top.
“These top search terms really show what’s been weighing on the hearts and minds of people around the world at key points throughout the year,” said Gruenwald. “They reveal how people are seeking God as they wrestle with the difficult circumstances they’ve faced in 2020, and that’s something we can celebrate.”
Aaron is the senior writer/editor at LifewayResearch.com.