By Marissa Postell
Last year people turned to Scripture in record-setting numbers, and Bible engagement remained high throughout 2021. This month, BibleGateway and YouVersion released their 2021 year-in-review reports, revealing top verses and trends on these digital Bible platforms.
Although some of the challenges of 2021 have been different from the difficulties of 2020 and life seems to be returning to the pre-pandemic norm in some places, people are still walking through difficult circumstances. Many continue to turn to Scripture more frequently now than before the COVID-19 pandemic began last year.
“We’re encouraged to see high levels of Bible engagement again this year because it means people are turning to God and the Bible for answers to their questions,” YouVersion founder Bobby Gruenewald said. “Even our Verse of the Year points to the heart of the YouVersion Community to seek God and know Him more.”“We’re encouraged to see high levels of Bible engagement again this year because it means people are turning to God and the Bible for answers to their questions." — @bobbygwald of @YouVersion Click To Tweet
YouVersion’s 2021 Verse of the Year (the verse shared, bookmarked, and highlighted most often throughout the year) is Matthew 6:33 which says, “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you” (CSB).
Beginning in March 2020 at the start of the pandemic, Bible engagement on YouVersion increased by 10% and continued to rise in the following weeks. In 2021, Monday through Saturday engagement was still up by 24% compared to pre-pandemic levels.
“Coming off of a record year in 2020, we’re excited to see that so many people are continuing the daily Bible engagement habits they created last year,” said Gruenewald. “They’re engaging past that initial moment of need and digging deeper to strengthen their relationship with God.”
In 2021 alone, the YouVersion Community:
- Read 55.8 billion chapters
- Played 8.2 billion audio chapters
- Created 2.4 billion highlights, bookmarks, and notes
- Completed 1.4 billion Bible plan days
Although the most popular verses on Bible Gateway don’t change significantly from year to year, their 2021 report focused on some of the verses that gained and lost the most traffic compared to last year.
Last year, themes of pandemic, social, political, and end times were unusually prominent in Bible searches. Some verses related to these themes fell dramatically in 2021. Verses such as Isaiah 26:20-21, 2 Chronicles 7:13-15, Matthew 24:7, John 16:22, and Proverbs 22:3 were searched anywhere from 52-92% fewer times than they were last year.Verses emphasizing faithfulness and unity including Deuteronomy 11:18-20, Jeremiah 3:22 and Zechariah 3:10 gained 172-296% more traffic in 2021 at @BibleGateway. Click To Tweet
Other verses saw significantly higher traffic this year on Bible Gateway than they did last year. Among these were verses emphasizing faithfulness and unity including Deuteronomy 11:18-20, Jeremiah 3:22, and Zechariah 3:10, which gained 172-296% more traffic this year than last.
The verses that saw the most dramatic increases in traffic this year related to public controversies. Luke 10:18 saw a 518% increase on Bible Gateway after rapper Lil Nas X released his “Satan shoes” in March. This verse quotes Jesus saying, “I watched Satan fall from heaven like lightning” (CSB).
Leviticus 13:45-46, which references infected people covering their faces, rose 626% when it was associated with encouraging mask wearing and cited as an example of mask wearing and quarantining in the Bible.Verses tied to controversies saw the largest jumps at @BibleGateway in 2021. Luke 10:18 jumped 518% after a rapper released "Satan shoes" that included the reference, while Leviticus 13:45-46 rose 626% as it mentions face coverings. Click To Tweet
The search term that saw the biggest increase in traffic in 2021 also got a major boost from pandemic debates. The search word “sorceries” or “sorcery” saw an increase of 193% over 2021. This increase came as some Christians used the lexical connection between the root Greek word for sorcery “pharmakeia” and the modern English word “pharmaceuticals” to claim the Bible warned about vaccines, particularly the COVID-19 vaccine.
Meanwhile, the search terms “pestilence,” “plague,” and “disease” saw a 71% decrease in traffic this year, and the search terms “in this world you will have trouble” and “be not afraid” decreased by 62%.
Here are the top 10 most popular Bible verses on Bible Gateway in 2021:
Some of these verses hold the same spot on the most popular Bible verses list as they did last year. Others have shifted slightly. Of these, Romans 12:2 which says, “Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God,” made the most significant change this year moving from 16th to 5th.Matthew 6:33, @YouVersion’s verse of the year, ranked 11th on @BibleGateway’s list of most-popular Bible verses in 2021. Click To Tweet
Matthew 6:33, YouVersion’s verse of the year, ranked 11th on Bible Gateway’s list of most-popular Bible verses in 2021.
Marissa is the managing editor for LifewayResearch.com.