There are more than 31,000 verses in the Bible. If all of these verses were to enter a popularity contest, which one would win? Well, you can probably guess. But I’ll bet you can’t guess which verse would come second. Or third.
Below is a list of the seven most popular verses in the Bible. How did I compile this list? I did it by using the amazing power of technology. (Insert “oohs” and “ahhs” here.)
Inspired by a recent post by Cornel Marais, I came up with the idea of downloading a Bible onto Kindle to learn which verses had been highlighted most often by readers. You may not know this, but whenever you highlight a piece of text on a Kindle book, the Internet tells someone in the Amazon what you did – or something like that. The upshot is that if you read a book on Kindle, you can find out what other people have highlighted in that same book with the click of a button.
To learn which verses are most often higlighted, I chose the English Standard Version provided by Crossway Bibles since it’s the only free Bible available on Kindle. If you have 95 cents, you can repeat my experiment using the King Jimmy version and if you have six bucks, you can do it with the NIV. With my free Bible installed on Kindle for PC (also free), I clicked on the Popular Highlights button and hey presto! Here are the seven most highlighted passages in the Bible:
(1) John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. (729 highlighters)
No surprises here. Not only is this the best news in the world it’s a perennial favorite with sports-fans. Back in the day you could not watch a game of anything without spotting someone in the crowd holding a sign that said “John 3:16.” Then Steve Austin came along and things got a little confusing for a while – any wrestling fans out there? But Tim Tebow has since put things right again.
(2) Php 4:13 I can do all things do through him who strengthens me. (362)
This is another verse popular with athletes. I’ve seen Fijian rugby players wearing this one. This is surely one of the most practical scriptures in the Bible. At difficult times in my life I have put this verse in my pocket to remind me that I am not alone.
(3) Mat 6:33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. (271)
(4) Mat 6:34 Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. (264)
In 2000 years, no one has come up with a better remedy for anxiety and worry than this couplet from Jesus. To seek the kingdom is to seek the King and when you are resting in Jesus and His righteousness, the worries of life aren’t so… well, worrisome.
(5) Jer 29:11 I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. (236)
This is the number one verse in the Old Testament and from time to time it is rated the number one verse in the whole Bible. Last year, for instance, Jeremiah 29:11 was the top scripture accessed on Biblegateway.com. And why not – it’s a gem! It is God declaring His good intentions for us. In a world of bad news, this is the good news broadcast from heaven.
(6) Rom 8:28 We know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. (199)
Romans 8 is an absolute stunner of a chapter. If I was sent to jail and permitted just one chapter from the Bible, this would be the one I would take.
(7) Gen 1:27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. (144)
This last one’s seems to be an odd choice for me. I can think of about 100 verses I like better but the ESV readers have spoken and for them, this is number 7.
What’s missing from this list?
After reviewing the top scriptures searched in Biblegateway.com (their list is similar to this one), Colin Hansen, the editorial director at the Gospel Coalition, wrote a piece entitled “What’s missing?” In his view, the popular verses have too little emphasis on sin and wrath. This matters, said Mr. Hansen, because unless you know about sin, you won’t understand why Jesus did what He did on the cross.
I take his point, but I am not convinced. In a recent post I outlined what I consider to be the top 12 scriptures describing the new covenant. None of them mentioned sin for the simple reason that sin is a feature of the old covenant. I don’t live under that covenant so I don’t see the need to go around highlighting sin. I would rather highlight Jesus.
But what do you think? What verse do you think should be added to this list of all-time favorites?