Norwegian Bible becomes national bestseller

(Photo: Courtesy Visitnorway.)Forgot again. Bible is best-seller in Norway renowned for the healthy lifestyle of its people.

A new version of the Bible in the Norwegian language is the northern nation's best-selling book for 2012.

The new Bible overtook the novel "Fifty Shades of Grey" to earn the top spot. It has sold almost 160,000 copies in a nation of five million.

The Norwegian Bible Society said on its website, "The Bible is the most sold and read book in the world, and the most important book in our culture."

It said the society will therefore "present The Word of God to people in a language they understand and at a price they can pay."

There have been many reasons offered as to why the Scriptures are suddenly a top-seller in one of the most secular nations in Europe.

One theory for the successful sales is that Norway's Bible Society marketed the new translation like a pop fiction novel, The Associated Press reported.

They gave out teasers before its release and packaged the Bible in a number of ways. For example, teenagers were targeted with pink leather or denim covers and adults with bridal or sophisticated literary covers.

Increased immigration to Norway is also a factor in the popularity of the Bible, according to Anne Veiteberg, publishing director of the Norway Bible Society.

More than 258,000 immigrants have moved to the nation in the last six years, according to AP. Although sixty percent of them are Christians, the number also includes those from other faiths, including Muslims, Buddhists, and Hindus.

"Now that we're exposed to other faiths, Norwegians have become more interested in their own faith," said Veiteberg.

Only one percent of Norwegians attend church regularly. The (Lutheran) Church of Norway was the official State religion until last year, when the Norwegian parliament unanimously decided to end that status.

The quiet and taciturn nature of the Nordic culture, where people prefer to participate in private outdoor activities in the mountains, fjords and forests, also contributed to the interest in the modern translation, said social anthropologist and post-doctoral fellow Thorgeir Kolshus of the University of Oslo.

"Church attendance is a poor measure of the Norwegian state of faith," he said. "Religion is a very private thing for Norwegians."

The 2010 Norwegian Monitoring Survey revealed that only 43 percent of respondents identified themselves as believers in God, according the Christian Post.

However, the same survey also showed that there has been an increase in the number of Norwegians (now 26 percent) who say they are practicing Christians.

In the midst of the growth in the sale of the new Bible, a biblical play at a prominent Oslo theatre also became popular.

The six-hour production, "Bibelen" just ended a three-month run. It attracted 16,000 people.

Erik Ulfsby, the artistic director of the theater which hosted the play said that even if Norwegians don't go to church, they still see the Bible as part of their literary heritage.

Authors and poets helped to make the translation readable for a modern audience. One of them, Karl Ove Knausgaard, said that "thoughts and images from the Bible still have an impact on how we experience reality."

The new Bible was released October, 2011. It replaced a 1978 edition.

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