For Scandinavians, a disaster verse is the most popular Bible text


European Union


English Bible. Photo AFP, Philip Fong

John 3:16 is the world's most popular Bible verse. In Scandinavia, however, people name Jeremiah 29:11 as their favourite text.

World Vision International conducted a worldwide survey for the most popular Bible verses. Of the world's 195 countries, they have found results from 172.

Many Norwegians probably have a close and personal relationship with this well-known verse writes the Norwegian Christian daily Dagen. What it actually means is probably not as well known.

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

Dagen, therefore, spoke with Knut Kåre Kirkholm. He is a theologian and an expert on the Old Testament. According to Kirkholm, Jeremiah 29:11 is part of the letter the prophet writes to the Jews who were exiled in captivity in Babylon. "This was God's judgment for the Jews. The Babylonian captivity is described elsewhere as a Sabbath rest for the land. Probably the country was to rest from all the sin that had been committed there."

For 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. - Jeremiah 29:11

According to Kirkholm, it may seem that the Jews could not accept their situation. And in this context, where the people have experienced God's judgment, almost everything has gone wrong, and the people wonder if God has abandoned them, Jeremiah 29:11 must be understood. "In this situation, God confirms that He has good thoughts for them. God's good thoughts do not always correspond to our imaginations. The Israelites thought they would soon return home. God said it would be 70 years before they would be allowed to return to their own land."


The journalist from Dagen wonders why such a disaster verse is so popular in one of the best countries to live in. According to Kirkholm, people struggle to a greater and greater extent with self-image and a lack of hope for the future. A verse like this can give them comfort, Kirkholm believes.

Worldwide, John 3:16, a verse about salvation, is the most popular. "Maybe we are so well off that we don't need salvation, but want comfort, future and hope", speculates Kirkholm.

The data of World Vision was quite inconclusive about other European countries. Jeremiah 29:11 was also the most popular verse in the Netherlands and Spain. The French listed John 3:16 on top. Hungary and Croatia named Joshua 1:9.

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. - Joshua 1:9


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