American Bible Society
Logo of the American Bible Society
American Bible Society (ABS) is an interconfessional, non-denominational, nonprofit Protestant organization, founded on May 11 in 1816 in New York City, which publishes, distributes and translates the Bible and provides study aids and other tools to help people engage with the Bible. Hillerbrand states that after 1816, it "rapidly evolved into one of the world's largest scripture production, distribution, and translation agencies. It worked tirelessly to promote pandenominational Protestant unity, served historically as a focal point for American missionary efforts, and developed innovative programs that sought to bring the Bible to a wider audience."
In collaboration with Barna, American Bible Society conducts annual research about The State of the Bible in America. Findings include statistics about:
- Americans’ beliefs about the Bible,
- The Bible’s role in society,
- The Bible’s presence in U.S. homes,
- Number of Bibles per household,
- Translation preferences,
- And more…
American Bible Society is probably best known for its Good News Translation of the Bible, with its contemporary vernacular and unique line drawings of Bible events with a snippet of text interspersed throughout the book. The line drawings were done by Annie Vallotton, a Swiss religious artist. They also publish the Contemporary English Version.
The stated mission of American Bible Society is to make the Bible available to every person in a language and format each can understand and afford, so all people may experience its life-changing message.
ABS is headquartered in New York City. Its headquarters building at 1865 Broadway houses an extensive museum of religious art and a 45,000 volume collection of Scriptures, making it the largest Bible museum in the western hemisphere and second largest in the world behind the Vatican.
The government of the Society is entrusted to a board of managers, one-fourth of whom retire from office each year, but are eligible for reelection. The number of Trustees shall be determined from time to time by resolution of the Board, but shall not be less than 18 nor more than 24, including the President. There are currently 20 members of the Board of Trustees. Laymen who were constituted directors for life before 1 June 1877, and ministers who are life members are authorized to attend the meetings of the board, with power to speak and vote.
American Bible Society was founded in 1816 by people who were committed to the word of God and to the end of slavery. The first President was Elias Boudinot, who was also President of the Continental Congress from 1782 to 1783. John Jay, the first Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, was named President in 1821 and a number of illustrious individuals like Frederick Theodore Frelinghuysen, Johns Hopkins University President Daniel Coit Gilman and Edwin Francis Hyde, a former president of the Philharmonic Society of New York, headed up the organization over the years. Francis Scott Key, the writer of the United States' National Anthem, was a Vice President of the organization from 1817 until his death in 1843.
The American Bible Society used the King James Bible, and indeed starting in 1858 appointed committees to be sure to avoid any textual corruption.
American Bible Society provided the first Bibles in hotels and the first pocket Bibles for soldiers (during the American Civil War). The first translation by the Bible Society was in 1818 into Lenape of Delaware, a Native American language.
In 1852 the Bible House was built, occupying the whole of the ground bounded by Third and Fourth Avenues, Astor Place and Ninth Street in New York City. By 1920, it was one of the oldest office buildings in the city.
One goal of the Bible Society is to reach the destitute of all classes and conditions. During the 19th century, four canvasses of the United States for this purpose were undertaken. These canvasses were begun in 1829, 1856, 1866 and in 1882. During the fourth canvass, begun in 1882, more than 6,300,000 families were visited, and 473,806 families were supplied with Bibles; in addition nearly 300,000 individuals received Bibles.
American Bible Society sold 437,000 Scriptures and portions in 1898 in China.
By 1912, the Society issued Bibles for use in the United States in 83 languages besides English. Foreign circulation was rising steadily, increasing from 250,000 copies in 1876 to over 2,000,000 copies in 1915.
American Bible Society celebrated a century of service to China in 1934. Vice President John R. Mott recalled that in 1833 the Society sent $3,000 to Dr. Elijah Coleman Bridgman, first U. S. Protestant missionary to China, to print scriptures in Chinese. As of 1934 the Society had spent $2,897,383 distributing nearly 70,000,000 volumes of Scripture in China.
In 1999, ABS launched its first major internet ministry, ForMinistry.com, a free church webbuilder. Since then, it has released many different ministry sites including ShareYourStoryNow.org (2006), which allows users to share stories of how the Bible has changed their life.
In the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, ABS distributed more than one million Scriptures and offered downloadable portions free of charge to those affected by the tragedy.
It has also maintained its commitment to military, including producing a pocket-sized military Bible, developed jointly with the aid of Catholic and Protestant chaplains from all branches of the armed forces.
It has also provided Scriptures to victims of natural disasters. Following the tsunami in 2004, ABS worked in cooperation with the United Bible Societies and partner Bible Societies in Thailand, Indonesia, India and Sri Lanka to provide a host of Bible resources to people in the affected regions. In 2005, it sent nearly a million Bibles and Scripture portions to those who survived the devastation of Hurricane Katrina.
In December 2006, along with Larry Jones and his group Feed the Children, ABS participated in the "largest food distribution effort" in the U.S.. More than 10,000 bundles of food were handed out in one day (consisting of a case of chicken, juices, fruits and vegetable) in Harlem, outside the Abyssinian Baptist Church on 138th Street. ABS handed out Bibles to all of the food recipients
Housed at ABS’s main headquarters in mid-town Manhattan in New York City is a Library that houses the largest collection of Bibles in the Western Hemisphere and a number of interesting and valuable editions of ancient and historic bibles dating back as far as the Gutenberg edition, of which ABS has several pages under protection.
The curator of the 45,000 volume collection is Dr. Liana Lupas, Ph. D. in classics from the University of Bucharest (Romania). The collection contains editions of scripture in every language, from many countries and regions and spanning nearly six centuries and is the second largest collection of religious books, with the Vatican the largest. ABS often finds and protects found scriptures, sometimes even buying them at auction. The Museum is open to the public, and Dr. Lupas provides tours of the facility.
In ABS’s Bible repository in South America, there are hundreds of thousands of random versions and editions of Bibles that it has collected over the years.
In 2010, ABS launched a new Bible Search tool, which is an ad-free web engine that searches across ten translations of the Bible and targets the "Bible curious" and Protestant, Catholic and Orthodox believers.
In 2013, after 8 months of service as President and CEO, Doug Birdsall was released by the ABS Board of Trustees  and was replaced by Roy Peterson.
In its 2010 tax filing, American Bible Society lists its total revenue as $67 million (2009 $42 million) and its net assets as $436 million (2009 $384 million).
- Bible Society
- Pony Express bible
- British and Foreign Bible Society
- Open Scripture Information Standard
- Protestant missionary societies in China during the 19th Century
- Wosh, Peter (1994). Spreading the Word. Ithaca: Cornell University Press. ISBN 978-0-8014-2928-6.
- Hans J. Hillerbrand, ed (2004). Encyclopedia of Protestantism. Routledge. p. 62.
- One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Rines, George Edwin, ed. (1920). "American Bible Society, The". Encyclopedia Americana.
- Gutjahr, Paul C. (1999). An American Bible: A History of the Good Book in the United States, 1777-1880. Stanford University Press. p. 89ff.
- The Chinese recorder and missionary journal, Volume 30. VOLUME XXX. Shanghai: American Presbyterian Mission Press. 1899. p. 371. Retrieved March 21, 2012. "20th century, which will begin its course in eighteen months from the present time. There is no sign of abatement in missionary enthusiasm. It will increase greatly during the next century, and the prospect is favourable in a very high degree. The victory which we anticipate for Christianity is the victory of the Word of God. Let me just refer to the results of Bible circulation during the last year. The British and Foreign Agency sold 728,000 portions of the Scriptures, and among these 32,000 New Testaments. The portions were a gain of twenty per cent over the numbers iu 1897 and the New Testaments were nearly two-thirds more than in that year. Whole Bibles and Old Testaments were one-fifth more than in the previous year. If we compare the circulation of the Scriptures now with what it was ten years ago it is fully five times as great. What cau the conservative party do when they are struggling to resist the progress of the Word of God? Let us break their bauds asunder, they say. Let us cast away their cords from ns. Bnt the Lord will have them in derision. He will break them in pieces as a potter's vessel. The American Bible Society also aided to a very gratifying extent the amount of Bible circulation. They number 437,000 Scriptures and portions sold during the past year. In all 1,165,000 is the amount of circulation for 1898, and a million for 1897. The Chinese have spent about §25,000 in buying the Scriptures and §22,500 iu buying the books of the Diffusion Society and of the Chinese Tract Society. The Mission Press, Shanghai, printed fortyfive million pages during last year. The missionary Conferences of the past year have been productive of much increase in spiritual devotedness on the part of those who have taken part in them. The visit of Mr. Iuwood, the representative from Keswick, was very much enjoyed. A great susceptibility was shown by the Chinese, especially in southern cities. The impression on Mr. Inwood's mind was very favourable. He saw signs of the presence of the Spirit of God attending the ministration of the Word of God. His words, translated for him into the local dialect, found their way to the hearts of the people. They felt the presence of the power of God. The revival spirit followed him to each new mission station, and the native Christians, with their pastors and the missionaries who superintend their churches they have founded, rejoiced in the time of refreshing from the presence of the Lord, which came to them as to others like a gracious rain of influence from above Such things make this year memorable in the history of the Missions. It reminds me of the visit of William Burns for a few short years in China. He was in heart and in zeal a revivalist. He had taken part in powerful revivals in Scotland and in Ireland. He came to China in 1847, and a few years later he"Original from Harvard University Digitized Aug 20, 2007
- "Jack O. Loftin, "Joseph Sterling Bridwell"". Texas State Historical Association online. Retrieved April 30, 2013.
- News Release
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