From my longer reply to Niels Peter Lemche, due out tomorrow in Bible and Interpretation. Biblical scholars like to claim that the Bible is vitally important in the modern world, Lemche included, which of course inflates their own importance. I have been guilty of the same, especially when pitching for some cash. Not quite as important as we like to think, it seems:

Let me offer a few sobering statistics from a country close in demographics to Denmark (where Lemche teaches), namely, the Netherlands. If the Bible is read at all, it is by a highly educated, Protestant minority. (By contrast, if the poor read any scripture, it is the Qur’an.) Both possession and use of the Bible continue to decline sharply in what has been termed “Bible fatigue.” A paltry 13 percent of the Dutch population read the Bible on a regular basis. Further, 87 percent of those who do not read the Bible want to have nothing more to do with it. Of the dwindling group of those who read the Bible, only a quarter regard it as offering moral guidelines as to how one should live and act, and even fewer see it as a source of inspiration. And if we focus on that even smaller group of those who do seek inspiration, then they simply do not see the Bible’s central message as either world domination or transformation, a call to end inequality or poverty. Instead, they are interested in personal security, salvation, Jesus as the truth, Jesus as the light in the world, a handhold and a lesson for life.

Assuming we can extrapolate the Dutch results to Denmark, then Lemche is a scholar of a text that has appeal to a rapidly shrinking minority of wealthy Protestant individuals. Not quite the superstitious hordes rushing from the jungle to seize the world that Lemche imagines.

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