Is one of Europe's most secular nations in the midst of a spiritual revival? It may be a stretch to predict just yet that Norway's five million citizens are turning back to God en masse. But the fact that a new Norwegian-language translation of the Bible has become a runaway bestseller in the country is causing many to wonder if there is a renewed interest in the Christian faith in the Scandinavian nation.
According to the Associated Press, the new edition of the Bible released in 2011 by the Norwegian Bible Society, which replaced a previous 1978 edition, has sold at least 160,000, making it by far the country's best-selling book. For the updated version the Bible's editors turned to national authors and poets “to make the text sing and resonate for a new generation,” reported AP. And they changed up some of the language, describing Mary, Jesus' mother, as a “young woman” rather than a virgin. (According to the AP, the “U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops also made this change in its latest Bible translation from 2011, saying the change didn't alter teaching about Mary, but was meant to address the possible different meanings of the Hebrew word 'almah' in the text.”)
“It's easier to read,” Helga Haugland Byfuglien, presiding bishop for the official Lutheran Church of Norway, conceded of the new translation. “There is no over-interpretation of the text.”
A strong marketing campaign also helped to give the updated Bible a needed push in the country, where the formerly official Church of Norway (Parliament took away its official status last year) says only one percent of residents regularly attend church. The new Bible is bound with pink or denim covers for teens and young adults, and with more sophisticated, literary-themed covers for older generations. The Norway Bible Society also “promoted the new translation like a pop fiction novel,” reported AP, “stirring anticipation by giving out teasers of biblical stories before its release.”
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