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published: 9/6/13

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American Bible Society

What is American Bible Society?

American Bible Society (ABS) is an interconfessional, non-denominational, nonprofit 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.

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.

Manhattan headquarters

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, consisting of 36 laymen, one-fourth of whom retire from office each year, but are eligible for reelection. 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.

The current president of American Bible Society is Dr. S. Douglas Birdsall, who served previously as the executive chairman of The Lausanne Movement and the founding director of the J. Christy Wilson Jr. Center for World Missions at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary.


19th Century

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 and later Director of the U.S. Mint.

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.

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 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.

20th Century

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,, a free church webbuilder. Since then, it has released many different ministry sites including (2006), which allows users to share stories of how the Bible has changed their life.

21st Century

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.


"American Bible Society" Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (with minor edits), under GFDL.