In a year when the world frequently felt like it was ending, maybe it’s no surprise that people went to the Bible for answers. Well, first they went online, and then they searched the Bible for answers. And some new data from Bible Gateway — the biggest online Bible tool out there — gives us a look at what people were searching for.
No real surprise but protests, pandemics and politics dominated the searches. Bible Gateway broke the trends down by four major themes: COVID-19, political news, social justice movements and, of course, “end times.”
End times searches saw a spike around events like the U.S.-Iran conflict early in the year, COVID-19 lockdowns and some news stories around a “cashless society.” Sure.
Way more interesting is the enormous spike in people looking up Bible verses about the killings of Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd. Bible Gateway noted that search terms like racism, justice, equality and oppression saw enormous jumps over the summer, leading to verses like “When justice is done, it brings joy to the righteous but terror to evildoers” (Proverbs 21:15) and “Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow” (Isaiah 1:17).
Pandemic was another major search term, with people looking up passages about disease, pestilence and plague. That led to verses like “Worship the LORD your God, and his blessing will be on your food and water. I will take away sickness from among you” (Exodus 23:25) and “Nevertheless, I will bring health and healing to it; I will heal my people and will let them enjoy abundant peace and security” (Jeremiah 33:6).
While those verses could be used to advocate for meeting as a church despite lockdown restrictions, people also searched for Bible verses about the government response to the pandemic. That brought up passages like “I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness” (1 Timothy 2:1-2) and “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God” (Romans 13:1), which encourage obedience and prudence.
But while it’s been a wild year, not everything has changed. John 3:16 and Jeremiah 29:11 were the top two most shared Bible verses of the year, just like they have been every year of the decade. Likewise, “love” and “peace” were the most searched words overall — just like normal. However, a new word came in third place this year: hope.