The first modern Bible society was founded in England in 1804 in
order to meet the need for affordable Bibles at home and overseas, including North America.The British
and Foreign Bible Society, as it was known, encouraged both the spread of God's Word and the formation
of other Bible societies to meet local and regional needs.
The first Bible Society in the United States was established in 1808 in Philadelphia; today it is known
as the Pennsylvania Bible Society*. By the end of 1809, Bible societies had been established
in Connecticut*, Massachusetts*, Maine*, New York** and New Jersey. They were soon joined by societies in
Maryland*, New Hampshire*, Vermont*, Rhode Island*, and other states and regions. Everywhere,
business, civic and religious leaders came together in the effort to place the Scriptures into every home
and school across the land. A list of Bible society founders reads like a "Who's Who"
of the early Republic.
By 1816 there were dozens of state and regional Bible
societies in the United States,bringing the need for corrdination in printing Bibles, and in
carrying the work into the West as well as overseas.Representatives of many of the state Bible societies joined
with others to establish the American Bible Society. Many state and regional societies entered
into "auxiliary" relationships with ABS, while maintaing their own structures and ministries.
As America expanded westward, new Bible societies were founded to
meet local needs. Among these were the Bible Society of Western New York and the Chicago Bible Society*.By
1900, there were hundreds of Bible societies across the U.S., organized at state, county and
city levels. Bible society missionaries, known as colporters, literally carried God's Word door to door,
ship to ship, and church to church to make Scriptures available to everyone.
State and regional Bible societies have been committed to serving the people and churches of their
local areas. They have especially reached out to the poor and the forgotten, and to the successive
waves of new neighbors, many of them non-English speakiing. Today, these Bible societies still work
at the local level.
In 1995, representatives of several original state Bible societies
met to renew their commitment to their common ministry to communities throughout the nation.
Their meetings resulted in the formation of the National Association of State and Regional Bible Societies
in June, 1996.
The Bible still remains the most important Book in
our nation, and it is from this book that we draw our values for life. Most Americans own a
Bible but many do not read it. Bible societies are therefore involved not only in distributing Scriptures,
but also in efforts to encourage the reading of God's Word and to help people understand
and apply it in their lives.
* denotes a member of NASRBS
became the International Bible Society,
with headquarters in Colorado Springs, CO;
a subsidiary New York Bible Society was a
charter member of NASRBS, but was later
closed by the parent organization.