20th Century

Fueled by new ways of spreading the Gospel, this was the Century where evangelism kicked in big time. With the world becoming affluent enough that printing services were readily available and affordable, many denominations and individual ministries distributed billions of Bible tracts in hundreds of languages. Beginning in the 1950's Churches started looking to radio as a means of evangelism, and many large ministries were born on the airwaves. This was followed about 30 years later with the rise of "televangelists". Supported by a large number of new UHF and Cable channels, there were hundreds of TV Preachers on the air by the end of the 1900's.


American Standard Version of the Bible is first released.  It was a revision of the English Revised Version that had been published 15 years earlier. Although a very scholarly work, it never achieved great popularity, partly because the language was in old-style Elizabethan English, and partly because of its literal translation (for example, the word "Lord" in the King James Version was translated "Jehovah" or "Yahweh", which made some well-known scriptures sound really strange.)    [Read more ...]


First edition of the Scofield Reference Bible is published.  This widely-circulated King James study Bible, edited and annotated by Cyrus I. Scofield, had several innovative features. The most notable of these were the massive amount of notes, cross references and commentary that were printed along side the text. This Bible became the premier study Bible for most mainline Protestants well into the mid-20th Century. Although it has been replaced by more-modern study Bibles here in America, it is still consistently the best selling edition in the United Kingdom and Ireland.    [Read more ...]


Mother Teresa, Catholic sister and missionary, is born.  Having great sympathy for the poor and homeless, she founded the Missionaries of Charity, which in 2012 consisted of over 4,500 sisters and was active in 133 countries. The organization runs hospices and homes for people with HIV/AIDS, leprosy and tuberculosis; soup kitchens; dispensaries and mobile clinics; children's and family counseling programs; orphanages; and schools. Mother Teresa received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979.    [Read more ...]


Billy Graham is born in North Carolina.  He is well-known throughout America as an evangelist who held large indoor and outdoor rallies and whose sermons and open-air meetings are still being broadcast on radio and television. He was also spiritual advisor to Presidents Eisenhower, Johnson and Nixon. Today most of Graham's evangelistic work is done by his son Franklin.    [Read more ...]


Scopes Monkey Trial is held in Dayton, Tennessee.  This was a legal case where substitute high school teacher John Scopes was accused of teaching human evolution in a state-funded school. The trial took place outdoors due to the heat. The State's position was argued by William Jennings Bryan, three-time presidential candidate. Well-known attorney Clarence Darrow presented the defense. Amid much publicity this trial was considered a fight between Creationism and Evolution. In the end Scopes was found guilty and fined $100, but the verdict was later overturned.    [Read more ...]


Wycliffe Bible Translators is founded by William Cameron Townsend.  It was named after John Wycliffe, who was responsible for the first complete English translation of the Bible back in the 1300's. With a goal of seeing the Bible translated into every language that needed it, this predominantly-Protestant organization now includes over 100 member organizations from over 60 countries. Since their founding, Wycliffe translators have played a part in completing more than 700 Scripture translations.    [Visit their Website]


The Dead Sea Scrolls are discovered in Israel.  This event rocked the religious and archeological world. Almost 1,000 texts dating around the 1st Century were found inside caves near the northwest shore of the Dead Sea. Many of these scrolls contained the earliest-known manuscripts of the Hebrew Bible — in some cases, 1,000 years older than previous copies. The Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic texts were written on parchment, papyrus, and bronze. The scrolls are typically associated with the ancient Jewish sect called the Essenes.    [Visit the Website]


The World Council of Churches is founded.  This inter-church organization's membership includes most mainstream Christian churches. The Catholic Church is not a member, but it sends accredited observers to the meetings. The organization describes itself as "a worldwide fellowship of global, regional and sub-regional, national and local churches seeking unity, a common witness and Christian service."    [Read more ...]


The Catholic Doctrine of the Assumption of Mary is defined by Pope Pius XII.  Before half a million people, the Pope declared "The Immaculate Mother of God, the ever-virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory."    [Read more ...]


The Second Vatican Council is convened by Pope John XXIII.  It was held to address relations between the Roman Catholic Church and the modern world. Among its more far-reaching decisions was to allow the mass to be spoken in either Latin or the native tongue (for us, that's English), and to accept Protestants as "separated brethren". (Back in the 16th Century, Protestants were just called "heretics".)    [Read more ...]


The Living Bible is published.  Unlike previous English Bibles, this work was a paraphrase, instead of a literal word-for-word translation. It was the work of Kenneth N. Taylor, who used the American Standard Version of 1901 as his base text. Because of its easy-reading and conversational style, it became popular among evangelical Churches. Taylor assigned the copyright to Tyndale House Foundation, so that all the royalties from sales of The Living Bible would be given to charity.    [Read more ...]


The Jesus Film Project distributes the film "Jesus".  This 2-hour docudrama about the life of Christ is based on the Gospel of Luke. The film has been seen in almost every country of the world and translated into hundreds of languages. Since its release, this powerful film has had several billion viewings worldwide. Multi-language DVDs of the film are still being distributed.    [Watch the Film]


Jim Bakker, televangelist and host of TV's PTL Club, is convicted on multiple fraud charges and incarcerated.  (It didn't help that there were several internal scandals too.) This became a "watershed moment" for those with radio and TV ministries. It became painfully clear that their internal operations needed to be "squeeky clean" and open — at least to the government. Bakker was released on parole on 1994, and 2 years later wrote a book about the experience titled "I was Wrong". Today he's back on the airwaves — still going strong.