AT A special meeting held in Nagoya, Japan, on April 28, 2013, Anthony Morris of the Governing Body surprised the audience with a thrilling announcement—the release of a new publication in Japanese entitled The Bible—The Gospel According to Matthew. The over 210,000 present in person or via Webcast responded with prolonged applause.
Reprinted from the New World Translation in Japanese, this 128-page edition of Matthew’s Gospel is unique. Brother Morris explained that it was designed “to meet the needs of the Japanese field.” What features does this Bible book have? Why was it prepared? And how has it been received?
WHAT FEATURES DOES IT HAVE?
The format of Matthew was a surprise to the audience. Japanese characters can be set vertically or horizontally, and quite a few printed items—including our recent publications—have been set horizontally. However, the text in this new publication is set vertically, using a layout style popular in Japanese newspapers and literary works. Many Japanese readers consider this to be an easy-to-read style. Additionally, the page headings were moved into the text as subheadings so that the readers can easily see the main points.
The brothers and sisters in Japan promptly took advantage of the features of Matthew. “I have read the book of Matthew many times before,” said a sister in her 80’s, “but the vertical style and the subheadings helped me to understand the Sermon on the Mount more fully.” One young sister wrote: “I read through Matthew in one sitting. I am used to the horizontal style, but many Japanese people prefer the vertical composition.”
DESIGNED FOR THE JAPANESE FIELD
Why would this single Bible book especially meet the needs of the Japanese field? Though many Japanese people are unfamiliar with the Bible, they are willing to read it. This version of Matthew’s Gospel will give those who have never seen a Bible an opportunity to hold a portion of this sacred volume in their hands and read it.
Why was the book of Matthew chosen? To most Japanese, the word “Bible” calls to mind Jesus Christ. So the book of Matthew was selected because it contains a record of Jesus’ genealogy and birth, his famous Sermon on the Mount, and his dramatic prophecy about the last days—subjects that will interest many Japanese people.
Kingdom publishers in Japan zealously began distributing this new publication from house to house and on return visits. “I now have more opportunities to place God’s Word with the people in our territory,” wrote one sister. “In fact, I was able to place a copy of Matthew on the very afternoon of the special meeting!”
HOW HAS IT BEEN RECEIVED?
How do publishers introduce Matthew? Many Japanese householders are familiar with such expressions as “the narrow gate,” “pearls before swine,” and “never be anxious about the next day.” (Matt. 6:34; 7:6, 13) They are surprised to learn that these are the words of Jesus Christ. On seeing these words in Matthew’s Gospel, many respond: “I have always wanted to read the Bible at least once.”
When publishers make return visits on those who accepted Matthew, householders often say that they immediately read some, if not all, of it. A man in his 60’s told one publisher: “I read it many times over and was comforted. Please teach me more about the Bible.”
Matthew is being featured in public witnessing. While sharing in that activity, a Witness gave her e-mail address to a young woman who accepted Matthew. One hour later, the woman e-mailed the sister, saying that she had read part of the Bible book and wanted to know more. One week later, she had her first Bible study, and she soon started attending meetings.
Over 1,600,000 copies of The Bible—The Gospel According to Matthew have been shipped to congregations in Japan, and each month, the Witnesses are placing tens of thousands of them. The foreword to this edition expresses the sentiments of its publishers by stating: “We sincerely hope that reading this volume will deepen your interest in the Bible.”