AT A special meeting held in Nagoya, Japan, on April 28, 2013, Anthony Morris of the Governing Body made a thrilling announcement: the release of a new publication in Japanese entitled The Bible—The Gospel According to Matthew. Over 210,000 attended the meeting in person or by video tie-line. After they heard the announcement, the audience expressed their joy by applauding for a long time.
This edition of Matthew’s Gospel was reprinted from the New World Translation. However, this 128-page book is unique. Brother Morris explained that it was designed to help people in the Japanese territory. What is different about this book? Why was it needed? And how have people responded?
WHAT IS DIFFERENT ABOUT THIS BOOK?
Many people were surprised by the format of Matthew. Japanese characters can be set vertically or horizontally, and the text in many printed items, including our publications, is set horizontally. However, the text in this new book was set vertically, similar to the style of many Japanese newspapers and other literature. For many Japanese people, this style is easier to read. Also, the headings that are usually at the top of the page were moved into the text as subheadings in order to help the readers see the main points more easily.
The brothers and sisters in Japan began to read Matthew right away. A sister in her 80’s said: “I have read the book of Matthew many times before, 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 TERRITORY
Why is this single Bible book especially useful in the Japanese territory? Although many Japanese people do not know much about the Bible, they are willing to read it. Many who have never seen a Bible will now have a chance to hold a section of it in their hands and read it.
Why was the book of Matthew chosen? When most Japanese hear the word “Bible,” they think of Jesus Christ. So the book of Matthew was chosen because it includes an account of Jesus’ family line and birth, his famous Sermon on the Mount, and his dramatic prophecy about the last days. These are all subjects that interest many Japanese people.
Publishers in Japan zealously started to offer this new book from house to house and on return visits. One sister wrote: “I now have more opportunities to place God’s Word with the people in our territory. In fact, I was able to place a copy of Matthew on the very afternoon of the special meeting!”
HOW HAVE PEOPLE RESPONDED?
How do publishers present this new book? Many Japanese people know expressions such as “the narrow gate,” “pearls before swine,” and “never be anxious about the next day.” (Matthew 6:34; 7:6, 13) They are surprised to learn that these are words of Jesus Christ. When they see these words in Matthew, many say: “I have always wanted to read the Bible at least once.”
When publishers return to visit those who accepted a copy of Matthew, householders often say that they immediately read some or even 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 also offered in public witnessing. While preaching, a Witness gave her e-mail address to a young woman who accepted the book. One hour later, the woman e-mailed the sister and said that she had read part of the book and wanted to know more. One week later, the woman had her first Bible study, and soon she started to attend meetings.
More than 1,600,000 copies of Matthew have been shipped to congregations in Japan. Each month, the Witnesses are giving tens of thousands of copies to people. The foreword to this edition expresses the feelings of the book’s publishers by saying: “We sincerely hope that reading this volume will deepen your interest in the Bible.”