1, 2. (a) In the first century, what helped to spread the good news throughout the Roman Empire? (b) What evidence do we have of Jehovah’s backing in our time? (See the box “Good News in More Than 670 Tongues.”)
VISITORS to Jerusalem could hardly believe what they were hearing. Galileans were speaking foreign languages fluently, and the message they were conveying captivated their listeners. It was Pentecost 33 C.E., and the disciples had miraculously received the gift of speaking in various languages
2 Today, God’s servants do not miraculously speak in various languages. Even so, covering far more languages than in the first century, they translate the Kingdom message into over 670 languages. (Acts 2:9-11) God’s people have produced literature in such vast quantities and in so many languages that the Kingdom message has penetrated every corner of the globe. * This too is unmistakable evidence that Jehovah is using the King Jesus Christ to direct our preaching work. (Matt. 28:19, 20) As we review just some of the tools we have used to accomplish this work over the past 100 years, note how the King has progressively trained us to be interested in individuals and has encouraged us to be teachers of God’s Word.
The King Equips His Servants to Plant Seeds of Truth
3. Why do we use a variety of tools in our preaching work?
3 Jesus likened the “word of the Kingdom” to seeds and a person’s heart to soil. (Matt. 13:18, 19) Just as a gardener may use a variety of tools to soften the soil and prepare it to receive seed, Jehovah’s people have used a variety of tools that have helped them prepare the hearts of millions to receive the Kingdom message. Some of those tools were useful for a limited time. Others, such as books and magazines, continue to do valuable work. Unlike most of the methods of mass communication mentioned in the preceding chapter, all the tools discussed here have helped Kingdom publishers contact people face-to-face.
4, 5. How were phonograph records used, but what did they lack?
4 Recorded talks. In the 1930’s and into the 1940’s, publishers used recorded Bible lectures played on portable phonographs. Each recording lasted less than five minutes. Sometimes the records had short titles, such as “Trinity,” “Purgatory,” and “Kingdom.” How were those records used? Brother Clayton Woodworth, Jr., who was baptized in 1930 in the United States, said: “I carried a little suitcase-type phonograph, spring wound, with a portable arm that I had to set in just the right position at the edge of the record if it was to play properly. I would approach a door, open the case, set the arm in place, and push the doorbell. When the householder opened the door, I would say, ‘I have an important message I would like you to hear.’” What was the response? “Many times,” says Brother Woodworth, “the person responded favorably. At other times, people just shut the door. Occasionally, they thought that I was selling phonographs.”
5 By 1940, over 90 different recorded talks were available and over a million records had been made. John E. Barr, who was pioneering in Britain at that time and who later served on the Governing Body, said: “During the years 1936 to 1945, a phonograph was my constant companion. In fact, in those days I felt lost without one. To hear Brother Rutherford’s voice at the doorstep was ever so encouraging; it felt as though he were there in person. Of course, phonograph work still lacked the teaching aspect of the ministry, the ability to touch the hearts of people.”
6, 7. (a) What were the benefits and the limitations of using testimony cards? (b) In what sense has Jehovah ‘put words in our mouths’?
6 Testimony cards. Beginning in 1933, publishers were encouraged to use testimony cards in their door-to-door ministry. A testimony card was about three by five inches (7.6 by 12.7 cm) in size. It contained a brief Bible message and a description of Bible-based literature that the householder could obtain. A publisher would simply hand the card to the householder and ask him to read it. “I welcomed the testimony card work,” said Lilian Kammerud, who eventually served as a missionary in Puerto Rico and Argentina. Why was that? “Not all of us could give a good presentation,” she said. “So it helped me get accustomed to approaching people.”
7 Brother David Reusch, who was baptized in 1918, observed, “Testimony cards helped the brothers, for very few felt that they were able to say the right thing.” This tool had its limits, though. “Sometimes,” said Brother Reusch, “we met people who thought we could not speak. In a sense, many of us were not able to speak. But Jehovah was preparing us to meet the public as his ministers. Soon he would put words in our mouth by teaching us to use the Scriptures at the door. This was accomplished through the Theocratic Ministry School that began in the 1940’s.”
8. How can you allow Christ to train you?
8 Books. Since 1914, Jehovah’s people have produced over 100 different books that discuss Bible topics. Some of those books were specifically designed to train publishers to be effective ministers. Anna Larsen, in Denmark, who has been a publisher for some 70 years, says: “Jehovah helped us to be more effective publishers by means of the Theocratic Ministry School and the associated books we received. I remember that the first of those books was the Theocratic Aid to Kingdom Publishers, released in 1945. It was followed by “Equipped for Every Good Work,” published in 1946. Now we have Benefit From Theocratic Ministry School Education, published in 2001.” Certainly, the Theocratic Ministry School and related books have played a key role as Jehovah has “adequately qualified us to be ministers.” (2 Cor. 3:5, 6) Are you enrolled in the Theocratic Ministry School? Do you bring the Ministry School book to the meeting each week and follow along as the school overseer refers to it? If you do, you will be allowing Christ to train you to be a better teacher.
9, 10. What role have books played in planting and watering seeds of truth?
9 Jehovah has also assisted us by having his organization provide books that help publishers to explain basic Bible teachings. The Truth That Leads to Eternal Life was a particularly effective book. It was first published in 1968 and had an immediate impact. “Demand for the Truth book has been so heavy,” stated the November 1968 Kingdom Ministry, “that in September the Society’s Brooklyn factory added a special night shift.” The article went on to explain: “At one time during August the demand for Truth books exceeded the supply by over one and a half million copies!” By 1982, over 100 million copies of the book had been published in 116 languages. In the 14 years from 1968 to 1982, the Truth book helped to add over one million Kingdom publishers to our ranks. *
10 In 2005, another outstanding Bible study aid, What Does the Bible Really Teach?, was released. Some 200 million copies have already been published in 256 languages! With what effect? In just seven years, from 2005 to 2012, about 1.2 million people became publishers of the good news. During that same period, the number of people studying the Bible with us climbed from about 6 million to more than 8.7 million. Without a doubt, Jehovah is blessing our efforts to plant and water seeds of Kingdom truth.
11, 12. In harmony with the cited scriptures, what audiences were our magazines designed to reach?
11 Magazines. Originally, the target audience for The Watch Tower was primarily the “little flock,” those with “the heavenly calling.” (Luke 12:32; Heb. 3:1) On October 1, 1919, Jehovah’s organization released another magazine, which was designed to appeal to a different audience, the public. That magazine became so popular with the Bible Students and the public that for many years its circulation was far greater than that of The Watch Tower. That magazine was first named The Golden Age. In 1937, the name was changed to Consolation. Then, in 1946, it became known as Awake!
12 Over the decades, the style and format of The Watchtower and the Awake! have changed, but the purpose has remained the same
13. What do you find remarkable about our magazines? (Discuss the chart “World Records for Publications.”)
13 By the beginning of 2014, each month more than 44 million copies of Awake! and some 46 million copies of The Watchtower were published. Awake! was translated into some 100 languages, and The Watchtower, into over 200, which made them the most widely translated and distributed magazines on earth! As remarkable as those achievements are, they should not surprise us. These magazines contain the message that Jesus said would be preached in all the inhabited earth.
14. What have we zealously promoted, and why?
14 The Bible. In 1896, Brother Russell and his associates changed the name of the corporation they used to publish literature so that it included the word Bible; it became known as the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society. That change was appropriate because the Bible has always been the primary tool for spreading the good news about the Kingdom. (Luke 24:27) In harmony with the legal corporation’s name, God’s servants have zealously promoted the distribution and reading of the Bible. For example, in 1926, we printed on our own presses The Emphatic Diaglott, a translation of the Christian Greek Scriptures produced by Benjamin Wilson. Beginning in 1942, we printed and distributed some 700,000 copies of the entire King James Version. Just two years later, we began printing the American Standard Version, which uses Jehovah’s name in 6,823 places. By 1950, we had distributed over 250,000 copies.
15, 16. (a) What do you appreciate about the New World Translation? (Discuss the box “Speeding Up Bible Translation.”) (b) How can you allow Jehovah to touch your heart?
15 The year 1950 saw the release of the New World Translation of the Christian Greek Scriptures. The complete New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures was released in one volume in 1961. This translation honors Jehovah by restoring his name to the locations where it appeared in the original Hebrew text. The divine name also appears 237 times in the main text of the Christian Greek Scriptures. To ensure that it is as accurate and readable as possible, the New World Translation has been revised several times, most recently in 2013. As of 2013, more than 201 million copies of the New World Translation have been published in whole or in part in 121 languages.
16 How have some responded to reading the New World Translation in their own language? A Nepali man said: “For many, the old Nepalese translation that we had was difficult to understand, since it used classical language. But now we can understand the Bible so much better, as it uses the language of everyday life.” When a woman in the Central African Republic began reading the Sango translation, she started to cry and said, “This is the language of my heart.” Like that woman, each of us can allow Jehovah to touch our heart by reading his Word every day.
Grateful for the Tools and Training
17. How can you show that you appreciate the tools and training that you receive, and what will be the result if you do so?
17 Do you appreciate the tools and progressive training that the King Jesus Christ has given us? Do you make time to read the literature God’s organization produces, and do you use it to help others? If so, you will relate to the comments of Sister Opal Betler, who was baptized on October 4, 1914. Opal said: “Through the years, my husband [Edward] and I used the phonograph and the testimony cards. We witnessed from house to house with books, booklets, and magazines. We went on campaigns and marches and distributed printed proclamations. Later we were trained to make back-calls [now referred to as return visits] and hold Bible studies in the homes of interested persons. It has been a busy and happy life.” Jesus promised that his subjects would be busy sowing, reaping, and rejoicing together. Millions like Opal can testify to the truthfulness of that promise.
18. What privilege do we have?
18 Many who are not yet servants of the King might consider God’s people to be “uneducated and ordinary.” (Acts 4:13) But just think! The King has caused his ordinary people to become a publishing powerhouse, producing some of the most widely translated and distributed publications in history! More important, he has trained and motivated us to use these tools to spread the good news to people of all nations. What a privilege we have to work with Christ in planting seeds of truth and harvesting disciples!
^ par. 2 In the past decade alone, Jehovah’s people have produced more than 20 billion Bible-based publications. In addition, our Web site, jw.org, is now available to the more than 2.7 billion people worldwide who access the Internet.
^ par. 9 Some other Bible study aids that have helped publishers teach Bible truth are The Harp of God (published in 1921), “Let God Be True” (published in 1946), You Can Live Forever in Paradise on Earth (published in 1982), and Knowledge That Leads to Everlasting Life (published in 1995).
^ par. 12 See the article “Who Really Is the Faithful and Discreet Slave?” paragraph 13, in the July 15, 2013, issue of The Watchtower, which discusses our clarified understanding of who make up the “domestics.”
Jehovah’s Witnesses have used a number of Bible translations over the past century. Why did they translate the Bible into modern English?