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Posted May 7, 2009
If you've ever tried to read the bible from start to finish, you know just how difficult it can be to piece together its various elements into a cohesive, comprehensive whole. With its extensive genealogical mapping and sporadic historical references, the Holy Book provides the reader with a wealth of insightful information - but that same information can often confound the reader due to the mercurial nature in which it is often presented.
In addition, if you've ever tried to read the bible to children, it can be quite a challenge to explain to them the apparent discrepancies that exist from one section to the next. Trying to reconcile why God appears to command one thing in one biblical book and then demands something different in another is not only confusing to the kids who hear it - but to the adults who try to explain it as well.
In I Will Make Of Thee A Great Nation, however, author Val Greenwood provides the solution to all the aforementioned problems and more. Within the pages of his extremely well-crafted anthology, Greenwood presents the reader with a detailed, thorough analysis of the Old Testament, covering all major eras and incidents cited in the biblical text. Some of the characters and events on which he expounds are familiar, while others are less well-known, but all are given an equal amount of Greenwood's time and attention as he helps the reader become more acquainted with their spiritual and historical significance.
An added bonus of Greenwood's anthology is that he has crafted it in "reader-friendly" fashion, presenting the material in simple, easily relatable terms. Also, he provides the reader with sound scriptural support, which helps provide the much needed biblical context often missing from other anthologies that aim to translate and clarify ancient text.
Ministers, Sunday School teachers, and Christian scholars the world over will benefit greatly from adding a copy of I Will Make Of Thee A Great Nation to their permanent libraries. Through his enlightening treatise, Val Greenwood has provided them and readers of all ages with unfettered access to understanding the greater context of biblical scripture, ensuring their ultimate success in teaching the truth of God's Word to others. Highly recommended.
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Posted May 25, 2009
Mr. Greenwood's writing is invisible. That sounds like an indictment, but actually that comment is meant as a compliment. I mean I didn't notice whether the writing is good or bad, because I was flowing with the idea the writing is supposed to convey. If the writing was bad, I'd notice and be distracted from the content. If the writing was salient, I would have been distracted by my stopping to admire the phraseology or perhaps to decipher a phrase that was overly complex in nature. Either way I would be distracted and my absorption of the material would be impacted. The author's goal here is not to impress us with his literary prowess. He's trying to deliver the word of God in a more digestible and condensed format. I think he succeeded admirably. Since this is just a retelling of material that already exists, there is no major element of creativity involved here to critique. The author's major challenge is to determine what to include and what to omit. After the decision on what to include, he had to determine what to focus on and what to mention briefly. This is an area that some might criticize. For example, some might want to see more about King Jehoshaphat and less about King Saul. I don't know enough to be critical or laudatory here. I know I learned a lot, but I have no clue about what should have been included or stressed in this work but wasn't. This type of analysis really requires a Biblical scholar.
The book itself is beautiful with a cover that impressed me greatly when I opened the package. One issue with it, in my eyes, is the size. There are only 309 pages of actual stories with a total of 367 pages including the various appendices. That is hardly intimidating for a work of this proportion, but the physical layout of the book is eight by ten inches, making it a little cumbersome to handle. This is not a book you can take to the gym and read as you walk around the track or workout on a cardiac machine. Since that is my favorite way to read, so I can assassinate a pair of birds with one rock, I found it mildly frustrating to deal with the increased size, but some people might consider this to be advantageous. This is not a book that you read once and deploy it as a dust collector on your shelf. You'll want to use this as a research tool. If you do so, you should get your money's worth. This is a great resource, not intended to replace the Old Testament but to augment it. Thus I now need to get my Bible out and begin to read through it from start to finish, so I can reinforce what I've learned from this book and pick up those things which were omitted from it.
Donald James Parker
author of Reforming the Potter's Clay
Posted May 12, 2009
This book has a commendable purpose: to tell, in a readable style, all of the 219 stories that the author has found in the Old Testament/Hebrew Bible. For those of you who want to fill in your knowledge of all the OT stories, Greenwood's book makes a handy reference book. I find myself wishing that there were a similar book that could fill in the gaps of my knowledge of ancient Greek and Roman mythology (broadly construed), since Western civilization has been ultimately grounded on the two cultures (Judeo-Christian and Greco-Roman-shorthand, "Athens and Jerusalem").
Greenwood's rendering of the stories comes from a conservative Christian viewpoint that permits each story to be interpreted by what has been said, often hundreds of years later, in other parts of the Bible. For example, Greenwood's rendering of the Eden story has "Satan" putting it into the serpent's heart to beguile Eve into eating the forbidden fruit. Satan is not a character in the Book of Genesis. (see Stories 1 [Gen. 1-2; John 1], 2 [Gen. 2-3], 4 [Gen. 6-9], 7 [Gen. 14], etc., where the stories are not only told, but also interpreted in the light of the New Testament).
There is also a slight tendency in Greenwood's retelling of some stories to make the males in the story appear in a more positive light. Two examples:
Greenwood (G): "'In the day you eat of it,' said Satan, 'you will be as gods, for you will know good and evil.' He also told her that the fruit was delicious and that it would make her wise. Being thus tempted, Eve became curious. She craved the fruit and longed to eat it-and soon did so. Not only did Eve eat the forbidden fruit, she gave some of it to Adam and he ate it also. Though Adam protested at first, he knew that he must also eat the fruit if he and Eve were to remain together as God had commanded them."
The biblical text (B): "But the serpent said to the woman, 'You will not die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.' So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise (that same word is used in Psalms 14:2; 36:3; Amos 5:13 to describe the godly person-does the woman seem to be understanding the serpent saying that eating the fruit would make her more godly, a better person?), she took of its fruit and ate; and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. . ."
Eve has received much condemnation throughout the Christian tradition, and Greenwood is turning the screws.
To be continued