Official Apex Reviews Interview: Val Greenwood (I Will Make of Thee a Great Nation)
Apex Reviews: Thanks for joining us for this interview, Val. We're looking forward to learning more about your book and other efforts.
What inspired you to craft this enlightening, informative anthology on the various stories of the Old Testament?
Val Greenwood: Actually, it was the Old Testament itself. On one of my read-throughs, something clicked inside my head and made me want to do it. I love the Old Testament—and especially its wonderful stories. With that thought, I said to myself: Hey, there are some great stories here that need to be more accessible to the average Christian who doesn’t spend much time reading the Bible and who often gets bogged down when he tries to read it. It is amazing how much of the world around us requires us to have some knowledge of the Bible. Even much of our literature—if we are to understand it?requires familiarity with the Bible.
As I began, I thought there must be at least 50 or 60 great Old Testament stories that needed to be told in modern, easy-to-understand English so that people could understand and appreciate the Old Testament. I was right?yet still way off the mark. Before I finished, I had 219 must-tell stories.
AR: How were you able to come to such a comprehensive overall understanding of the bible?
VG: It was mostly from just reading and studying the scriptures. As I said before, I love the Old Testament (as well as the New Testament), and I read and study it on a regular basis. I have also had the opportunity to teach the scriptures on a college level. And that is like any subject that one teaches: the teacher always learns far more than the students and thus gets greater benefits and insights.
I also did considerable research while I was putting the book together. When I wasn’t sure of the proper interpretation of a passage, I went to the various Bible commentaries to read what others had to say on the same issue. I also must admit that I had quite a bit of inspiration while I was involved in the writing process. It was not unusual for me to unexpectedly hear a comment or read something that gave me the perspective to answer a question or deal with an issue that I had been pondering.
Incidentally, I make no claim that my understandings are all perfect. I can, even now, see things that I would modify if I were to do it all again.
AR: Why do you think so many people have difficulty understanding biblical stories?
VG: First, I would note that people have trouble understanding the Old Testament because it really is difficult to understand. The King James Version (the Authorized Version, as it is called) was translated into English very early in the Seventeenth Century (it was published in 1611). The English language has changed a great deal since that time, and many expressions and usages common at that time are unfamiliar today. That, however, may not be the biggest problem. The main problem, in my opinion, is in the nature of the prophesying of the Jews?which most of us do not understand at all unless we have studied it. The Jews loved to use symbolic language and literary devices to explain (or, should I say, to obscure) their messages. So, unless one understands the “code,” the message can be missed entirely. Some passages that are loaded with significant meaning appear to have no particular significance because we miss the symbolism. Oh, what would we give for the spirit of prophecy?
There is also much in the Old Testament that is valuable in its own way that is of little interest to the typical Bible reader. The extensive genealogies are one example. Other examples include the details and minutia of the Law of Moses and the all-inclusive information on the division of the Promised Land among the twelve tribes. For many of us, there is much more information than we want.
AR: Have you marketed the book to churches and other religious institutions for inclusion in their educational curriculum?
VG: I have been working on some strategies to do this, but I have found the progress to be relatively slow and more difficult than I expected. There are many institutions that have Internet web sites, which I have used to contact them, and I have also sent many of them copies of the book. I actually have not had many positive responses. The colleges and seminaries are generally not interested because the book is not a scholarly tome (which it was never intended to be), and those who are involved with religious education for lay groups, youth, and children seem to be skeptical?this in spite of all the great book reviews that say I Will Make of Thee a Great Nation is the ideal tool for their purposes. Most of those with extensive educational programs use study materials and books prepared by their own people and are hesitant to use anything written by a man they have never heard of. I am still trying to reach the grass roots, but have not yet found the ideal medium for doing so. Anyway, I had mailed out lots of free books. If I can get enough free books out there, perhaps I can get the word-of-mouth publicity working in my favor.
AR: What kinds of responses have you gotten to the anthology thus far?
VG: I believe I have already answered this question. I can only add that the great response I had hoped for is yet to come. Most people who have seen the book and taken the time to look at it seriously have liked it very much.
AR: What is the main message that you'd like readers to take away from the book?
VG: I have four great messages in mind, but let me share the two top ones with you. The first great message is of the life and mission of the Savior. Types and shadows of his life and his atonement are found everywhere in the people, places, and events of the Old Testament.
The second great message?and this surprises many people?is of God’s love for His children. Though the Old Testament tells of much harshness of judgment, there are also countless examples where God’s love for His (often wayward) children is manifest. And careful examination also shows that much of God’s harshness was also because He loved them.
AR: Please share more with our readers about your publisher, American Book Publishing.
VG: American Book Publishing is a small publisher located in Salt Lake City, Utah. It publishes books in many different genres but will not publish books that use questionable language or that have a questionable moral perspective. I am not aware that ABP has any particular specialty, but is willing to consider any book that appears to have a chance to succeed. ABP is not a religious publisher, so I feel fortunate that the decision makers were willing to take a chance on I Will Make of Thee a Great Nation. The staff is diverse. My editor is in California, the production manager in Pennsylvania, and the designer in Kitchener, Ontario. I have no idea where some of the others are. All communication is by e-mail, and everyone is very professional?all in all very professional in their work and good people to work with.
AR: Prior to penning I Will Make of Thee a Great Nation, you wrote a book about genealogical research entitled The Researcher's Guide to American Genealogy, which has experienced the success of multiple printings. Please share more with us about that endeavor.
VG: Following my graduation from college in 1962, I worked as a professional genealogist for three years and then taught genealogical research on a college level for six years. I was frustrated as a teacher because there was no real textbook for those interested in tracing their American ancestors. It was during this time I decided to write that book. The Researcher’s Guide to American Genealogy was the result. It was finally published in 1973 while I was in law school. It is both a textbook and an all-purpose reference book for genealogists.
I never got to use the book as a textbook myself, but it was an instant success. And it became even more popular during the heyday of Alex Haley’s Roots when it received attention on a national TV talk show. My publisher, Genealogical Publishing Company in Baltimore, was skeptical in the beginning because their specialty was reprints; they had never published any original works. They printed 3,000 copies in the first printing and said they would consider the book a success if they could sell those in five years. That original printing was sold out and they were back at the printer’s within three months. The book is now considered a classic and is still the most widely used textbook in the field. It has been in its third edition since January 2000 and has sold well over 100,000 copies.
AR: What are your future writing/publishing plans?
VG: This is uncertain. Many have urged me to do a book of New Testament stories, but I have not yet decided that I will. The New Testament presents some quite different challenges than the Old Testament. However, I must admit that I am leaning in that direction. How long before I could finish such a book is still an issue.
AR: How can people learn more about you and your ongoing efforts?
VG: There are a couple of good ways for people can learn more about me. They can go to my web site (http://oldtestamentor.com} and read about me there, or they can go to my author page on AuthorsDen (http://www.authorsden.com). There is also a link to AuthorsDen on my website. I am on FaceBook, too, though I don’t go there often.
AR: How can they contact you directly?
VG: The Contact Form on my web site can be used to send me a message or a question. That works well. A person can send me a direct e-mail message at < val.valgreenwood.com >. I can also be reached by telephone at 801-302-8036 or on my cell phone at 801-455-4610. My mailing address is PO Box 1194, Riverton, UT 84065. If someone wants to buy a book or two, they are for sale on my web site and on Amazon.com, or they can be ordered at any bookstore. I am sorry I have no fax machine.
AR: Any final thoughts you'd like to share with our readers?
VG: One thing I would say is that I will be grateful if anyone who reads my book (and who feels so inclined) wants to post a book review on Amazon.com. Also, I hope everyone understands that my object in writing I Will Make of Thee a Great Nation was not to make money. I wrote it because I love the Old Testament and I want to help people appreciate and understand the Old Testament as I do through the medium of its wonderful stories.
AR: Thanks again, Val, and best of continued success to you in all your endeavors!