Reviewed by Tabb Clements–
In looking over the various study aids to assist students during this year’s study of the Old Testament, I can use one hand to count the new items available and even then I would NOT need to use all the fingers on that one hand! “How Often Would I Have Gathered You: Stories from the Old Testament and Related Sources For Latter-day Saints–Enhanced 2nd Edition” is a welcomed addition to this list!
Author Val D. Greenwood has taken his 2007 edition and has made several changes. In the “Preface to the Enhanced 2nd Edition”, he notes “Most things have not changed. There are still 229 stories–the very same stories as before–but some are a little different and some even a bit longer to include other important events–and, I hope, more correct. I do not believe any story is more than a few words shorter than it was before. Nor are there any stories that have not had some changes. In some I merely eliminated an unessential word or two or said something in a simpler way. Others have significant additions and/or corrections. As a result, I believe that this book is significantly better than the first edition and closer to the perfection I originally sought” (vii).
It is easy to get overwhelmed in studying the Old Testament. The author has purposefully created this book with stories that are “quite short”. He has also worked at “eliminating redundancy, cumbersome (and sometimes sordid) details, and awkward wording” (vii-viii). For those not familiar with the first edition, this book is written in modern English.
All stories are based on the King James Version and are arranged in chronological order. This work also contains a pronunciation guide, maps, TWO indexes (a name index and a subject index), and modern equivalents are given for all references to weights and measures. In addition, the 229 stories have extensive footnotes and, for ease of study/review, those footnotes are located on the bottom of each page. The book is further divided into twelve sections from “Section I: Council, the Creation, the Fall, and the Early Patriarchs” to “Section XII: The Captivity of Judah, the Return, and Beyond”.
Section IX begins with “The Kings of Israel and Judah” chart. Columns in the chart help to clarify the approximate calendar year, as well as length of time served. Also, the specific scriptural references associated with each king and the specific story number (of the 229 stories in the book) is also listed.
“How Often Would I Have Gathered You: Stories from the Old Testament and Related Sources For Latter-day Saints–Enhanced 2nd Edition” utilizes texts from the New Testament, Book of Mormon, and Doctrine and Covenants, to help clarify sections of the Old Testament being presented. Greenwood also takes full advantage of the Study Aids found in the LDS version of the scriptures. The author even shares a website (www.newViewOldTestament.com) where additional articles can be obtained.
The stated goal of the author is that “I do not intend for this book to replace or upstage the scriptures in any way. I hope, rather, that these stories will introduce the Old Testament, enhance the scriptural experience, and help you gain greater appreciation for the Old Testament canon itself” (ix).
Val Greenwood further states that “the best approach, I believe, is to use these stories and the Bible together” (ix). I would go so far as to add that Greenwood’s book would best be used a primer, as it were. Read the corresponding section from “How Often Would I Have Gathered You: Stories from the Old Testament and Related Sources For Latter-day Saints–Enhanced 2nd Edition” first and then read directly from the King James Version. By having a familiarity established and the basics understood, then the passages from the KJV would be more meaningful.
In the 1986 Sperry Symposium “The Old Testament and the Latter-day Saints”, George A. Horton, then Chairman and Associate Professor of Ancient Scripture at Brigham Young University, stated “The Old Testament is the root system from which the other scriptures grow and flower. It contains a record of our beginnings–our genealogical roots. It provides a powerful witness of creation, our creator–the basis for our faith, the fall of man, the need for an atonement, the establishment of the Abrahamic covenant, the divine destiny of Israel, and numerous experiences pointing out the rewards of righteous living and the results of wrong-doing. The rest of the Standard Works have meaning and receive strength from these deep roots” (p. 32-33).
Author Val D. Greenwood has organized a solid set of resources to aid in both the study of and greater appreciation of the Old Testament. This book, while geared more towards the newer student of the Old Testament, offers a wonderful starting point for anyone wanting to get closer to these “deep roots” of the Old Testament.
The Old Testament: understand it, love it!