Bryan M. Estelle
Genesis: A New Commentary, by Meredith G. Kline, edited by Jonathan G. Kline. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2016, xx + 154 pages, $19.95, paper.
Meredith G. Kline, OPC minister and Old Testament scholar, still speaks from the grave. Thankfully this is the case because of the labor of love that his grandson Jonathan G. Kline has performed. While perusing some remaining boxes of Meredith’s papers, sermons, and miscellaneous items left behind after Meredith died in 2007, Jonathan discovered a full manuscript of a commentary that Meredith had written on the book of Genesis. Jonathan, an Old Testament scholar in his own right, decided to publish the manuscript after finishing his PhD at Harvard in Hebrew Bible. He did some minor editing, cross referencing to Meredith’s other books and articles, and filling in some transliterated Hebrew terms, often pointing out delightful puns from the Hebrew text, a topic in which Jonathan Kline happens to have some expertise. The commentary, without spelling, typographical, or syntactic errors, finally saw the light of day just this last year with a foreword by Michael S. Horton.
The result of this new work is that we now have some of Meredith’s most mature and clear thoughts on a biblical book that he spent decades studying. Throughout his career Meredith was known for his exquisite biblical scholarship, although his writing was sometimes challenging to grasp because of his neologisms and self-publishing tendencies during some phases of his career. Nevertheless, Meredith sought to make his ideas very accessible to a wide audience in this commentary and Jonathan’s editorial labors have supported that intention. What is especially helpful in the new commentary are the laconic, simple, and lucid summaries. For example, a person unfamiliar with the argument on a biblical theology of circumcision in By Oath Consigned, which is an earlier work of Meredith’s, could quickly get up to speed if one just reads pages 66–70 of the new commentary, which summarizes the argument in a few short pages.
From this work I learned much, especially in the latter three-fifths of the book. That portion contains material that is very theologically stimulating and, for the most part, may not be found in Kingdom Prologue, Meredith’s classroom text used for years in the biblical theology courses that he taught at various Seminaries. There are many flashes of insight into how the faith of these partriarchs functioned. Or, for example, the comments on prototypal judgment in the narratives of Sodom and Gomorrah (73). Or his comments on the binding of Isaac. Or, for example, Rachel’s disrespectful treatment of Laban’s household gods (31:31–35) to demonstrate the sovereignty of God (106). Or why the massacre of the Shechemites was so reprehensible (112). Or how the Joseph narrative prepares the reader for the exodus event and how suggestive these passages are for the coming Messiah (122–140).
Mostly, for this reviewer, it was just plain enjoyable to hear Meredith’s voice again through the pages of this posthumous publication. What better person to help us hear that voice again than a grandson who is also eminently qualified as a Hebrew Bible scholar to grant us such attunement? For pastors who plan to preach or teach through Genesis, or for ruling elders who plan to teach the book of Genesis in a Bible study or Sunday school, this new commentary will be a rich and helpful resource full of insights and foundational principles: There is much grist for the mill. Echoed throughout this commentary is the doctrine of sovereign initiating grace rooted in election. The unconditional act of divine mercy is demonstrated through instrumental faith in the OT patriarchs as well as NT saints as the only grounds for entitlement to heaven. From the beginnings of world history and the subsequent patriarchal age there is only one true and proper merit to earn such heavenly blessings: the active obedience of Christ. It is obvious that this saint and eminent OT scholar and minister, M. G. Kline, stayed faithful to the end.
Bryan Estelle is a minister in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church and serves as associate professor of Old Testament at Westminster Seminary California in Escondido, California. Ordained Servant Online, February 2017.