Genesis: A New Commentary

Meredith G. Kline, Genesis: A New Commentary. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2016. pp. xx + 154. paper.

Genesis: A New Commentary was written in the mid-1990s by Meredith G. Kline, sometime after he had finished his Kingdom Prologue. In the year 2008 the typed manuscript of this commentary was discovered among Meredith’s papers by Jonathan G. Kline, grandson of Meredith. A number of years later, Jonathan edited the manuscript and Hendrickson has now served the church well by publishing it. The editorial work goes beyond the typical and in particular includes footnotes that cross reference the concise discussions of key ideas in the commentary to more nuanced discussions in Kline’s larger works, thus dividing a true entrance into the thought of Meredith G. Kline. Genesis: A New Commentary provides a concise and clear window into Kline’s understanding of the first book of the Bible and to his hermeneutic and theology. A seven-page introduction is followed by one hundred and thirty-three pages of commentary.

In the introduction Kline touches on four key areas. One, the book of Genesis, as a revelation of God the Creator-Redeemer, serves as a treaty preamble and historical prologue to the old covenant canon in particular and to the whole Bible in general. The broad function of the book of Genesis is, therefore, to tell us who God is and what he is done as our Great King and thereby to ingratiate us to serve him well in the covenant of grace.

Two, there are eleven sections in the book of Genesis. Genesis 1:1-2:3 serves as the prologue and is followed by ten divisions each of which begins with “This is the account of” or the like. These divisions are grouped into two matching sets: divisions one through three are mirrored by divisions four through six, and divisions seven through eight are mirrored by divisions nine through ten.

Three, the book of Genesis tells the story of foundational beginnings in Genesis 1-11 and the Abraham covenant in Genesis 12-50. “Creation, fall, and redemption with its prospect of consummation — that is the basic outline of the theological story” (5).

Four, based on the testimony of the Old Testament, Jewish tradition, Jesus’ endorsement and the New Testament, Kline affirms the Mosaic authorship of the book of Genesis.

In the commentary proper, readers are introduced to some of Kline’s key ideas, including but obviously not limited to the following. Kline understands the literary structure of Genesis 1:1-2:3 to be comprised of two parallel strands, God’s creation of the earthly kingdoms in days one through three and the earthly kings in days four through six. These two strands are followed by God’s royal session in his cosmic temple-palace on the seventh day. Kline’s interpretation of the “sons of God” as tyrannical kings in Genesis 6, who presume the prerogatives of deity, is set forth concisely. The important concept of the common grace covenant in the days of Noah is spelled out, as is the covenant with Abraham as a covenant of promise.

Given the concise nature of this work, readers will not find Kline’s argumentation for why he thinks what he thinks. They will, however, find a refreshingly clear and simple summary of his interpretation of this foundational book in the Bible. There is no getting lost in the forest for the trees in this work. (For a similarly concise read of Kline’s interpretation of the book of Deuteronomy, see his “Deuteronomy,” in Wycliffe Bible Commentary (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1962), 155–204.)

Interpreters will no doubt take issue with various views expressed. I for one do not track with Kline’s understanding of Genesis 1:1-2, either in terms of the way those two verses relate to each other or to their role in the first creation account. Of course, there are a variety of opinions on the interpretation of these two opening verses in the Bible, and that in the Reformed community not to speak of the interpretation of these verses in the broader Christian tradition. So a read of this commentary is also a reminder of the humility needed in approaching the word of God. In a similar way, I would take issue with Kline’s understanding of the structure of the book. I too see Genesis 1:1-2 as the prologue to the book, but I take the first five divisions as a unit that is clearly mirrored by the second unit, which is comprised of the second five divisions.

Those of us who have had the privilege of studying under Meredith G. Kline will find pleasure in reading this commentary, as the words on the page evoke the words in his lectures that taught us so much about our covenant God and our relationship to him. Those who are just starting out in the world of biblical studies would do well to enter into the world of Meredith G. Kline, and there is no better way that I can think of doing so than by reading this brief commentary and following the footnotes into the deep thought of one of God’s gracious gifts to the church.

Mark D. Futato, Sr.
Reformed Theological Seminary, Orlando