Book Review: Genesis: A New Commentary

Genesis:  A New Commentary, by Meredith G. Kline

[Note:  This book was provided free of charge by Hendrickson Publishers.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.]

Upon reading this book, I was somewhat surprised that this was the first book I remember reading from the noted and late Presbyterian theologian.  Upon reading, for example, his breakdown of the chiasmic structure of the book of Genesis, I was immediately reminded of previous readings of books likely influenced by his instruction of other conservative Presbyterians [1] in decades of faithful teaching work.  Given the fact that this work was a very refreshing and thoughtful commentary on the book of Genesis, although given that Kline has been dead for eight years, it is hard to tell how new this commentary is in some senses, it is likely that this will not be the last book I read from this author by any means.  Perhaps I have more of an interest in the book of Genesis than many readers of this book do [2], but in reading this book I got the distinct feeling that anyone who enjoys reading the study notes of a bible like the Geneva Bible and who enjoys reading thoughtful and brief commentaries on verses that focus on overall biblical patterns and the wit and wordplay of the Hebrew scriptures will likely appreciate this book.

In terms of its structure, this short book (at only about 140 pages or so) is made up of a series of short comments that are organized by the author’s structure of Genesis as a book, in which there are clear patterns based upon the comments the book makes about an account being made of the generations of someone.  Kline notes thoughtfully that the book of Genesis is organized around characteristic but not complete lists of generations and that within the structure of the book as a whole time is spent talking about those people whose lines were rejected before picking up on the discussion of the covenant people of the Bible–the Sethite line ending in Noah and his family, the Shemite line going through Peleg to Terah and his descendants through Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  This contrast between accepted and rejected peoples, and Kline’s characteristic interest in common grace and in the way that godly people show concern for the well-being of the ungodly realms in which they are a part, are part of what make this particular book such a lovely one to read.  One gets the sense that Kline would have been an amazing seminary instructor, a man who combined deep intellectual knowledge about the Hebrew language and its sense of wordplay and ambiguity and also someone particularly interested in encouraging among believers a seriousness about our obligations to the gentile realms in which we live and serve others.

This combination of head and heart makes this book a very worthwhile commentary on Genesis and a worthy addition to the library of anyone who wishes to find good material for articles and messages about Genesis and its place in the larger structure of the Bible.  It is all the more impressive that Kline manages this achievement despite the fact that the book was a fragmentary one that did not receive any attention for publication until after his death.  Among the more noteworthy aspects of this book that is worthy of comment is the fact that Kline is conservative in multiple ways.  This book gives a firm rebuttal to misguided documentary theories, but also shows its author to be a temperamental conservative who points out the limits of sound interpretation when it comes to dealing with the creation and flood accounts.  The author’s unwillingness to exceed the firm foundation of his text and his generally charitable attitude towards the reader make this book feel like one is listening to the author give a friendly graduate seminar or a conversation over dinner while pouring over the Bible in English, Hebrew, and the Greek.  While such an experience is no longer possible in this life, this book is the next best thing and a worthy introduction to the works of a worthy biblical scholar.

[1] See, for example:

[2] See, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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6 Responses to Book Review: Genesis: A New Commentary

  1. Reblogged this on Hendrickson Publishers Blog and commented:
    Nathan Albright expresses his opinion on Meredith G. Kline’s Genesis: A New Commentary in the following review.

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