Essential Writings of Meredith G. Kline, Meredith D. Kline (Foreword, Tremper Longman II; Biography, Meredith M. Kline; Introduction, Jonathan G. Kline). Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2017.
Summary: A collection of articles by Meredith Kline spanning Genesis to Revelation, and the author’s academic career characterized by biblical insight and theological integrity within a Reformed perspective.
Meredith G. Kline (1922-2007) was a professor of Old Testament perhaps best known for one of his early works, Treaty of the Great King (1963). Drawing on discoveries in Hittite treaty forms, he contended that the structure of Deuteronomy reflects the structure of treaty covenants of the Second Millennium BC, lending support for traditional dating as opposed to a late date at the time of Josiah’s kingship. He was also author of The Structure of Biblical Authority (1975), an important contribution to the discussion of the doctrine of scripture.
This new collection of articles gives us the “essence” the work of Kline, and introduces him to a new generation of students of scripture, aided by a biographical sketch by his son, and an introduction by his grandson, both who have followed in his steps as Old Testament scholars. In reading these articles, that essence consists in scholarly rigor and precision and a capacity to reach novel conclusions and fresh insight that remain consistent with Reformed theological orthodoxy, and centered around the redemptive work of Christ and redemptive purpose of God.
Part One opens with two essays on Creation, centering on details like the lack of vegetation on the earth due to it not having yet rained and there being humans to cultivate the earth. The effect of these essays is to argue against a literal creation week on the basis of the Genesis text, and that there is no inherent conflict between biblical and scientific accounts of origins.
Covenant, Law, and State are the concerns of Part Two. Kline finds a basis for the common grace of the state in God’s promise to Cain. He questions traditional interpretations of Genesis 6:1-4, arguing these are tyrannical kings using their prerogatives for various illicit unions, including polygamy. He argues that the two tables of the law are actually two copies of the law, the sovereign’s and the vassal’s. He looks at laws around lex talionis and miscarriage, and what they reveal about the life ethic of scripture (while noting that abortion was unthinkable in this culture).
Part Three centers on Faith, the Gospel, and Justification. It begins with a careful study of Abraham’s ” Amen” in Genesis 15:6, considering its use throughout the Old Testament, contending that this was indeed a declaration of faith in God and God’s promises by which Abraham is justified by God. The next article proposes Exodus as the basis for the Gospel genre. Finally, in “Double Trouble” he argues that the doubles in scripture concerning penalties are not multiplications but rather the penalty mirroring the offense (a “double” as it were).
Under the theme of “Redemption,” Part Four begins with an essay on Passover, which Kline argues is better understood as “cover-over.” One of the most interesting essays in the collection was an argument that in Job, Satan is the one who in fact is the object of a “trial by ordeal.” Finally, in an article that like many moves back and forth throughout scripture, Kline considers the messianic imagery of the rider of the red horse in Zechariah 1:8.
Three of the four essays in Part Five concern the resurrection, and particularly the hope believers have of being immediately in the Lord’s presence upon death, what Kline sees as “The First Resurrection” in Revelation 20:4-6. The second and third articles are connected, with the third a rejoinder to a response by Ramsey Michaels. I wish in this case that Michaels’ response could have been included so the reader could follow the discussion. The final makes the proposal that Har Magedon is actually Har mo’ed or the Mount of Assembly, and is sited at Mt Zion/Zaphon (cf Psalm 48).
While he questions traditional readings, often drawing on lingual-cultural insights, he tests interpretation of particular texts against the whole of scripture and moves from biblical to theological exegesis in a way that consistently witnesses to the redemptive, Christ-anticipating arc of the text. It is a consistent challenge to bring fresh insights to the study of the biblical text without drifting away from orthodoxy. I thought these articles a good example of scholarship that flourished within that tension. There is also an unspoken testimony to the integrity of his life and work in this book with three generations of Klines, all Old Testament scholars, contributing to this book. Not a bad scholarly legacy!
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.