Book Review: Genesis 1-11 (Reformation Commentary on Scripture) Editedby John L. Thompson

5 out of 5 Stars
Edited by: John L. Thompson
General Editor: Timothy George
Publisher: IVP Academic
Buy Genesis 1-11 (Reformation Commentary on Scripture)
Reading Level: Moderate

Why This Series?

This series is golden. I love it because it makes the Reformers approachable and attainable. Many people including many serious theologians are intimidated by the Reformers. They look at Calvin’s Institutes and think, “I could never read that.” But the Reformation Commentary on Scripture (hitherto RCS) remedies this problem. You get bite sized selections from well-known and not-so-well known Reformers. And that brings me to the second point about being attainable. I have a general knowledge of the major and some of the more minor players in the Reformation but I haven’t read but maybe three or four in any meaningful way. RCS isn’t just a Luther, Calvin, Beza, Zwingli party although these gentlemen are present. The editors have done a wonderful job including Reformers great and small. Well-known and forgotten. And although the majority of the selections come from pastors and are men, women provide insight in the commentary as well. With that breadth of influence in Genesis 1-11 (RCS) you also get variety in prose style and poetry selections.

Why Should I Care?

If I’ve convinced you this series is a great idea great! but I can hear a few of you thinking why should I care? These men and women have been dead for a couple hundred years. But it’s important to be attached to our spiritual forefathers. I have often found myself reading one of the great theologians of the church and discovered a skilful and careful critique of one of our modern evangelical blemishes. I’ve been arguing for sometime that almost all of our blemishes could have been rejected if we had been more familiar with our spiritual heritage. We often either let our culture blind us or so tangle our interpretation of Scripture that we become useless. But also it’s important because we live in our culture; we do not read Scripture the same way as our forefathers, not just hundreds of years ago, but even twenty or thirty years ago. Having fresh eyes on a passage of Scripture can help us avoid pitfalls and also learn from the pitfalls of our past.

How Should I Read It?

This commentary should be explored not just read cover to cover. It would be a fruitful tool to use in your personal devotions and is in a format which is easy to maneuver. It would also be highly beneficial as a resource for pastors. Once the series is complete you could at a glance compare your interpretation with those who have gone before you as a spot check. Also, the format lends itself for quick insertion into a sermon as a quotation. The writing of the Reformers is also highly devotional. It’s the best mix of rich theological truth and insightful application I've found. Below are two examples from Genesis 1-11 (RCS). These passages are fertile gospel soil:

The historical narrative is about the fall of our first parents, who were lured away from God’s word and command by the devil’s schemes and flattery. From there, together with all their descendants (or the whole human race), they rushed headlong into the wrath of God and a multitude of punishments. They let the dignity of their original rightness slip away with along with their reputation. They were stripped and despoiled of all their original endowments, as well as all the integrity and purity of their powers, mind, will and affections. This first part of this chapter [Genesis 3] pertains to the law. The other part is consolation, and comprehensive instruction about the promise of the woman’s seed who was going to crush the head of the serpent--that is, about the coming liberator who was going to overthrow the devil’s kingdom and power, reconcile God’s wrath, do away with sin and death and restore righteousness and eternal life to the church. This part belongs to the gospel. COMMENTARY ON GENESIS 3.

Nikolaus Selnecker (Genesis 1-11 [RCS] p. 115).

Even if some propose other reasons for why Noah would curse his grandson Canaan more than his son Ham, I think this curse was exceptional, because it didn’t fall on all the descendants of Ham, but only on those who descended from Ham through his son Canaan, and who also dwelt in the land of Canaan and were destroyed by the Israelites--which is also when this curse was fulfilled. You see, therefore, that God is strict and bides his time against unrepentant sinners. But the other two brothers, Shem and Japheth, are blessed. The blessing on Shem himself, however, mainly pertains to the genealogy of Christ, that Christ would come from his tribe and offspring. That is why he says, “Blessed be the Lord, the God of Shem” that is, God will send his blessed Seed from Shem’s posterity. Likewise, the blessing on Japheth mainly pertains to the fact that his descendants would be called by the gospel to a knowledge of Christ . . . . This was fulfilled when the gospel of Christ was proclaimed among the Gentiles who descended from Japheth. Here you have the efficacy of the curse and blessing of a drunken and delirious old man, as Ham would have thought! So, fearing God, let us rise up in the presence of a gray head, and may we never put the vices of our elders on display out of spite. COMMENTARY ON GENESIS 9:24-27

Johannes Brenz (Genesis 1-11 [RCS] p. 312).

Final word. Check this series out and consider joining their series group. You'll get a huge discount on a new commentary every couple months. Can't beat that.

A free copy of this book was provided by IVP Academic. If you plan on purchasing Genesis 1-11 (RCS), consider supporting Grace for Sinners by purchasing from Amazon.