Two series of books concerning the life, labors, and times of the Reverend Matthew Poole are currently in production. They will include the complete text of the Synopsis Criticorum translated into English.
The first series, The Literary Labors of the Reverend Matthew Poole, focuses upon the life and literary efforts of Matthew Poole. These volumes have been arranged chronologically; each book will provide a biographical treatment of a period of Poole’s life, coupled with a republication of the works that Poole produced during that time.
Some pains have been taken to make these volumes as close to exhaustive, with respect to biographical material and literary output (including works which Poole did not author, but edited, commended, or otherwise supported), as possible.
The second series, The Exegetical Labors of the Reverend Matthew Poole, is devoted to his work as a student of the history of interpretation and as a commentator. For the first time, Matthew Poole’s massive and scholarly Latin Synopsis Criticorum (Synopsis of Critical Interpreters) will be available in English. Poole’s beloved English Annotations for the common man have been spliced into the translation of the Synopsis in the appropriate places for ease of reference and study.
The Literary Labors of the Reverend Matthew Poole will be of great interest to all those interested in the Second Reformation, Westminster Presbyterianism among the English Puritans, and the tribulations of the faithful Presbyterian ministers ejected after the Restoration. However, these works are of more than historical interest; they give the reader the opportunity to observe this master of exegesis apply the fruits of that exegesis to issues theological (the deity of the Holy Spirit, the satisfaction theory of the atonement), ecclesiastical (the problem of unordained preaching, the maintenance of students for the ministry, the purity of gospel worship), polemical (against Quakerism, Romanism, the Restoration church), and practical (ministering to the sick). The modeling of the movement from exegesis to application is invaluable.
The Exegetical Labors of the Reverend Matthew Poole will be of surpassing value to any student of the Word, but particularly to the man who would understand the theology of the Westminster Assembly and its Standards. Happily, the theology of that reverend Assembly has been retained in its Standards, certainly the high-water mark of confessional orthodoxy; unhappily, much of underlying exegesis, the heart and power of the theology, has been lost or neglected. The Puritan theology books continue to receive some attention, but the Puritan commentary books are largely neglected. Few remember the names of Willet, Attersoll, Patrick, Durham, Jackson, or Mayer; their commentaries have fallen into disuse, and even the books themselves have become rare. Moreover, much of the exegetical fruit of the Reformation remains locked-up in Latin commentaries, inaccessible to most English-speaking Christians. The consequent disconnect in the minds of many between the Standards and the Scripture-proofs is a situation most undesirable.
A translation of Matthew Poole’s Synopsis is a very economical way of recovering much of this inaccessible exegetical material and reestablishing the connection between the Word of God and the Standards. In the Synopsis, Poole has undertaken to provide a summary or digest of the best of the critical interpreters, men specializing in the linguistic (lexical, syntactical, macro-syntactical) and historical (cultural and geographical) issues that effect interpretation, on every verse of the Bible. He focuses on Reformation-era interpreters (Jewish, Catholic, Reformed, Lutheran), but, through those interpreters, he also sets forth the best of the thought of the old rabbis, Church Fathers, and Medieval schoolmen. So, although English translations of these Latin commentaries might be hoped for and desired, the Synopsis provides what is, in the judgment of Poole, the very best of that material.
A careful study of the Synopsis yields an important truth, that the Church’s highest attainments in theology, immortalized in the Westminster Standards, grew out of the Church’s highest attainments in Biblical exegesis.