Getting the Most out of Matthew Poole on Revelation

Each of the volumes in this series, Synopsis of Biblical Interpreters, is actually composed of two distinct works by Matthew Poole: A Synopsis of Interpreters, Both Critical and Otherwise, of the Sacred Scriptures (known by its Latin title, Synopsis Criticorum, the translated text of which is printed in this regular type) and Annotations upon the Holy Bible (the text of which is printed in bold type).  In the Synopsis Criticorum Aliorumque Sacræ Scripturæ Interpretum, written primarily for students, ministers, and scholars, Poole presents something of a verse-by-verse history of interpretation, setting forth the most important interpreters and interpretative positions.  The Annotations, on the other hand, are written for the use of the common man, giving a summary of the most important interpretive issues and Poole’s own, most mature (being written in the years immediately prior to his death), judgment.  In these volumes, the Annotations have been interspliced into the translation of the Synopsis, creating an omnibus of Poole’s exegetical efforts.

It may already be apparent from this brief description of these volumes that they are intended for study; they are certainly not a light read.  So that every reader, from the unlearned to the scholar, might get the most profit from these volumes, these directions are proffered:

 

  1. Read and study the prefatory material, especially the “Preface to the Synopsis:  Romans-Revelation.”

 

In the “Preface to the Synopsis:  Romans-Revelation,” the reader is introduced to the interpreters, writing on these Books of the Bible, who, in Poole’s judgment, are of the greatest significance.  Because the Synopsis is primarily about the history of interpretation, an acquaintance with the interpreters is of the utmost importance.  The translator has provided additional information about these men in the footnotes to aid the reader.  Paul taught the Ephesian Christians that the ascended Lord Jesus provides teachers for the edification of His Church in all ages;[1] this is a synopsis of their teaching and testimony, a thing of surpassing value.

 

  1. Note that a brief summary of each book and an outline of each chapter has been provided.[2]

 

This will help the reader get and keep the entire context in view as he studies particular verses.

 

  1. Study the cross-references.

 

The Authorized Version of the text has been provided at the beginning of each verse.  In the Annotations, Poole provided a great many cross-references in the printing of the verse itself.[3]  These should not be neglected; they are of great value in gaining an understanding of the verse being studied, and it will be found that the verse being studied has implications for the right interpretation of other texts.[4]  Furthermore, the reader will find the verses, referenced in the Synopsis portion for the illustration of grammatical principles, to be of great help and use.  When the reason for the citation of a particular verse is not clear in English, the translator has provided annotations in the footnotes to aid understanding.

 

  1. Begin the study of the commentary portion under each verse with the Annotations portion (printed in bold).

 

Remember that the Annotations were written for the common man, and in them Poole, or the divines that completed the Annotations after Poole’s death,[5] summarizes and gives an evaluation of the most important matters.  Reading the Annotations portion will frequently shed much light upon the mass of raw exegetical material in the Synopsis portion.

 

  1. Note that Poole often presents a wide variety of interpretive positions in a short space.

 

In the Synopsis portion, contradictory positions can be presented without any transition.  The intepreters that held a certain view are usually given in parentheses after the presentation of the interpretive position, and this is frequently all that the reader is given with respect to a transition from one position to another.

 

  1. Make use of the Index as needed.

 

            An index of relatively obscure people and places has been included for the help of the reader. The index refers the reader back to the page upon which the person or place was first mentioned and footnoted.

 

  1. Be patient and persevere.

 

Solomon the Wise teaches in the Proverbs that in some things knowledge and wisdom come only with effort,[6] and penetrating beyond a superficial understanding of the Scriptures will require hard work; but let the Christian give himself to this labor in the assurance of faith, that Jesus Christ is speaking to him through the Word,[7] and that in this study he will taste of the Lord that He is good.[8]

[1] Ephesians 4:11-13.

[2] Poole composed the book outlines from Genesis to Isaiah, but the chapter outlines were not added until the third edition of the Annotations, 1696, by Samuel Clarke and Edward Veale.  Samuel Clarke (1626-1701), one of the ejected ministers under the Act of Uniformity, was well-qualified for this editorial work, having composed his own The Old and New Testament, with Annotations and Parallel Scriptures (1690) and A Survey of the Bible; or, an Analytical Account of the Holy Scriptures, Containing the Division of Every Book and Chapter, thereby Shewing the Frame and Contexture of the Whole (1693).  Edward Veale was one of the divines called upon to complete the Annotations after Poole’s death, writing the portions on Ephesians, James, 1 and 2 Peter, and Jude.  Veale (died 1708) labored in the work of the ministry in both England and Ireland, having been ordained in 1657. He later served as a senior fellow at Trinity College in Dublin, until he was deprived for nonconformity.  After his deprivation, he ministered as chaplain to Sir William Waller, and then as a pastor at Wapping.  He edited and published, with Richard Adams, Stephen Charnock’s Discourse on Divine Providence (1680), and, of course, with Samuel Clarke, the third edition of Matthew Poole’s Annotations (1696).

[3] Samuel Clarke and Edward Veale appear to be responsible for supplemental cross-references, added to Poole’s own.  All of the cross-references have been provided in this text.

[4] Westminster Confession of Faith 1:9:  “The infallible rule of interpretation of Scripture is the Scripture itself:  and therefore, when there is a question about the true and full sense of any Scripture (which is not manifold, but one) it must be searched and known by other places that speak more clearly.”

[5] This portion of the Annotations was composed by Dr. John Collinges (1623-1691), who played a large role in the completion of Poole’s English Annotations, left unfinished on account of Poole’s untimely death in 1679.  Dr. Collinges composed the portions on Isaiah 61-66, Jeremiah, Lamentations, the Gospels, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus, Philemon, and Revelation.  Dr. Collinges was a nonconformist divine, of exemplary learning and life.  He was educated at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, where he was awarded the degree of Doctor of Divinity in 1658. He participated in the Savoy Conference.  Like Poole, he was ejected for nonconformity from his charge, at St. Stephen’s, Norwich, in 1662. During the 1670s he was described by his enemies in Norwich as the ‘Conventickling doctor’, and he was arrested repeatedly before meeting the requirements to preach under the 1689 Act of Toleration.  He wrote a noted work on providence, Several Discourses Concerning the Actual Providence of God (1678), a sermon on Psalm 133, “The Happiness of Brethren Dwelling Together in Peace and Unity” (1639), a tract against Christmas and in support of the Christian Sabbath, Responsoria ad Erratica Piscatoris: Or, A Caveat for Old and New Prophanenesse (1653), A Modest Plea for the Lord’s Day as the Christian Sabbath (1669), A Plea for the Nonconformists, Justifying Them from the Charge of Schism (1674), and English Presbytery; or, An Account of the Main Opinions of Those Ministers and People in England Who Go under the Name of Presbyterians (1680).

[6] Proverbs 2:1-5.

[7] 1 Peter 1:11.

[8] 1 Peter 2:3.

2 thoughts on “Getting the Most out of Matthew Poole on Revelation

  1. I appreciate your hard work on this project, and enjoy reading it when I can. I am interested to know if any of those works you’ve mentioned by Dr. John Collinges are available. I love reading, and they look very interesting! (Perhaps I could search for them online, but if you know, I would appreciate knowing where they are available.) Thanks, and may God continue to bless your labours for His people!

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