Preface to Poole's "Synopsis": Poole's Method in Compiling the "Synopsis"



Now, what method I proposed to myself in carrying off this Work, and what the Reader might be able to expect from me, and what I would in turn expect from him, let the Reader briefly consider.


1. What things in the Authors that I regarded, with respect to the rationale of my plan and in the interests of the promised brevity, to be worthy of neglect are almost all of these kinds: 1. Empty and pointless repetitions of the same thing. 2. Jewish Fables. 3. All of the common things suggesting themselves to those perusing the text, such as Vatablus and others, often with fastidiousness, heap up. 4. Private disputes of the Learned and altercations over nothing, which do not improve us with respect to the intellect or disposition. 5. Theological Controversies, with which often the more verbose interpreters quite swamp their Commentaries. Those, as much as it seems right, I willingly send away unto a forum for controversy and Polemical writers, being satisfied to set forward simply and accurately various opinions concerning the sense of Scripture, among which opinions which one is true will be open to the judicious Reader without difficulty: I would not wish the noise of the craftsman’s tools to be heard in this Work more than it once was (if I might be forgiven for saying so) in the Solomonic building program.[1] 6. Κυμινοπρίσματα/cummin-chatter, or trifles of no importance or use; a great many such trifles present themselves in the works of Drusius, works which are yet interspersed (lest I should defraud him of deserved praises) with a significant number of Annotations which are not at all to be despised, which I was eager to gather. Certainly so many serious and most weighty matters were presenting themselves to me, with which our pages were able to be filled and furnished, that it would hardly have been expedient that they should have room for minutia. 2. Although I was eager, insofar as I was able, and inasmuch as it was needed, to set forth the entire Biblical Text illuminated; nevertheless, some places I brooded and watched over more diligently. They are of such kinds: 1. To doubtful or obscure passages, or to those difficult to be understood, and especially to those which by the multitude of Commentators are entirely neglected or barely treated, I paid careful attention, on account of these provoking circumstances. 2. Those passages which might appear to present an opportunity for the enemies of Scripture and Religion to scoff: not a few of this sort fair-minded Readers will find (I hope) sufficiently elucidated and cleared. I might wish that this one, and in my judgment most equitable, request would be granted by those adversaries of truth: If any difficulties present themselves here, upon which they might have hitherto been stuck, and concerning which they might have in this work satisfactorily ascertained the resolution, then they will consider that the same sort of resolution is able to arise concerning other difficulties, and they will not hastily pronounce them insoluble, which they themselves are unable to solve. And since many passages of Sacred Scripture have appeared in preceding ages to be of this sort, which, nevertheless, the diligence of succeeding ages easily cleared; the same (as is only right) ought to be hoped concerning others; which, although to us hitherto they might appear difficult and involved, will perhaps by late posterity (to whose industry it was most fitting that some things should be left) be cleared up and explained. 3. Also those passages by which the conscience is guided in the duties of justice and piety, and our practice ordered unto eternal life. If in fact the end of Sacred Scripture is not θεωρία/theory, but πρᾶξις/practice, not so much to make us more learned, but to improve our character; then the pious and prudent Reader will excuse me, if I deal with those from time to time somewhat more fully; in which I neither often, nor much, trespass the limits erected by me in the beginning. 3. I would not wish the opinions and interpretations of passages, which occur here all together, to be embraced instead of the verities of the passages. My Work, like a Gospel net, encloses all kinds of fish, in the end to be separated by the sagacious Reader,[2] so that according to his own will he might first make use of the good, then throw back the useless. I do not interpose my judgment, whatever it might be, but I faithfully present the individual, warring opinions of Interpreters, supported by their own weight and arguments (for the most part), so that the truth might shine out of the conflict and comparison of the Authors. I purposely committed myself to this above all as a given in this endeavor, so that I might protect both my purpose and my Work, whole and uncorrupted, from the zeal of parties, and so that I might not import my sentiments into the Scripture, but set forth only the views of others.[3] 4. In this I have been zealous rather that necessary things fall not out, than that what some might judge to be superfluous be not repeated. I do not disavow that I have inserted more than a few things here and there, which, if I had completely yielded to my own judgment, I might have quite omitted. But I thought to myself that the judgments of men are no less varied than faces and tongues; and what some might judge to be superfluous perhaps can be viewed as necessary in the estimation of others. To the former at least there is a ready and easy remedy: they might pass over with a skimming eye those things which they might regard as superfluous; if, however, those things had been left out, which might have been viewed by others as perhaps quite useful, the remedy would be more difficult and further to be sought, neither would it be possible to restore those things without immoderate labor and great expense of time and perhaps also of money. 5. If there were things in the Authors presenting themselves as either more ingeniously thought out or bursting with uncommon erudition, even if not strictly and properly pertaining unto the explication of the Sacred Text, from these I gathered as many things as possible and inserted them into my Synopsis, lest these things, which were able, although on another account, both to fascinate and to instruct, should be lost to the Reader. 6. I brought forth not only the sense of the Authors, but the very words in most cases; so that the Reader might learn not only their opinions, but also see the diversity of their styles and talents. For which cause, I preferred now and then their own words, barbarous and unfamiliar to Latin ears, over better word choices, which easily would have been able to be substituted. However, I reserved for myself the liberty to change words, because such a liberty greatly serves the interests of a compendium. 7. Where many Authors share the same opinion, I usually prefer above the others that one from whom the others were derived; nevertheless, I occasionally prefer that one who expresses the opinion more fully or more eloquently. 8. Where the bare names of the Authors occur (which are generally assigned to the margin of the book),[4] let the Reader understand that they wrote those things concerning the apposite passage or text of Scripture: if it be done otherwise, I invoke with the name of the Author the specific passage (of the book, or chapter, etc.) whence I gathered these things. 9. If the Reader should not immediately find in my Synopsis those things that are worthy to be mentioned, at least not in the same chapter or verse to which they are committed by the Author, I would not have him rashly to believe these things to have been omitted by me, but rather to have been set in a more suitable and appropriate place; for, to the one perusing this work and applying himself, the matter will be easily accessible in more than one place. 10. If one does not find in the Authors some things here ascribed to them, let him not suppose these things to have been fabricated by me and attached to them; but rather let him consult diverse editions of the Authors. It is normal for things to be included in some editions, which are clearly wanting in others; it would be easy to demonstrate this with specific names and passages. 11. What things in the Synopsis may have been stated with greater obscurity, I would not have them all to be ascribed to me, but many of them to the Authors themselves, who often obscure their own meaning. Consequently, in passages of that sort, I set forth their own words more extensively, often completely intact. Otherwise, I applied care and diligent labor, so that (as much as the nature of the Work might allow) I might display the sense of the Scriptures fully and clearly; and so that my brevity (as it is wont to do) might not produce obscurity. 12. Since Sacred Scripture is the best Interpreter of itself and the comparison of Texts is the preeminent help for the understanding of Sacred Scripture, to this I most diligently attended, so that I might collect those texts from the Authors (especially the most weighty and most skilled in the Sacred Texts, and who display them by weight, not by number) and bring them forth with greater fullness. In the midst of which the attentive Reader will discover that a great number of the chapters and verses of the Biblical Text, which had been corrupted in the authors by the carelessness of the printers, have been corrected through no small effort.[5] 13. I have included the vowel points with the Hebrew words to help the Reader with less training in that language, otherwise than it is in the Nine Volumes of Critical Interpreters of the Sacred Scripture and in most of the other books from which I have transcribed. I have protracted the advising of my Reader in these particulars; use will easily teach the rest.

[1] 1 Kings 6:7.


[2] Matthew 13:47-50.


[3] In this present edition, Poole’s English Annotations (printed in bold) have been spliced into the Synopsis, so that the reader might have Poole’s judgment ready to hand.


[4] In this edition of the Synopsis, the names of the authors have been moved from the margins and placed in the text in parentheses.


[5] Many more corrections to the prooftexts were yet needed in the production of this edition. Some of the corrections to be made were obvious, and so they have been made without comment. The cases which were less clear have been annotated.

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ABOUT US

Dr. Steven Dilday holds a BA in Religion and Philosophy from Campbell University, a Master of Arts in Religion from Westminster Theological Seminary (Philadelphia), and both a Master of Divinity and a  Ph.D. in Puritan History and Literature from Whitefield Theological Seminary.  He is also the translator of Matthew Poole's Synopsis of Biblical Interpreters and Bernardinus De Moor’s Didactico-Elenctic Theology.

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