17th Century Textual Apparatus in the Commentaries of Andrew Willet (1562-1621)

Here Willet addresses both textual critical and alternative readings specifically as they address the Hebrew, Latin, Syriac, Greek and cognate languages. Willet utilized an extensive nomenclature and system for noting the diction, grammar, or syntax of the passage in question. In the preface of his commentary on Genesis, under the heading “Certain directions to the reader to be observed in the reading of this book” he informs the reader of his commentary’s continuity with past writers drawing from the commentaries of Mercerus and Pererius after the manner in which Jerome utilized the writings of Origen: “I have caused that our country men should know the best things, and be ignorant of his worst.”[1] Willet then describes the textual apparatus for the critical references he would cite throughout the work. First letters represent the various resources, and abbreviations represent grammatical or syntactical observations: S for Septuagint; H for the Latin thought to be Jerome’s; C for the Chaldee; P for Pagnius; A for Arius Montanus; B for the Great English Bible; G for the Geneva Bible; T for Tremellius, he for the Hebrew text and cat. For cateri, the rest.[2]

It is also important to note Willet’s detail in marginal notes. The full list follows: ad., addeth; differ. ver., different words; diver. Accep., divers takings; app. F. pr., appellative for proper; plu. f. sing., plural number for singular; de., detract or take away; cor., corrupt; div. sig., divers significations; nega. F. affir., negative for affirmative; invert., inverting of order; al, alt., altering of the text; differ. pron., difference of pronunciation; mut pers., change of person; differ temp., difference of the tense; simil. Voc., likeness of the words; interp., interpret, when the sense is kept and not the workds; transp., transposing of words; mut. Temp., change of the tense; mut. Voc., change of the voice, as when the active is put for the passive, or contrariwise; r., right; c., corrupt.[3]

In his commentary on Exodus, he provides this list of sources that span the scope of church history and cross confessional boundaries: Josephus, Origen, Cyprian, Cyril, Chrysostom, Jerome, Augustine, Gregory, Theodoret, Damascene, Lyranus, Thomas Aquinas, Hugo Cardinalis, Isidore, Hugo de S. Victor, Burgensis, Rupertus, Rabanus, Luther, Calvin, Pagnine, Junium annot., Arias Montanus, Junius analysis, Pellican, Simlerus, Gallasius, Marbachius, Pelargus, Borrhaus, Osiander, Aretius, Zeiglerus, Cajetanus, Lippomanus, Tostatus, Ferus, Pereius, Vatablus, Oleaster, Piscator, Genevens.[4]

The reader will note the comprehensiveness of Willet’s resources representing the continuity of orthodox theology throughout the ages. Willet’s work is an expression of the historic ecclesiastical and exegetical tradition. His commentaries served a winnowing purpose for identifying orthodoxy in the labors of his patristic, medieval and Reformation counterparts.

  1. HR, title page.

2. HG, Preface.

3. HG, Preface.

4. The reference to the “Genevens” in the margin of the commentary is directly adjacent to Willet’s list including Luther, Calvin, Simlerus, Junius and Genevens and “other worthie writers among Protestants.” By “Genevens” Willet probably means the consensus of the Genevan exegetes.


Published by Dr. Peter Van Kleeck, Sr.

Dr. Peter William Van Kleeck, Sr. : B.A., Grand Rapids Baptist College, 1986; M.A.R., Westminster Theological Seminary, 1990; Th.M., Calvin Theological Seminary, 1998; D. Min, Bob Jones University, 2013. Dr. Van Kleeck was formerly the Director of the Institute for Biblical Textual Studies, Grand Rapids, MI, (1990-1994) lecturing, researching and writing in the defense of the Masoretic Hebrew text, Greek Received Text and King James Bible. His published works include, "Fundamentalism’s Folly?: A Bible Version Debate Case Study" (Grand Rapids: Institute for Biblical Textual Studies, 1998); “We have seen the future and we are not in it,” Trinity Review, (Mar. 99); “Andrew Willet (1562-1621: Reformed Interpretation of Scripture,” The Banner of Truth, (Mar. 99); "A Primer for the Public Preaching of the Song of Songs" (Outskirts Press, 2015). Dr. Van Kleeck is the pastor of the Providence Baptist Church in Manassas, VA where he has ministered for the past twenty-one years. He is married to his wife of 43 years, Annette, and has three married sons, one daughter and eighteen grandchildren.

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