Barnes' Notes on the New Testament


Of the Barnes' Notes on the New Testament, it is said that more than a million volumes had been issued by 1870. The Notes on Job, the Psalms, Isaiah and Daniel found scarcely less acceptance. Displaying no original critical power, their chief merit lies in the fact that they bring in a popular (but not always accurate) form the results of the criticism of others within the reach of general readers.

Who was Albert Barnes?
Albert Barnes, born on the December 1, 1798 in New York. He died in Philadelphia on the December 24, 1870.
He graduated at Hamilton College, Clinton, New York, in 1820, and at the Princeton Theological Seminary in 1823. Barnes was ordained as a Presbyterian minister by the presbytery of Elizabethtown, New Jersey, in 1825, and was the pastor successively of the Presbyterian Church in Morristown, New Jersey (18251830), and of the First Presbyterian Church of Philadelphia (18301867).

He held a prominent place in the New School branch of the Presbyterians, to which he adhered on the division of the denomination in 1837; he had been tried (but not convicted) for heresy in 1836, the charge being particularly against the views expressed by him in Notes on Romans (1835) of the imputation of the sin of Adam, original sin and the atonement; the bitterness stirred up by this trial contributed towards widening the breach between the conservative and the progressive elements in the church. He was an eloquent preacher, but his reputation rests chiefly on his expository works, which are said to have had a larger circulation both in Europe and America than any others of their class.

Barnes was the author of several other works of a practical and devotional kind, including Scriptural Views of Slavery (1846) and The Way of Salvation (1863). A collection of his Theological Works was published in Philadelphia in 1875.

Original Preface to the Barnes' Notes on the Gospels

In the preparation of the following Barnes' Notes, free use has been made of all the helps within the reach of the author. The works from which most assistance has been derived are, Walton's Polyglott; the Critici Sacri, particularly the Notes of Grotius; Lightfoot's Works; Macknight and Newcome's Harmony of the Gospels; Jahn's Archaeology; Horne's Introduction; Doddridge's Family Expositor; Calmet's Dictionary; Campbell on the Gospels; the Commentaries of Kuinoel, Rosenmuller Clarke, and Henry; Tittman's Meletamata Sacra on John; the Sacred Geography of Wells, and that prepared for the American Sunday School Union, by Messrs J. & J. W. Alexander. The object has been to express, in as few words as possible, the real meaning of the Gospels; the results of their critical study, rather than the process by which these results were reached.

This work is designed to occupy a place, which is supposed to be unappropriated, in attempts to explain the New Testament. It was my wish to present to Sunday school teachers a plain and simple explanation of the more common difficulties of the book which it is their province to teach. This wish has given character to the work. If it should occur to any one that more minute explanations of words, phrases, and customs, have been attempted than might seem to them desirable, it will be recollected that many Sunday school teachers have little access to means of information, and that no small part of their success is dependent on the minuteness and correctness of the explanation which is given to children.

This work is designed also to be a Harmony of the Gospels. Particular attention has been bestowed, especially in the Notes on Matthew, to bring the different narratives of the evangelists together, and to show that, in their narration of the same events, there is no real contradiction. It will be recollected, that the sacred narrative of an event is what it is reported to be by all the evangelists. It will also be recollected, that the most plausible objections to the New Testament have been drawn from the apparent contradictions in the Gospels. The importance of meeting these difficulties, in the education of the young, and of showing that these objections are not well founded, will be apparent to all.

Particular attention has been paid to the references to parallel passages of Scripture. In all instances, in these Notes, they are an essential part of the explanation of the text. The authority of the Bible has been deemed the only authority that was necessary in such cases; and it is hoped that no one will condemn any explanation offered, without a candid examination of the real meaning of the passages referred to.

The main design of these Notes will be accomplished, if they furnish a just explanation of the text. Practical remarks could not have been more full without materially increasing the size of the book, and, as was supposed, without essentially limiting its circulation and its usefulness. All that has been attempted, therefore, in this part of the work, has been to furnish leading thoughts, or heads of practical remark, to be enlarged on at the discretion of the teacher.

The Barnes' Notes have been prepared amidst the pressing and anxious cares of a responsible pastoral charge. Of their imperfections no one can be more sensible than the author. Of the time and patience indispensable in preparing even such brief Notes on the Bible, under the conviction that the opinions expressed may form the sentiments of the young on the subject of the Book of God, and determine their eternal destiny, no one can be sensible who has not made the experiment. The great truth is becoming more and more impressed on the minds of this generation, that the Bible is the only authoritative source of religious belief; and if there is any institution pre-eminently calculated to deepen this impression, and fix it permanently in the minds of the coming age, it is the Sunday school. Every minister of the Gospel, every parent, every Christian, must therefore feel it important that just views of interpretation should be imbibed in these schools. I have felt more deeply than I have any other sentiment, the importance of inculcating on the young proper modes of explaining the sacred Scriptures. If I can be one of the instruments, however humble, in extending such views through the community, my wish in this work will be accomplished. I commit it, therefore, to the blessing of the God of the Bible, with the prayer that it may be one among many instruments of forming correct religious views, and promoting the practical love of God and man among the youth of this country.

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