Joseph Caryl was a Puritan pastor who was born in London in 1602 and died on March 10 in 1673. In between those dates of his seventy-one year-old life, he was mostly a pastor. He was educated at Exeter College in Oxford where he received his bachelor of arts in 1625 and his master’s degree in 1627. He was ordained to the ministry and held a post in a pulpit at Lincoln’s Inn from 1632 to 1647. After that, he was appointed as minister at St. Magnus near London Bridge, where he preached from the late 1640s until 1662. That year was called the, “Year of the Restoration.” Charles II was on the throne, the Act of Uniformity was enacted, and this Puritan pastor was kicked out of his pulpit. So Caryl found an independent congregation in London and managed to have the freedom to preach there for the last decade of his life.
You can set Joseph Caryl’s interesting life against a fascinating time in the British reformation. The 1640s was the time of the English Civil War where the Parliament was against the king. This was also the time of the Westminster Standards, and Caryl was part of what we would call the Westminster Divines, the group of ministers who met at the Westminster Assembly to produce the Westminster Catechisms and the Westminster Confession of Faith. He preached many times there, and was often a preacher at various meetings at the different times during the year. He is, however, probably most famous for his commentary on Job.
The commentary was originally published as what are called “quarto volumes.” These are smaller books they are more “hold in the hand” kind of sizes. You take a large piece of paper, called a folio or leaf, which was about 11 x 17 inches, or 12 x 18 or so inches, and you fold it up into four, “quarto,” and that’s the size of the book; twelve volumes that size on Job. But then it was published as two folio sized volumes. Again, that’s about 18 x 12 inches. If you can picture that, it is five and a half inches thick. That’s volume one! Volume two is another five and a half inches thick. So, at almost a foot thick of large paper, each one weighs somewhere around thirty pounds; this is the 60-pound commentary on Job. Archibald Alexander, one of the great Princeton theologians said, “Though this work,” referring to Caryl’s commentary on Job, “possesses great merit, it’s enormous size has been a great obstruction to its usefulness. It has been wittily said that this book is a good exercise of that patience which the book of Job was intended to inculcate and exemplify.” So, you need patience to read it. Each volume has about 2,280 pages, and it’s in double column, and there’s Hebrew text in the margins. Make no mistake about it, this 60-pound commentary is not for the faint of heart.