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J. B. Lightfoot: Unpublished Works Now Appearing

January 8, 2015

J. B. Lightfoot was perhaps the most impressive British NT scholar of his generation (late 19th century), and one of the most significant NT scholars of his day internationally.  His published works remain important to consult, and some (especially his 5-volume work on “The Apostolic Fathers”) remain essential and unsurpassed.  But there was a good deal of unpublished work by Lightfoot as well, hundreds of pages of biblical/exegetical work discovered by Ben Witherington in the Durham Cathedral Library in 2013.  Under the editorship of Witherington and Todd Still, the first of several published volumes has appeared, presenting this previously unpublished material by Lightfoot:  J. B. Lightfoot: The Acts of the Apostles, a Newly Discovered Commentary, The Lightfoot Legacy Set, Volume 1, eds. Ben Witherington III and Todd D. Still(Downers Grove, IL:  IVP Academic, 2014).

The main portion of this book is given to Lightfoot’s exegetical notes on chapters 1-19 of Acts of the Apostles, forming a valuable commentary on this portion of Acts.  This material includes detailed “excurses” on various matters, such as the varying NT accounts of Judas’ death, the Sanhedrin and the High Priests, the Primacy of Peter, the early Diaconate, the authenticity of the speech of Stephen, Simon Magus, the conversion of the Ethiopian, and still other topics.

In addition, the editors include Lightfoot’s article on Acts published originally in Smith’s Dictionary of the Bible, Lightfoot’s article on “Illustrations of the Acts from Recent Discoveries” (published originally in Contemporary Review, 1878), Lightfoot’s lecture, “St. Paul’s History after the Close of the Acts,” and “The Obituary/Homage to Lightfoot” (originally published in Contemporary Review 1893).

Two further volumes of Lightfoot’s unpublished work are planned:  Volume 2: Lightfoot’s notes on the Gospel of John (to appear in 2015), and Volume 3:  Lightfoot’s notes on 2 Corinthians and 1 Peter (projected for 2016).

Serious library collections should hold these works, and serious students/researchers will be grateful to the editors and publisher for making them available.

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