John Lightfoot

English Biblical critic and Hebraist


March 29, 1602
December 6, 1675
Related topics
Commentaries, Criticism, interpretation, etc., Middle East--Palestine, Early works, History,


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Lightfoot was born at Stoke-upon-Trent, Staffordshire, Mar. 29, 1602; died at Ely, Cambridgeshire, Dec. 6, 1675. After completing his education at Christ's College, Cambridge, he taught at Repton, Derbyshire, for two years and then took orders. Appointed curate of Norton-in-Hales, Shropshire, he became chaplain to the Hebraist Sir Rowland Cotton, who urged him to study Hebrew and other Semitic languages. He accompanied Cotton when he removed to London, and then became rector of Stone, Staffordshire, for about two years, but in 1628 changed his residence to Hornsey, Middlesex, in order to be able to consult the rabbinical collections at Sion College, London.

During his residence at Hornsey he wrote his first work, dedicated to Cotton and entitled Erubhin, or Miscellanies, Christian and Judaical, penned for Recreation at vacant Hours (London, 1629). In the following year he was presented to the rectory of Ashley, Staffordshire, which he held twelve years, after which he settled in London and became rector of St. Bartholomew's. Presbyterian in his sympathies, he took the parliamentary side in the Civil War and was a member of the Westminster Assembly. After a year at St. Bartholomew's, he was appointed rector of Great Munden, Hertfordshire, and held it for the remainder of his life. In 1650 he was chosen master of St. Catharine Hall, Cambridge, and four years later became vice-chancellor. He again sided with the Presbyterians in the Savoy Conference of 1661, but accepted the Act of Uniformity in the following year. In 1667 he was appointed a prebendary at Ely. His Oriental library was bequeathed to Harvard College, but was burned in 1769.

Lightfoot was a prolific writer and is noteworthy as the first Christian scholar to call attention to the importance of the Talmud. His chief works are as follows: A Few and New Observations on the Book of Genesis (London, 1642); A Handful of Gleanings out of the Book of Exodus (1643); Harmony of the Four Evangelists among themselves and with the Old Testament (3 vols., 1644-50); Harmony, Chronicle, and Order of the Old Testament (1647); The Temple Service as it stood in the Days of our Saviour (1649); The Temple, especially as it stood in the Days of our Saviour (1650); Harmony, Chronicle, and Order of the New Testament (1655); and the work which has done most to preserve his fame, Horæ Hebraicæ et Talmudicæ [From the Talmud and Hebraica] (6 vols., Cambridge and London, 1658-1678).

It should also be noted that Lightfoot revised the Samaritan version of the Pentateuch for Walton's Polyglot Bible.

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