J. B. Lightfoot

Joseph Barber Lightfoot (1828-1889), usually known as J. B. Lightfoot, was an English theologian and Bishop of Durham.

He was educated at King Edward's School, Birmingham, under James Prince Lee, afterwards Bishop of Manchester. His contemporaries included Brooke Foss Westcott and Edward White Benson. In 1847 Lightfoot went up to Trinity College, Cambridge, and read for his degree along with Westcott. He graduated senior classic and 30th wrangler, and was elected a fellow of his college. From 1854 to 1859 he edited the Journal of Classical and Sacred Philology. In 1857 he became tutor, and his fame as a scholar grew. He was made Hulsean professor in 1861, and shortly afterwards chaplain to the Prince Consort and honorary chaplain in ordinary to Queen Victoria.

In 1866 he was Whitehall preacher, and in 1871 he became canon of St Paul's Cathedral. His sermons were not remarkable for eloquence, but a certain solidity and balance of judgment, an absence of partisanship, a sobriety of expression combined with clearness and force of diction, attracted hearers and inspired them with confidence.

In 1874, the anonymous publication of Walter Richard Cassels' Supernatural Religion created considerable sensation. In a series of masterly papers in the Contemporary Review, between December 1874 and May 1877, Lightfoot successfully undertook the defense of the New Testament canon. The articles were published in collected form in 1889. About the same time he was engaged in contributions to W Smith's Dictionary of Christian Biography and Dictionary of the Bible, and he also joined the committee for revising the translation of the New Testament. In 1875 he became Lady Margaret's Professor of Divinity in succession to William Selwyn.

Lightfoot's biblical commentaries, may be described as to a certain extent a new departure in New Testament exegesis. Before Lightfoot's time, commentaries had frequently consisted either of short homilies on particular portions of the text, or of endeavors to enforce foregone conclusions, or of attempts to decide with infinite industry and ingenuity between the interpretations of former commentators. Lightfoot, however, endeavored to make the biblical author interpret himself, and by considering the general drift of his argument to discover his meaning where it appeared doubtful. Thus he was able often to recover the meaning of a passage which had long been buried under a heap of contradictory glosses, and he founded a school in which sobriety and common sense were added to the industry and ingenuity of former commentators.

Classic Commentaries on the Greek New Testament(on CD-ROM)


Philippians (Crossway Classic Commentaries, 1994)

Colossians & Philemon (Crossway Classic Commentaries, 1994)

Biblical Essays (2006)

J. B. Lightfoot's Commentary on the Epistles of St. Paul (4 vol. set, 1993)

The Apostolic Fathers (2007)

Essays On The Work Entitled Supernatural Religion (2007)

Commentary on St Paul's Epistle to the Galatians (1957)

Historical Essays (2006)

Notes on Epistles of St. Paul (2001)

The Brethren of the Lord (2001)

The Christian Ministry (1984) [TOP]

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