The Acts of the Apostles
InterVarsity Press is proud to present The Lightfoot Legacy, a three-volume set of previously unpublished material from J. B. Lightfoot, one of the great biblical scholars of the modern era.
In the spring of 2013, Ben Witherington III discovered hundreds of pages of biblical commentary by Lightfoot in the Durham Cathedral Library. While incomplete, these commentaries represent a goldmine for historians and biblical scholars, as well as for the many people who have found Lightfoot's work both informative and edifying, deeply learned and pastorally sensitive.
Among those many pages were two sets of lecture notes on the Acts of the Apostles. Together they amount to a richly detailed, albeit unfinished, commentary on Acts 1-21. The project of writing a commentary on Acts had long been on Lightfoot's mind, and in the 1880s he wrote an article about the book for the second British edition of William Smith's Dictionary of the Bible. Thankfully, that is not all he left behind.
Now on display for all to see, these commentary notes reveal a scholar well ahead of his time, one of the great minds of his or any generation. Well over a century later, The Acts of the Apostles remains a relevant and significant resource for the church today.
"A profound debt of gratitude is owed to Professors Witherington and Still for relentlessly pursuing, recovering, and editing J. B. Lightfoot?s notes on Acts. Harnack said it best: Lightfoot was a true liberal for he was 'an independent, free scholar . . . in the absolute sense of the word. He has never defended tradition for the tradition's sake.' We need more liberals like that today!"
"Everyone who has read J. B. Lightfoot's great commentaries on the letters of Paul wishes for more. Thanks to Ben Witherington's diligent search and editorial labors we now have more. What could be better? We are now in possession of Lightfoot's commentary on a substantial portion of the book of Acts, which will allow us to see more clearly how the bishop of Durham understood the circumstances in which Paul's letters were written. As we would expect, Lightfoot's comments on the text of Acts are rich with pertinent parallels from Greek and Latin authors. The publication of Lightfoot's long-lost commentary is momentous."
"The discovery of hitherto unknown exegetical works by J. B. Lightfoot is a rare gift, full of potential for fresh insight both about the man himself (acknowledged worldwide as the leading scholar of his day) and, as he would have wished, about texts which he knew so well and which themselves express the heart of the gospel. Hearty congratulations to finder, editor and publisher on an unexpected and exciting addition to the core library of seminal biblical studies."
"Joseph Barber Lightfoot has been, for me, in many ways the epitome of what the commentator on New Testament and early church texts can and should aspire to. His detailed knowledge of the literature of the time was unsurpassed, and his ability to shed the light of that knowledge on the New Testament writings was without peer. His commentaries on New Testament texts and the early Fathers retain a relevance and a value to this day almost unique for nineteenth-century scholarship. That a fuller publication of his writings is now available in these volumes is a wonderful bonus for those who want to hear these New Testament and early church texts as they were first heard."
"Thanks to Witherington and his associates and to IVP for bringing this cache of material from the great J. B. Lightfoot into the public domain. His previously published works have remained important (his multivolume study of the apostolic fathers is essential for these writings), and this hitherto unpublished material will now also likely come to be seen as a valuable resource."
"To have Lightfoot on Acts is astonishingly valuable, for three reasons. First, Lightfoot is peerless among biblical commentators of his day, and shows a breadth of learning and understanding which always illuminates the text he comments on. Second, Lightfoot deals in this commentary with key issues that are current today in study of Acts, such as the text, the historical value of the Acts narrative, the speeches of Acts and the portrait of Paul. Third, this book enlarges our understanding of Lightfoot's massive scholarship; he is truly a giant among New Testament scholars, and to watch him work—as in this book on Acts—is an education in the questions to ask, approaches to take and ways to draw evidence from disparate sources together to produce a coherent whole. We are greatly in debt to Ben Witherington, Todd Still and their collaborators for bringing this material to light for our day."
"J. B. Lightfoot was perhaps the greatest New Testament exegete in the nineteenth-century English-speaking world, and his works remain useful today. The discovery of his previously unpublished research, which addresses in a balanced and informed way many issues still debated today, is an epochal event in New Testament studies."
"When I was a seminary student, one of my professors had given a full explanation of a critical passage in Galatians when a student across the room asked aloud, 'So then, do you disagree with J. B. Lightfoot?' The professor, given to the well-timed pause, looked first to the right and then to the left and then ended the silence with the rhetorical question, 'What does a mouse say to a lion?' Lightfoot, indeed, is an exegetical lion, and this incredible discovery by Ben Witherington and now publication of fresh materials by Lightfoot will mean a whole new generation can be exposed to the stalking, roaring presence of the nineteenth century's finest exegete of the life of Paul."
"The Acts of the Apostles is a helpful addition to the library of any student of the New Testament and the early church. Pastors may also find his discussion questions and lecture style helpful as they prepare to teach and preach."
"Here is a Lightfoot feast indeed. Although long deceased, Lightfoot speaks new and afresh once again."
"Editors Witherington and Still have compiled a volume that has something for everyone. The pastor and seminarian will benefit from the articles and lectures that both precede and follow the main commentary. The scholar will thoroughly enjoy this candid look in to the personal notes of a towering figure in biblical scholarship and will find in the concise commentary a number of suggestive observations that merit further exploration. . . . We can be grateful to the editors for unearthing Lightfoot's notes, making them available in this unique volume, and acquainting us with a man whose learning and piety is an inspiration to scholar and pastor alike."
"While the commentary may not specifically address a particular passage or issue, the volume is a worthwhile addition to any scholar or pastor's Acts shelf simply because for those passages and topics Lightfoot does address, he provides not only well-reasoned, well-grounded arguments but also often offers unexpected intertextual connections that carry profound interpretive implications. . . . It would be a shame indeed to miss it, for reading Lightfoot's notes is an unprecedented opportunity to watch one of the greatest academic minds of the last century at work on a text that has held special significance for members of the Stone-Campbell Movement."
"This volume of Lightfoot's notes will guide you patiently and reverently through much of the text of Acts. You will be encouraged to pause to notice the details of the text and occasionally look over the broad landscape to see how the details of the text relate to the broader picture of the New Testament account of the work of the Lord Jesus in building his church."
Editors? Introduction: J. B. Lightfoot as Biblical Commentator
Part I: Introduction to Commenting in General
Part II: Introduction to Acts—Preliminary Matters
Part III: The Commentary on Acts
Ascension, Judas? Demise, the Filling Up of the Twelve (Acts 1)
Excursus: On the Historical Problem of the Varying Accounts of Judas? Demise
Pentecost and Its Aftermath (Acts 2)
The Beginnings and Trials of the Church in Jerusalem
Excursus: The Sanhedrin and the High Priests
Excursus: The Primacy of Peter
Excursus: The Diaconate
The First Martyr for Christ (Acts 7)
Excursus: The Tabernacle
Excursus: The Authenticity of the Speech of St. Stephen
Simon, the Samaritans, and Philip (Acts 8)
Excursus: Simon Magus
Excursus: Conversion of the Ethiopian
The Conversion of Saul (Acts 9)
The Surprising Story of Cornelius (Acts 10)
Trouble in Zion—Peter Explains (Acts 11)
The Persecuted Church and the Dawn of the Mission of the Persecutor (Acts 12)
The First Missionary Journey (Acts 13?14)
Excursus: St. Paul?s Apostolic Journeys
The Apostolic Council and Its Aftermath (Acts 15)
The Second Missionary Journey (Acts 16)
Macedonia and On to Athens (Acts 17)
Excursus: The History of St. Paul?s Days at Thessalonike
And So to Corinth (Acts 18)
Finally at Ephesus (Acts 19)
The Third Missionary Journey (Acts 19:21?21:39)
Excursus: Timothy and Erastus
Excursus: The Speech of St. Paul at Miletus
Conclusions on the Rest of Acts
Appendix A: Lightfoot?s Article on Acts for Smith?s Dictionary of the Bible
Appendix B: Illustrations of the Acts from Recent Discoveries
Appendix C: St. Paul?s History After the Close of the Acts
Appendix D: The Obituary/Homage to Lightfoot