University Of Tasmania
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\...Almost a rabbi himself\"? : John Lightfoot and the conversion of the Jews to Christianity"

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posted on 2023-05-26, 22:32 authored by Faser, RJ
'... [B]y constant reading of the rabbis, [he] became almost a rabbi himself. ..' In these words, Edward Gibbon in the eighteenth century described John Lightfoot, a seventeenth century Puritan scholar who taught at Cambridge University. In the seventeenth through early nineteenth centuries, Lightfoot's reputation as a Hebrew scholar was held in high regard, particularly in the area of Talmudic studies. Paradoxically, Lightfoot, for all his expertise in the language and literature of the Jews, held the Jews and their religion in contempt, as has been forcefully demonstrated by Schertz. Lightfoot expressed a deep hostility toward both the ancient Jews and the Jews contemporary to himself. An area in which he expressed his contempt for and hostility to the Jews most forcefully was in his attitude to attempts to convert Jews to Christianity. This dissertation will seek to examine Lightfoot's views on the conversion of the Jews to Christianity. In doing so, this dissertation will not attempt to serve as a systematic critique of Lightfoot's Talmudic and rabbinic scholarship. Schertz has already provided such a critique. Neither will this dissertation attempt to provide a systematic evaluation, from a twentieth-century perspective, of Lightfoot's importance in the development of historical-critical methods of studying the scriptures. Such a study has yet to be written and would demand greater space than the specifications of this dissertation would allow, along with greater technical and linguistic expertise in the disciplines of biblical studies than the author of this dissertation claims to possess. Of necessity, this work will assume a narrower focus on a single, albeit central, aspect of Lightfoot's thought. The first chapter will place Lightfoot's views in historical context by surveying attitudes regarding the conversion of the Jews to Christianity in seventeenth-century England. Among many English Puritans, particularly during the periods of the Civil War, the Commonwealth and the Protectorate, a growing conviction existed that the Second Coming of Christ was imminent and that the mass conversion of the Jews to Christianity was a necessary prerequisite to the Second Coming. The second chapter will examine Lightfoot's opposition to attempts to convert Jews to Christianity, as stated in A Parergon Concerning the Fall of Jerusalem. In this context, some consideration of Lightfoot's general views regarding Jews and Judaism will also be relevant. The third chapter will consider the impact of John Calvin's theology upon Lightfoot's views regarding the conversion of the Jews, particularly the doctrines of election and predestination. In the concluding section, Lightfoot's views on the conversion of the Jews will be evaluated. In this evaluation, the observation will be made that a significant common factor was shared by Lightfoot and by the advocates of the conversion of the Jews. Neither viewed Judaism as a religion in its own right. Instead, Judaism was viewed as either an under-developed form of Christianity or as a negation of Christianity. It will be the contention of this dissertation that this view of Judaism constituted a significant flaw in the thought both of Lightfoot and of the advocates of the conversion of the Jews. In this context, the author hopes that the irony (whether intentional or unintentional) of Gibbon's remark will become apparent, that Lightfoot, with his contempt for the Jews and their religion, was never ' . . almost a rabbi himself.'


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Copyright 1994 the author - The University is continuing to endeavour to trace the copyright owner(s) and in the meantime this item has been reproduced here in good faith. We would be pleased to hear from the copyright owner(s). Thesis (M.Hum.)--University of Tasmania, 1995.

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