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

Faser, RJ 1995 , '"...Almost a rabbi himself"? : John Lightfoot and the conversion of the Jews to Christianity', Coursework Master thesis, University of Tasmania.

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'... [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
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.'

Item Type: Thesis - Coursework Master
Authors/Creators:Faser, RJ
Keywords: Lightfoot, John, 1602-1675, Jews, Converts from Judaism
Copyright Holders: The Author
Copyright Information:

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).

Additional Information:

Thesis (M.Hum.)--University of Tasmania, 1995.

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