English Christian divine and Talmudist; born at Stoke-upon-Trent 1602; died at Ely 1675. He passed through Christ's College, Cambridge, and later took orders, serving for the rest of his life as curate, rector, and canon. From 1650 till his death he was master of St. Catherine Hall (now College), Cambridge. He was parliamentarian, Presbyterian, and a leading member of the Westminster Assembly. It was through the influence of Sir Rowland Cotton (himself a Hebraist) that Lightfoot entered on the study of Hebrew, to which, including rabbinical Hebrew, he thenceforth devoted his leisure. His first publication was the tract "Ervbhin, or Miscellanies Christian and Judaicall, and Others, Penned for Recreation at Vacant Houres" (London, 1629). He is best known by his "Horæ Hebraicæ et Talmudicæ," composed in Latin, giving Talmudic parallels on the Gospels and I Corinthians, Acts, and some chapters of Romans, which appeared at intervals from 1658 to 1674, except the part on Acts and Romans, which was brought out later by Kidder, afterward Bishop of Bath and Wells (1691). The work was reproduced at Leipsic by Carpzov, the "Horæ" on the Gospels in 1675 (2d ed. 1684), and the rest in 1679; and at Oxford, in English, by Gandell in 1859. Lightfoot's collected works were first published in English (London, 1684), in two folio volumes, the one edited by George Bright, and the other by John Strype. Afterward they were published in Latin at Rotterdam (1686), and at Franeker (1699). The latest edition of his works is by J. R. Pitman (London, 1822-25).
By some critics, as Simon, Lightfoot's method in the "Horæ" was disparaged as "quelquefois trop rabbinique," but in general it found favor; and it was adopted by later writers, as Schöttgen, Meuschen, and Gill. He showed considerable acquaintance with Talmud and Midrash, greater perhaps than any non-Jew has shown before the present day. He corresponded with the younger Buxtorf, and helped Walton and others in their literary undertakings. He left his library to Harvard College, but nearly the whole collection was destroyed by fire in 1764.
- Dict. Nat. Biog.;
- Lightfoot's Works, ed. Pitman, as above.