Ben Witherington III and Todd D. Still, ed. The Acts of the Apostles: A Newly Discovered Commentary (The Lightfoot Legacy Set, Volume 1). Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2014. 407 pp. $40.00
Joseph Barber Lightfoot is widely recognized as one of the preeminent New Testament scholars of his time, and perhaps of all time. While on sabbatical as scholar-in-residence in St. John’s College at Durham University in the spring of 2013, Dr. Ben Witherington III discovered in the Cathedral Library hundreds of pages of Lightfoot’s detailed notes on Acts, the Gospel of John, 2 Corinthians, 1 Peter, and early Judaism, most of which had never been published before. Last October, IVP Academic released the first of a projected three-volume set. This first volume covers Acts, while volume two is projected to cover the Gospel of John and volume three 2 Corinthians and 1 Peter. This was an historical discovery, and the publication of these notes a momentous affair for scholars and serious students of the New Testament.
This first volume on Acts contains introductory sections that contain more of the story of the discovery of these notes, background into Lightfoot’s life and scholarship, as well as photographs of pages of Lightfoot’s notes. Concerning the academic quality of the notes to be published in this set the editors write, “Lightfoot’s previously unpublished works on Acts, John, 1 Peter, and some of Paul’s letters was produced when he was at the height of his powers and commentary-writing ability. These heretofore unpublished notes on Acts and other subjects are often as detailed as the published commentaries and are from the same period of Lightfoot’s life” (p. 32, emphasis original).
It must be kept in mind that this is a compilation of unpublished notes that have been edited for publication. As such, at times it will not read/flow like a proper commentary, for the editors sometimes left notes as notes while other times, when Lightfoot’s intended meaning was clear, expanded notes into full paragraphs. Furthermore, what we have of his notes on Acts end with the 21st chapter. While of course we wish we could have a complete commentary on the entirety of Acts from such a formidable historian and biblical scholar, this new volume and series is truly a gift to the world of NT scholarship. Many thanks to IVP Academic for sending this volume, and I know I will be consulting it whenever I study Acts.