Original Research - Special Collection: Centenary Festschrift

Old Testament Studies: The story of a department

Jurie le Roux
Verbum et Ecclesia | Vol 30, No 3 | a182 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ve.v30i3.182 | © 2009 Jurie le Roux | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 30 September 2009 | Published: 17 December 2009

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The Department of Old Testament at the Faculty of Theology, University of Pretoria, has been in existence since 1938 and this article is an attempt to highlight some aspects of its history. The article consists of two main sections. The first discusses the place of the Department in the world, in Africa and at the University. It is stated that the Department always moved with the times and re-invented itself in new contexts. It found a stronghold in the university context, addressed the problems of our times intellectually and consistently maintained international contacts. In the second section, the members of the Department are discussed individually. It will become clear that there is a strange mixture of synchrony and diachrony, of reading the text in its final form and of taking the historical context and growth seriously. Both approaches exist alongside each other and complement each other. It is concluded that the Department’s future lies in its scholarly past – in the intellectual traditions in which it is embedded, and in its ability to adapt to new contexts without losing its total devotion to critical scholarship, the students and the church.

Like human beings, a university department can also have a biography. It has a life entrenched in real experiences and is subjected to the same socio-political realities as people. This article briefly tells the life story of one such department, that of the Department of Old Testament at the University of Pretoria. It describes the Department’s academic endeavours, and of the scholars who devoted their lives to the pursuit of Old Testament scholarship and the teaching of theological students from their first year to doctorate level. Over the years the Department had to adjust and re-adjust, but in the end it survived all kinds of pressures and established its place both here and abroad. One of the reasons for its endurance and survival has been the commitment of the members of the Department to cutting-edge research, sound scholarship and excellent teaching. This story is told here by focusing on the physical contexts in which the Department had to exist, and then on the scholars who made things happen.


Pentateuch; psalms; structural analysis; historical understanding; myth


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