My Doktorvater Professor Jan G. van der Watt

Posted: July 24, 2014 in General

Jan 2Prof. Dr. Jan G. van der Watt is well known for his simplicity, integrity, and esteemed scholarship. When it comes to his personality it is hard to distinguish between the boundaries of friendship and professorship. He is both a friend and a professor at the same time. His ability to accommodate the ‘other’ and capacity to adopt extra steps to understand his students are conspicuous. Another significant quality we find in him is his ability to balance between ‘speaking’ and ‘hearing’. Prof. Jan is an excellent scholar who has a lot in store for his students and at the same time he is always willing to hear what others (especially his students) say. His expectation from his students is extremely high and he leaves them independent as much as possible. As a “world class” New Testament scholar, he does not compromise in the case of originality and global standards. At the intervals of our one-on-one discussions, he never failed to ask his usual question, i.e., “What is new in that?”  For me he is a New Testament mathematician who prefers to explain things with the help of tables and diagrams. Prof. Jan never forgets to advise his students to sustain clarity of thought and simplicity of style in the process of writing. I was really fortunate to have such a scholar as my Doktorvater. Read more about him below.

Jan (born 5 November 1952) is a South African biblical scholar and Bible translator who moved to the Netherlands in 2009 to take up a chair in New Testament and Source texts of early Christianity at Radboud University in Nijmegen. It was announced on 5 October 2010 that he has been appointed “vice-decaan van de Faculteit der Filosofie, Theologie en Religiewetenschappen”. For a quarter of a century previously, he was professor at the  University of Pretoria, where he was named as one of the 100 most influential academic thinkers in the 100 year history of the University of Pretoria, South Africa (see under Leading Minds. Apart from other influential former South African scholars such as Cilliers Breytenbach (Belin) and David du Toit (Munchen), Van der Watt is also rated as international acknowledged researcher that is regarded by some of his South African peers as international leader in his field, though not verified by external international criteria (see under rated researchers). Van der Watt is internationally best known for his monograph: Family of the King: Dynamics of Metaphor in the Gosepl According to John.

He was born on 5 November 1952 in Germiston, South Africa. He obtained no less than eight university degrees, all with distinction. He also represented his university in rugby and athletics and received provincial colors for athletics which enabled him to be selected for the South African national competition. In 2008 he received the University of Pretoria Commemorative Research Medal – Honoring our Leading Minds (1908–2008). This medal is awarded to a select number of researchers (100) in all fields, called “Our (= Univ. of Pretoria) leading minds (1908-2008)”, that have played a significant role in establishing the University of Pretoria as a leading research institution over the past 100 years of the history of this institution. He has been acknowledged as a world leader in studies of the Gospel according to John, by the National Research Foundation of South Africa currently the highest rating for a theologian in South Africa. this indicates unanimous international recognition as well established researcher with significant recognition as world leader in particular field–this rating is done through international peer reviewing). He has successfully supervised 30 PhD’s and 84 masters candidates. He is currently the General editor of the Review of Biblical Literature (2005-), a member of the SNTS and an Alexander Von Humboldt scholar. He has been married to Shireen (née Crous) for three decades, and they have one daughter (Nireen), a medical doctor.

Jan 1Publications

Books (author, co-author or editor)

  • 1988 Christ is your hope. The letter to the Colossians – a semantic discourse analysis. UPTS 5, Pretoria, 134 pages.
  • 1990 Jesus of Nazareth. Proclamation in context Co-author with S. Joubert, Pretoria, 140 pages.
  • 1991 Co-editor of Theology in Context, Orion: Pretoria 1991, 618 pages.
  • 1995( ‘It is fulfilled’ The re-interpretation of the cross-events in the Gospel of John. Pretoria, 85 pages.
  • 2000 Family of the King. Dynamics of metaphor in the Gospel according to John Brill, 450.
  • 2004 Metodology of New Testament exegesis illustrated, (only electronically available in English and Afrikaans) currently being translated as book into Korean as well as in Russian to be used as textbook at Universities in Russia and South Korea.
  • 2005 Christology and Theology in the Gospel according to John. Co-editor with Prof Gilbert van Belle, and P. Maritz, Peeters:Leuven 560 pages (collection of essays by leading international scholars on Johannine literature. Most of these contributions were delivered at the SNTS meetings which were chaired by the editors.
  • 2005 Salvation in the New Testament. Perspectives on soteriology. Editor. Novum Testamentum Supplements 121, 550 pages.
  • 2005 Aprocypha of the Old and New Testament. The hidden library of the early Christians. Translation of these documents into Afrikaans. CUM: Vereeninging. 800 pages. Several reprints.
  • 2005 Review of Biblical Literature. SBL: Atlanta. 600 pages (General Editor).
  • 2006 Imagery in the Gospel of John/Bildersprache im Johannesevangelium, co-editor with Frey, J., van der Watt, J.G., and Zimmermann, R., WUNT 200, Mohr Siebeck:Tübingen, 495 pages.
  • 2006 Identity, ethics and ethos in the New Testament, Van der Watt J.G. (ed). BZNW, De Gruyter: Berlin. xiii + 645 pages.
  • 2006 Review of Biblical Literature. SBL: Atlanta. 600 pages (General Editor).
  • 2007 Review of Biblical Literature. SBL: Atlanta. 600 pages (General Editor).
  • 2007 Introduction to the Gospel and Letters of John. T&T Clark:London, 192 pages.
  • 2008 Imagery in Luke and John. Festschrift for Prof Ulrich Busse. Peeters:Leuven (co-editor with Proff. Jos Verheyden and Gilbert van Belle) 280 pages.
  • 2008 Review of Biblical Literature. SBL: Atlanta. 600 pages (General Editor).
  • 2009 Reading the Bible in Africa. A South African Perspective. (with N. Ndwandwe, E. Mahlangu, D. Forster). Brill. 230 pages. (forthcoming end of 2009).
  • 2009 Encyclopaedia for the Bible and its Reception. Vol 1 and 2 (area editor of Johannine writings and the General Epistles), De Gruyter:Berlin & New York. (forthcoming April/May 2009).
  • 2009 Ethics in the Gospel according to John. Eerdmans:Grand Rapids, 300 pages (forthcoming end of 2009).
  • 2009 Ethics and language, Van der Watt, JG and Zimmermann R (eds.) WUNT, Mohr Siebeck:Tübingen, 320 pages (forthcoming end or 2009).
  • 2009 Eschatology and the New Testament, (Ed.) WUNT, Mohr Siebeck:Tübingen (Forthcoming end of 2009).
  • 2009 Review of Biblical Literature. SBL: Atlanta. 600 pages (General Editor).

Academic dissertations

  • 1978: (A) The use of the term “in Christ” in Colossians. (BD-dissertation–New Testament) University of Pretoria.
  • 1979: (A) A semantic discourse analysis of Colossians (MA-dissertation – Greek) University of Pretoria.
  • 1986: (A) Eternal life in the Gospel according to John (DD-thesis- New Testament) University of Pretoria.
  • 1999: Dynamics of metaphor in the Gospel according to John (D.Litt.-thesis – Greek), University of Pretoria.


Through 2009, he has written 52 articles in peer-reviewed journals, and 36 articles in books and collected works. For one of them, the 1999 “Commentary on the Gospel according to John,” and “Commentary on Colossians” published in Bybellenium: A one volume commentary, CUM, 1314–1370, 1594-1604″ he won the Andrew Murray Prize as well as the South African Booksellers Association prizes for the best Christian publication.

Bible translations

  • 2002 Die Boodskap–die Bybel in hedendaagse Afrikaans(The Message–the Bible in everyday Afrikaans) (Not to be confused with ‘The Message’). Responsible for translating half of New Testament from Greek, sections of Psalms from Hebrew, and General Co-Editor. Won the South African Booksellers prize for best Christian publication in 2002.
  • 2003 The Gospel according to Mark. in The multi-translation of the Bible. CUM.
  • 2003 The Gospel according to John. in The multi-translation of the Bible. CUM.
  • 2003 The letter to the Colossians. in The multi-translation of the Bible. CUM.
  • 1999 The New Testament for children in language they could understand – translation of the New Testament Carpe Diem, 591 (together with S. Joubert and H. Stander)
  • 1999 The Message with Psalms and Proverbs, CUM, 1100 pages. (Not to be confused with ‘The Message’ in English). Over 100,000 in print. Won South African Booksellers Association prize for best Christian publication in 1999.
  • 2001 The Multi-reference Bible, CUM (editor of New Testament with F. Janse van Rensburg).
  • 2004 The Multi-translation of the Bible. Co-editor for the New Testament.. CUM. 2004.

Compiled by Johnson Thomaskutty, Union Biblical Seminary, Pune, India.

  1. PG Ittyerah says:

    Awsome! Will love to hear his messages rather than read

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