Download it here.

The road which the OTSSA has traversed can broadly be divided into three periods. The first was the era of the pioneers and stretched from about 1957 to 1971. It was the era of important South African scholars like Adrianus van Selms, Barend Gemser, Ian Eybers, Albertus van Zyl, Charles Fensham, Jaap Helberg, Pieter Verhoef, JH Kroeze, Cas Labuschagne, Wouter van Wyk, and others who laid the foundation for a scholarly study of the Old Testament. The contribution of these scholars can never be over-emphasized, because without them the Old Testament science in South Africa would never have grown and bloomed.

Then there was the generation from 1971 to 1997 and that was the era of people like Willem Vorster, Ferdinand Deist, Jimmie Loader, Willem Prinsloo, Harry van Rooyen, Hannes Olivier, Hendrik Bosman and their students. This generation was young, enthusiastic, hardworking and studied in the Netherlands and especially Germany. A typical feature of this era was on the one hand the appropriation and application of the so-called ‘structural analysis’ or ‘immanent approach’ but also fierce criticism of this method.

The third period extends from 1997 to today and it is an era that cannot be described easily. This is the era in which Africa’s contribution became very relevant and important, and Old Testament scholars from all over the world attended the congresses of the OTSSA and published articles in Old Testament Essays.

Below you can download a book, A story of two ways, (1993) for free, highlighting the thirty years between 1957 and 1992 of Old Testament research in South Africa. The ‘two ways’ depict the approaches which shaped Old Testament scholarship during that time and which were particularly debated by the second generation of South African scholars between 1971 and 1997.

One of the two ways (structural analysis) was introduced to us in Pretoria on the tenth of March 1971. Twelve members of the NTSSA from the Pretoria region assembled at Unisa and Willem Vorster presented a lecture that gave rise to a new way of understanding the New Testament. This caused a paradigm shift, which overwhelmed scholars and soon became the norm for exegeting the Old and New Testament texts.

This new way was, on the one hand, an acceptance of critical Old Testament scholarship of the past centuries, but also a hard rejection thereof. Historical criticism was respected but also rejected. History was important, but language was essential for understanding texts. According to these scholars, language opens to the ‘inside’ of a text (words) and not to the ‘outside’ (history). Much attention had therefore to be paid to words and concepts in conjunction to other words in the text. In the early stages of this new look on the text, the thinking of the famous French linguist Ferdinand De Saussure played a key role.

Overnight a new method was born in the ranks of our Bible studies and it would be called ‘structural analysis’ which thoroughly shaped our scholarly work. ‘Structural analysis’ was adopted by many and in the process a new theory of the text and a typical scholarly jargon were developed. Great optimism prevailed that through structural analysis we could move through the visible networks of language to the hidden meaning of the text.

This intellectual event can never be overestimated. It has changed the face of our theological scholarship because one of the most important features of this approach was the intense and thorough way in which texts were interpreted. Detailed exegesis of the text was expected and even the smallest element in the text had to be investigated. Structural analysis will always pose the question to South African theologians: ‘Have you investigated the text meticulously and scrupulously and have you indicated its possible layers of meaning?’

Perhaps the years 1971 to 1997 were the golden years of Old Testament scholarship in South Africa and more can be read about these years in the book, A story of two ways, which can be downloaded for free.

Download it here.