26 March 2012

From Flower Grower to Specialist in Ancient Texts

by Dr Mark Keown

For those on the Auckland campus, this week has been a special time of hearing from Dr Dirk Jongkind, the John W. Laing Research Fellow of New Testament Text and Language at Tyndale House and fellow of St. Edmund’s College in Cambridge, England. Dirk is a brilliant thinker, and a vibrant speaker – we have been very blessed. Here is some of Dirk’s story. As you read it, you will sense the hand of God in his life and I pray you are encouraged to “go deeper.”

Dirk was born in the Netherlands, the 6th child of a good believing Christian Dutch Reformed family. So much so, that Dirk can never remember a time when he didn’t have a strong awareness of Jesus and God (I am envious). However, as a teenager, as he contemplated the problem of arrogance, he went through a time of mental rebellion against God. Thankfully he came through, and has gone on to serve God ever since.

His parents ran a flower nursery and he himself worked in the business of growing flowers until age 29, where he felt a sense of call to academic study. He admits to always having a nerdy side, getting his first Greek New Testament at age 13 (wow!). After getting more and more involved in church life, he sold up his business to study theology. He did his undergrad degree in a Netherlands seminary and met Bruce Winter who invited him to Cambridge to study. He completed a masters and doctorate, and has never left. His doctoral thesis was born in a conversation over coffee at Tyndale House where he learned that it was seventy years since anyone had had studied the earliest complete manuscript of the Greek NT, Codex Sinaiticus – thus his thesis was born. He now studies early mss and texts, textual transmission, inscriptions, the background to words etc. He does that painstaking work all scholars rely on, the sort that fills lexicons and dictionaries. He admits to being an “attention to detail” man who is not easily side-tracked – ideal for that type of work.

His main advice to theological students (and all of us) is this – read the bible! (Something I endorse entirely and force my students to do!). Dirk observes that undergraduate students do not read the Bible enough. He suggests that in a three year degree, a student should read through the Bible once a year. He urges those who want to do Post graduate study to take care that they know that they have the gifts and call – if not “you are doing yourself and God an injustice.” If you have the gifts and opportunity, “aim high!”

Outside of sport, Dirk loves sci-fi and fantasy books – he thinks that it was his love of such epic stories as Lord of the Rings that have helped him fall in love with the story of God, especially reading Revelation. We have this in common, both awaiting the fourteenth and final book in Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series. He is sports-mad, a strong supporter of the English cricket and rugby teams. I was both unimpressed and impressed at this – he is a lover of cricket and rugby (as I am) which is good, but his taste in teams is appalling – well from this Kiwi’s one-eyed perspective. He is a mean chess player, becoming the number one player in his Dutch club within three months of joining!

Dirk is a strong family man, married with one wife and six children, ranging from 9-20. His wife Marion devotes herself to running the home, but works as a representative for W.B. Eerdmans in the UK. The good news for us is that Dirk has family in Northland, so he will be back!

Dirk this week has spoken in classes, to faculty, and gave two public lectures; the first on the transmission of the text of the NT, the second on the Gnostic Gospels. These are available on our website.

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