Wednesday, August 23, 2017

RIP Tjitze Baarda (1932–2017)

The sad news has reached me that Tjitze Baarda, a giant of our discipline, has passed away on 22 August at the age of 85. I cite below Jan Krans’s announcement on the New Testament Textual Criticism Facebook page:
It is my sad duty to inform you all of the passing away, last Saturday 19 August, of one of the most learned and loved New Testament textual critics of our age, Tjitze Baarda, at the age of 85. [Edit: He was found on 22 August in his home.]

Fuller obituaries will be given later, as impossible as it is to do full justice to him as a wonderful person and a remarkable scholar. His command of languages somehow useful to biblical textual criticism, from Arabic to Armenian, from Ethiopic to Old Dutch, was legendary, and rightly so. His very many articles must have driven peer reviewers to despair. They cover a wide array of subjects, though it can be fairly said that the Diatessaron and the Gospel of Thomas occupy a place of pride among them.

The list of his PhD students is long, and all of them remember his self-effacing support, his high standards of scholarly rigour, and his friendliness, fully in line with Phil 4:5. He counted Matthew Black, Bruce Metzger, and the Alands among his friends, to name but a few.< In 1998 he became emeritus professor of New Testament Studies at the Faculty of Theology, Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam, and he was president of SNTS in 2001.

In Amsterdam, at Vrije Universiteit, we had the privilege to count him as a regular participant of our New Testament Colloquium. Especially after the passing away of his wife, Hilda, in January 2013, he found renewed spirit in his scholarly endeavours, and became a source of scholarly anecdotes as well as an inspiration for the newer generations among us. He did not fade away, but was still fully engaged, in publishing, in exchanges, and in sharing his insights with students, not only in Amsterdam, but throughout the world.

We will miss him sorely, remember him dearly, and aspire to emulate the scholarly and human example he set.
The last time I had the privilege to meet Tjitze Baarda was at the SNTS in Amsterdam a few years ago where we had great conversations in the seminar and over coffee. He was one of those rare scholars who combine the highest level of scholarship with humility, generosity and a great sense of humour. He will be missed by many.


  1. Professor Tjitze Baarda dit not passed away on 19 August, but on 23 August.

    Dr. Johan D. Hofstra, Voorthuizen, the Netherlands

  2. Dear Johan, I have now heard that Professor Baarda was found in his home on 22 August, which will likely be the official date.

  3. As one of his sons, I find his personality, his many friendships, his outstanding work and the impact that he had on many lives more important than the exact moment of his death, but as it has become a point of discussion, I will try to be as precise as possible.
    Up to the day of his death he was active, and up to the evening of the 19th he was active answering and writing emails. The next morning he was missed in church. We believe that he died in the night or early morning of the 20th, rather peaceful. And although all his children and grandchildren and many friends visited him in the weeks before his passing, it was only on the 22th that he was found. So that would have been the formal date. But by error the 23th was given on the printed card, and to stop further confusion as there were already three dates circulating we used the 23th also in the advertisement.
    It will become not more than a footnote, but as the detective intrigued by the puzzles of textual criticism, his mind would have been searching for the original sources. And as you are of his kin, here you have the closest to 'truth' as we can get.

    1. Dear F. Baarda,
      Thank you for taking time to share this post. That last paragraph is a gem--you clearly share in your father's wit and sense of humor. I would like to echo Tommy's statement--"He was one of those rare scholars who combine the highest level of scholarship with humility, generosity and a great sense of humour"--as I remember his as a warm friend, an encouraging and supportive colleague, and an awe-inspiring scholar.
      In memoriam,
      Michael Holmes

  4. Dear F. Baarda, thank you so much for sharing. I have been at a conference in Dublin with my good friend Jan Krans. He led us all in a minute of silence to honor your father. Jan left us yesterday, one day early, in order to be present at your father’s funeral. We all lament your father but hold our memory of him dear and the legacy of his scholarship will live on.