Simon J. “Sam” Kistemaker, a long-time professor at Reformed Theological Seminary, passed away at home in St. Petersburg, Florida on Saturday, September 23, 2017. He was 87.

Kistemaker was born in the Netherlands in 1930 and immigrated with his family to Hamilton, Ontario, not long after the end of World War II. He studied at Calvin College beginning in 1954; he taught Latin and Greek to pay his expenses. He prepared for the ministry at Calvin Theological Seminary and then began doctoral work in 1958 at the Free University of Amsterdam, with a dissertation on the Psalm citations in the Epistle to the Hebrews.

“No faculty appointment in those early days proved more significant than Simon J. Kistemaker’s.”

Dr. Kistemaker was ordained on September 29, 1961, and installed as pastor of the East Hill Community CRC church in Vernon, British Columbia, where he served until 1963. He next served as Professor of Bible and Languages at Dordt College, Sioux Center, Iowa from 1963-1971. Five years after the founding of Reformed Theological Seminary in Jackson, Mississippi, Kistemaker began his final and longest place of service, laboring there as Professor of New Testament, from 1971 until his retirement in May of 1996. It has been stated of his time at RTS, that “No faculty appointment in those early days proved more significant than Simon J. Kistemaker’s.” Honored with Emeritus status, he and his wife moved to Florida, where he continued to teach at the Orlando campus of RTS from 1996-2011.

Kistemaker served as president of the Evangelical Theological Society in 1976 and as Secretary for the organization for 10 years. His address, “The Canon of the New Testament,” was delivered before the 28th annual ETS meeting. He also completed the New Testament Commentary series begun by Dr. William Hendriksen. Four of Kistemaker’s seven works from this series won the Gold Medallion Evangelical Book of the Year Award. His seventh volume in this series was published in 2001.

In addition, he was the author of several books on the life and ministry of our Lord Jesus Christ, as well as scores of articles published in various journals. The RTS Orlando campus, in 2003, named its annual academic lecture series in his honor.

Dr. Kistemaker was particularly noted for the depth of his character as a Christian, for his kindness and gentleness of spirit. In one interview, the advice he gave to young seminarians stands as an example of his insightful wisdom: “Be absolutely sure that the Lord has called you to prepare yourself for a ministry of preaching, teaching or counseling. If family obligations or finances cause you to take a lighter load and thus extend your seminary training for another year, do so. No one demands that you must complete your studies in exactly two, three, or even four years. If you are preparing yourself for the pastorate or mission field, I advise you to know the biblical languages: Greek and Hebrew. An ability to read the Holy Scriptures in the original text pays off vast dividends in your preaching and teaching the Word of God.

“Spend much time in prayer and ask the Lord for wisdom and understanding. I assure you that you will encounter a variety of difficulties in the ministry. If you fail to ask God for guidance and wisdom, you undoubtedly will run into dilemmas that can be avoided by praying for divine assistance. Indeed, Scripture makes it abundantly clear to you to lean on the Lord for all your needs. He gives you His promise that He will never forsake or abandon you. (Hebrews 13:5).”

To read the full interview, click here.

12 Responses to Simon Kistemaker: 1930 – 2017

  1. Humble brilliance combined with a quiet godliness that translated into a ministry of encouragement for all those influenced by his teaching at RTS (and beyond), his academic scholarship, his service to the local church, as well as his writing and commentaries. He will be missed!

  2. Hyung Yong Park(Young Park) says:

    I hoped to see Dr. Kistemaker be used more on earth for the church of Jesus Christ, but our Lord wanted to give him more rest and peace by His side. I did not learn from him, but I have emjoyed and benefited a great deal from his writings and commentaries. The Church has been greatly strengthened by his life-long contribution. We are going to miss him.

  3. In my first year of seminary at RTS Orlando, I lived in Clearwater, FL. I would travel to Orlando every Wednesday and return home on Thursday. Dr. and Mrs. Kistemaker graciously opened their home to me and gave me a place to stay for that entire semester even though they didn’t know me. They were hospitable and gracious and I’m grateful for them both.

  4. Neal Ganzel says:

    I remember from 1976-77 watching the Kistemacher clan trooping down to farm their plot in the RTS community garden, each family member with his or her little rake or bucket. That and his forever willingness to take my phone calls about some goofy exegetical question. Thank you Lord Jesus for his famous exclamation “they don’t know their Greek!” Thank you,Mrs. K, for your part in God’s making of this man’s contribution to Christ’s Church!

  5. João Alves dos Santos says:

    I was a student of Dr. Kistemaker at the Master’s course in New Testament at the Presbyterian Seminary Rev. José Manoel da Conceição, in São Paulo, Brazil, in the 1980s. He was also my dissertation supervisor and to do research and receive instructions I was invited by him to stay at his home in Jackson, and to make use of the RTS library and facilities. He and his wife welcomed me as a son for 3 months in their home and there I was able to experience the generosity and Christian love that characterized their life. I am very grateful for what he and his wife did for me and I thank God for their lives and for the example of simplicity, generosity and Christian love. Praised be the Lord for a life as fruitful and blessed as he lived!

  6. Bill Smith says:

    I had classes with Dr. Kistemaker one year only and that because I did not come to seminary with Greek, so was taking a couple of junior classes my senior year. His classes were not “exciting” (though there were laughs) but they were a solid at the Rock on which his lectures were built. He was what comes to my mind when I say of someone that he was a “good man.” He was humble, unfailingly gracious, and genuinely interested in his students, while also firm in his expectations of students. I have turned to his books a great many times and found his volumes completing the Hendriksen series substantial and helpful. I especially appreciated his book on the parables and kept it close at hand when preaching on the parables. A well-lived life

  7. Robert E. Hays says:

    Sam was a personal friend before he was my professor. He was one of those rare folks about whom no one will ever have a bad word to say. A true Christian gentlemen. He drove an old Ford Falcon in those days – really old. It was about to run its final mile and he wished out loud he could find another. I had a family in my church at the time who had one they were tired of and he bought it from them. I agree with Bill above. He was a good man. And he labored for the kingdom all the time. All day and into the night. I stand ashamed in his shadow but was blessed to sit under it.

  8. Henry Beaulieu says:

    He was the greatest of student advisors; always had time, always made a person feel important, always encouraging, always gave great advise. Loved listening to his stories of witnessing to Mormons using the Apostle’s Creed! Dr. K will be sorely missed!

  9. Robert Bowman says:

    I was privileged to have Dr. K as one of my professors at RTS/J. His gentle spirit was a model of Christian grace; his love of the Savior and the Savior’s Word was evident in his teaching. Those of us who sat under his teaching have been greatly impacted by his passion, his knowledge, and his humility. I was blessed to have known him and to learn from him. I thank God for Dr K’s life and ministry.

  10. When we came to serve the RTS family, I wanted to discover the heart of this Christian community. I found it in a friendship forged with Dr. Kistemaker. So impressed was I that we used the story of his life and ministry, “Memoirs: A Life of Service.” Dr. Kistemaker’s expansive soul was overflowing with the presence of His risen Savior, his engaging mind was a consecrated instrument of grateful service to that Savior, but it was his great heart—the essence of his remarkable life—that demonstrated the gratefulness and humility of a little Dutch farm boy who could never get over the glorious grace of God in Christ. This heart must always be the heart of theological education. “Thank You, Lord, for D. ‘K’ who revealed Your heart so well…

  11. I met “Dr. K” in 1978 when I began my studies at RTS-Jackson. I also attended evening worship at the Christian Reformed congregation in Jackson where he sometimes preached. Students remarked, “He knows seven languages!” (Probably more). Years later, I’d see him at the annual meetings of the Evangelical Theological Society. It seemed odd that I should send my membership dues to his address in Jackson MS. Surely he was too great a scholar to be the ETS “secretary”; but surely he was so humble a Christian as to be pleased to serve in such a way. And serve he did, for 10 years. One of the more important rebukes of my young life came from him—and gently so.
    What a delightfully Christian man. May his memory be for a blessing.

  12. David Hutchinson says:

    Was present for his final lecture at RTS Jackson (though he would go on to do much, much more teaching in his “retirement”). I’ll never forget seeing those tears roll down his cheeks as he exited the room one last time, accompanied by our standing ovation, head held high, overcome with emotion yet still with the old-school decorum that he brought to his calling as a professor. What was going on in his mind and heart in that moment? What a man! On occasion, when I reach for one of his commentaries, I think about that moment and how it sums up what I consistently observed in him. He was both remarkably dignified and remarkably humble at the same time. Thankful to God for giving Dr. Kistemaker to the Church.