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.