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Prof J.A. Heyns

(1928 - 1994)

In ‘n gedenkbundel wat ná sy dood in 1994 verskyn het, word Prof Johan Adam Heyns beskryf as iemand wat “‘n naam vir elke ding gehad het. Anders gestel, ‘n woord vir alles. Met sy besondere knap vermoë om te formuleer en sy begeerte om voortdurend sy oortuiging uit te spreek, standpunte te stel en dit gewoonlik ook op skrif te stel, het daar gevolglik ‘n magdom publikasies, artikels, berigte, referate, preke en toesprake uit sy pen verskyn. In terme van vrugbare arbeid is daar seker min wat hom dit sou kon nadoen”. Heyns was van 1981 tot 1984 Dekaan van die Universiteit van Pretoria se Fakulteit Teologie, asook hoof van die Departement Dogmatiek en Christelike Etiek van 1971 tot sy afrede in 1992. Hy het sy BA-graad in 1948 aan die Potchefstroomse Universiteit vir Christelike Hoër Onderwys (PU vir CHO) behaal en sy BD- en MA-grade onderskeidelik in 1951 en 1952 aan UP. Hy sit sy studies voort aan die Vriije Universiteit in Amsterdam en verwerf in 1953 sy ThD. In 1962 voltooi hy sy DPhil-graad aan PU vir CHO. Heyns het al sy grade met lof geslaag. In 1954 is hy georden as predikant en vir die volgende 12 jaar dien hy as leraar in verskillende gemeentes, insluitende Ysterplaat en Rondebosch in Kaapstad. In 1966 word hy aangestel as senior lektor by die Kweekskool in Stellenbosch en in 1971 sluit hy by UP aan. Hy was die Moderator van die Nederduits-Gereformeerde Kerk vanaf 1986 tot 1990, gedurende die tydperk toe die Kerk apartheid verwerp het. As teoloog het Heyns ‘n leidende rol gespeel en sy werk het ook in die buiteland erkenning geniet. Hy het op ‘n besondere wyse daarin geslaag om tradisionele verbondenheid aan die gereformeerde tradisies met eietydse formulering van teologiese insigte te kombineer. Hy het dit gedoen deur op ‘n eiesoortige en oorspronklike manier die konsep van die koninkryk van God as ‘n basiese sistematiese teologiese kategorie te ontwikkel en te implementeer. Hierdie teologiese posisie het Heyns uitgewerk in ‘n groot aantal publikasies wat sedert 1953 op ‘n gereelde grondslag verskyn het. Dit sluit meer as 240 artikels in asook 40 groter en kleiner boeke. Heyns
het verskeie toekennings ontvang vir sy navorsing, insluitende die Afrikaanse Studente Bond (ASB)-oorkonde vir Afrikaanse vakliteratuur, die Suid-Afrikaanse Akademie vir Wetenskap en Kuns se Totuisprys vir Teologie en die studie van die grondtale van die Bybel en twee Andrew Murraypryse vir sy boeke Dogmatiek en Teologiese Etiek I. Vir laasgenoemde het hy ook die Credo-prys ontvang. In 1988 het die destydse Staatspresident hom vereer met die Orde vir Voortreflike Diens (Klas 1: Goud). UP het die graad Doctor Divinitatis (honoris causa) postuum aan hom toegeken. Heyns was ook nou betrokke by die werksaamhede van wetenskaplike rade en organisasies, insluitende die Suid-Afrikaanse Akademie vir Wetenskap en Kuns, die Federasie van Afrikaanse Kultuurvereniginge (FAK) en die Afrika-Instituut. Op 5 November 1994 is hy in sy huis deur ‘n sluipmoordenaar doodgeskiet.

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In a commemorative volume that appeared after his death in 1994, Prof Johan Adam Heyns is described as someone who “had a name for every single thing. Stated differently, he had a word for everything. With an exceptional skill for formulation and a desire to always express his conviction, state his point of view and usually also put it in writing, volumes of publications,
articles, reports, dissertations, sermons and speeches consequently emanated from his pen. In terms of fruitful labour, he probably has no equal”. Prof Heyns was Dean of the University of Pretoria’s Faculty of Theology from 1981 to 1984, as well as head of the Department of Dogmatics and Christian Ethics from 1971 until his retirement in 1992. He obtained his BA degree from the Potchefstroom University for Christian Higher Education (PU for CHE) in 1948, and his BD and MA degrees from UP in 1951 en 1952 respectively. He continued his studies at the Vriije Universiteit in Amsterdam and obtained his ThD in 1953. In 1962, he completed his DPhil degree at PU. Prof Heyns passed all his degrees with distinction. In 1954, he was ordained as a minister and for the next 12 years preached in various congregations, including Ysterplaat and Rondebosch in Cape Town. In 1966, he was appointed as senior lecturer at the theological training college at Stellenbosch, and in 1971, joined UP. He was the Moderator of the Dutch Reformed Church from 1986 to 1990, during the period that the Church rejected apartheid. As a theologian, Prof Heyns played a leading role and his work was also recognised internationally. He succeeded, in a unique way, to combine the traditional alliance of the reformed traditions with modern theological insights. He did this by developing and implementing, in his own unique and original way, the concept of the kingdom of God as a basic, systematic theological category. This theological position was explained in a great number of publications that have appeared regularly since 1953. This included more than 240 articles, as well as 40 books of varying sizes. Prof Heyns received various awards for his research, including an award from the Afrikaanse Studentebond (ASB) for Afrikaans subject literature, the Totuis Prize of the Suid-Afrikaanse Akademie vir Wetenskap en Kuns for theology and the study of the original languages of the Bible and two Andrew Murray prizes for his books Dogmatiek and Teologiese Etiek I. For the latter, he also received the Credo Prize. In 1988, the former State President honoured him with the Order for Exceptional Service (Class 1: Gold). UP awarded the DDiv (honoris causa) to him postumously.
Prof Heyns was also closely involved in the activities of scientific councils and organisations, including the Suid-Afrikaanse Akademie vir Wetenskap en Kuns, the Federasie van Afrikaanse Kultuurvereniginge (FAK) and the Africa Institute. He was assassinated in his house on 5 November 1994.