Departmental Research Focus Areas

Old Testament and Hebrew Scriptures

  • Pentateuch texts and themes (Sias Meyer, Jurie le Roux)

A long-term project studying the texts of the Pentateuch. This includes the exegesis, theologies, hermeneutics, and composition of this corpus. Also the relationship between these texts and the rest of the Old Testament and extra-biblical texts are investigated. The project is conducted in close cooperation with Prof Eckart Otto (LMU, Germany) and other international experts.

  • Psalms and poetic text and themes (Dirk Human)

A long-term project studying the texts of the Psalms and poetic literature. This includes the exegesis, theologies, hermeneutics, and composition of poetical texts in the Old Testament.this corpus. Also the relationship between these texts and the rest of the Old Testament and extra-biblical texts are investigated. The project is conducted in close cooperation with the Department of Ancient Languages (UP) and other international experts.

  • Prophetic and Isaian texts and themes (Alphonso Groenewald)

An initiative with similar objectives as the abovementioned two projects.

  • Second Temple Literature themes (Ananda Geyser-Fouché, Dirk Human)

Various aspects of this Old Testament corpus and Inter-testamental period are investigated.

  • Contextual Hermeneutics (with research associates)

Investigating the use, interpretation and application of Old Testament texts in various African contexts.

  • Bible translation (emeriti, Sias Meyer, Dirk Human)

This initiative includes existing and on-going projects in cooperation with the Bible Society of South Africa.

Hermeneutics and exegesis of the New Testament and related literature

  • Social-scientific study of the New Testament (Ernest van Eck, Zoro Dube, Hanré Janse van Rensburg)

Seeks to explain the social dynamics, cultural scripts, and institutions revealed in the New Testament (i.e the religious, geographical, historical, economic, social codes, and cultural values operative within the world of early Christianity) by utilizing the perspectives, theories, and models generated by the social sciences. Social-scientific criticism investigates the manner of textual communication - that texts were strategically designed for effective social interaction that had social, literary, and theological consequence. Most significantly, it seeks to isolate the social data embedded in texts and constructs models that simplify and systematize the data for comparative purposes. 

  • The post-colonial reading of ancient texts (Ernest van Eck) 

Reading the texts of the New Testament from a post-colonial perspective in order to establish responsible socio-religious mechanisms for the use and application of biblical texts in the contexts of African societies. 

  • African Hermeneutics (Zoro Dube)

To explore African interpretive tools in the reading of the New Testament.

  • Rhetorical culture (Hanré Janse van Rensburg)

A study of orality and its implications for biblical texts - Rhetoric and aesthetic theory postulate that utterances/texts engender affective and aesthetic effects. Keeping in mind that the New Testament documents were composed during a period of dynamic interaction and interconnectedness between orality and literacy, a ‘rhetorical culture’, encourages us to look at the biblical texts in relation to their oral-aural contexts and consider how these oral-aural texts functioned in the ancient world.

  • Abductive reading as hermeneutical approach (Hanré Janse van Rensburg)

Reading the texts of the New Testament using different hermeneutical approaches and exegetical methods, more specifically making use of abductive reasoning from within social-scientific criticism, employing a hermeneutic of suspicion. 

Practical Theology and Mission Studies

  • ​Social Cohesion, Reconciliation and Ecumenism (Stephan de Beer and Jacques Beukes)

A project on the relationship between 'forgiveness', 'reconciliation' and 'restitution' in the South African context and the development of social cohesion.

A project on the shifting identities of the rural, urban and virtual poor, re-imagining a discourse of reconciliation and social cohesion in South Africa.

A project which maps, describes and reflects upon urban (dis)engagements of church and theology, in relation to social inclusion and cohesion; homelessness and housing; children and youth at risk; and theological education.

  • Pastoral Engagement Today (Yolanda Dreyer, Maake Masango)

A project on Sola Scriptura – source of unity or division in the Reformed tradition?

A project on gender, power, sexuality and pastoral engagement, including life history research with adolescent orphans affected by HIV/AIDS from a gender, psycho-social, spiritual perspective, and pastoral care with sexual minorities.

A project on violence and pastoral care in Africa.

  • Youth, Spirituality and Identity (Jacques Beukes)

An interdenominational project on church, youth and religion in South Africa focusing on the impact of spirituality on the identity formation of young people.

A project on post-traumatic spirituality and the effect of personal trauma such as abuse on the spirituality of children and young people.

A project on youth ministry and faith development in Southern Africa

  • Faith and the city (Stephan de Beer)

Exploring (dis)engagements of church and theology in relation to healing urban fractures, with particular reference to the City of Tshwane

Participation in the Capital Cities IRT

  • Spirituality and health (Stephan de Beer)

Exploring the relationship between spirituality and health, the retrieval of spirituality and public and professional health care institutions, and the contribution of spirituality to healing and wholeness.

Systematic and Historical Theology

  1. Poverty: the role of the church in South Africa as an NGO (Johan van der Merwe).
  2. Reformed Church polity (Johan van der Merwe).
  3. Being church in the 21st century (Wim Dreyer).
  4. Gender, Religion and Sustainable Development (Tanya van Wyk)
  5. Political Theology and Reconciling Diversity (Tanya van Wyk)
  6. Spirituality and Transformation (Tanya van Wyk)
  7. Evolutionary Theology with special reference to religious experience and the science-religion dialogue (Danie Veldsman);
  8. Christian Ethics with special reference to an ethics of responsibility (Etienne de Villiers);
  9. Doctrinal theology and Theological Symbolism (Conrad Wethmar);
  10. History of Presbyterianism in southern Africa (Graham Duncan)
  11. Augustine and Manichaean Christianity (Hans van Oort)
  12. Church Polity in ecumenical perspective (Leo Koffeman and Mark Hill)

Religion Studies

Research in the Department focuses particularly on the analysis, description and relevance of the world religions and the Christian church, and how they, together with the sciences and indigenous knowledge systems, can play a role (positively or negatively) in a Christian missiology of life. It is conducted on the nexus of religion, Christian faith and the daily lives of people in households and communities as situated within the broader context of the 21st century Southern Africa and Africa.

  • studies in world religions and secularisation (Jaco Beyers);
  • studies in African Christianity, the history of mission in Africa, inclusive spirituality (Ubuntu) (Thias Kgatla); and
  • studies in improving the quality of life of households and communities (Attie van Niekerk).
  • studies in inter-religious dialogue and encounters (dr Maniraj Sukdaven)


Copyright © University of Pretoria 2023. All rights reserved.

COVID-19 Corona Virus South African Resource Portal

To contact the University during the COVID-19 lockdown, please send an email to [email protected]

FAQ's Email Us Virtual Campus Share Cookie Preferences