On March 14, 1862, Geerhardus Vos was born in Heerenveen, Friesland, the Netherlands.
After a brief tenure at Calvin Seminary, Vos was Professor of Biblical Theology at Princeton Theological Seminary for nearly 40 years, where he taught most of the founding faculty of Westminster Seminary. Unlike his Princeton colleagues, Vos labored in relative obscurity. Charles Dennison wrote:
His Princeton years (1893–1932) had to be a disappointment to some. If they expected a man capable of hand-to-hand theological combat, what they received was a quiet, peaceful, even private man. He was more of an Isaac than an Abraham. A theologian’s theologian, hardly an aggressive spokesman for the cause, hardly energetically engaged in the courts of the church, Vos spent his time out of the limelight in class preparation and in extensive reading and writing. The bibliography of his writings covers thirteen pages and it reveals a different sort of Christian soldier in the battle for Reformed orthodoxy. In Vos, we are face-to-face with a theological intelligence effort. He studied the enemies’ movements so thoroughly that he was able to anticipate them. This is especially evident in the way he was answering Albert Schweitzer even before Schweitzer was publishing his most influential works. Positively, Vos remained a theologian capable of making even Murray and Van Til stretch.
In retirement, Vos fell into even greater obscurity. The handful of attendees at his funeral in Roaring Branch, Pennsylvania included no representatives from Princeton Seminary. Cornelius Van Til preached the funeral sermon from 2 Corinthians 5.
After his death, with the republication of many of his books, including Biblical Theology, there has developed a resurgence of interest in Vos within the OPC and beyond. This was due in part to the loyalty of his former students, Westminster Seminary professors and OPC ministers John Murray, Paul Woolley, Ned B. Stonehouse and Dr. Van Til.
Orthodox Presbyterians have continued to promote Vos’s teachings up to the present day. Richard B. Gaffin published Vos’s Shorter Writings in 1979. Danny Olinger’s edited A Geerhardus Vos Anthology appeared in 2004, and James T. Dennison’s The Letters of Geerhardus Vos in 2005.
Picture: Geerhardus Vos