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A remarkable story! M.C. Vos (1759–1825) in the light of his times

Benno A. Zuiddam

In die Skriflig/In Luce Verbi; Vol 46, No 2 (2012), 12 pages. doi: 10.4102/ids.v46i2.56

Submitted: 09 July 2012
Published:  23 November 2012


This article established the role of the Rev. M.C. Vos (1759–1825) as an internationally oriented Pietistic minister who encouraged mission work amongst the slaves and non-Europeans in the Cape Colony. It clears up several misunderstandings about Vos’s genealogy and argues that there is no genealogical warrant to treat Vos as something else than a White, European minister and writer. His cultural setting and ancestry was that of a colonial Dutchman, although it may have been Euro-Asian to some small extent. If so, this could have predisposed him naturally to look kindly on the lot of  Bengal and Malayan slaves. The real motivating factor for Vos’s missionary endeavours was not racial, but spiritual. The promotion of the Gospel and knowledge of the Scriptures was foremost in the mind of this Dutch Reformed minister. This article argues that the Bible and divine guidance had a remarkable influence on the life and actions of M.C. Vos, to the extent that even his autobiography is marked by Biblical language. Vos is placed within the historical perspective of his times, which assists a balanced interpretation of this remarkable person and his convictions.

’n Merkwaardige verhaal! Die lewe en historiese omstandighede van M.C.Vos (1759–1825). Hierdie artikel het die historiese rol van Ds. M.C. Vos (1759–1825) vasgestel as ’n internasionale Piëtistiese wat sending bedryf het onder die slawe en nie-Europeërs aan die Kaap. Dit helder misverstande op wat ontstaan het oor die genealogie van Vos en stel dat daar geen genealogiese rede is om Vos te beskou as ’n predikant en skrywer van nie-Europese afkoms nie. Sy kultuur en voorgeslag was dié van ’n Nederlandse kolonis, hoewel daar enige Euro-Asiatiese elemente in sy genealogie mag wees. Indien dit die geval is, dan het dit bygedra tot sy natuurlike simpatie vir die lot van die Bengaalse en Maleise slawe. Hierdie artikel toon egter aan dat die motivering vir die sendingarbeid van Vos nie op rassistiese gronde berus het nie, maar op die Woord van God. Die verkondiging van die Evangelie en die bevordering van die kennis van die Skrif was die beweegrede van die Nederduits Gereformeerde predikant. Hierdie artikel toon aan dat die Bybel en buitengewone Goddelike leiding ’n merkwaardige invloed uitgeoefen het op die lewe en dade van M.C. Vos, selfs sodanig dat sy lewensbeskrywing deurspek is met Bybelse taalgebruik. Vos word in historiese perspektief geplaas om sy merkwaardige persoon te verstaan in die lig van sy tyd en oortuigings.

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Author affiliations

Benno A. Zuiddam, Theological Faculty, School for Biblical Studies and Ancient Languages, North-West University,, South Africa


Cape Colony; Dutch Reformed Church; M.C. Vos; Pietism; South African missions


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