Heretic or rebel? The heresy trial of Albert Geyser

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Peer-Reviewed Research
  • SDG 16
  • Abstract:

    During September 1961, a charge of heresy was laid against New Testament scholar and antiapartheid activist Prof. A.S. (Albert) Geyser. The charge was brought by three senior theological students of the University of Pretoria. They accused Geyser of interpreting Philippians 2 in such a way that it undermined the church’s doctrine of Christ’s pre-existence. The heresy trial started on 24 October 1961 under massive public interest. The trial lasted 6 months and the proceedings covered 2672 typed pages. Reporters of 25 national and international newspapers attended the trial. The heresy trial caused widespread international condemnation of what was regarded as an orchestrated attempt to get rid of Geyser, because of his public and radical opposition to apartheid. In this contribution, Geyser’s theological critique of apartheid as well as his conviction of heresy is discussed. The proceedings of the trial, minutes of the moderature, media coverage and Geyser’s publications serve as primary sources. It concludes with a critical evaluation of Geyser’s theology and his role as a public theologian.