This week’s author interview is with P. W. Smuts, author of Mark by the Book: A New Multidirectional Method for Understanding the Synoptic Gospels.

  • Question #1 – Tell us a little bit about yourself: where you’re from, family, job, personal interests, unique hobbies, what do you do in your spare time, etc.

I was born in ethnically-diverse South Africa to parents of European descent. Most of my life and ministry have been spent in the city of Cape Town located on the southern tip of the African continent. I have been married to my wife, Dagmar, for about 32 years. We met at the University of Cape Town where we were both students. We have four children, a boy and three girls, and a grandson.

I cannot pinpoint the exact day I was converted, but it was as a law student at the University of Cape Town that I began to grow as a Christian. It was in this context that I was introduced to the Reformed Faith and grew to love these great doctrines. It wasn’t too long after this that I made the transition from ‘law to grace’, so to speak, and after a number of years of Christian service, the Lord opened the door for me to do further theological studies in the States. During these years of study my grasp of the Word of God and the Christian Faith was broadened and deepened.

Upon my return to South Africa in 1996, I was appointed to the Faculty of the Bible Institute of South Africa where I have been serving the Lord ever since. The Bible Institute is a small well-known evangelical Bible college that recently celebrated its 90th Anniversary. It attracts students from all over the world, but primarily from Africa, who want to be equipped for cross-cultural ministry on the mission field or service in the local church. It is my privilege to teach the students hermeneutics, homiletics and NT Greek.

I enjoy reading (the Bible and books rather than blogs), watching movies (historical dramas), swimming at the local gym for exercise, and experiencing the outdoors in scenic Cape Town and the Western Cape area.


  • Question #2 – What inspired you to write this book, about this topic?

Mark by the Book advocates, describes and applies a unique interpretive approach to the Synoptic Gospels that I have developed – by combining bits and pieces from others – and have taught with great benefit in the classroom context with my students. This classroom experience inspired me, in part, to write the book. So this book is really the product of my many years of studying and teaching the Gospels in an academic context. It combines my interest in both hermeneutics and the Synoptic Gospels.


  • Question #3 – Favorite sport to watch? Why? My favorite sport’s team?

I was an active sportsman growing up, and continue have a general interest in watching sports of all kinds – rugby, soccer, tennis, golf, Olympic athletics and swimming, etc. However, my favorite sport to watch is cricket. Why? Contrary to popular perception, cricket can be a very exciting game to watch. It can dramatically change from one ball to the next, with the outcome, on occasion, uncertain until the last ball has been bowled. It is not good for one’s nerves! My favorite sport’s team? I support our South African national cricket (‘Proteas’), and rugby (‘Springboks’) teams.


  • Question #4 – If you have a favorite book of the Bible, what is it and why?

A number of NT books would be on my short-list of favorites, including John, Hebrews, and Revelation. But pride of place goes to Romans. Arguably it is one of the most influential pieces of literature in history, a letter that God has used to convert the likes of Augustine, Luther and Wesley. I love this letter because of its Gospel focus, God-centeredness and encouragement for the Christian reader. Let me give you just one example of this encouragement: If Romans is likened to a crown, one writer describes Romans 8 as the jewel in this crown; it begins with no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus (v.1), it ends with no separation for those in Christ Jesus (v.39), and everything in between happens for their good (v.28)!


  • Question #5 – Do you have a favorite quote? What is it and why?

The following quote is one of my favorites: The main thing is to make sure that the main thing remains the main thing. In the modern world, it is easy to get distracted by trivia and secondary issues. In life and ministry, this quote challenges me to keep focus on the essentials of the Christian faith – the Triune God, the Gospel and glory!


  • Question #6 – Do you have a favorite author? What book are you reading now?

I have benefited from the writings of many authors over the years, and I stand on the shoulders of countless others in my teaching and preaching ministry. However, I have never been drawn to one specific author who I could identify as my favorite. The focus of my reading and study is the Scriptures and biblical scholarship (commentaries, etc.), although I do read more broadly. Typically I juggle reading 2 or 3 books at the same time. One of the books I am working through at the moment with benefit is Klyne Snodgrass’, Stories with Intent on the parables. Dennis Johnson’s, Him we Proclaim, and D. & J. Gibson’s (eds.) From Heaven He Came and Sought Her, are on my short list of books to read.


  • Question #7 – What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

The art of writing has been described as rewriting. It is rare that you get it right first time. Keep rewriting until you do. I would also encourage any aspiring writer to speak to experienced authors they meet, seeking their advice about the writing process, identifying pitfalls to avoid, and securing a publishing contract, etc. I have found this to be invaluable in my own experience.


  • Question #8 – At what time of day do you write most? Do you have a specific spot that you enjoy writing most?

As a full-time Bible college lecturer in the African context, I have many responsibilities, besides teaching and writing. So I find it difficult to safeguard a particular block of time each week just to write. When writing my book, I found it best to view myself as a full-time writer, using every spare moment throughout the day to write, while fitting in my other responsibilities as the need arose. This method enabled me to maintain the momentum necessary to complete the book in time for the publisher’s deadline. Some of the initial research and writing of my book was conducted in a seminary library during a sabbatical visit to the States. The balance of the process was completed in my office on campus, the spot where I enjoy writing most.


  • Question #9 – Favorite flavor of ice cream?

I love American ice cream. Pistachio is a favorite. In South Africa one of my favorite flavors is English toffee frozen yoghurt. A quick anecdote: I was introduced to frozen yoghurt in a US airport many years ago when I first visited the States. I saw patrons eating what I assumed was ice cream. But when I attempted to order this ‘ice cream’, I was told ‘We don’t sell ice cream.’ Bewildered, I pointed and asked, ‘What’s that?’ ‘Frozen yoghurt’, I was told. ‘Really? . . . Never heard of it . . . Frozen yoghurt?! Are you serious?’, I asked. ‘OK, I’ll try some of that.’ I did, and the rest, as they say, is history.



Want to learn more about Peter W. Smuts?

Visit the Bible Institute of South Africa’s website: