The Death of John D. W. Watts

The following is an obituary announcing the death of John D. W. Watts:

John Drayton Williams Watts (b. August 9, 1921) passed away July 21, 2013, in Penney Farms, Florida. A native of Laurens, South Carolina, he spent his childhood in Palestine with his missionary parents and his youth in New Orleans where his father, J. Wash Watts, served on the faculty of the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.

John earned a B.A. from Mississippi College and B.D. and Th.D. from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He served as a chaplain in the U.S. Navy from 1944-1946. In 1946, he married Winifred Lee Williams. Together they served with the Southern Baptist Foreign Mission Board from 1948-1970 and 1972-75.

John was Professor of Old Testament at the International Baptist Theological Seminary in Rüschlikon, Switzerland, where he also served as President from 1963 to 1969. He then served on the faculty of Serampore College in Serampore, India (1972-75), Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California (1976-1981), and the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky (1981-95).

He was the Old Testament Editor of the Word Biblical Commentary. His books included Vision and Prophecy in Amos (1958; revised 1996), Studying the Book of Amos (1966), Basic Patterns in Old Testament Religion (1971), How We Got the Bible (2011), contributions to the Broadman Bible Commentary (1970-72), and commentaries on Obadiah (1969), Joel-Obadiah-Jonah-Nahum-Habakkuk-Zephaniah (1975), and Isaiah (2 volumes in the Word Biblical Commentary series: 1985, 1987; revised 2005).

He is particularly well known for interpreting the books of Isaiah and the minor prophets as unified dramas, with speeches assigned to different characters. He was honored with two festschrift collections of essays by colleagues and students, Forming Prophetic Literature: Essays on Isaiah and the Twelve (ed. J. W. Watts and P. R. House, 1996) and a special issue of Perspectives in Religious Studies (ed. P. J. Scalise, 2008).

In 1995, he retired to Penney Farms, Florida, where he lived with Lee until her death in February, 2011. He is survived by his children, Cheryl, Reid, Clare and Jim, as well as seven grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. A memorial service will take place at Penney Farms Retirement Community in September, date to be determined. The family requests donations to Heifer International in lieu of flowers.

John Watts was a great scholar and a great teacher.

Claude Mariottini
Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary

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2 Responses to The Death of John D. W. Watts

  1. Dear Dr. Claudio Mariottini, Thank you for posting this beautiful obituary.
    I have a special fascination for and have studied the minor prophets daily for almost one year now with due dilligence- have learned so much and yet my interest in this area is stronger than ever. The publications of this brilliant author are calling to me to be read- Especially Joel-Obadiah-Jonah-Nahum-Habakkuk-Zephaniah (1975), and Isaiah (2 volumes in the Word Biblical Commentary series)..
    John Watts left behind an incredible legacy in his scholarship, teaching, and publications. May the mantle of his annointing fall upon one of his descendants and/or students. God is good, and His work endures into eternity.


    • Claude Mariottini says:

      Dear Giavanna,

      John Watts was a great scholar. Many of his students are following his steps and carrying out his scholarship. I am pleased to know of your love for the Minor Prophets. I taught a course on the Minor Prophets last year. My students gained a new appreciation for their message and ministry.

      Thank you for your special comment on the legacy of Dr. Watts.

      Claude Mariottini


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