Jan G. Ottema

    From Oera Linda Wiki
    late 1860s or early 1870s
    mid to late 1870s

    Jan Gerhardus Ottema (1804-1879) was the first (publishing) researcher and translator of the Oera Linda manuscript.

    Biographic facts

    • 1804 (December 1) born in Doetinchem, son of Nicolaus Ottema en Minke Dirks.
    • Candidate's diploma Literature in Groningen
    • 1824 University enrollment Utrecht
    • 1828 Doctor's thesis (philosophy and literature) "de Sophoclis Antigone"
    • 1830 (July 28) Marriage in Utrecht with Sara van Heukelom, daughter of Nicolaas van Heukelom en Sophia van Geuns.
    • 1830 Assistant school principal Harlingen, till 1834.
    • 1832 Registration as a member of the Friesch Genootschap (Frisian Society).
    • 1834 (September 1) Appointment as teacher Latin and Old Greek at grammar school Leeuwarden.
    • 1843 Appointment as board member of the Friesch Genootschap.
    • 1850 (December 25) death of wife Sara van Heukelom, 45 years old.
    • 1855 (June 14) Appointment as assistant principal of grammar school Leeuwarden.
    • 1870 (November 24) Start study of Oera Linda manuscript.
    • 1872 Honorable discharge at grammar school Leeuwarden; first publication of Thet Oera Linda Bok.
    • 1879 (March 19) death in Leeuwarden, 74 years old.

    Publications related to Oera Linda

    Other publications (incomplete list)

    Two disputed choices

    For his Oera Linda translation, Ottema had made two choices which the owner of the manuscript, Cornelis Over de Linden, objected to in their correspondence:

    1) Translation of OD as 'animosity'/'hatred'

    On 8 November 1871 Over de Linden wrote:

    You want to replace the word 'od' with 'animosity'. On page 128 I find FIAND for enemy. I would rather see you use 'fertilising force' - or a more appropriate term. The word animosity will cause animosity. [Ottema would later replace 'animosity' by 'hatred'.] When one speaks to youths about love, they will fall in love. But when one speaks to them of war, they will separate in groups and play soldier, to the great pleasure of despotism.

    In 1534 Martin Luther used 'Odem' for 'God's breath', which is what we might call life force. The old Dutch word 'odevaar' (stork) suggests a link with fertility. The Old Greek word ὠδις (ódis) can mean birth. In the Westfrisian dialect, 'oôt' is used for an indestructible weed (wild oat). 'Odd' in Norse means 'point', 'tip', 'head', 'top', 'peak'; in Russian 'odin' means 'one'; in Dutch slang, 'oeteren' is 'to urinate' and 'oetlul' is an invective referring to the male member. 'Hod(e)' is an old word for 'testicle' (still used in German). While 'life force' is a rather abstract concept, the simple, original meaning of 'od' may have been 'penis'. Ottema ignored Over de Linden's objection and would, after Cornelis' death, write to his son Leendert Floris Over de Linden (26 January 1876):

    Od (anger, rage, hate, animosity) trad to-ra binna, means that hate entered the hearts of the three daughters of Irtha [Earth]; this hate was obviously inherited by all of their descendants, and this is cause of the inborn, innate animosity specially in Finda's and Lyda's posterity against Frya's children. An animosity that will not end until the people of Finda and Lyda will be exterminated, and the people of Frya at the final victory will remain and inherit and possess the whole earth. This animosity dominates all of history in the OLB and still goes on in our days. Frya's people pervade in all continents and establish European supremacy all over the earth. Everywhere the peoples of Finda and Lyda will have to submit or disappear.

    2) Manipulation of the alphabet page Perhaps because Old Frisian specialist De Haan Hettema had written that the curly 'runskrift' (or: continuous script) letters looked like the 19th century longhand, Ottema decided to change the alphabet page altogether. Over de Linden wrote him about this decision on 11 June 1872:

    (...) revision (...) I ask you, and all who reject the so-called 'runskrift' as of younger date.

    In your translation I read: "Oh dear, never let the eyes of a monk gaze upon this script, they speak sweet words, but... etc." (...)

    That the monks, who have invented their own letterscript, stifled ours to make it unreadable, lies in their nature. But who knows how many Copies of the book of Adela's Folstar remain here and elsewhere with kings or in Rome. Now that more than a thousand years have passed, they may have introduced the walking script as capitals, because they are similar to our capitals.

    If you are so weak as to reject the walking script, out of fear for some barkers, than it is as if you want to duel with the sheath, while passing the sword to them.

    For in the manuscript it says: "When Fàsta was Mother of honor, she made the running or walking script out of it. The Witking, that is sea king Godfried... etc." So, if the runscript was added more recently, then the above fragment was also added, and then anything can have been added. So I keep protesting against the mutilation.

    so-called 'facsimile', printed in Ottema's editions
    letters in original manuscript
    numbers in original manuscript

    Alleged suicide

    In his PhD thesis of about Oera Linda, Goffe Jensma wrote:

    According to some, Ottema eventually had to admit that he had been wrong and that he had lost his honour as a classical scholar. He could no longer live with that truth and hanged himself. [With added note:] Information from both A. Lysen, Santpoort, and from retired professor P. Gerbenzon, who were both -in different ways- well informed in the circles of notables in Leeuwarden.[1]

    Note that both Adriaan Lysen (1921-2012) and Pieter Gerbenson (1920-2009) were born more than 40 years after Ottema's death, so Jensma's sources can not be considered reliable. There will have been ample motives to bring such gossip into the world, aiming to discourage others to take Oera Linda seriously and advocate its authenticity, like Ottema had done. This gossip may very well have kept people from following his footsteps. Ottema's death certificate does not mention a cause of death and there is no other known source suggesting it was suicide, let alone the alleged reason for it. However, two years later, in the introduction to his Dutch Oera Linda translation, Jensma asserted even more strongly:

    When Ottema, abandoned by all, in 1879 finally accepted that he was wrong and that he had considered something to be ancient that was actually modern, he decided that it made no sense to live on, and hung himself.[2]

    This pseudo fact is adopted uncritically by other authors, and sometimes even enhanced. Nick Draaijer for example, a descendant of Cornelis Over de Linden, wrote:

    The discussion about authenticity lasted for years and drove Ottema insane. (...) In 1879, when he finally saw that it was all a fabrication, he hanged himself.[3]

    There are no factual clues suggesting that Ottema at some point got doubts about Oera Linda's authenticity. On the contrary, in his latest publication on the subject, he wrote:

    Seven years of uninterrupted study of that book and all that has been written about it has always confirmed this conviction.[4]

    Genealogy (Ahnentafel)

    1) Jan Gerhardus Ottema, born 1-12-1804 Doetinchem (bapt. 30-12 Reformed), died 19-3-1879 Leeuwarden, son of 2/3;

    married 28-7-1830 Utrecht

    Sara van Heukelom, born 24-2-1805 Leiden (Mennonite), died 25-12-1850 Leeuwarden, daughter of Nicolaas van Heukelom and Sophia van Geuns.

    No children.

    2) Nicolaus (Claas) Ottema, rector of Latin school Doetinchem resp. Brielle, bapt. 19-10-1779 Leeuwarden (Ref.), died 8-9-1808 Brielle, son of 4/5;

    married 10-4-1803 Leeuwarden

    3) Minke Jans Dirks, born 1781 Leeuwarden, died 3-3-1857 Leeuwarden, daughter of 6/7.


    1. Jan Gerhardus Ottema, bapt. 30-12-1804 Doetinchem => 1)
    2. Jan Dirks Ottema, bapt. 23-7-1806 Doetinchem.
    3. Hendrik Ottema, born 1808, died 14-10-1826 Utrecht

    4) Nanne Ottema, bapt. 24-1-1745 Grouw, burried 20-5-1812 Leeuwarden, commissary of the Harlinger ferry (between Harlingen and Amsterdam), confession of faith Leeuwarden 12-12-1766, son of 8/9;

    married 1-10-1769 Beetsterzwaag (both living in Leeuwarden)

    5) Hendrikje Geerts, born 1739, died 22-12-1812 Leeuwarden (parents not mentioned), merchant lady.


    1. Engeltje Ottema, bapt. 29-10-1769 Beets, burried 18-12-1793 Leeuwarden; married 13-6-1790 Workum/Leeuwarden Lammert Roelofs.
    2. Tjitse Ottema, born 23-6, bapt. 10-7-1772 Leeuwarden, died 4-10-1809 Leeuwarden; married 17-5-1795 Leeuwarden/Blessum Jetske Appelhof, born 1771 Leeuwarden, died 26-12-1833 Leeuwarden (5 children in 1809), daughter of Oege Appelhof and Aafke van der Meulen.
    3. (Taetske Ottema, born 6-5, bapt. 29-5-1774 Leeuwarden)
    4. Geerardus, bapt. 17-7-1777 Leeuwarden.
    5. Claas Ottema, bapt. 19-10-1779 Leeuwarden => 2)
    6. Taetske Ottema, bapt. 12-1-1782 Leeuwarden.

    6) Jan Dirks Dirkse, born 1741 Leeuwarden, died 5-1-1817 Leeuwarden (parents not mentioned);


    7) Akke Nollides/ Nolles, born 1746 Gorredijk, confession of faith 6-6-1794 Leeuwarden, died 15-11-1831 Leeuwarden, daughter of 14/15.


    1. (Dirk, bapt. 15-10-1766 Leeuwarden)
    2. (Nolle, bapt. 2-12-1767 Leeuwarden)
    3. Tjamke, bapt. 11-7-1770 Leeuwarden
    4. Dirk, bapt. 28-9-1772 Leeuwarden
    5. (Antie, bapt. 30-4-1775 Leeuwarden)
    6. Nolle Dirks, bapt. 26-8-1776 Leeuwarden, living in Leeuwarden (1828)
    7. Antje Dirks, bapt. 22-3-1879 Leeuwarden, died 9-3-1837 Leeuwarden; married 15-4-1804 Leeuwarden Jan Reerink, born 1776 Lochum Duitsland, died 20-2-1852 Leeuwarden.
    8. Minke Jans Dirks, bapt. 13-6-1781 Leeuwarden => 3)
    9. Pietrik Dirks, bapt. 27-9-1783 Leeuwarden, living in Haarlem (1828)
    10. Janke Dirks, bapt. 17-5-1786 Leeuwarden, died 1-5-1848 Beverwijk; married 31-10-1807 Sneek/Leeuwarden Steven Wybes Bleeker.
    11. Dirkje, bapt. 7-9-1788 Leeuwarden

    8) Tjitse Rimmerts Ottema, executeur of Idaarderadeel, (remarried 25-4-17621 Grouw Ynske Hylkama), living in Grouw 1740, bapt. 13-12-1711 Balk, died 19-8-1794 Grouw, son of 16/17;

    married 5-5-1743 Grouw (registered 14-4-1740 Balk)

    9) Taetske Nannes, bapt. 19-3-1724 Balk (living in Balk 1740), daughter of Nanne Franses and Antje Innes.


    1. Nanne Ottema, bapt. 24-1-1745 Grouw => 4)

    14) Nolle Rinkes, born 1707 Kortezwaag, died 15-12-1749 Gorredijk;

    married (1)

    15) Antje Alberts, bapt. 14-9-1710 Gorredijk, died 9-1-1748 Gorredijk.

    married (2) 9-2-1749 Gorredijk Trijntje Stephanus (from Bergum, widow Claas Minnes, remarr. Freerk Perzijn)

    Children from (1):

    1. Rinke Nollides, born 18-7-1739 Gorredijk, died 1-7-1810 Leeuwarden (burried Gorredijk), miller, lime burner Ritsumazijl, jenever distiller, barley maker, husk miller, merchant, member of the municipal council Leeuwarden; married Grietje Douwes.
    2. Akke Nollides/Nolles, born 1746 Gorredijk =>7)

    from (2):

    1. (Nolle, bapt. 1-3-1750 Gorredijk (after father's death), burried 30-7-1753 Opsterland.)

    16) Rimmer Eelkes Ottema;


    17) Ymk Lieuwes, bapt. 12-3-1685 Balk, daughter of Lieuwe Gerrits and Ymk Reins.


    1. Tjitse Rimmers Ottema, bapt. 13-12-1711 Balk => 8)
    2. Lieuwe, bapt. 12-8-1716 Balk.
    3. Ysk, bapt. 13-3-1718 Balk.
    4. Rein Rimmers Ottema, bapt. 29-8-1723 Balk; married Gertje Innes.
    5. Jelle, bapt. 20-10-1726 Balk.


    1. "De Gemaskerde God" (2004) p.214; original Dutch: "Volgens sommigen heeft Ottema uiteindelijk toch ingezien, dat hij had gedwaald en dat hij zijn eer als classicus had verspeeld. Met die waarheid heeft hij niet verder willen leven. Hij hing zich op." Met noot: "Mededeling zowel van de kant van A. Lysen te Santpoort, als van de emeritus hoogleraar P. Gerbenzon, die beiden op verschillende wijze goed ingevoerd waren in de kringen van Leeuwarder notabelen."
    2. "Het Oera Linda-boek" (2006) p. 50; original Dutch: "Toen Ottema, door iedereen in de steek gelaten, in 1879 uiteindelijk inzag dat hij ongelijk had gehad en dat hij voor oud had versleten wat eigentijds was, besloot hij dat het geen zin had om nog verder te leven en verhing hij zich."
    3. "De geheime portretten van Mondriaan - Een familiegeschiedenis" (2022), pp. 215-216 (referring to Jensma 2006 as his source); original Dutch: "De discussie over de echtheid hield jarenlang aan en dreef Ottema tot waanzin. (...) In 1879, toen hij eindelijk inzag dat het allemaal een verzinsel was, verhing hij zich."
    4. "Geschiedkundige aanteekeningen en ophelderingen" (second edition, 1878, p.62); original Dutch: "Eene zevenjarige onafgebroken bestudeering van dat boek en alles wat er over geschreven is, heeft mij steeds in deze overtuiging bevestigd."