Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Geza Vermes's birthday

THIS DAY IN JEWISH HISTORY: 1924: The Priest Who Noticed Jesus Had Been Jewish Is Born. Geza Vermes was born Jewish himself, became a Catholic priest, but came back to Judaism, and Jesus (David B. Green, Haaretz).
June 22, 1924, is the birthdate of Geza Vermes, the Hungarian-born scholar who was among the first to study Jesus as a Jew, and was also one of the first academics to write about the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Vermes himself also had an unusual spiritual journey, which included a spell as a Catholic priest before his return to Judaism.


Vermes was on the faculty of the University of Newcastle from 1958 until 1965, when he was invited to Oxford University, becoming first professor of Jewish studies at Iffley (later, Wolfson) College there. Later, he helped found what is now known as Oxford’s Center for Hebrew and Jewish Studies. He also published the first English translation of the Dead Sea Scrolls, in 1962 (unfortunately, the first edition had an upside-down image of a scroll page on its cover), revising it several times over the next half-century. His first book about Jesus, “Jesus the Jew,” was published in 1973, and was followed by several other books looking at the Jewish origins of Christianity.

Though today it is common for people to speak about Jesus as a Jew, that wasn’t the case four decades ago, and it is Geza Vermes who deserves much of the credit for this historical correction. By 1993, even the “Shorter Oxford Dictionary” had adopted Vermes’ definition of Jesus as “a Jewish preacher (c 5 BC-c AD 30) regarded by his followers as the Son of God and God incarnate,” in place of the earlier “Founder of Christianity.”

Vermes died on May 8, 2013, at age 89.
Read it all for lots more on Professor Vermes's interesting life. Background here and links.