Geza Vermes

Geza Vermes

Overview
Géza Vermes or Vermès (ˈɡeːzɒ ˈvɛrmɛʃ, born 22 June 1924) is a British scholar of Jewish Hungarian origin and writer on religious history, particularly Jewish
Judaism
Judaism ) is the "religion, philosophy, and way of life" of the Jewish people...

 and Christian
Christian
A Christian is a person who adheres to Christianity, an Abrahamic, monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth as recorded in the Canonical gospels and the letters of the New Testament...

. He is a noted authority on the Dead Sea Scrolls
Dead Sea scrolls
The Dead Sea Scrolls are a collection of 972 texts from the Hebrew Bible and extra-biblical documents found between 1947 and 1956 on the northwest shore of the Dead Sea, from which they derive their name...

 and other ancient works in Aramaic, and on the life and religion of Jesus
Jesus
Jesus of Nazareth , commonly referred to as Jesus Christ or simply as Jesus or Christ, is the central figure of Christianity...

. He is one of the most important voices in contemporary Jesus research, and he has been described as the greatest Jesus scholar of his time.
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Géza Vermes or Vermès (ˈɡeːzɒ ˈvɛrmɛʃ, born 22 June 1924) is a British scholar of Jewish Hungarian origin and writer on religious history, particularly Jewish
Judaism
Judaism ) is the "religion, philosophy, and way of life" of the Jewish people...

 and Christian
Christian
A Christian is a person who adheres to Christianity, an Abrahamic, monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth as recorded in the Canonical gospels and the letters of the New Testament...

. He is a noted authority on the Dead Sea Scrolls
Dead Sea scrolls
The Dead Sea Scrolls are a collection of 972 texts from the Hebrew Bible and extra-biblical documents found between 1947 and 1956 on the northwest shore of the Dead Sea, from which they derive their name...

 and other ancient works in Aramaic, and on the life and religion of Jesus
Jesus
Jesus of Nazareth , commonly referred to as Jesus Christ or simply as Jesus or Christ, is the central figure of Christianity...

. He is one of the most important voices in contemporary Jesus research, and he has been described as the greatest Jesus scholar of his time. Vermes' written work on Jesus focuses principally on Jesus the Jew, as seen in the broader context of the narrative scope of Jewish history
History
History is the discovery, collection, organization, and presentation of information about past events. History can also mean the period of time after writing was invented. Scholars who write about history are called historians...

 and theology
Theology
Theology is the systematic and rational study of religion and its influences and of the nature of religious truths, or the learned profession acquired by completing specialized training in religious studies, usually at a university or school of divinity or seminary.-Definition:Augustine of Hippo...

, while questioning the basis of some Christian teachings
Christianity
Christianity is a monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus as presented in canonical gospels and other New Testament writings...

 on Jesus.

Biography


Vermes was born in Makó
Makó
Makó is a town in Csongrád County in southeastern Hungary. It lies on the Maros River, near the Romanian border. The area of the town is of which is arable land. The climate is very warm with hot and dry summers. Makó and the surrounding region get the most sunshine in Hungary, about 85-90...

, Hungary
Hungary
Hungary , officially the Republic of Hungary , is a landlocked country in Central Europe. It is situated in the Carpathian Basin and is bordered by Slovakia to the north, Ukraine and Romania to the east, Serbia and Croatia to the south, Slovenia to the southwest and Austria to the west. The...

, in 1924 to Jewish parents. All three were baptised as Roman Catholics when he was seven. His mother and journalist father died in the Holocaust. After the Second World War, he became a Roman Catholic priest
Priest
A priest is a person authorized to perform the sacred rites of a religion, especially as a mediatory agent between humans and deities. They also have the authority or power to administer religious rites; in particular, rites of sacrifice to, and propitiation of, a deity or deities...

, studied first in Budapest
Budapest
Budapest is the capital of Hungary. As the largest city of Hungary, it is the country's principal political, cultural, commercial, industrial, and transportation centre. In 2011, Budapest had 1,733,685 inhabitants, down from its 1989 peak of 2,113,645 due to suburbanization. The Budapest Commuter...

 and then at the College St Albert and the Catholic University of Leuven
Catholic University of Leuven
The Catholic University of Leuven, or of Louvain, was the largest, oldest and most prominent university in Belgium. The university was founded in 1425 as the University of Leuven by John IV, Duke of Brabant and approved by a Papal bull by Pope Martin V.During France's occupation of Belgium in the...

 in Belgium
Belgium
Belgium , officially the Kingdom of Belgium, is a federal state in Western Europe. It is a founding member of the European Union and hosts the EU's headquarters, and those of several other major international organisations such as NATO.Belgium is also a member of, or affiliated to, many...

, where he read Oriental history and languages and in 1953 obtained a doctorate in theology with a dissertation on the historical framework of the Dead Sea Scrolls
Dead Sea scrolls
The Dead Sea Scrolls are a collection of 972 texts from the Hebrew Bible and extra-biblical documents found between 1947 and 1956 on the northwest shore of the Dead Sea, from which they derive their name...

. He left the Catholic Church in 1957; and, reasserting his Jewish identity, came to Britain and took up a teaching post at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne. He married Pamela Hobson in 1958. In 1965 he joined the Faculty of Oriental Studies at Oxford University, rising to become the first professor of Jewish Studies
Jewish studies
Jewish studies is an academic discipline centered on the study of Jews and Judaism. Jewish studies is interdisciplinary and combines aspects of history , religious studies, archeology, sociology, languages , political science, area studies, women's studies, and ethnic studies...

 before his retirement in 1991. In 1970 he became a member of the Liberal Jewish Synagogue of London
Liberal Judaism
Liberal Judaism , is one of the two forms of Progressive Judaism found in the United Kingdom, the other being Reform Judaism. Liberal Judaism, which developed at the beginning of the twentieth century is less conservative than UK Reform Judaism...

. After the death of his first wife in 1993, he married Margaret Unarska in 1996 and adopted her son, Ian Vermes.

Academic career


Vermes was one of the first scholars to examine the Dead Sea Scrolls after their discovery in 1947, and is the author of the standard translation into English
English language
English is a West Germanic language that arose in the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of England and spread into what was to become south-east Scotland under the influence of the Anglian medieval kingdom of Northumbria...

 of the Dead Sea Scrolls: The Dead Sea Scrolls in English (1962) He is one of the leading scholars in the field of the study of the historical Jesus (see Selected Publications, below) and together with Fergus Millar and Martin Goodman, Vermes was responsible for substantially revising Emil Schurer
Emil Schürer
Emil Schürer was a German Protestant theologian.-Biography:Schürer was born at Augsburg.After studying at Erlangen, Berlin and Heidelberg from 1862 to 1866, he became in 1873 professor extraordinarius at Leipzig and eventually professor ordinarius at Göttingen...

's three-volume work, The History of the Jewish People in the Age of Jesus Christ, His An Introduction to the Complete Dead Sea Scrolls, revised edition (2000), is a study of the collection at Qumran.

He is now Professor Emeritus of Jewish Studies and Emeritus Fellow of Wolfson College, Oxford
Wolfson College, Oxford
Wolfson College is a constituent college of the University of Oxford in England. Located in north Oxford along the River Cherwell, Wolfson is an all-graduate college with over sixty governing body fellows, in addition to both research and junior research fellows. It caters to a wide range of...

 but continues to teach at the Oriental Institute
Oriental Institute, Oxford
The Oriental Institute of the University of Oxford, England, is home to the university's Faculty of Oriental Studies. It is engaged in research and teaching of a wide range of disciplines covering modern and historical Asian languages and culture...

 in Oxford
Oxford
The city of Oxford is the county town of Oxfordshire, England. The city, made prominent by its medieval university, has a population of just under 165,000, with 153,900 living within the district boundary. It lies about 50 miles north-west of London. The rivers Cherwell and Thames run through...

. He has edited the Journal of Jewish Studies since 1971, and since 1991 he has been director of the Oxford Forum for Qumran
Qumran
Qumran is an archaeological site in the West Bank. It is located on a dry plateau about a mile inland from the northwestern shore of the Dead Sea, near the Israeli settlement and kibbutz of Kalia...

 Research at the Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies
Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies
The Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies is an independent institution which is part of the University of Oxford. Its research fellows teach on a variety of Bachelors and Masters degrees in Oriental Studies, and it publishes the Journal of Jewish Studies.-History and Case Statement:The...



Vermes is a Fellow of the British Academy
British Academy
The British Academy is the United Kingdom's national body for the humanities and the social sciences. Its purpose is to inspire, recognise and support excellence in the humanities and social sciences, throughout the UK and internationally, and to champion their role and value.It receives an annual...

; a Fellow of the European Academy of Arts, Sciences and Humanities; holder of an Oxford D. Litt. (1988) and of honorary doctorates from the University of Edinburgh
University of Edinburgh
The University of Edinburgh, founded in 1583, is a public research university located in Edinburgh, the capital of Scotland, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The university is deeply embedded in the fabric of the city, with many of the buildings in the historic Old Town belonging to the university...

 (1989), University of Durham (1990), University of Sheffield
University of Sheffield
The University of Sheffield is a research university based in the city of Sheffield in South Yorkshire, England. It is one of the original 'red brick' universities and is a member of the Russell Group of leading research intensive universities...

 (1994) and the Central European University of Budapest (2008). He was awarded the Wilhelm Bacher Memorial Medal by the Hungarian Academy of Sciences (1996), the Memorial Medal of the city of Makó, his place of birth (2008) and the keys of the cities of Monroe LA and Natchez MI (2009). He received a vote of congratulation from the U.S. House of Representatives, proposed by the Representative of Louisiana on September 17, 2009.

In the course of a lecture tour in the United States in September 2009, Vermes spoke at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, at Duke University in Durham NC, at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore MD, and at the University of Louisiana at Monroe and at Baton Rouge.

Historical Jesus



Vermes describes Jesus as a 1st-century Jewish holy man. Contrary to certain other scholars (such as E. P. Sanders), Vermes concludes that Jesus did not reach out to non-Jews. For example, he attributes positive references to Samaritans in the gospels not to Jesus himself but to early Christian editing. He suggests that, properly understood, the historical Jesus is a figure that Jews should find familiar and attractive. This historical Jesus, however, is so different from the Christ of faith that Christians, says Vermes, may well want to rethink the fundamentals of their faith.

Important works on this topic include Jesus the Jew (1973), which describes Jesus as a thoroughly Jewish Galilean charismatic, and The Gospel of Jesus the Jew (1981), which examines Jewish parallels to Jesus’ teaching.

Selected publications

  • Scripture and Tradition in Judaism
    Judaism
    Judaism ) is the "religion, philosophy, and way of life" of the Jewish people...

    : Haggadic studies (Studia post-biblica)
    , Brill, Leiden 1961 ISBN 90-04-03626-1
  • Jesus the Jew: A Historian's Reading of the Gospels, Minneapolis, Fortress Press 1973 ISBN 0-8006-1443-7
  • The Dead Sea Scrolls: Qumran
    Qumran
    Qumran is an archaeological site in the West Bank. It is located on a dry plateau about a mile inland from the northwestern shore of the Dead Sea, near the Israeli settlement and kibbutz of Kalia...

     in Perspective
    , Minneapolis, Fortress Press 1977 ISBN 0-8006-1435-6
  • Jesus and the World of Judaism
    Judaism
    Judaism ) is the "religion, philosophy, and way of life" of the Jewish people...

    , Minneapolis, Fortress Press 1983 ISBN 0-8006-1784-3
  • The Essenes
    Essenes
    The Essenes were a Jewish sect that flourished from the 2nd century BCE to the 1st century CE which some scholars claim seceded from the Zadokite priests...

     According to the Classical Sources
    (with Martin Goodman
    Martin Goodman (historian)
    Martin David Goodman is a historian and writer on Roman history and the history and literature of the Jews in the Roman period....

    ), Sheffield Academic Press 1989 ISBN 1-85075-139-0
  • The Religion of Jesus the Jew, Minneapolis, Fortress Press 1993 ISBN 0-8006-2797-0
  • The Complete Dead Sea Scrolls in English, Penguin 1997 ISBN 978-0140449525 (2004 ed.)
  • The Changing Faces of Jesus, London, Penguin 2001 ISBN 0-14-026524-4
  • Jesus in his Jewish Context, Minneapolis, Fortress Press 2003 ISBN 0-8006-3623-6
  • The Authentic Gospel
    Gospel
    A gospel is an account, often written, that describes the life of Jesus of Nazareth. In a more general sense the term "gospel" may refer to the good news message of the New Testament. It is primarily used in reference to the four canonical gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John...

     of Jesus
    , London, Penguin 2004 ISBN 0-14-100360-X
  • The Passion
    Passion (Christianity)
    The Passion is the Christian theological term used for the events and suffering – physical, spiritual, and mental – of Jesus in the hours before and including his trial and execution by crucifixion...

    , London, Penguin 2005 ISBN 0-14-102132-2.
  • Who's Who in the Age of Jesus, London, Penguin 2005 ISBN 0-14-051565-8
  • The Nativity: History and Legend, London, Penguin 2006 ISBN 0-14-102446-1
  • The Resurrection: History and Myth, Doubleday Books 2008 ISBN 0-385-52242-8.
  • Searching for the Real Jesus, London, SCM Press 2010 ISBN 978-0-334-04358-4
  • The Story of the Scrolls: The Miraculous Discovery and True Significance of the Dead Sea Scrolls, London, Penguin 2010 ISBN 978-0-141-04615-0
  • Jesus: Nativity - Passion - Resurrection, London, Penguin 2010 ISBN 978-0-141-04622-8
  • "Jesus in the Jewish World", London, SCM Press 2010 ISBN 978-0-334-04379-9

For more details see his autobiography, Providential Accidents, London, SCM Press, 1998 ISBN 0-334-02722-5; Rowman & Littlefield, Lanham MD, 1998 ISBN 0-8476-9340-6.