Professor Geza Vermes, 1924-2013

A tribute to the leading Dead Sea Scrolls scholar and Standpoint contributor

It is with great sadness that we must inform readers of the death of Professor Geza Vermes FBA. His towering academic achievements will endure, above all in the two fields that he made his own, the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Jewish Jesus. More recently he extended his range to cover the history of the early Church and the lives of major Jewish figures such as Herod the Great and Josephus.

Much of Geza’s work during the last few years first appeared in articles for Standpoint, which we were proud to publish and which helped to spread his influence beyond the cloister and into the wider world. He was not afraid of controversy and possessed the virtues of a public intellectual in full measure, never condescending to his readers as he continued to give new impetus to the study of the Jewish world in late antiquity. Working as he did at the crossroads between Judaism and Christianity, between Biblical and Classical cultures, he was used to arousing opposition from various quarters, but was resolute in his pursuit of the truth.

In his own person, Geza bridged several different worlds, during a long life journey that took him from pre-war Budapest to present-day Oxford. Born Jewish, he lost his parents in the Holocaust, but was able to escape the Nazis thanks to protection from the Hungarian Church. After a period as a Catholic priest he reverted to Judaism and was among the first people to examine the Dead Sea Scrolls. His standard English translation has never been out of print. At Newcastle and Oxford he was a pioneer of Jewish studies and bequeaths a distinguished diaspora of students. A great scholar and a good man, Geza Vermes will be much missed by his pupils, colleagues, friends and family. We offer our condolences to Margaret, his wife, who has made a colossal contribution to his work over the years.  

The articles Geza wrote for Standpoint can be found here 

An autumn note

“For many, the end of this uneasy year cannot come quickly enough”

An ordinary killing

Ian Cobain’s book uses the killing of Millar McAllister to paint a meticulous portrait of the Troubles

Greater—not wiser

John Mullan elucidates the genius of Charles Dickens
Search