Obituary of the Day: Geza Vermes

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New York Times obituaries editor Bill McDonald joins us every day during the drive to discuss one life featured in the obit page. Today's person is the religious scholar Geza Vermes.

From the Obituary of Geza Vermes

Dr. Vermes had long been frustrated that only a handful of scholars had direct access to the scrolls, and he eventually made his frustrations public. In 1977, he said that their handling was “likely to become the academic scandal par excellence of the 20th century.” More than a decade passed, but the scrolls eventually became more easily accessible in their original form and through photographs.

The scrolls helped deepen Dr. Vermes’s interest in Judaism and in how perceptions of Jesus changed as Christianity spread. He argued that the messianic Jesus worshiped by modern Christians was largely created in the first three centuries after he died. In 1973 he wrote “Jesus the Jew,” the first of several books in which he placed Jesus in the tradition of Jewish teachers.

“When it came out, it sounded like a very provocative title,” Dr. Vermes recalled in 1994 of “Jesus the Jew.” “Today it is commonplace. Everybody knows now that Jesus was a Jew. But in 1973, although people knew that Jesus had something to do with Judaism, they thought that he was really something totally different.”

-- Read the full obituary here.