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.”