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Géza Vermes (Hungarian pronunciation: [ˈɡeːzɒ ˈvɛrmɛʃ], born 22 June 1924) is a British scholar of Jewish Hungarian origin and writer on religious history, particularly Jewish and Christian. He is a noted authority on the Dead Sea Scrolls and other ancient works in Aramaic, and on the life and religion of Jesus. Some describe him as the greatest Jesus scholar of his time[1] For a dissenting view, see [2]. Vermes' written work on Jesus focuses principally on Jesus the Jew, as seen in the broader context of the narrative scope of Jewish history and theology, while questioning the basis of some Christian teachings on Jesus.[3]



He was born in Makó, Hungary, 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 priest, studied first in Budapest and then at the College St Albert and the Catholic University of Leuven in Belgium, 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. 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 before his retirement in 1991. After the death of his first wife in 1993, he married Margaret Unarska in 1996. He has a son studying biochemistry at Somerville College.

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 of the Dead Sea Scrolls: The Dead Sea Scrolls in English, 1962, re-issued in London by Penguin Classics, as The Complete Dead Sea Scrolls in English, 2004, ISBN 0-14-044952-3. 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's three-volume work, The History of the Jewish People in the Age of Jesus Christ, Edinburgh, T. & T. Clark, 1973, ISBN 0-567-02242-0, 1979, ISBN 0-567-02243-9, 1986-87. ISBN 0-567-02244-7, ISBN 0-567-09373-5.

He is now Professor Emeritus of Jewish Studies and Emeritus Fellow of Wolfson College, Oxford but continues to teach at the Oriental Institute in Oxford. He has edited the Journal of Jewish Studies[4] since 1971, and since 1991 he has been director of the Oxford Forum for Qumran Research at the Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies.

Professor Vermes is a Fellow of the British Academy; 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 (1989), University of Durham (1990), University of Sheffield (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 Mako, 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 of 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.

Selected publications

  • Scripture and Tradition in Judaism: 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 in Perspective, Minneapolis, Fortress Press 1977 ISBN 0-8006-1435-6
  • Jesus and the World of Judaism, Minneapolis, Fortress Press 1983 ISBN 0-8006-1784-3
  • The Essenes According to the Classical Sources (with Martin Goodman), 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 of Jesus, London, Penguin 2004 ISBN 0-14-100360-X
  • The Passion, 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

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.


  1. ^ Crace, John (March 18, 2008). "Geza Vermes: Questions arising". The Guardian.,,2266141,00.html. Retrieved 2008-03-19. ; G. Richard Wheatcroft review of The Authentic Gospel of Jesus.
  2. ^ Wilson, Andrew N. (March 19, 2008). "Jesus is ill-served by this literary detective". The Telegraph. Retrieved 2008-12-16. 
  3. ^ Harrington, Daniel J. (March 24, 2008). "No Evidence? The Resurrection by Geza Vermes". America. Retrieved 2008-12-19. 
  4. ^ JJS Online.


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