Unfortunately, most of the obit is behind a subscription wall, as regular readers will know. Meanwhile, in The Guardian, Hugh Muir's diary today mentions his passing:
Great sadness, finally, at the death at 88 of the great British biblical scholar Geza Vermes. He was a sweet-natured, scholarly man of Hungarian Jewish origins, who survived the Holocaust, became a Catholic and later reconverted to Jewry. In 2004, on the release of Mel Gibson's bloodthirsty film The Passion of the Christ, with all its claims of authenticity, the Guardian took him to a press preview. As the audience recoiled from the scenes of bloody violence, we could hear him chortling. Why so? "It's quite obvious that none of the actors could speak Aramaic," he told us afterwards. He knew hokum when he saw it.Prof. Vermes's passing has been widely reported among the blogs. In particular, I'd recommend James Crossley's interesting comments over on the Sheffield Biblical Studies blog, including the following:
Yet at the same time, Vermes’ work is still problematic for scholarship whether or not this is acknowledged (often it is not). His version of Jesus’ Jewishness did not have a strong emphasis on Jesus ‘transcending’, ‘overriding’, ‘making redundant’, or even ‘intensifying’ aspects of Judaism (Judaism, that is, as assumed or constructed by a given scholar or scholarship more generally) that is still found in scholarship and is not so different from the pre-Vermes era. In other words, this makes Vermes stand out from the constant rhetoric of Jesus the Jew that has come after Vermes. I think it is worth being blunt by stating that scholars continue to use Vermes as a Jewish scholar and his influential work on ‘Jewishness’ to justify supercessionist positions (implicit or explicit) that Vermes would not have accepted nor recognised and, unlike Vermes, often without reading sources from the Judaism supposedly ‘transcended’. Apart from some notable exceptions, Vermes’ challenge has still not been met on a widespread scale in historical Jesus scholarship.I have a lot of sympathy for what James says here. I sometimes wonder whether scholars have learned the wrong lessons from Vermes, looking to take "Jesus the Jew" and find a role for him in reconstructions that are every bit as thickly mired in Christian theological agendas as were the German, Lutheran historical Jesuses of the "new quest" that they so criticize. It's why the subtitle of Vermes's seminal book, A Historian's Reading of the Gospels, is in many respects more important than its main title.