One Sunday morning in 1948, a Jewish-born Hungarian student at the Fathers of Notre Dame de Sion Catholic order’s seminary in Louvain watched as his professor in class held up a photograph of Chapter 40 from the Book of Isaiah. The young seminarian’s curiosity was instantly piqued: the photograph was of a 2,000-year-old manuscript fragment from a cache discovered a year before by Bedouin shepherds in caves at Qumran near the Dead Sea.
“Staring at it, I became captivated,” Geza Vermes told The Jerusalem Report by phone from his home in Oxford, England, where he is Professor Emeritus of Jewish Studies at Wolfson College. “With youthful zeal I vowed to solve the greatest Hebrew manuscript discovery of all time. Ever since, the scrolls and my life have been intertwined.”
Six decades on, Vermes clearly remains captivated by the ancient documents unearthed in the Judean desert. At the slightest prodding he declaims at length on them with undiminished enthusiasm. And while the world’s leading authority on the historic manuscripts may not wear his love of the scrolls on his sleeve, he does often wear it on his tie. Emblazoned on a custom-made necktie that Vermes, an owlish man with old-world charm, wears for his public lectures are fragments of the Community Rule, a sectarian document recovered from Cave 4 at Qumran, which the Oxford professor personally worked on deciphering.
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HT: Joe Lauer