The term “genius” readily appears on the lips of scholars at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem when they refer to their former colleague, David Flusser (1917-2000). This word, which was understandably mixed with more critical words, was shared with me repeatedly the years I was Lady Davis Professor in the Hebrew University.
David Flusser was born in Vienna, Austria, in 1917. He moved with his parents to Prague, Czechoslovakia, in 1918. Growing up in that picturesque city, he studied classical philology until he immigrated to Jerusalem in 1939. At the Hebrew University he continued his studies in classics and also began to master Jewish history. In 1957 he earned the Ph.D. from the Hebrew University and was invited to teach in the Department of Comparative Religions, focusing upon Early Judaism (250 B.C.E. to 200 C.E.), Early Christianity, and Greek religion. He was elected to the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities and in 1980 received the Israel Prize.
Professor Flusser’s life was devoted to a study of Judaism and the origins of Christianity. His Jesus (New York: Herder and Herder, 1969) showed how he had mastered not only the classics, but also the Jewish apocryphal literature, Rabbinics, the New Testament, and related documents. Against a prevailing trend in New Testament scholarship, he boldly asserted that “it is possible to write the story of Jesus’ life.” It is singularly noteworthy that a Jewish scholar was interested in Jesus. It is especially important to recognize that Flusser also made a good case for the position that “among the Jews of post-Old Testament times Jesus is the one about whom we know most.”