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David Daube

Regius Professor of Civil Law, Oxford
1909 to 1999

David Daube was born in Freiburg im Breisgau, Germany on 8 February 1909, the second son in a strict Orthodox Jewish family. After an initial degree at the University of Freiburg he completed his doctorate in law at Göttingen University in 1932, by which time he was fluent in German, French, Latin, ancient Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic. The following year he left Germany in the face of Hitler’s Nazi regime and began studying Roman law at Gonville and Caius College Cambridge from whence he received a second doctorate in 1936.

Daube was subsequently appointed lecturer in law at Cambridge before accepting the position of professor of jurisprudence at the University of Aberdeen. He moved from Aberdeen to Oxford in 1955 where he had completed a master’s degree in that year taking the position of Regius Professor of Civil Law at Oxford University. Daube was a fellow of All Souls College while in Oxford.

From 1970 through to his retirement in 1981 Professor Daube served as the director of the Robbins Hebraic and Roman Law Collections in the University of California Berkeley’s law school library. Even after his retirement he continued to teach a variety of courses on Talmudic Roman and other models of ancient law.

Among his dozens of books were The New Testament and Rabbinic Judaism (1953); Studies in the Roman Law of Sale (1959); Civil Disobedience in Antiquity (1972) and Wine in the Bible (1975). Additionally he published over 150 essays. His highly esteemed reputation as a world-class scholar led to four separate collections of essays written in his honour between 1974 and 1993. Besides these lauds he also received numerous honorary degrees from very prestigious universities including the Sorbonne as well as election to several prestigious institutions including the British Academy and the Royal Irish Academy. Daube died of pneumonia on 24 February 1999 at the age of 90.

Some of Daube’s other publications include Studies in Biblical Law (1947); Forms of Roman Legislation (1956); The Exodus Pattern in the Bible (1963); The Sudden in the Scriptures (1964); Collaboration with Tyranny in Rabbinic Law (1965); He That Cometh (1966); Roman Law (1969); Ancient Hebrew Fables (1973); Medical and Genetic Ethics (1976); Duty of Procreation (1977); Typologie im Werk des Flavius Josephus (1977); Ancient Jewish Law (1981); Geburt der Detektivgeschichte (1983); Das Alte Testament im Neuen (1984); Sons and Strangers (1984); and Appeasement or Resistance and Other Essays on New Testament Judaism (1987).

  • R. Scott Spurlock, University of Edinburgh