I never knew David Daube. He and I were not friends in a conventional sense. I was, and am, his disciple. When I read the eulogies of him I realized how little I understood. We were often together, but he never spoke of his personal matters: of his losses and his triumphs. He is the greatest influence on my life.
I first met him in late Spring, 1957, when I was finishing my LL.B. at Glasgow, and he was external examiner. His first question at the oral exam was "Would you like a job at Oxford?" Shortly thereafter he ensured that I became a lecturer at Wadham. It tells one a great deal about him that I was, I believe, the first person appointed to a teaching position in Oxford who did not have an Oxbridge degree, had no postgraduate experience and had not taught elsewhere.
He was my D.Phil. supervisor. No one could have been kinder and more solicitous yet at the same time more stringent than David. When I gave him a chapter he always invited me to lunch at All Souls, always within a week. At lunch he was impish, even roguish. I recall the horror of the Provost of Eton when David introduced me as someone who, at lunch, speaks only classical Greek. But after lunch, until 7 p.m. (with a short break for tea) he would go over my chapter line by line, with fierce constructive criticism. I have never lost my fear of disappointing him.
He loved to do the unexpected. When I told him how anguished I was to have received my call-up papers for military service I expected sympathy. David took my hands and danced me to the gate of All Souls singing the song Figaro sang to Cherubino. There he told me I would ruin the British army. The same afternoon he took the train to London and saw Lord Hailsham, then Chairman of the Conservative Party, with the result that University teachers became exempt. Prior to that, sixth-form teachers and technical college lecturers but not University lectures were exempt.
When David introduced a guest speaker one never knew what he might say. He once introduced me with: "It was said of Maimonides that if the Talmud was lost it would not matter because he knew it by heart. The same could be said of Alan and Justinian's Digest. Except Alan would add a little bit more." The introduction is more memorable than the lecture.
David was a great man and a great scholar and, as a result, not always liked. He was not appointed to the Douglas Chair of Civil Law in Glasgow in 1954 for which he was the obvious choice. I well remember that in my early years in Oxford I was more than once advised not to get too close to him. Though he said little, he was very conscious of anti-Semitism in Britain. Christian theologians were put off by his insight that the New Testament is a Jewish work. To take him seriously they would have to learn a whole new discipline and way of thinking. He is still under-represented in the literature. His ability to notice texts that did not fit conventional theories, and to turn the theories on their head dismayed some less enthusiastic scholars. His generosity of spirit disgruntled some of the less generous.
I treasure a letter of a few years back in which he wrote that in his days of affliction a photo of my daughter, Sarah, gave him the joys of Spring.
David, Thank you for everything.