Schürer was born in Augsburg. After studying at the universities of Erlangen, Berlin and Heidelberg from 1862 to 1866, he became in 1873 professor extraordinarius at Leipzig. Later on, he served as professor ordinarius at the universities of Giessen (from 1878), Kiel (from 1890) and Göttingen (from 1895 to 1910). In 1876 he founded and edited the Theologische Literaturzeitung, which he edited with Adolf Harnack from 1881 to 1910. He died after a long illness in 1910 in Göttingen.
His elaborate work on the history of the Jews in the time of Christ, Geschichte des jüdischen Volkes im Zeitalter Jesu Christi (1886–1890; 4th edition 1901–1909), made him one of the best known of modern German scholars in Great Britain and the United States. The second edition was translated into English under the title A History of the Jewish People in the Time of Jesus Christ (1885–1891). Later, a revised English version of the work was created under the editorship of Géza Vermes, Fergus Millar and Matthew Black, with the slightly different title of The History of the Jewish People in the Age of Jesus Christ (1973–1987). In its earliest form, this work appeared as Lehrbuch der neutestamentlichen Zeitgeschichte (1874).
His other works include:
- Schleiermachers Religionsbegriff und die philosophischen Voraussetzungen desselben (1868) – Friedrich Schleiermacher's concept of religion and the philosophical presuppositions.
- Die gemeindeverfassung der Juden in Rom in der Kaiserzeit (1879) – Congregation of the Jews in Rome in the imperial period.
- Prof. Dr. phil. et Lic. theol. Emil Johannes Schürer Professorenkatalog der Universität Leipzig
- One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Schürer, Emil". Encyclopædia Britannica. 24 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 386.
- Chisholm 1911.
- Schürer, Emil de.Wikisource (bibliography)
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- Schürer, Emil (1891). A History of the Jewish People in the Time of Jesus Christ. Scribner. OCLC 679692795 – via HathiTrust.