Between 1926 and 1934 Shlomo Pines studied philosophy, Semitic Languages, and linguistuics at the universities of Heidelberg, Geneva and Berlin. Among his friends at Berlin were Paul Kraus and Leo Strauss, the latter of whom would contribute the lengthy introductory essay to Pines' classic translation of The Guide. From 1937 to 1939 he taught the history of science in Islamic countries at the Institute of the History of Science in Paris. In 1940, he and his family departed for Palestine on the last boat leaving Marseilles before the Nazi occupation of France (during which time 25% of French Jews were deported and murdered).
In the young State of Israel, Pines was a professor in the Department of Jewish Thought and the Department of Philosophy at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem from 1952 until his death in 1990. His fluency in a wide variety of modern and ancient languages—including, but not limited to, Arabic, Syriac, Hebrew, Persian, Sanskrit, Turkish, and Coptic—enabled him to undertake scholarship of uniquely broad scope.