Faculty Directory
Mordechai Cohen


Professor of Bible; Associate Dean, Bernard Revel School of Jewish Studies; Divisional Coordinator of Academic Jewish Studies

PhD, Yeshiva University, 1994
MA, Columbia University, 1991
Rabbinic Ordination, Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary, 1989
BA, Yeshiva University, 1987

A popular professor on campus and recipient of the Senior Professor Awards at Yeshiva College and Stern College, Cohen’s research focuses on Jewish Bible interpretation in its Muslim and Christian cultural contexts. After earning his PhD in 1994 on the Jewish tradition of figurative Bible interpretation, an NEH fellowship he was awarded in 1995 to study Arabic poetics was pivotal for Cohen’s comparative research. It led to his first published volume, Three Approaches to Biblical Metaphor (2003). His second volume, Opening the Gates of Interpretation (2011) showed how Maimonides’ legal hermeneutics drew upon Muslim jurisprudence. Recognized worldwide as an expert in Jewish Bible interpretation, Cohen served as an editor of the multivolume Encyclopedia of the Bible and Its Reception from 2009–2012. 

In 2010/11, Cohen directed a fourteen-member international research group at the Israel Institute for Advanced Studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, leading to the publication of Interpreting Scriptures in Judaism, Christianity and Islam: Overlapping Inquiries (2016), co-edited with Adele Berlin. Cohen’s latest book, The Rule of Peshat (2020) is a comprehensive investigation of the medieval tradition of Jewish plain-sense interpretation in its Muslim and Christian cultural contexts. His next book, to be published by Cambridge University Press in 2021, is entitled Rashi, Biblical Interpretation, and Latin Learning in Medieval Europe: A New Perspective on an Exegetical Revolution.

For the last four years Cohen has taught an annual summer seminar at the Shandong University Center for Judaic and Inter-religious studies in Jinan, China, and has participated in philosophical conferences in Beijing. Having learned Mandarin, Cohen developed a network of Chinese scholars worldwide interested in engaging with Jewish learning. Since 2018 he has implemented this vision through the Chinese-Jewish Conversation, a forum for comparative study of the two cultural traditions, which also provides a welcome space on campus for YU’s growing Chinese student population.


Wilf campus - Furst Hall


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Spring 2020

Book of Job: Exegetical Tradition, BIB 8305


Fall 2019

Peshat Tradition in cultural context, BIB 6084


Spring 2019

Biblical Poetry: Song of Songs, BIB 8310


Fall 2018
French Medieval Biblical Exegesis, BIB 6094


Summer 2018
Honors Prog Senior Project II
JUDS 4920H