Mordechai Cohen is Associate Dean and Professor of Bible at the Bernard Revel Graduate School of Jewish Studies. Reflected in his recent volume, The Rule of Peshat, his research focuses on Jewish Bible commentary in Muslim and Christian contexts. His earlier volumes, Three Approaches to Biblical Metaphor and Opening the Gates of Interpretation, show how Jewish thinkers drew upon Arabic poetics and Muslim jurisprudence to interpret the Bible. In 2010/11, Cohen directed a fourteen-member international research group at the Israel Institute for Advanced Studies, leading to the publication of Interpreting Scriptures in Judaism, Christianity and Islam, co-edited with Adele Berlin.
Research related to commentary
I’m currently completing my book, Rashi, Biblical Interpretation, and Latin Learning in Medieval Europe (Cambridge University Press), which views Rashi’s peshat revolution and departure from midrashic interpretation in light of contemporaneous Christian trends to draw upon classical grammar and rhetoric in Bible commentary. Over the past four years I’ve been teaching in China and exploring the dynamics of Chinese commentary on the classical Confucian texts—and parallels to developments in scriptural interpretation. This inspired me to establish the Chinese-Jewish conversation at YU which investigates these two traditions comparatively on topics ranging from archaeology and philosophy to environmental protection. See yu.edu/cjc.
Publications related to commentary
“Rashi’s Literary Outlook as Reflected in his Conception of the Biblical Narrator: His use of the term ha-meshorer (“the poet”) and its impact in the northern French peshat school,” Jewish Studies Internet Journal 18 (2020): 1–42.
“Conceptions of Authorship in Early Jewish Cultures,” in The Cambridge Handbook of Literary Authorship, ed. Ingo Berensmeyer, Gert Buelens, and Marysa Demoor, 81–97. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2019.
“A New Perspective on Rashi of Troyes in Light of Bruno the Carthusian: Exploring Jewish and Christian Bible interpretation in eleventh-century Northern France,” Viator 48,1 (2017): 39–86.
“Nahmanides’ Four Senses of Scriptural Signification: Jewish and Christian Contexts,” in Entangled Histories: Knowledge, Authority, and Transmission in Thirteenth-Century Jewish Cultures, ed. Elisheva Baumgarten, Ruth Mazo Karras, and Katelyn Mesler, 38–58. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2017.
“‘The Distinction of Creative Ability’ (faḍl al-ibdāʿ): From Poetics to Legal Hermeneutics in Moses Ibn Ezra,” in Exegesis and Poetry in Medieval Karaite and Rabbanite Texts, ed. Joachim Yeshaya and Elisabeth Hollender, 83–121. Leiden: E.J. Brill, 2016.
The Rule of Peshat: Jewish Constructions of the Plain Sense of Scripture and Their Christian and Muslim Contexts, 900–1270. 405pp. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2020.
Interpreting Scriptures in Judaism, Christianity and Islam: Overlapping Inquiries, ed. with Adele Berlin. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2016. 381pp., 15 plates.
Opening the Gates of Interpretation: Maimonides’ Biblical Hermeneutics in Light of His Geonic-Andalusian Heritage and Muslim Milieu. 550pp. Leiden: E.J. Brill, 2011.
Three Approaches to Biblical Metaphor: From Abraham Ibn Ezra and Maimonides to David Kimhi. 375pp. Leiden: E.J. Brill, 2003; 2d ed., 2008.
FORTHCOMING: Rashi, Biblical Interpretation, and Latin Learning in Medieval Europe: A New Perspective on an Exegetical Revolution. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press (in press; publication scheduled for 2021).