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Cohen, Shaye J.D.


COHEN, SHAYE J.D. (1949– ), leading historian of Jews and Judaism in the world of late antiquity. Cohen received his B.A. from Yeshiva College (1970), rabbinic ordination from the Jewish Theological Seminary (1974), and his Ph.D. from Columbia University (1975). He taught at the Jewish Theological Seminary (1974–91), where he also served as dean of the Graduate School, and at Brown University (1991–2001), where he served as Ungerleider Professor of Judaic Studies and director of the program in Judaic studies. From 2001 he served as Littauer Professor of Hebrew Literature and Philosophy at Harvard University.

Cohen is the author or editor of nine books, including From the Maccabees to the Mishnah (1987), which is widely used as a textbook in colleges and adult education courses, and The Beginnings of Jewishness (1999), and dozens of articles.

The focus of Cohen's research is the boundary between Jews and gentiles and between Judaism and its surrounding cultures. What makes a Jew a Jew, and what makes a non-Jew a non-Jew? Can a non-Jew become a Jew, and, if so, how, and can a Jew become a non-Jew, and, if so, how? How does the Jewish boundary between Jew and non-Jew compare with the Jewish boundary between male Jew and female Jew? Building on sources in Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek, and Latin, Cohen argues for the fluidity of identity markers in the ancient world. He also insists that the Jewish reaction to Hellenism in antiquity and to Christianity from ancient to modern times consisted of both resistance and accommodation, and both stances had a far-reaching influence on the history of Judaism.

[Jay Harris (2nd ed.)]

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