Jason Sion Mokhtarian
Herbert and Stephanie Neuman Associate Professor and Director of Jewish Studies Program
Jason Sion Mokhtarian is Herbert and Stephanie Neuman Associate Professor in Hebrew and Jewish Literature and Director of the Jewish Studies Program at Cornell University. The son of Jewish emigrants from Tehran, Mokhtarian grew up in the suburbs of Chicago and studied at the University of Chicago before earning graduate degrees in Ancient Iranian studies and Late Antique Judaism from the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures at UCLA. He was also a Lady Davis Research Fellow at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
Mokhtarian is the author of two books and numerous articles, including in the journals Jewish Studies Quarterly, Harvard Theological Review, Iranian Studies, and Mizan: Journal for the Study of Muslim Societies and Civilizations. His first book, Rabbis, Sorcerers, Kings, and Priests: The Culture of the Talmud in Ancient Iran (University of California Press, 2015), was a finalist for the National Jewish Book Award in scholarship and recently translated into Persian. His second book, Medicine in the Talmud: Natural and Supernatural Therapies between Magic and Science was published in 2022 (University of California Press). His current book project is on Judeo-Persian translations and commentaries of biblical and rabbinic sources. A 20,000-word chapter from this book entitled “A Judeo-Persian Translation of the Book of Esther (Bibliothèque nationale de France MS Hébreu 127)” is forthcoming.
In 2022, Mokhtarian convened an international workshop on Judeo-Persian Literature at the Intersection of Jewish Studies and Iranian Studies, and, in collaboration with Yale University’s Judaic Studies Program, co-organized a conference on The Aramaic Incantation Bowls in Their Late Antique Contexts.
Mokhtarian has co-edited multiple books and journals, including a forthcoming collection of essays on the corpus of magic bowls based on the Yale conference: The Aramaic Incantation Bowls in Their Late Antique Contexts (under contract, Brown Judaic Studies). As a member of the international research group PERSIAS (“Perception and Reception of Persia among Jews in Antiquity from Achaemenid to Sasanian times”), he is also co-editing a special edition of the Journal of Hebrew Scriptures on the topic of “Ancient Jewish Memories of Achaemenid Persia,” and in 2015 he co-edited a special edition of the journal Iranian Studies on the topic of “Religious Trends in Late Ancient and Early Islamic Iran.” Mokhtarian is also a series co-editor of the Olamot Book Series (Indiana University Press), which translates innovative books by Israeli scholars on a range of topics in Jewish Studies. From 2018-2020, Mokhtarian served as the Director of the Olamot Center for Scholarly and Cultural Exchange in Indiana University’s Jewish Studies Program, where he taught for nearly a decade before coming to Cornell.
An award-winning instructor, Mokhtarian teaches a range of courses in both Jewish Studies and Iranian Studies and has advised undergraduate and graduate students at Cornell in various capacities.
Mokhtarian’s research interests include the Talmud in its Persian-Sasanian context, Iranian religions and languages, ancient Jewish magic and medicine, Judeo-Persian literature, and the history of the Jews of Persia. Research languages include Hebrew and Aramaic, as well as Old, Middle, and New Persian.
Rabbinic Judaism: Literature and Beliefs (Freshman Writing Seminar)
Introduction to Judaism
Jews, Christians, and Others in Late Antiquity
Sacred Books of the Jews
Medicine, Magic, and Science in the Ancient Near East
Religions of Iran
- Rabbinic Literature
- Iranian Studies
- Talmud in its Sasanian context
- Ancient Jewish magic and medicine
- Religions of Iran
- Sasanian history and culture
- Middle Persian
- Jews of Persia
- Rabbis, Sorcerers, Kings, and Priests: The Culture of the Talmud in Ancient Iran (University of California Press, 2015)
- Medicine in the Talmud: Natural and Supernatural Remedies between Magic and Science (University of California Press, 2022).
The Aramaic Incantation Bowls in Their Late Antique Contexts (under contract, Brown Judaic Studies). Co-edited with Alexander Marcus.
Journal of Hebrew Scriptures, special edition on “Ancient Jewish Memories of Achaemenid Persia.” Co-edited with Kristin Joachimsen (PERSIAS research group).
- Iranian Studies, special edition on “Religious Trends in Late Ancient and Early Islamic Iran.” Volume 48.1 (2015). Co-edited with David Bennett.
“Families and Lists of Protections in the Aramaic Incantation Bowls” (forthcoming)
“A Judeo-Persian Translation of the Book of Esther (Bibliothèque nationale de France MS Hébreu 127)” (forthcoming)
- “Material Culture of the Jews of Sasanian Mesopotamia.” In A Companion to Late Ancient Jews and Judaism: Third Century BCE to Seventh Century CE, eds. Naomi Koltun-Fromm and Gwynn Kessler (Hoboken: Blackwell Publishing, 2020), 145-166.
- “Zoroastrian Polemics against Judaism in the Doubt-Dispelling Exposition.” Mizan: Journal for the Study of Muslim Societies and Civilizations 3.1 (2018)
- “Clusters of Iranian Loanwords in Talmudic Folklore: The Chapter of the Pious (b. Ta’anit 18b-26a) in Its Sasanian Context.” In The Aggada of the Bavli and Its Cultural World, eds. Geoffrey Herman and Jeffrey L. Rubenstein (Providence: Brown Judaic Studies, 2018), 125-148.
- “Excommunication in Jewish Babylonia: Comparing Bavli Mo‘ed Qatan 14b-17b and the Aramaic Bowl Spells in a Sasanian Context.” Harvard Theological Review 108 (2015): 552-578.
- “Empire and Authority in Sasanian Babylonia: The Rabbis and King Shapur in Dialogue.” Jewish Studies Quarterly 19 (2012): 148-180.