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Phillip I. Lieberman

Chair of Classical and Mediterranean Studies
Professor of Jewish Studies and Law

Professor of Classical and Mediterranean Studies
Professor of Religious Studies
Professor of Islamic Studies and History



215 Cohen Memorial Hall


B.A. (University of Washington 1990)
M.Sc. (London School of Economics 1991)
M.A. in Near Eastern Studies (Princeton University 2004)
M.A. in Rabbinics and Rabbinic Ordination (Jewish Theological Seminary of America 2002)
Ph.D. in Near Eastern Studies (Princeton University 2007)

Phil Lieberman is Vanderbilt’s specialist in rabbinic literature. He is also an historian of medieval Jewry, particularly Jews in Muslim lands. His research focuses on the social, economic and legal history of the Jewish community of North Africa and the Levant, particularly as documented in manuscript materials from the Cairo Geniza. He serves on the advisory board of the Cairo Geniza Project at Princeton University and is an editor and contributor to The Encyclopedia of Jews in the Islamic World (edited by Norman Stillman). He also edited The Cambridge History of Judaism, volume 5: Jews in the Medieval Islamic World (2021). He joined Vanderbilt’s faculty in 2009 from the faculty of New York University, where he taught classes in Jewish Studies and in Islamic and Middle East Studies. His book, The Business of Identity: Jews, Muslims, and Economic Life in Medieval Egypt, published in 2014 by Stanford University Press, was a finalist for the National Jewish Book Award. His The Fate of the Jews in the Early Islamic Near East (Cambridge University Press, 2022) examines Jewish urbanization in Iraq under the early Abbasids (750-1258 CE) and the migration of these Jews to the Islamic Mediterranean. His new translation, with Lenn Goodman of Vanderbilt’s Philosophy Department, of Moses Maimonides’ 12th century philosophical classic The Guide to the Perplexed was published by Stanford University Press in 2022. He has also begun a new project on commercial manuals in the medieval Islamic world.

Area(s) of Expertise:
Rabbinic literature, Jewish law and Islamic law

Islamic Law: from Mecca to Modernity (7323)
Jewish Law (7340)


Representative Publications:

  • The Guide to the Perplexed: A New Translation (Palo Alto: Stanford University Press, 2024). With Lenn Goodman.

  •  An Inspired Man: Studies in Judeo-Arabic Culture Dedicated to the Memory of Joshua Blau (Leiden: Brill, and Jerusalem: Ben-Zvi Institute, 2024). Co-edited with Miriam Frenkel.

  • The Fate of the Jews in the Early Islamic Near East: Tracing the Demographic Shift from East to West (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2022).

  • The Cambridge History of Judaism, Volume 5, The Middle Ages: The Islamic World (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2021).

  • “Jews as Producers and Consumers of History in the Medieval Islamicate World”. Quaderni di Studi Arabi 16 (2021): 292-312.

  •  “One Jurist, Two Answers: Law, Advocacy, and Social Reality in the Jewish Community of the Medieval Islamicate World”. Jewish Quarterly Review 111.2 (Spring 2021): 211-235.

  • “Chinese Porcelain and the Material Taxonomies of Medieval Rabbinic Law: Encounters with Disruptive Substances in Twelfth-Century Yemen”. Medieval Globe 2.2 (2016): 199-238. With Elizabeth Lambourn.

  • “Revisiting Jewish Occupational Choice and Urbanization in Iraq under the Early Abbasids”. Jewish History 29.2 (June, 2015): 113-135.

  • The Business of Identity: Jews, Muslims, and Economic Life in Medieval Egypt (Palo Alto: Stanford University Press, 2014).

  • “Legal Pluralism among the Court Records of Medieval Egypt”. Bulletin d’Etudes Orientales 63 (2014): 79-112.

  • A Jew’s Best Friend? The Image of the Dog throughout Jewish History, (Brighton: Sussex Academic Press, 2013). Co-edited with Rakefet J. Zalashik.

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