Leonard Cohen and the Apostle Paul might be imagined as brothers with wildly different characters but a strong family resemblance. Paul, the elder sibling, was awkward, abrasive, and zealous. Leonard, the successful younger brother, was a smooth-talking romantic, prone to addiction and depression. Paul died a martyr, not knowing his words would have any effect on the world. Leonard could see his canonization within his lifetime. Yet each became a prophet in his own time, and a poet for the ages.
In Prophets of Love Matthew Anderson traces surprising connections between two Jewish thinkers separated by millennia. He explores Leonard’s and Paul’s mysticism, their Judaism, their fascination with Jesus, their countercultural perspectives on sex, their ideas about love, and how they each embodied being men. Anderson considers their ambiguous relationships with women, on whom they depended and from whom they often profited, as well as how their legacies continue to evolve and be re-interpreted. This book emphasizes that Paul was first and foremost a Jew, and never rejected his Judaism. At the same time, it sheds new light on the biblical worldviews and language underlying and inspiring every line of Cohen’s poetry.
Prophets of Love alters our views of both Leonard Cohen and the Apostle Paul, re-introducing us to two poetic prophets of divine and human love.
Matthew R. Anderson teaches biblical studies at Concordia University and St Francis Xavier University.