Prophets of Love

The Unlikely Kinship of Leonard Cohen and the Apostle Paul

A side-by-side examination of two Jewish thinkers, separated by millennia, but connected by their spirituality.


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.


“Apples and oranges? Lusty Leonard versus celibate Paul? The so-called Godfather of Gloom compared to the author of much of the New Testament? Anderson's compelling work makes it abundantly clear that the pair share far more similarities than differences. His in-depth but easily digested comparisons show us that Cohen and the apostle were two great poetic writers. Both were masters of persuasion, performing artists, and two Jews fascinated by Jesus, and Anderson shows most convincingly that both would agree that three things will last forever: faith, hope, and the greatest, love.” Bob Mersereau, author of The Top 100 Canadian Singles

“By providing a detailed comparison between two key figures that are not readily or often compared to each other, and by engaging biblical and New Testament studies with current culture, Prophets of Love will surprise and intrigue readers inside and outside of academia.” Bernard Wills, Grenfell Campus of Memorial University

Prophets of Love puts Paul and Leonard Cohen into conversation and finds all manner of parallels and contrasts. It also considers the critical reception of each, including lively discussions about the meaning of lyrics and letters, debates about what constitutes their respective canons, and more besides. This unusual and engaging exercise allows readers to meet the apostle and the artist again … for the first time.” Michael J. Gilmour, Providence University College

“It's not often that scholars are deft at translating the cutting edge of what's happening in their field into writing that's readable, let alone entertaining. Yet this is exactly what Matthew Anderson does with recent scholarship on Paul and his deep knowledge of the life and writing of Leonard Cohen. As a scholar of gender, I particularly appreciate the fresh and frank look at the two men's attitudes to women, and their negotiation of ideals of masculinity into which they fit uncomfortably at best. This book will be enjoyed by a wide range of people, from fans of Leonard Cohen, to scholars of gender, to readers of the Hebrew Bible and New Testament.” Shayna Sheinfeld, Augsburg University

“Engaging, scholastic and wise, Prophets of Love examines the surprising similarities, as well as differences, between two passionate men who lived 2,000 years apart.” The Vancouver Sun

“Prophets of Love is an engaging, easily readable exploration of love, divinity, and poetry for Bible scholars, Leonard Cohen enthusiasts, and anyone in between.” Atlantic Books