Kevin T. van Bladel is a philologist and historian studying texts and societies of the Near East of the period 200-1200 with special attention to the history of scholarship, the transition from Persian to Arab rule, and historical sociolinguistics. His research focuses on the interaction of different language communities and the translation of learned traditions between Arabic, Iranian languages, Aramaic, Greek, and Sanskrit. From 2013 to 2017 he was Associate Professor and department chair of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures at The Ohio State University. Before that, he was for nine years Assistant and then Associate Professor of Classics at the University of Southern California, where he co-founded and directed that university’s Middle East Studies Program (now Department). He also enjoyed stints as a member in residence of the Institute for Advanced Study and as a Visiting Research Scholar at the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World at NYU.
He is the author of The Arabic Hermes, which investigates the figure Hermes Trismegistus in its Arabic reception and transformation, showing how the ancient Egyptian sage of legend came to be considered a prophet by medieval Muslims, and From Sasanian Mandaeans to Sabians of the Marshes, which sheds light on the early history of the Mandaean religion and its origins in Sasanian Iraq. Among his published articles are studies of Qur’anic cosmology, the history of the eighth-century Arabic translations of Sanskrit texts commissioned by Bactrian patrons, Zoroastrian Middle Persian lore in Arabic reception, language shift and conversion in the wake of the Islamic conquests, and other subjects.
He has taught a range of ancient languages (Arabic, Avestan, Greek, Parthian, Middle Persian, Old Persian, Syriac) and related philological topics, various graduate and undergraduate courses on the history, cultures, and scholarship of the ancient and medieval Near East, and a regular lecture course on the empires of ancient Iran. Some of his publications can be viewed on his yale.academia page.