Revel studied at the famed Telz yeshiva (Talmudic seminary) and was ordained in Kovno (Kaunas) in 1901. Having immigrated to the United States in 1906, he earned a master’s degree from New York University in 1909 and a doctorate from Dropsie College in 1912.
His dissertation, “Karaite Halak- hah [religious law] and its Relation to Sadducean, Samaritan, and Philonian Halakhah” challenged Abraham Geiger’s argument that the Karaites were continuing the tradition established by the Sadducccs.
For a brief time, Revel worked in his father-in-law’s Oklahoma oil refinery until he was called to New York in 1915 to serve as dean of the newly merged Etz Chaim Yeshiva and Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary. His vision of a modern Orthodox institution that would integrate American secular education with traditional Talmudic learning led to the establishment of the Talmudic Academy in 1916, the first yeshiva high school in the United States, and the founding of the Yeshiva College in 1928, later known as Yeshiva University, the first liberal arts institution under Jewish auspices. As its president, he was the first to ordain Orthodox rabbis in America. Stalwart in his convictions, and in face of the opposition of a formidable rabbinic leadership who feared that Torah study would become a secondary goal, Revel went on to establish a graduate school of advanced Jewish and cognate studies in 1937, which in 1941 became known as the Bernard Revel Graduate School. Honorary president of the Union of Orthodox Rabbis of North America and vice-president of the Jewish Academy of Arts and Sciences, he continued to devote himself to Jewish scholarship as associate editor of the Hebrew encyclopedia, Otsar Yisrael, as the author of rabbinic responsa and as a contributor of articles on a variety of subjects to Jewish periodicals.
He was an Orthodox rabbi.