Hacham Yosef Hacohen, son of Hacham Mordecai Hacohen, was born in Jerusalem. Orphaned as a child, he was raised in the home of his uncle and teacher, Hacham Yitzhak Hacohen. He furthered his studies at the Beit Yaacov (Viga) study house with Rishon LeZion Hacham Moshe Galante, who was appointed Rosh Yeshiva in 1674.
In 1689, after his teacher Hacham Moshe Galante died, Hacham Yosef Hacohen left Jerusalem because of the frequent attacks on its population and traveled through Europe, meeting the sages of its communities and preaching his sermons. When he reached Amsterdam, he met Hacham Moshe Haziz, Rishon LeZion Hacham Moshe Galante's grandson, and together they had his teacher's book, Zevah Shelamim, published. He also had the Idra Rabba and Idra Zuta published for public benefit. In 1715, while in Venice, he was able to publish Divrei Yosef, a collection of his sermons. The book also contains a section devoted to his original Torah commentary, entitled Leqet Yosef, and part of Edut Beyehosef, a large work that he did not get printed.
The exact date of his passing remains unknown, and is commemorated on 30 Kislev, the date he completed his book, Divrei Yosef.