Toledot Yeshu: The Life Story of Jesus 978-3-16-158727-6 - Mohr Siebeck
Jewish Studies

Toledot Yeshu: The Life Story of Jesus

Two Volumes and Database. Vol. I: Introduction and Translation. Vol. II: Critical Edition
Ed. and Transl. by Michael Meerson and Peter Schäfer with the collaboration of Yaacov Deutsch, David Grossberg, Avigail Manekin, and Adina Yoffie

[Toledot Yeshu: Die Lebensgeschichte Jesu.]

unrevised e-book edition 2020; Original edition 2014 2014. XVII, 716 pages.
forthcoming in April

Texts and Studies in Ancient Judaism 159

379,00 €
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eBook PDF
ISBN 978-3-16-158727-6
Published in English.
Toledot Yeshu (»The Life Story of Jesus«) is a satirical counter-history presenting a »biography« of Jesus from an anti-Christian perspective. This is the first critical edition of all the available Hebrew and Aramaic Toledot Yeshu manuscripts, including an introduction and English translation. Together with the printed edition and translation we provide access to a fully searchable database of all Toledot Yeshu manuscripts that offers a sophisticated research tool and allows browsing, printing, and comparing the manuscripts and their microforms.
The Book of the Life of Jesus (in Hebrew Sefer Toledot Yeshu) presents a »biography« of Jesus from an anti-Christian perspective. It ascribes to Jesus an illegitimate birth, a theft of the Ineffable Name, heretical activities, and finally a disgraceful death. Perhaps for centuries, Toledot Yeshu circulated orally until it coalesced into various literary forms. Although the dates of these written compositions remain obscure, some early hints of a Jewish counter-history of Jesus can be found in the works of Christian authors of Late Antiquity, such as Justin, Celsus, and Tertullian. Around 600 CE, some fragments of Jesus' »biography« made their way into the Babylonian Talmud; and in 827, archbishop Agobard of Lyon attests to a sacrilegious book about Jesus that circulated among Jews. In the Middle Ages, the book became the object and tool of an acrimonious controversy. Jews, Christians, and theists, such as Ibn Shaprut, Luther, and Voltaire, quoted and commented on Toledot Yeshu, trying to disprove the beliefs of their opponents and revealing their own prejudices. The narrative was translated into Latin and many vernacular languages and soon branched into numerous versions with only a few basic facts in common. The present publication provides researchers with reliable conclusions regarding the narrative's origin and evolution. In addition, the purchase of the volume offers full online access to a comprehensive database of Toledot Yeshu manuscripts, designed to encourage and facilitate further research about this important book in the history of Jewish-Christian polemics. All Hebrew and Aramaic manuscripts are edited in the present book and database: an unusual combination of a traditional critical edition with an electronic research tool. The database features a full-text search of all manuscripts as well as printing and downloading capabilities. The price includes access to the database (for one simultaneous user). Access for institutions is provided through the IP address, for private individuals through username and password. An activation code is enclosed in the book. Access to a free seven day trial period can be obtained here: toledot [AT]

Michael Meerson Born 1973; 2006 PhD Bar-Ilan University; since 2004 Senior Researcher at Princeton University, working on Sefer Hasidim and Toledot Yeshu.

Peter Schäfer Geboren 1943; 1968 Promotion; 1973 Habilitation; 1983–2008 Professor für Judaistik an der Freien Universität Berlin; 1998–2013 Ronald O. Perelman Professor of Jewish Studies und Professor of Religion an der Princeton University; seit 2014 Direktor des Jüdischen Museums Berlin.

Yaacov Deutsch Born 1966; PhD Hebrew University, Jerusalem; currently head of the history department at David Yellin College, Jerusalem, and adjunct lecturer at the Hebrew University.

David M. Grossberg Born 1965; PhD from Princeton University; currently Visiting Scholar, Cornell University, Ithaca.

Avigail Manekin No current data available.

Adina Yoffie No current data available.


The following reviews are known:

In: Salesianum — 77 (2015), S. 747–748 (Rafael Vicent)
In: Association Jewish Libraries Newsletter — 2015, Heft 3, S. 14 (Sanford R. Silverburg)
In: Theologische Revue — 112 (2016), S. 91–110 (Jens Schröter)
In: The Polish Journal of Bibl. Research — 15 (2016), S. 130–135 (Edward Lipinski)
In: Revue des Etudes Juives — 175 (2016), S. 176–178 (Jean-Pierre Rothschild)
In: Zwinglius Redivivus — (4/2015) (Jim West)
In: Revue d'histoire et de Philosophie Religieuses — 95 (2015), S. 376–378 (Ch. Grappe)
In: New Testament Abstracts — 59 (2015), S. 587
In: Theologische Literaturzeitung — 141 (2016), S. 460–462 (Günter Stemberger)
In: Studia Biblica Athanasiana — 17 (2016), S. 149–151 (Ö.Cs.)
In: Journal of Jewish Studies — 67 (2016), S. 428–435 (Daniel J. Lasker)