Toledoth Yeshu

The Jewish Life of Jesus (Toledoth Yeshu) in Context: Jewish-Christian Polemics in Ancient, Medieval, and Modern History 

An international conference at the University of Bern, Switzerland, Institut für Judaistik (June 29-July 1, 2015)

The Jewish life of Jesus (Toledoth Yeshu) constitutes one of the most important Jewish anti-Christian literary traditions. Its development can be followed in the long run of Jewish-Christian relations and polemics from late antiquity to the modern period. Toledoth Yeshu presents us with a Jewish account of Christianity, mocking Jesus as an illegitimate child and a charlatan, and describing his disciples as a bunch of violent rogues. A “best-seller” among medieval Jews, Toledoth Yeshu was also discussed by Christian scholars with a view to expose the alleged Jewish hatred of Christianity in their own anti-Jewish polemics. In the Enlightenment context, Toledoth Yeshu came to be subverted by authors such as Voltaire, with the intention to foster their critique of religion and question the historical status of the biblical narrative.

Whereas Toledoth Yeshu has most often been studied from a text-critical perspective, the present conference aimed at goying beyond philological debates and explore the place and function of Toledoth Yeshu within the different historical and cultural contexts in which it surfaces and circulates. This conference thus sought to connect recent inquiries into this text to wider issues pertaining to the historical construction, transformation, and preservation of religious identities, and their inherent discourses on gender, ethnicity, and religion.

Organized with the generous support of the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNF), the Burgergemeinde Bern, the Schweizerische Gesellschaft für Judaistische Forschung (SGJF), the Schweizerische Gesellschaft für Religionswissenschaft (SGR), the Fondation Johanna Dürmüller-Bol, and the Adolf und Mary Mil-Stiftung.

Publication: Daniel Barbu, Yaacov Deutsch (eds.), Toledot Yeshu in Context. Mohr Siebeck. Tübingen (in Preparation).