Sefer Toledot Yeshu (ספר תולדות ישו, The Book of the Generations/History/Life of Jesus), often abbreviated as Toledot Yeshu, is an early Jewish text taken to be an alternative biography of Jesus. It exists in a number of different versions, none of which are considered either canonical or normative within rabbinic literature, but which appear to have been widely circulated in Europe and the Middle East in the medieval period. A 15th-century Yemenite work of the same was titled Maaseh Yeshu, or the "Episode of Jesus" in which Jesus is described either as being the son of Joseph, or the son of Pandera. The account portrays Jesus as an impostor.
The story is that Jesus (Yeshu) was an illegitimate child, and that he practiced magic and heresy, seduced women, and died a shameful death.
But they also show a paradoxical respect for Jesus. As Joseph Dan notes in the Encyclopedia Judaica, "The narrative in all versions treats Jesus as an exceptional person who, from his youth, demonstrated unusual wit and wisdom, but disrespect toward his elders and the sages of his age." Robert Van Voorst calls the Toledot a record of popular polemic "run wild". The Toledot's profane portrayal of the person Christians consider divine has provided material for antisemitic polemics.Up until the early 21st century, with only a few exceptions, mainstream Jewish and Christian scholars, paid little attention to the Toledot. The opinion of Father Edward H. Flannery is representative:
This scurrilous fable of the life of Jesus is a medieval work, probably written down in the tenth century. .... Though its contents enjoyed a certain currency in the oral traditions of the Jewish masses, it was almost totally ignored by official or scholarly Judaism. Anti-Semites have not failed to employ it as an illustration of the blasphemous character of the Synagogue."
This disregard has recently been lifting as the text becomes discussed as a possible window into the early history of polemic between Christians and Jews.
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