Vol. 25 (2022): Cromohs
The Jewish ‘Life of Jesus’ in Early Modern Contexts: Case Studies

Emotions and the Hidden Transcript: The Jewish Gospel Toledot Yeshu in Early Modern Italy

Daniel Barbu
CNRS - LEM (UMR 8584)
Thomas Coryat, Coryat’s Crudities: Reprinted from the Edition of 1611. To which are Now Added, His Letters from India, &c. and Extracts Relating to Him, from Various Authors [...] Together with His Orations, Character, Death, Etc. [...] (London: Printed for W. Cater, et. al., 1776), vol. III, n.p., ‘Coryat’s Letters from India’. Copy at The British Library, digitised by Google books.

Published 2023-01-31


  • Toledot Yeshu,
  • Jewish-Christian polemics,
  • Inquisition,
  • Hebrew manuscripts,
  • Hidden transcripts


This article focuses on the reception, circulation and transmission of Jewish narratives on Jesus in early modern Italy. The Italian Peninsula witnessed an important revival of Jewish culture in the sixteenth and seventeenth century, due, among other things, to the influx of Jewish refugees from Spain and Portugal. Italy stood at the junction of the Ashkenazi and Sephardi worlds, acquiring a central role in the dissemination, transmission, and renewed development of polemical traditions, including the Jewish stories on Jesus and the origins of Christianiy known as Toledot Yeshu. I argue that Toledot Yeshu in fact constituted the background of many discussions between Christian and Jews in that context. Almost a third of all extant Toledot Yeshu manuscripts in fact originate from Italy, which thus provides a key site for understanding the place and function of this tradition at a particular time and place.