The parodical narrative Toledot Yeshu (TY) has been the object of burgeoning interest in the past decade. It has recently become evident that this work was quite popular in Judeo-Arabic, and circulated continuously in Arabic-speaking Jewish communities from at least the eleventh century until nearly the present day. The following is a first foray into the Judeo-Arabic textual tradition of this narrative. From the sixteenth century and beyond, TY circulated in Arabic-speaking communities in collections of folk narrative. Close examination of the textual tradition of TY in Judeo-Arabic as preserved in four parallel manuscript fragments from the twelfth—fifteenth centuries provides further, more subtle evidence linking TY to this genre, and suggests that TY served primarily as literary entertainment in the Near East. I conclude with consideration of the codicological context of TY manuscripts preserved in Europe, and propose that this Near Eastern function contrasts to TY’s primarily polemical function in Europe.
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