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When the Truth Is Not What Actually Happened: The Epistemology of Religious Truth in Orthodox Jewish Bible Study

Azrieli Graduate School of Jewish Education, Yeshiva University, New York, NY 10033, USA
Shalhevet High School, Los Angeles, CA 90036, USA
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Religions 2019, 10(6), 378;
Received: 23 April 2019 / Revised: 30 May 2019 / Accepted: 5 June 2019 / Published: 12 June 2019
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Jewish Religious Teaching and Learning)
PDF [284 KB, uploaded 20 June 2019]


Recent research on student epistemology has shifted from seeing epistemology as a stable entity possessed by individuals to a collection of more situated cognitive resources that individuals may employ differently depending on the context. Much of this research has focused on the explicit beliefs students maintain about the nature of knowledge. This paper uses data from Jewish religious chumash (Bible) study to examine how students’ conceptions of biblical truth are grounded in the particular forms of chumash study they engage in. Using data from clinical interviews with Orthodox Jewish Bible students, we argue that, in relation to the biblical text, questions of truth are functionally meaningless; that is, they are irrelevant to the implicit epistemology embedded in the practice of chumash study. Because of this, students were unable to coherently answer questions about the truth-value of the biblical text, even while engaging in sophisticated reasoning about its literary character. This has implications for how religious schools and teachers approach religious study of traditional texts. View Full-Text
Keywords: epistemology; Bible; religious beliefs; education epistemology; Bible; religious beliefs; education
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited (CC BY 4.0).

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Krakowski, M.; Block, D. When the Truth Is Not What Actually Happened: The Epistemology of Religious Truth in Orthodox Jewish Bible Study. Religions 2019, 10, 378.

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