PhD Courses in Denmark

TRUTH and TRUTHFULNESS: Biblical, Philosophical, and Theological Approaches

Graduate School, Arts at Aarhus University

Course description:

The ideas of truth and truthfulness have led to the question ‘What is truth?’ – including the development of a number of truth theories and truth criteria. One of the most famous is the correspondence theory according to which a belief is true if it corresponds to a fact or, in other words, if an adaequatio intellectus et rei is manifest. However, if the ‘thing’ or object of knowledge in question is elusive, the human mind or consciousness cannot easily identify whether or to what extent a proposition corresponds to a certain state of affairs.

This problem applies particularly to theological questions concerning the possibility (or impossibility) of knowing God. Biblical Job, for instance, cannot understand why he, without any fault on his side, is hit by one stroke of fate after the other, losing his home and belongings, his health, his children. His wife recommends: “Curse God and die!” (Job 2:9, NIV) Job, however, does not want to cut his bond to God but argues with him. After a divine demonstration of power, Job proclaims:

"I know that you can do all things; no purpose of yours can be thwarted. You asked, ‘who is this that obscures my plans without knowledge?’ Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know. You said, ‘Listen now, and I will speak; I will question you, and you shall answer me.’ My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes." (Job 42:1-6, NIV).

What are the epistemological implications of these verses: How does the encounter with God influence human knowledge about God and about how he relates to different events taking place in our world? How can we account for the transition from hearsay to understanding, and what is the role of vision and audition in gaining ’true’ insight?

This PhD course reflects upon the role of ‘relationality’ and ’dialogue’ in approaching questions of truth, and it does so by considering both the God-relationship and interhuman relations. Moreover, it focuses on the connection between the abstract noun ‘truth’ and the character trait of ‘truthfulness’ in order to explore the potential of the second-person perspective in the search for a truth that resides not only in what we say, but also in what we do (in the sense of veritatem facere) and become.

We invite PhD papers (20 minutes + 10 minutes discussion) about ‘truth and truthfulness.’ If you are interested, please submit an abstract (300-500 words) by December 30, 2021.


The aim of this course is to provide

1. an overview of the occurrences and meanings of the Hebrew words ‘emunah’ and ‘emet’ in Biblical literature as compared to other ancient epistemologies, for instance in Egypt and Mesopotamia

2. an introduction into the Greek term ‘aletheia’ as used in Plato and The New Testament, with a view to the reception and modification of this term in Heidegger’s Being and Time where truth is determined as a-letheia

3. a discussion of the existential, pragmatic, and dialogical understanding of truth in the writings of Søren Kierkegaard, Franz Rosenzweig, and Martin Buber.

Literature that will be discussed during the course:

- Biblical texts, including ancient Near Eastern and ancient Egyptian texts

- Ancient Greek texts, especially Plato

- Heidegger, Being and Time, §44

- Søren Kierkegaard, Concluding Unscientific Postscript

- Franz Rosenzweig, The Star of Redemption, trans. Babara E. Galli, The University of Wisconsin Press 2005, 415-447.


- keynote lectures by Jan Dietrich, Troels Engberg-Pedersen, Thomas Schwarz Wentzer, and Claudia Welz

- reading and discussing classical texts

- short paper sessions in which PhD students can present their work

Target group/participants:

PhD students, postdoctoral research fellows and other colleagues interested in the theme.



ECTS credits:

1,5 ECTS for preparation and participation without paper

2,5 ECTS for attending the course and presenting a paper


Jan Dietrich, Universität Bonn

Troels Engberg-Pedersen, University of Copenhagen

Thomas Schwarz Wentzer, Aarhus University

Claudia Welz, Aarhus University


17 - 18 January 2022


Campus Aarhus - to be informed later

Application deadline:

Please sign up via this link 30 December 2021 at the latest.

Additional information:

Texts will be sent out via email after participants have signed up for the course.