Many people interpret things in Tanach as metaphorical sometimes. For instance, Rambam’s whole reading of Bereshit is an allegory. The Gemara says that Iyov may never have happened. Basically like all the Nevuot are interpreted as symbolizing something.

My question is where do you draw the line at interpreting stuff as not being literal? Why did Iyov maybe never exist but there’s no doubt Moshe did? This question also relates to taking things like numbers in the Torah literal and what not (600k Jews leaving Egypt, living for hundreds of years…), so at what point do you stop making everything a metaphor?

  • 4
    "For instance, Rambam’s whole reading of Bereshit is an allegory" as is, this vague statement is incorrect.
    – robev
    Jan 14, 2023 at 21:24
  • 2
    Even if there are given multiple interpretations (metaphorically or not), the peshat of a posuk always remains (Yevamos 11b, Shabbos 63a, Yevamos 24a, Saadia Gaon HaEmunot veHaDeot 2:1).
    – Shmuel
    Jan 14, 2023 at 21:28
  • "Almost invariably, the classic sources guide us as to when the Torah’s intent is more and less literal." - aish.com/is-the-torah-literal
    – Shmuel
    Jan 14, 2023 at 21:30
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    Does it matter? Whatever happened happened. Either way this is the Torah God gave us to follow
    – Double AA
    Jan 14, 2023 at 23:46
  • 1
    judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/29305/… specifically for “ Why did Iyov maybe never exist but there’s no doubt Moshe did?”
    – Alex
    Jan 15, 2023 at 0:26

1 Answer 1


According to the Rambam, the Torah never contradicts a fact. If a scientific claim is true we must reinterpret the Torah (ie we read it allegorically). That is in harmony with what sciences teaches. Science does not have to negate religion, it helps us understand the Torah.

The Rambam brings down that we should only believe one of three things: what our five senses tell us is true, something our mind tells us must be true (our intellect or reasoning), and what we have from the Torah.

Anyone who accepts anything that is not found in one of these three things, it is said of him, “The simple believes everything” (Prov. 14: 15).

See his letter to the community of Marseille.

  • If a scientific claim is true... Is it a claim or is it true? If it's true, what's the relevance of it being scientific?
    – shmosel
    Feb 28 at 3:26
  • @shmosel I think if it is true it then becomes a scientific fact.
    – Shmuel
    Mar 7 at 4:41

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