Are the following question formats on topic?

  • How is this [text/passage] to be understood in light of Scripture?
  • How is this [text/passage] to be understood in light of other Scriptures?

(While there was a specific question that prompted this meta question, I have also seen several other questions that have made me think of it).

  • I don't think this is a 'useful' question as it is currently phrased. Apr 23, 2014 at 14:02
  • @JackDouglas I'm open to alternate wording proposals, but this comment isn't helping me understand how to do that.
    – Dan
    Apr 23, 2014 at 21:04
  • 1
    It's not a useful question because a) everything is 'inherently theological' and b) if you define theological in some other way, answers will be irrelevant. Please see Scott's comments on your answer for a lucid summary of what I think is wrong with this perspective too. Apr 24, 2014 at 7:39
  • @Daи Thank you for 'taking on' my question, and finding a 'textual' way to answer a difficult question. I asked this question for the reasons you cited in your response; not because I had an 'agenda' but it is an important text which deals with a "theological view". It is a 'fine line' to simply answer a question, and not engag
    – Tau
    May 28, 2014 at 1:45
  • @Daи (e) in a theological debate which neither we nor the OP is prepared for. Yet we must answer the "difficult" questions, and not just crib our notes from NT101. The key I believe is that it takes a 'delicate touch'; acknowledging potential controversy yet allowing the same hermeneutical standards we allow for more 'mainstream' questions. If a question starts from and can be answered by the text, there is no reason it can't be asked, regardless of one's theological persuasion.
    – Tau
    May 28, 2014 at 2:01
  • @user2479 my argument here is that a question that presumes a canon of Scripture does not begin from the text but rather from a preconceived idea and accompanying theology, and answers will be too broad unless a scope is placed on what defines 'Scripture,' (i.e. 'presuming a Protestant Christian canon...'). But if we are going to do this, we might as well be an extension of C.SE. Instead, we should begin from specific texts and establish (i.e. show work for) any additional textual connections/citations - the burden of doing so is not hard.
    – Dan
    May 28, 2014 at 3:39
  • Not to mention, answers can take any perspective, including presuming a canon of Scripture. I just don't think the question should impose that (any more than a question should impose against the use of other texts other than the one being asked about).
    – Dan
    May 28, 2014 at 3:41
  • @Daи I may have initially misunderstood your point, but I appreciate you addressing it as a topic. Yes, the text does 'presuppose' a theological view; in the particular instance, I chose to deal with this text separately, as one could 'on the surface' argue for another conclusion. What I hoped to accomplish was to deal with the 'difficult' text, and then correlate it to the rest of "acceptable canon", which I believe is the goal of "good hermeneutics". To ignore it is to open the door to "parochialism", yet to isolate it is to conjure a meaning which is unsustainable.
    – Tau
    May 28, 2014 at 6:25
  • @user2479 again, this does not preclude an answer from dealing with the difficult text and then correlating it to the rest of the 'acceptable canon.' It only precludes a question from requiring all answers to take this approach. This actually allows for broader interpretation and diversity of perspectives in answers.
    – Dan
    May 28, 2014 at 13:50
  • @Daи So then, how else would you posit such a question? I took the approach which I thought could best navigate the "theological" waters and yet satisfy another OP's desire for an answer.
    – Tau
    May 29, 2014 at 1:28
  • @user2479 simply ask, "What does this text mean?" or "How is this [text/passage] to be understood?". Answers are free to respond with the presumption of a canon of scripture, but this way it is not imposed in the question. More importantly, it is not left undefined. When you and I say 'Scripture', we likely mean to very different 'canons'.
    – Dan
    May 29, 2014 at 1:52
  • 1
    @Daи OK, that seems straightforward to me.
    – Tau
    May 29, 2014 at 6:02
  • @JackDouglas I rephrased this question, I agree it was not useful as originally phrased, as it focused on 'theological' when all of us approach with some theological perspective (including me).
    – Dan
    Jun 18, 2014 at 19:52

2 Answers 2


If you are asking about texts you think are contradictions, you should give both of them. There is even a "contradiction" tag.

If you are asking what somethign measn in comparison to the rest of the bible, just ask what it means. If you mean something narrower (like gospels), say that.

  • Can a verse be understood in and of itself without applying contextual understanding? For example: "Thou shalt not kill"(actually-thou shalt do no murder) cannot be properly understood without other Scripture confirming God's intention(Thou shalt not take innocent life). Mere textual exegesis is inadequate in conveying God's original intention.
    – Tau
    Jul 19, 2014 at 7:42
  • @user2479 if you think that is true you can explain when answering. Part of show your work is to bring other texts you think apply. But you do not and can not know that what you say is true for every possible way of doing exegesis. Questions should not presume.
    – user4275
    Jul 20, 2014 at 22:15

Yes, these are 'searching for a text'

This type of question doesn't clarify what the definition is of Scripture / 'the Bible' (which is not agreed upon by site participants), and it is looking for other Bible passages to explain it rather than starting from the specific text being asked about and working outwards from there (i.e. 'searching for a text' rather than 'starting from the [specified] text').

However, most of these questions will never need to be closed, a simple edit can refocus them on the text being inquired about. Answers are always free to cite other texts in support of positions on the basis of various hermeneutics. E.g. instead of "how is this to be understood in light of Scripture?", they can simply ask, "how is this to be understood?" or "what does this mean?".

  • I don't think any re-phrasing is necessary or desirable - there is nothing wrong with assuming that the Bible texts are related and build on each other, and this turn of phrase gives us some understanding into the framework of the OP. Jun 18, 2014 at 20:29
  • @JackDouglas that's not the issue here. The issue is whether they are searching for other texts or beginning from a specific text (i.e. are they starting from the text or searching for a text). Answers are always free to come from the perspective that the texts are related and pull them in (presuming they connect the dots).
    – Dan
    Jun 19, 2014 at 14:01
  • "a simple edit can refocus them on the text", but the mere presence of the phrase "How is this [text/passage] to be understood in light of Scripture?" does not indicate that an edit is needed as you seem to be saying in this answer. You also repeat the incorrect assertion that there is not an agrees definition of the Bible texts here by linking to a post that proves there is. Jun 19, 2014 at 14:19
  • @JackDouglas I doubt a traditional Baptist user would appreciate a response from apocryphal writings. I.e. we don't all agree on what constitutes the Bible, hence why my post is not accepted / more upvoted. Even my attempted definition is not accepted here. Because there are always exceptions. My goal here was to reframe this question to focus on existing ideas, i.e. start from the text rather than searching for texts to support it or whatnot. I suppose we'll have to agree to disagree.
    – Dan
    Jun 19, 2014 at 14:40
  • You say 'even' your definition, but I don't understand your reasoning. Robert and blundin's answers are the ones that matter judging by votes and they are not in conflict with each other but reflect status quo: we broadly agree on what texts are on-topic but we don't need to get legalistic about edge-cases. Robert's warning is precisely against the type of list your answer contains hence my downvote there also. Jun 19, 2014 at 16:25
  • This may not be the central issue with this Q&A, but I have to admit, if this isn't the issue, I don't know what is. You seem to have something against the phrase "How is this [text/passage] to be understood in light of Scripture?", and the very idea that the texts might be a coherent body rather than merely an uninspired series of interesting inter-related works. That view is welcome here (or should be in my opinion, as long as the texts are still respected), but that is not reason to oppress the expression of the opposite view. Jun 19, 2014 at 16:30
  • I also don't see any material difference between this answer and the +1/-3 answer you deleted. If they are different, why delete the other and mask the opinion of those who voted, and if they aren't then I don't see how there can be a good reason for deletion either, can there? Jun 19, 2014 at 16:32
  • @JackDouglas I thought I had totally changed this question to no longer be about 'theology' but rather about 'starting from the text.' You still seem to be focusing on the former (and I may have failed to adequately change it or make this explicit enough).
    – Dan
    Jun 19, 2014 at 17:38

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