I have (in my opinion) a fairly simple question that was initially posted on Christianity.SE here: as If we want to know what the bible says about an issue, how can we know for sure that we have examined all the relevant scriptures?

It puzzled me that it was closed by the community there as being off-topic, after some discussion and an edit to it's current form of If we want to know what the Bible says about an issue, what methods can help us to find all the relevant scriptures?, it has been suggested that it's better suited here, but I'm not so sure.

Although I'm an infrequent visitor to BH, I've reviewed quite a few of the top-voted meta posts as well as this one: Exactly what types of questions is the Biblical Hermeneutics site intended to answer? in order to answer my own question in addition to loading the text of both my original question title and the new one into the main site ask question field in order to see what the "Questions that may already have your answer" list returned, but I'm essentially none the wiser. My gut feeling is that it's a little simple-minded for this site, but I thought I'd ask anyway.


Probably Neither Site is Suited

I tend to agree that the question is hard to categorize to either site. It is really more about "Bible Study" on a "topic,"1 which the accepted answer on C.SE does well to give the basics of doing that (except it omits Bible Software with its search engine capabilities, and perhaps resources to see scholarly journals, commentaries, etc., related to the topic, depending on the software).

Such a study is neither strictly exegesis/hermeneutics, nor a question "asking for a doctrinal answer" (as part of the reason for rejection there at C.SE). It is also very "broad" or "unanswerable" when it states "know for sure" that all has been examined. People have been examining the Scriptures for hundreds of years and see new connections previously unseen, or get caught into old errors that have a valid reason for being rejected, etc.

One can only do the best they can on such a study to find all the relevant info, but can never "know for sure" something hasn't been missed (either from the text or in one's thoughts about it). Rather, one can assume a high level of certainty based on the extensiveness of the study, but be open to something that arises to challenge the view (as in something that you recognize as relevant, but now you are not sure how it fits into your belief... so you need to reexamine the topic taking that into account).


1 And thus does seem to be, as a comment there notes, a "tools used" type of question, which the FAQ essentially disallows on C.SE: "your answer is provided along with the question, and you expect more answers: 'I use ______ for ______, what do you use?'"

  • Thanks for your response. The 'know for sure' language has already been recognized as an issue and edited out accordingly. – bruised reed Jul 14 '14 at 18:58
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    I haven't developed my opinion into an answer yet, but my initial reaction to this was that it actually is doctrinal and that the problem on CSE was it did not have a doctrinal scope. Do you think the process on determining what the Bible says on an issue is really not dependent on a doctrinal framework? – Caleb Jul 14 '14 at 19:18
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    I'm not one that rejected it for that (I'm not even a member of that community). Doctrinal framework matters about "what the Bible says on an issue," but not so much when dealing with finding texts related to a topic, which deals more with locating specific words/phrases one thinks are relevant; which of those are relevant can be influenced by doctrinal position, but not really the techniques for doing the search itself. – ScottS Jul 14 '14 at 19:55

The question as it currently stands reads:

If we want to know what the Bible says about an issue, what methods can help us to find all the relevant scriptures? Particularly if someone is looking for a "clear, unambiguous, direct statement in Scripture" (source). A sola scriptura perspective is sought.

As such it is on-topic on BH (I can't speak for C.SE) but too broad.

It's on-topic because it's about hermeneutics or rather about a certain hermeneutical approach implied with "A sola scriptura perspective is sought". You'd probably phrase it slightly differently here, something like:

Under a 'sola scriptura' hermeneutic, how is the whole of scripture brought to bear on a particular topic? Ie how do we know which parts of scripture address that topic?

This also goes some way to address the 'too broad' issue, by eliminating the "...what methods can help..." phrase that lends itself to diverse and lengthy answers. Better would be to specify a topic and ask:

Under a 'sola scriptura' hermeneutic, how is the whole of scripture brought to bear on the topic of caring for the environment? Ie how do we know which parts of scripture address that topic?

And it may be a good idea to add:

I'm not seeking a list of scriptures, but an understanding of the technique for compiling such a list.

  • Thankyou - this seems to be the most constructive response I've had so far. My main concern regarding it's suitability here is that such a question would lack utility on BH - Although I had some hopes of learning a thing or two, it's basically a 'Dorothy Dixer' for the sake of educating an uninitiated audience - is there any evidence that such a question could be useful here? – bruised reed Jul 14 '14 at 19:40
  • Such a technique, to me, involves more the idea of "tools" ("what do you use") than "hermeneutics." The sola scriptura seems like a red herring attachment to try to make it "doctrinal," when really it is just seeking words/phrases/etc. that one deems relate to a topic (which all hermeneutics using Scripture do, not just sola scriptura). – ScottS Jul 14 '14 at 19:43
  • @ScottS yes I think I'm reading more into the OPs use of sola scriptura than you? ie I'm assuming he is specifically interested in how you would go about this under a reformed protestant hermeneutic, not just in general for any group that considers the whole of scripture inspired. – Jack Douglas Jul 14 '14 at 19:48
  • Doctrine != hermeneutics, although hermeneutics can come from doctrine. – Dan Jul 14 '14 at 19:48
  • @Daи not sure what you are referring to? As you know I avoid the term 'doctrine' altogether. – Jack Douglas Jul 14 '14 at 20:43
  • @JackDouglas I mean that 'sola scripture' is a theological belief, not a hermeneutic. However, hermeneutics can flow from that beginning bias/premise (just as all hermeneutics flow from initial biases/premises/assumptions). – Dan Jul 14 '14 at 23:06
  • @Daи all hermeneutics are theological beliefs too - they are themselves part and parcel of one's beginning bias/premise. Of course not all beliefs are also hermeneutics, but 'sola scriptura' implies a certain set of hermeneutics. Where did I say 'sola scripture' is a hermeneutic anyway? Think of the phrase "Under a 'sola scriptura' hermeneutic" as analogous to "Under a 'Roman' system of law". It doesn't mean that a system of law is all there is to 'Roman'. – Jack Douglas Jul 15 '14 at 6:51

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