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Our current title, "Biblical Hermeneutics", has a lot going for it:

  1. Covers many of the questions we ask if you take hermeneutics to mean "applied hermeneutics".
  2. Quietly excludes people who don't have some inkling what hermeneutics might consist of and includes people who know all about this somewhat obscure term.
  3. Includes the word "Bible".
  4. Conveys a technical sense, which is what we are striving for.

But it's not ideal. Unless you have a properly trained spell-checker, you will likely misplace an e or two and the thing certainly doesn't roll off my tongue. And in no way is the title clever or evocative as are "Ask Different" or "Seasoned Advice" or even "StackOverflow".

What's worse, we do a lot of things that aren't really Hermeneutics, such as exegesis, translation, and criticism. Really, we are focused on all sorts of analysis of the Biblical texts.

So can you think of a better title?

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  • Related question from earlier on – Jack says try topanswers.xyz Nov 8 '11 at 9:48
  • Similar question about the url – Jack says try topanswers.xyz Nov 8 '11 at 9:49
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    I thought hermeneutics was some kind of medical condition. – Reinstate Monica - Goodbye SE Aug 22 '13 at 18:45
  • "Quietly excludes people who don't have some inkling what hermeneutics might consist of and includes people who know all about this somewhat obscure term." It seems that most people posting here fits in this category, including you... as none of the questions really are about hermeneutics, which is interpretation -theory-... – YoMrWhite Nov 6 '13 at 2:50
  • @YoMrWhite According to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: "The term hermeneutics covers both the first order art and the second order theory of understanding and interpretation of linguistic and non-linguistic expressions." While it's true that few of our questions are of the theory variety, we believe that demonstrations of first order interpretations provide insight into the second order. Perhaps you will be interested in our hermeneutical-approaches questions. – Jon Ericson Nov 6 '13 at 2:58

13 Answers 13

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Biblical Hermeneutics


I don't think the name needs changing. The benefits you list are significant and easily outweigh the spelling difficulty.

Also, textual criticism really is part of the field of hermeneutics, the bits of translation we do depend on our hermeneutical expertise and the exegesis is just applied hermeneutics. In short, I think it's the best banner we can come under.

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    I agree that this seems to fit the bill. Admittedly, it doesn't completely cover everything, but it's short and simple and let's people know that this is about the Bible and a place for Scholars. – Richard Nov 8 '11 at 11:43
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    I think "Biblical" is too narrow of a term--and precludes extra-biblical writings that are very relevant in interpretation of texts... "Theology" is more general. – elika kohen Nov 25 '14 at 19:43
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Biblical Studies

A site is defined by an area of expertise, and in my estimation, the area we are trying to target is referred to as Biblical Studies. The Wikipedia definition of Biblical Studies matches nicely with our purported aim of welcoming "Jewish, Christian, Atheist and other viewpoints." Moreover, the term is diverse enough to include the various parts of this site from textual criticism, to exegesis, to philosophy of hermeneutic, philology, history, etc...

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  • I can't make up my mind how to vote on this—it's a good name, but the weakness is that it does not have 3 of the 4 positives of BH mentioned in the question (to varying degrees perhaps) – Jack says try topanswers.xyz Apr 10 '13 at 8:04
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    "Biblical Studies" to me screams "theology"... which is clearly not the main focus of the site. – Kazark Apr 22 '13 at 20:38
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    @Kazark in academia, "Biblical Studies" is generally the opposite of theology in many schools. So much so that a Harvard Ph.D. wrote a book entitled "The Death of Scripture and the Rise of Biblical Studies." – Dan Apr 22 '13 at 20:40
  • @Dan It depends on your background. At my school, a degree in Biblical Studies was the theology degree. – Kazark Apr 22 '13 at 20:41
  • I'm referring to secular academia. But yes, I see your point. – Dan Apr 22 '13 at 20:42
  • @Kazark Can you think of any other titles that would convey that we strictly study the bible academically, as devoid of doctrine as possible? Or am I indulging a pipe dream? :P – Dan Apr 22 '13 at 20:56
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    @Dan You ought to know by now that I'm not the correct person to ask that question as I don't actually conform to that ideal myself... ;) – Kazark Apr 22 '13 at 21:01
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    @Kazark In my personal life I also don't approach the text that way. I actually employ allegorical exegesis through the lens of church history. But here I like having a place to get objective (as much as possible) information on the text. Everywhere you turn someone has an agenda to teach a specific doctrine. I like it when the only agenda is to present the best possible reading and translation. – Dan Apr 22 '13 at 21:08
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    Too broad. Biblical Studies could easily include general questions about a book of the Bible, themes throughout a collection of books, the arrangement of books in the canon, etc. My impression is that this site is specifically focused on hermeneutics and focused (passage-specific) exegesis. – Jas 3.1 Jul 2 '13 at 22:03
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    @Jas3.1 You mean things like authorship, biblical-theology, or canon-criticism? – Soldarnal Jul 3 '13 at 3:37
  • @Soldarnal News to me. Thanks. – Jas 3.1 Jul 3 '13 at 3:45
  • It seems that those who favors the use of the term "Hermeneutics" don't really care that the word refers to the theory of interpretation, which is not the subject here... Is it just to have a title that looks impressive for the layman ? Biblical Studies seems far more accurate. – YoMrWhite Nov 6 '13 at 2:49
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    @YoMrWhite Actually, that is the subject here: see hermeneutical-approaches for example. The topic is extended to a degree into how the theories of interpretation are applied to particular texts but we draw the line there – Jack says try topanswers.xyz Oct 16 '14 at 7:27
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Biblical Hermeneutics and Exegesis

Biblical Hermeneutics really only encompasses part (in fact, the smaller portion) of our site's scope. Most of the questions on this site fall under the category of exegesis.

It has been argued that exegesis is no more than applied hermeneutics. I would say rather that hermeneutics is the study of how we exegete and methods to use in exegesis, but I would stop short of saying that exegesis is "field hermeneutics" or "applied hermeneutics". To use an analogy, I would liken this to referring to thinking as "applied psychology" or baseball as "applied anatomy".

It is true that a few edge cases remain that are not entirely covered by the title. Translation and Biblical Criticism (higher and lower) are two areas that have been identified as being in scope. That said, we are discussing a title, not a scope document, so if we can at least capture the majority of cases, I think we will have accomplished our goal.

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    I like this because it is still a technical name, but short; it's still a scholarly name, but covers most of our questions. – Richard Nov 8 '11 at 11:45
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    I tipped my hand in the question: I'd like something shorter if possible, not longer. And I think of it more like the Philosophy site, which mostly uses the tools of Philosophy. Few questions evaluate or create new Philosophy as we don't (or shouldn't) break new ground in Hermeneutics. We are an unusual field to have separate names for theory and for practice. – Jon Ericson Nov 8 '11 at 16:56
  • @GoneQuiet I agree with you completely. However, I have to wonder how many "experts" will really know the difference between hermeneutics and exegesis. Also, would they be uninterested in the site if it only has "hermeneutics"? Or will we really draw more people by including "exegesis"? I don't really know either. I think people will come to this site because of the questions, not really because of the title. – Richard Nov 11 '11 at 13:37
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    Monica, I agree--I've upvoted Biblical Studies myself – Ray Apr 8 '13 at 1:50
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The more I think about it, the more I am captivated by one of the observations you made in your question:

"in no way is [our current] title clever or evocative as are "Ask Different" or "Seasoned Advice" or even "StackOverflow".

How true. By the stale logic we've been using, Mi Yodeya should be called "Judaism," Server Fault should be called "System and Network Administration," and Arquade should be called "Video Games." None of these sites are in danger of crumbling simply because people have to read the description to get clarification on their scope. Likewise, I don't think we should be so concerned about picking a dictionary definition for our title.

I think we deserve something clever and evocative. Here's the best I can come up with off the top of my head:

Sacred Scrolls

...handle the clarification in the site description.

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Exegetical Theology

I believe this would clarify the "religious" scope, more accurately, and also ensure that deductive/linguistic analysis and research is the primary focus.

However, I do believe that there must be room for Isagetical/Inductive approaches, as when it comes to Linguistics, a lot of inductive reasoning is necessary.

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Biblical Texts

One suggested URL is biblicaltexts.stackexchange.com, which suggests the title Biblical Texts. It's shorter and more comprehensive, but not very clever.1 And it's possible we'll lose the distinctive technical suggestion we get from using "hermeneutics".

In some ways, focusing on the texts themselves better helps us avoid doctrine than Hermeneutics does. If someone asked a question based on, say, the New World Translation2, answers could focus on the advisability of using that particular text, its flaws (and features), and the issue of translator bias. I think the odds of getting these sorts of questions might slightly increase if we changed the title, but there also a chance other (more likely to be welcomed) questions will also be asked.


Footnotes:

  1. Maybe it's better in Latin: Textus Biblicus.
  2. I had to look it up: it's published by the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society and distributed by Jehovah's Witnesses. Critics point out that it has a doctrinal bias, but also represents much good scholarship.
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    What distinguishes this from doctrine? Particularly if we get some people asking about doctrine created by the New World Translation? – Richard Nov 8 '11 at 11:46
  • I like the Biblical is at least a bit more "experty" than Bible, and this very concisely covers the scope that this site deals with. We are dealing with biblical texts, including critical questions, interpretation, etc., and not doctrine. You captured this is a word. – Ray Nov 8 '11 at 14:22
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    @Richard - doctrine follows (partly?) from text. So as long as the discussion starts from and focuses on the text, isn't that the point of the site? – GalacticCowboy Nov 8 '11 at 15:33
  • @Richard: I agree with GalacticCowboy and I updated the answer so you can change your vote. ;-) – Jon Ericson Nov 8 '11 at 17:17
  • @GalacticCowboy Doctrine comes from text, yes. But doctrine is strictly off-topic for this site. Having said that, how much doctrine we allow is still an open question, in my mind. – Richard Nov 8 '11 at 17:36
  • @Richard - That was actually my point. Even in the discussion of NWT, as Jon ninja edited ;) in the post, it's on topic for this site if the discussion is about the text and not about their doctrine. – GalacticCowboy Nov 8 '11 at 17:39
  • @GalacticCowboy Aah, OK. I misunderstood. Yeah, re-reading it, it makes a lot of sense and I agree. – Richard Nov 8 '11 at 17:41
  • This my #2 pick, after "Biblical Studies" – Dan Apr 22 '13 at 20:41
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Biblical Interpretation

Exegesis (in our context) is Biblical Interpretation.

Hermeneutics is the philosophy of Biblical Interpretation.

Advantages:

  • It covers what we actually do

  • It's concise

  • We drop the confusing terminology that is only comprehensible to specialists, so new users can more easily grasp what the site is about from reading the title

Disadvantages:

  • We would still need to clarify that theology is out of scope
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  • Not sure I agree with your definition of hermeneutics. Yeah, it will always include, I guess, a bit of philosophy, but I think of hermeneutics as the foundation or, better, building blocks or steps which when laid carefully serve only to complement the process of exegesis. Those building blocks are, in part, historical context and points of comparison and contrast with extant exemplars of the same or similar genre (scene); author's background and guiding assumptions and style (agent); language considerations and all that goes with them, such as translation, grammar, syntax, organization, – rhetorician Feb 17 '14 at 6:58
  • literal and figurative language, and more (agency); the author's central idea or thesis, and its desired effect on the audience or audiences (purpose); a combination of all the above in an all-encompassing explanation (act and motive). The words in parentheses I've taken from Kenneth Burke's insightful, helpful, and seminal "pentad" (with an extra element thrown in for free; namely, motive). Do you detect any egregious omissions? Hey, a suggested new name for BHB: biblical pentadic interpretation. (Nah. Never mind.) OTOH, exegesis "zeroes in on authorial meaning" and its contribution to – rhetorician Feb 17 '14 at 7:19
  • the analogy of Scripture (or Bible, if you like), according to which, the Bible is its own best interpreter. One major snag in this regard, however, is the elephant in the room: the definition of "Bible." Does it comprise two "halves" which equal one whole Bible (the "Judeo-Christian Scriptures)? Is the notion of Judeo-Christian Scriptures a contradiction in terms, according to those of the Jewish faith? Or is the very term Judeo-Christian essentially irrelevant because religion, as truth, is largely irrelevant to biblical hermeneutics, since the Bible is just another text to be interpreted? – rhetorician Feb 17 '14 at 7:40
  • @rhetorician Take a look at my answer here for my working definition of "hermeneutics". (I greatly oversimplified for the purpose of this answer.) I enjoyed reading your comments here. I would place genre under language (similar to organization.) I also would distinguish between thesis and desired effect. I agree motive needs to be added and is too seldom overlooked. Good stuff! Open up a chat if you want to talk further. This is my area of specialty!! :D – Jas 3.1 Feb 20 '14 at 23:02
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Canonical Questions

Is this clever or just confusing?


I notice that even the "clever" names don't show up in the canonical list of sites. So we have Cooking and Apple there, but Seasoned Advice and Ask Different in the banners once you get to the sites. I can't even tell if there are more "clever" titles out there without clicking and loading each of the sites I'm not already familiar with.

Perhaps we can go that route with one name on the master list and another in the banner?

So: definitely confusing. ;-)

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    One word: Ubuntu. – Caleb Nov 8 '11 at 7:33
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    It's clever and confusing :) – Jack says try topanswers.xyz Nov 8 '11 at 9:35
  • It wasn't until the 8th (or so) reading that I realized you were suggesting "Canonical Questions" as a title... thought you were commenting on "the use of canonical questions in meta". So clearly I was confused. Although it is very clever! I suppose in the context of a site title some of the confusion would be mitigated. – Ray Nov 8 '11 at 14:18
  • I have to +1 because I like the idea of a clever title, like several of the other sites have (server fault, seasoned advice, ask different...) – Ray Nov 8 '11 at 14:18
  • I'm glad to know I at least can do clever once in a while. ;-) – Jon Ericson Nov 8 '11 at 17:18
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Christian Text Hermeneutics


Based on the reasoning given in the question here I vote to change the site name as it reflects only the Christian understanding of the Bible. This would assure the Non Christian readers that it is a Christian interpretation of the Bible which most of the site is about inadvertently.

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Biblical Criticism

A place to ask questions about the historical, linguistic, and literary analysis of the Bible and historical-critical methods used to study it.

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  • I didn't DV this, but I see the 'ball clanging off the rim'. I assume your answer takes the site in the direction you would like to see it go, but I fail to see the pursuit to truth in any of this. While everything you mentioned may be included in an answer, one that merely looks at the 'technical' aspects of it fails in the most important point: it is about discerning the truth of Biblical texts. One may use all these methods(and methodologies) to support their conclusions, but if they fail at this one crucial point, they've failed at them all. – Tau Jan 1 '15 at 8:08
  • @Tau I was actually anticipating this being downvoted into oblivion haha. I recently edited in such a way that even makes it more narrow and thus less attainable. Granted, I would love to see this, but this would be a different site. I'm glad to see historical-grammatical approaches here as well, including by folks who take the continuity of the Bible as a given. – Dan Jan 1 '15 at 20:48
  • I think you were beaten to it by Jack.....it's nice to see people w/ferociously high rep's take a hit....;>) – Tau Jan 1 '15 at 21:39
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Sola Scriptura

Latin for "Scripture Alone". This captures our focus on Biblical Texts, and minimizes doctrine.

The one major downside is that there is a doctrine by this name, and it can be viewed as a slant against groups who do not allow that scripture is a sufficient source of knowledge.

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    Yeah. That was on top of my list, but I think the doctrine entailed in the name is too big a hurdle. I'm afraid us Protestants (and especially Reformed Theology/Calvinists) have used this term as an ax against our fellow believers too long for it to be a neutral title. Otherwise, it's perfect. ;-) – Jon Ericson Nov 8 '11 at 18:12
  • A slight variation might avoid the doctrine problem: Solum Biblica. (But I'd really like a Latin expert better than Google translate if we decide on a Latin site name.) – Jon Ericson Nov 9 '11 at 17:10
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Hermeneutics and Exegesis of Biblical Texts

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Biblical Hermeneutics, Exegesis, Translation and Criticism

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  • the kitchen sink proposal :) – Jack says try topanswers.xyz Nov 8 '11 at 9:54
  • I agree that these are the four areas we have seen. I'm curious if there are any other areas that we aren't thinking of, though. (historical interpretation?) – Richard Nov 8 '11 at 11:44
  • @Richard Historical interpretation neatly falls under hermeneutics proper. Many hermeneutical approaches specifically look at historical interpretations as part of the discernment process. – Caleb Nov 8 '11 at 13:39
  • @Caleb Oh, I agree. It just seems like there's always some group of topics that's overlooked. – Richard Nov 8 '11 at 14:03

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