The challenge I have with this site so far is that it's hard to understand what pertains to "hermeneutics" here. From Wikipedia we have the following definitions:

From Hermeneutics:

Traditional hermeneutics—which includes Biblical hermeneutics—refers to the study of the interpretation of written texts, especially texts in the areas of literature, religion and law. Contemporary, or modern, hermeneutics encompasses not only issues involving the written text, but everything in the interpretative process.

Exegesis, which seems to be a subcategory of hermeneutics:

Exegesis ... is a critical explanation or interpretation of a text, especially a religious text.

Before the existence this site, I had read similar definitions in "How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth" (Fee, Stuart). From my reading of this book, I took away the importance of understanding Biblical events from a modern day perspective: how can we possibly have a feel for life in Biblical times when we are so far removed? We almost need a "translation" of the culture of the OT and NT. This is what I understood to be part of what exegesis is.

From a practical perspective, also, this site has captured the interest of those imparting a Jewish perspective-- both modern and ancient-- on the Scriptures. In my experience, without a Jewish understanding of Scriptures (including the NT), we are at a loss, because we can't really get an accurate feel for the life and times of Jesus. For example, a rabbi once preached at my church and explained how, in Jesus' time, the Pharisees looked at the Samaritans in a way that might be similar to how certain people look at [people of another major world religion] in a post 9-11 world-- which sheds light on just how controversial Jesus' parable of the good Samaritan was.

I suspect that the site has attracted some Jews-- certainly this is why it has attracted me-- because it seems to make sense for it to be a place that allows for a certain amount of Judeo-Christian religious neutrality. Asking certain questions on J.SE and C.SE doesn't really "feel right", and there isn't really another in-between. Am I likely to get a Jewish perspective on C.SE? Probably not. Is J.SE the right place to ask questions pertaining to Jesus? No. Is H.SE the right place to ask about questions that involve understanding of Scripture? Doubtful.

In summary-- is the focus of this site primarily meant to be for the understanding of the translation of words in the Bible, or is it meant to ask questions that help us to enhance our overall understanding of the Bible-- that is, the interpretation of Biblical events from a modern perspective? Is that not part of exegesis?

I'm happy to go elsewhere, but I don't know where to go when J.SE and C.SE (and H.SE) don't fit.

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    Well, done! And, interesting question. – Richard Nov 16 '11 at 15:50
  • Also, the only questions valid for History.SE are questions regarding Geo-Political History. So, questions regarding Jesus wouldn't be on topic there. – Richard Nov 16 '11 at 15:52
  • I personally think these sort of questions are right in our wheelhouse, so to speak. I say, ask away. ;-) – Jon Ericson Nov 16 '11 at 18:57

I agree that this is confusing.


So, I'll draw a pretty little picture:

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When it comes to discussing historical events, all events in the Bible are On Topic. This should be obvious since they are in the Bible.

On the other end of the scale are events that are not in the Bible and not at all related to the Bible. For example: "What social structure existed in Ireland around the time of Jesus?"

The problem--and confusion--comes with questions that are somewhere in the middle; these are the questions that are not in the Bible, but are related to the Bible.

On topic?

So, are these questions on topic or are they off topic, for this site?

Personally, I believe that they are on-topic for this site and should be allowed. However, this is still an open question.

What that means, is that, until we can determine for sure that these questions should be off topic, they'll probably remain open on the main site.


Go ahead and ask your questions here. They will probably remain open until we can reach a consensus on the question of whether historical questions related to the Bible are on-topic or off-topic. Having said this, I can't guarantee that they will remain open, but they probably will.

Uh... just realized this only partially answered your question.

Basically, the topics that are allowed here are questions about:

Historical questions related to biblical times, may or may not be on-topic, depending on the outcome of the meta post about that subject

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    I like your chart, but I think the gray area is also "events in the Bible, but an understanding of Jewish or secular culture (extra-Biblical events) is required to understand/enhance understanding"; a little farther to the left on your chart. – transistor1 Nov 16 '11 at 16:34
  • If the quesiton is regarding things that are not in the Bible, then they fall directly into this gray area. Since this site is built for asking questions about the Biblical Texts themselves (rather than the culture surrounding it), anything that isn't actually in the Bible, falls within this gray area. Another example: "Why was Herod so worried about appeasing the crowd that was shouting for the crucifixion of Jesus?" This is an non-Biblical question, which would also fall into this gray area. – Richard Nov 16 '11 at 16:47
  • That's a non-Biblical question about an event in the Bible, and an explanation helps to enhance the understanding of Scripture. That's exactly my point. So where would you ask that question? It doesn't pertain directly to Judaism or Christianity but it is helpful in understanding Scripture. Like I stated in my post, it's a "translation" of ancient Biblical events into modern-day understanding. What is that even called? I thought it was exegesis. – transistor1 Nov 16 '11 at 16:55
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    That's what the first half of my answer covers. Questions about non-biblical events that help shed light on biblical passages are the gray area. I personally believe they belong here, but it, it is an open topic. So, go ahead and ask your questions, they probably won't be closed. – Richard Nov 16 '11 at 16:58

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