Moderator note: It seems like discussion on this issue has run its course and this proposal had the best support and the most fine tuning. The site's close reasons have been duly updated. Any further discussion should probably happen in a new meta post. — Caleb
Incorporating ideas from Davïd's answer here, as well as his answer elsewhere, curiousdannii's critique of the "start" language, and Jack Douglas's view to simplicity, while also considering the current close reasons, which are...
- Questions without a specific Bible passage are off-topic as we cannot apply hermeneutical methods to text if there is no text.
- Questions regarding systematic theology are off-topic. For more information, see this meta post.
- Questions searching for a text are off-topic. For more information, see this meta post.
... and what appears to be a move in consensus to remove the "systematic theology" reason, while also considering that even though "searching for a text" is rather unused, it is the best response to a "where does it say..." type question.
I propose tweaking the first reason, a wholesale changing the systematic theology reason to the second one given below, a slight tweaking to keep the third reason:
[NOTE: 2nd reason updated to reflect a tweaked version of Caleb's commented suggestion.]
- Questions about biblical topics but without a specific Bible passage are off-topic as we cannot apply hermeneutical methods to text if there is no text referenced.
- Questions including a biblical text but that are not seeking an answer about (1) the history of that biblical text itself or (2) the meaning of that biblical text either in context or through a process of arriving at a particular interpretation of it are off-topic.
- Questions searching for a text about some topic are off-topic. For more information, see this meta post.
This way we:
- Keep "without a specific Bible passage" for any questions that are about Bible topics but failed to provide any anchor to the text at all.
- Educate what two categories of questions that do include a bible text are acceptable--history of the text or original context meaning of the text.
- Keep the "searching for a text" for those "where..." questions.
- Allow hermeneutical approaches (all the reasons above note a relation to questions about biblical topics or references; note that the original "without specific Bible passage" reason's wording could have been used to close a heremeneutical approach question--and if I recall, almost once was, but at the moment cannot find my comment related to that event).
- Other off-topic reasons should generally be covered by the pushing to another SE site or giving the custom reasoning.
Note that the rephrasing allows:
The using of a theological term in phrasing one's question (Trinity, hypostatic union, soteriology, etc.); the questioner is allowed to express his/her "framework" of understanding through such terms, but the off-topic close reasons do require that a connection of their logic/terminology be made to a particular text, and that logic/terminology may be challenged by one answering the question. It may also be "closed" via reason #2 if no mentions is made about seeking actual meaning of the text. For example:
Is John 1:1 a reference to the Trinity?
To me, this is a poorly worded question, as it really is not asking about the "meaning" of John 1:1, but simply whether that passage supposedly upholds some theological doctrine. Rather, something like:
What does John 1:1 teach about the nature of God and the Word and their relationship? It seems to uphold the idea of the Christian Trinity, but does it?
To me, this question is fine. Yes, it references a theological (from Christian orthodoxy) concept of Trinity, but it has grounded the discussion in trying to determine what the text is actually saying first, while noting that the questioner understands it to relate to the theological concept.
Perhaps another close reason to add to the three proposed above might head off questions like the former:
- Questions including a biblical text, but seeking to simply know whether or not it supports or refutes a particular theological or sectarian viewpoint are off-topic.
Comparison questions (how text A's statement relates to text B's statement), as at least one of the two texts will be the historical/theological background for the other text, and that other text either completely unrelated (which an answer could argue for) or some type of commentary or clarification of the former background text, which then may or may not have been directly in view of the original (human*) author of the former text.
* Those like myself that view the text as equally divinely authored would consider later clarification/commentary as already in the mind of God even at the point of the earlier revelation.