Posting this here, I also posted this as an answer to a question linked below, so people could see the screenshots. My point in posting here is to ask this question:

Do the people who moderate this site think there's a disconnect between what the site docs tell users to ask, and the criticism they give to users when they say their questions are off-topic?

In relation to this question I asked here on Meta:

Is the unofficial welcome message unique to hermeneutics.stackexchange.com

And this question on Beta:

What divides Doctrine from Tradition in Christianity and other faiths?

Just in case there's any confusion, when you tell people questions are off-topic and they should read the tour page, here's what they see:

enter image description here On the "how to ask a question page" is "Questions that do not arise from a Biblical text are off-topic unless they are about hermeneutical approaches" enter image description here

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    Do you have a specific example in mind? I don't really see the disconnect in the screenshots. (Though to be fair, that's probably because I had a hand in writing them. ;-) Jan 25, 2016 at 23:48
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    The disconnect, if any, I think is in knowing what a hermeneutical approach question is, as my comment I just posted to the question on Beta notes.
    – ScottS
    Jan 25, 2016 at 23:53
  • @JimLohse You're really squeezing us, aren't you? ;) The Site Tour discusses "commonly occuring topics" of which a new or moderately acquainted user can feel safe participating in.The challenge with Biblical Hermeneutics is that certain presuppositions are at the core of understanding Biblical Texts, and those presuppositions cannot be avoided-the text itself includes them. So, while direct examples of the "Off-Topic" reasons are very recognizable, to what 'degree' that presuppositions are allowed is a source of constant debate; with factions weighing pro and con on their usage.(cont.)
    – Tau
    Jan 26, 2016 at 3:08
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    @JimLohse To use your LDS example: John 1:1 is interpreted differently in the JST(Joseph Smith Translation) than in the KJV. If you use the JST translation, you can make a case for denying the pre-existence of the deity of Christ, which radically changes how you interpret other texts relating to Christ's deity. To ask the question, "Is Jesus the pre-existant Son of God", would be "Off-Topic"; but to ask, "Can John 1:1 be interpreted to include the Pre-existance of Christ" would be considered "On-Topic", with someone quoting the JST version saying it isn't. (cont.)
    – Tau
    Jan 26, 2016 at 3:31
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    @JimLohse (Finally) To say, "We welcome Jewish, Christian, Atheist viewpoints" is to welcome their presuppositions in viewing the text. A "Text Neutral" position at one point was proposed, but it is patently dishonest: 1) Because the text itself is not neutral, and 2) Those that view the text are not neutral. So the next best critique is, "Is the question about the text, or the presuppositions concerning the text", but hermeneutics themselves contain presuppositions (like Dispensational, Preterist, Idealist) It then becomes a question of "how much" is the question about presuppositions....?
    – Tau
    Jan 26, 2016 at 3:44
  • @Tau I will try to interpret your opening comment in the least offensive manner and it still seems a bit offensive. Asking why your actions don't match your policies is squeezing? As I see a lot on this site you are providing an answer in a comment where you are in a safe harbor from downvotes. Not that I would downvote you, but when you feel the need to use 3 full length comments you should realize you are answering the question! Why not follow the struture of StackExchange and post this as an answer?
    – JimLohse
    Jan 28, 2016 at 4:10
  • @JimLohse My 'tone' wasn't offensive, it's merely a response to a series of questions that you are posing about our site's dynamics. It's another way of saying, "So I guess you've noticed we don't totally have our act together." I consider you as an outsider 'auditing' us, and yes, our numbers don't all add up. As far as an 'answer'; there really isn't a 'good' answer, and apparently some think it isn't a good question(I don't). I comment a lot: I've explained it in Meta posts. Comments can be easily deleted, and I can add or suggest something without being 'dogmatic'.
    – Tau
    Jan 28, 2016 at 13:15
  • @JimLohse The best answer I believe is a non-answer-we are in a state of 'flux' where we haven't 'definitively' decided where the boundaries are yet. The Bible has been around a lot longer than LINUX, and there are many more 'variables' to contend with. Just about the time we get it 'all figured out', someone brings up something that causes us to 're-evaluate'. So to answer your question; Yes, and No.
    – Tau
    Jan 28, 2016 at 13:28
  • @Tau well my final comment on all this would be thanks for your honest answer in the last couple comments, I really appreciate the forthright tone and I would just say while you are settling some boundaries, err on the side of permissiveness! Really IMHO my question was an opportunity to educate me (and other readers) about what hermeneutics is, to the extent that was done I really thank you all! I suggest you would tie together what your definition of hermeneutics is and put it in a wiki, if it exists I haven't seen it. Certainly the def. used here is not on Wikipedia :) Thanks all
    – JimLohse
    Jan 28, 2016 at 15:29

1 Answer 1


Your Primary Question

Your main question here is:

Do the people who moderate this site think there's a disconnect between what the site docs tell users to ask, and the criticism they give to users when they say their questions are off-topic?

The answer to that is: NO, at least not typically. Looking around on Meta, one can see that various things have been discussed related to topicality on the site, so what any particular user may criticize as off-topic or agree is on-topic may not match what the consensus holds.

The primary issue with your question is that it does not ask about:

  1. interpretation of a verse, or
  2. the philosophy, methodology, history, etc., of a particular hermeneutic.

Your question asks about:

  1. interpretation of two religious concepts and their distinction: doctrine and tradition, and
  2. then attempt to make it on topic by asking, "What is the hermeneutics approach to this question?"

The first part, the distinction, is not tied to a Bible verse, so it cannot be answered on the basis of either an interpretation of a text or the historical context of a text, because not text is given.

The second part betrays some misunderstanding of what hermeneutics means. There is no "the hermeneutics approach" (emphasis added) to any question, because there is not any one hermeneutic. There are a multitude of hermeneutics, each of which might handle that question differently—but more importantly, your question, unless it can be tied back to a question based in Scripture, would still not qualify by changing it to how "the various hermeneutics approach" it, because Biblical Hermeneutics Stack Exchange only applies hermeneutics to Biblical and related texts deemed on topic.

Hermeneutic approach questions without reference to verses do not themselves ask about interpretations of anything, but rather about philosophy or methods those particular hermeneutics use.

Your Follow-up Question

Now, you have a related follow up on the Beta question in a comment, where you ask:

Can someone explain why this question is so well received and on topic, but mine is not?

Superficially, I believe you are seeing that the other question asks about a word, "Midrash," much like your question is asking about a couple of words, "Doctrine" and "Tradition." You are also seeing that this question relates Midrash to Christianity, much as your question is seeking an answer related to also to Christianity.

But the difference is this: "Midrash is a method of interpreting biblical stories that goes beyond simple distillation of religious, legal, or moral teachings" (Wikipedia, accessed 1/27/2016; emphasis added). Midrash itself is a hermeneutic approach, so it is on-topic because of that. Doctrine and tradition are not hermeneutic approaches, so they are off-topic.

  • I would add that hermeneutics (typically) generate doctrines and traditions. Therefore, there can't be a hermeneutics approch to the product of hermeneutics. Jan 27, 2016 at 19:51
  • @JamesShewey I appreciate that, I hope you don't mind me pointing out that your comment qualifies as a great answer! One I would accept it is were an answer. The answer you commented on takes A LONG time to say very little in relation to my question, so I have not accepted it. You said more in one sentence than this answer does. ( I would also note a trend I see on this site of people answering in comments where - not saying this is intentional -- they cannot be downvoted. Once I realized this site only has elected three moderators at lot of things started to make sense :)
    – JimLohse
    Jan 28, 2016 at 4:06
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  • We may only have 3 (or so) pro tempore moderators however, but they don't really have any additional privileges above other moderators. They are just to "prime" the site as when a new beta site is created, users don't have enough reputation on the site because, well everyone is new. You have to start somewhere to bootstrap the site, so these moderators are used for that purpose. Jan 28, 2016 at 6:35

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