Two recent questions were voted to close by the same user for not being "a hermeneutical question" and belonging on Mi Yodeya or Christianity.SE, respectively:

On the first, I commented that these questions are on-topic as in the help center:

  • interpretation of a specific Bible passage

I do not know of any help center / meta text that would suggest these questions are off-topic. Can we please settle this here on meta so that we do not need to re-discuss it everywhere?

1 Answer 1


My own sense is, Yes -- "history of intperpretation" questions are "on-topic" for Hermeneutics.SE. I have some caveats (noted later), but here's my rationale.

  1. The BH.SE community is already supportive of "questions that evaluate sources and scholars of interest to Biblical Studies". As it happens, the most up-voted answer there (10+/0-) is my own, and some of the reasoning present in that answer also applies here. In a syllogism: Q&As on particular biblical scholars are on-topic; and biblical scholarship is a facet of "history of interpretation"; so "history of interpretation" is on-topic.

  2. This is a Hermeneutics site, specifically biblical heremeneutics (it's in the name!). A keen and sophisticated interest in the meaning of texts has been a lively part of biblical interpretation ever since there were biblical texts to interpret, in both Jewish and Christian contexts. Why should we ignore this rich heritage on BH.SE?

  3. Good exegesis questions may well be "history of intepretation" questions anyway. My parade example here is one of my own answers to the question, "Why is Isaiah 14:12-15 interpreted by some to refer to Satan?". Answering such a question actually requires attention to "history of intepretation", although it "starts from the text" and is centrally "on-topic" on BH.SE. I expect other examples could be adduced.

  4. Good "history of intepretation" questions may well be exegesis questions anyway. I see no reason why questions about the interpretation of Isaiah 53, or the pistis christou language of Paul -- both on Christianity.SE -- couldn't have been asked here. Both bear on the interpretation of a given text (or set of related texts). It turns out they're also a good fit on Xnty.SE, but that kind of thing happens in the SE network.

  5. "History of intepretation" is an (explosive!) growth industry in academic Biblical Studies, and we should attend to it here, too. I could fill an enormous bibliography to substantiate this claim, but let me illustrate by providing a glimpse of the teensiest tip of this large iceberg by pointing to a couple articles, books, commentary series, encyclopedia(!), and related journal:

    That ought to give some impression of the scale of interest and energy going into "history of intepretation" in contemporary biblical studies. Why it would be excluded from BH.SE is hard for me to see.

Caveats? There may well be cases where a question that looks like "history of interpretation" is actually about something else. My own sense is that OP's example of the transubstantiation question is really about Catholic theology, although it comes at it through a particular text. My own sense is that it is better handled on Christianity.SE than here. But this remains a judgment call -- that's my sense, anwyay.

However, so long as the question here is centrally about the interpretation of a text (or set of related texts), I don't see why a healthy interest in the history of the interpretation of that text (those texts) should not be "on topic for BH.SE. Put positively, I believe such Q&As ought to be "on topic" on BH.SE.

  • This Q&A is, as OP rightly notes, a meta-discussion to gauge the sense of the community. I've mounted this case in favour, and would be interested to see other approaches argued out.
    – Dɑvïd
    Commented May 20, 2018 at 17:37
  • 2
    Pretty early on, we even considered making historical interpretation questions the only on-topic exegetical questions, which then became an exercise in adding those words to every question like this.
    – Soldarnal
    Commented May 21, 2018 at 1:10
  • "Ought to be" on topic? Sounds like Christianity.SE and Hermeneutics.SE should be merged - or just were. Please update the help center. And please note my protest.
    – Ruminator
    Commented May 23, 2018 at 0:36
  • Seeing that there is no protest which attempts to explain why there should be a protest at all, I'm accepting this answer.
    – user2672
    Commented May 24, 2018 at 22:02

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