Reviewing recent questions tagged , I couldn't help but notice that quite a few of them have been marked "on-hold." Some are closed as "primarily opinion-based" while others are marked "off-topic." A couple of my own were marked on-hold, but I noticed some others as well that I was surprised to find off-topic:

How do we decide if a biblical instruction is cultural or transcultural?

Don't we need Biblically definitive eisegesis to Exegete properly?

Is the difference between exegesis and eisegesis relative to the reader?

In one a comment says, "Ask questions about specific passages."

In another, the asker was told, "On this site, topics (which are not attached to specific biblical texts) are, necessarily 'off-topic'. Such is the nature of hermeneutics."

However, our help pages clear list questions about hermeneutical approaches as being on topic and these questions do not strike me as fundamentally different from old well-accepted questions asking about the hermeneutical process itself on the site like:

How can we determine if a text is sarcastic?

What is the difference between exegesis and hermeneutics?

Where does the "slippery slope" of allegorical interpretations start?

Neither do these questions seem to run afoul of our don't ask guidelines. They're not "What's your favorite hermeneutical approach" type questions.

I have a number of other theory questions I'd like to ask concerning context and its effects and relation to texts, but I don't want to ask them if they are no longer welcome here.

My theory, though, is that there is confusion created by the off-topic close reason #1 which says, "Questions about biblical topics but without a specific Bible passage are off-topic as hermeneutical methods cannot be applied when no text is referenced." I have long understood this close reason as intended to guard against questions like, "Can God see the future?" or "Is Hell a real place?" But it seems to have been interpreted as saying all questions that aren't directly exegetical questions are off-topic.

Are questions about still welcome? And if so, is the existing close reason a source of confusion? And if so, are there suggestions for how we can clarify it?


2 Answers 2


As far as I'm concerned, yes these always have been and still should be on topic. I've been kind of frustrated when I've run across similar things where some of our community can't seem to separate the field of hermeneutics from random theological debate.

I understand why theological topics not framed against a specific passage on which hermeneutics can be exercised would be off topic (and fully in agreement), but that doesn't mean that all the questions that are about the process of hermeneutics are not of imminent topicality to the expertise we're supposed to have here should be off topic.

Sometimes these genre of question are poorly framed because what the author is really fishing for is "whose dad can beat up whose dad", but the issue of framing questions in a way that makes them answerable –even if you disagree– is a different from the subject matter being off topic.

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    Couldn't agree more on all counts. I've voted to delete hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/questions/28728/… but not because it is off topic. Commented Feb 13, 2019 at 10:06
  • Hear, hear! Good to have this Q&A in Meta.
    – Dɑvïd
    Commented Feb 13, 2019 at 10:32
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    Agree! Newer users need to be educated that questions about hermeneutics itself (theory, approaches) do not require a text. I've been frustrated by that being used as a possible close to questions that are valid, but not textual based, because they fall under this.
    – ScottS
    Commented Feb 13, 2019 at 17:51
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    Are questions actually being wrongly closed? I don't hardly even remember seeing any of these questions come up in the close vote queue.
    – curiousdannii Mod
    Commented Feb 16, 2019 at 6:27
  • @curiousdannii Yes. I unilaterally re-opened two of the ones listed in this question, and dozens more over the last couple years.
    – Caleb
    Commented Feb 17, 2019 at 7:41
  • @Caleb Here's one I think was wrongfully closed. It's already actually be reopened once before so I can't vote again.
    – curiousdannii Mod
    Commented Feb 22, 2019 at 3:02
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    @curiousdannii I tend to agree with you, but I've already been the one to vote that back open once, and with the issue of being broad still out there I'm a little shy to just mod-hammer it back open. I think we could use a meta post dedicated to that one.
    – Caleb
    Commented Feb 22, 2019 at 5:17

I was about to write a similar question until this one showed up as similar / suggested.

When looking to learn more about Exegis and Hermeneutics stumbled across this question. While it was valuable, since I've became more active in this community one thing I've noticed is the closing of questions that don't have a specific passage associated with it (one of the VTC justifications).

Started by seeing that various of the questions from Caleb (which is someone I like a lot and learned a lot from in particular in Christianity SE) were within these lines. So had a bit of a mental battle between "do I act knowing it's wrong as it is or do I ignore it?". I decided to VTC and found a pattern: the majority (if not all) of his VTC questions had the tag [hermeneutical-approaches].

This could have been only something particular of him. To evaluate that, I've gone through the highest voted questions related with that tag and the majority must have been asked before the "each question must have a passage associated with it" rule (and so worth being closed). In particular, got here 50+ tabs open on my phone with questions worth VTC just by looking at the first 2-3 pages (and that's because I've reached the VTC limite for today).

It can be a bit unfortunate since many of these questions have valuable information... but that same decision happened in Stack Overflow for example - now we see valuable questions closed because they became off-topic by whatever reason. The good thing is that they're too old to disappear completely from the community.

From what I saw, I also don't think questions about specific [hermeneutics-approaches] are questions that give incentive to use specific passages (and I'm thinking that it's likely that the questions having a passage wouldn't need that tag at all since they're being asked in this particular community (this is still to consider)). This implies the tag has to be edited or burninated.


I just learned from this answer quoting the help center

Questions that do not arise from a Biblical text are off-topic unless they are about hermeneutical approaches. Not sure? You can find much more detail and all the nuances on our meta site.

Just like this user, I might (the usage of might is because I'm not sure if the help center is correct or not) have been misguided with the

Questions about biblical topics but without a specific Bible passage are off-topic as hermeneutical methods cannot be applied when no text is referenced.

which clearly states that if it doesn't have a specific Bible passage, then it's off-topic. To me there's a clear contradiction between the help center and the VTC reason. Not sure now which to follow but won't VTC more until that is clarified...

  • "one thing I've noticed is the closing of questions that don't have a specific passage associated with it" No you've missed something fundamental. It's questions about Biblical or theological topics without passages that get closed. Questions about the study of hermeneutics are fine without passages. Is the close reason confusing? It specifically says that "questions about Biblical topics but without a specific passage are off-topic".
    – curiousdannii Mod
    Commented Dec 10, 2020 at 11:33
  • @curiousdannii I still think it is confusing... it assumes «biblical topics» and «hermeneutical approaches» are two things that don't overlap and that everyone interprets in the same way. Commented Dec 10, 2020 at 11:54
  • Also «as hermeneutical methods cannot be applied when no text is referenced» points to this being the definite condition to ensure something is valid or not in the community. Commented Dec 10, 2020 at 12:30
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    Hermeneutical methods cannot be applied without a passage, but that doesn't mean they can't be investigated, explored, defined, contrasted, critiqued, etc. That's what the hermeneutical-approaches tag is for.
    – curiousdannii Mod
    Commented Dec 10, 2020 at 12:45
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    It's certainly confusing enough that a lot of people seem to use it in error as the close reason for these types of questions. I've never been able to formulate a better wording, though.
    – Soldarnal
    Commented Dec 10, 2020 at 13:52
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    @Soldarnal I agree with you and that's why asked this question to get help from people who are better at it. Commented Dec 10, 2020 at 17:24

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