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Arising from a Biblical Text - 2011 to 2020

In the 'On Topic' article, we point users to this 9 year old Meta Question to clarify the idea of Questions needing to 'arise from' the text. Now, whilst there are some useful thoughts there, there is only one answer - and it is both negatively voted and deleted. The Question itself has sort of become its own accepted answer. In terms of common voting patterns I see on the site (and participate in myself), the 'common wisdom' seems to interpret "arising from a Biblical text" in an increasingly specific way.

I would suggest there we already have some unwritten exceptions we commonly apply when voting for closure - we often allow questions which consider an entire text, or multiple texts written by the same author, and in some cases even different authors (we obviously don't highlight these in the help centre, but they have been discussed in meta). We also have a norm of 'contradiction' type questions that may compare or contrast passages from entirely unrelated texts - so long as there is a clear hermeneutical justification for doing so.

In 2011 the BH.SE community's concern was delineating the difference between users asking text-focused questions and application-focused questions. In the nine years since, we have received an increasing diversity of questions from a wider range of theological and cultural perspectives. At the worst of times, some users have tried to pass off theologically-focused or 'baiting' questions as "arising from the text" in their view, whilst the community has disagreed and closed them, which has generated accusations of doctrinal bias. Every week we close questions for not 'arising from the text', whilst using the term in a different way from its original intent.

For 2021 and beyond, it would be beneficial to re-hash this question and ensure we have community consensus on what we really mean.


The Question

In one of today's new questions "Does Jesus Judge or Not?" there seems to be a divide on whether this "arises from" a biblical text. Several passages have been cited, focused primarily on John's Gospel, but including other texts.

  1. Do we still affirm the consensus from Richard's 2011 Meta post, that so long as users are trying to interpret texts rather than apply them, questions should be seen as 'arising from' the text?
  2. If not, how should the community understand the concept of a question 'arising from' a Biblical text? What exactly should this term mean in the way that the community uses it?
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  • I'd just note that contradiction questions are their own category of question, and I wouldn't apply the standards for normal exegesis questions to them.
    – curiousdannii Mod
    Nov 21 '20 at 1:03
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In answer to the question "What topics can I ask about ?" the BH Help states :

If your question is about ... interpretation of a specific Bible passage ... then this is the right place to ask.

Many of us have taken this to mean that only questions about an individual, specified verse or passage of scripture are acceptable and we have often stated 'biblical topics are off-topic' as a way of expressing that.

The problem arises that if a question asks about multiple texts of scripture (in any type of question) then we enter the realms of a prolonged treatise of vast proportions which, realistically, is beyond the format or provision of the website.

Such treatises should be published elsewhere for peer review.

My own view is that this is the better way to go, to continue to have questions focused on one particular verse or passage so that answers can also be kept focused and scoped to definite boundaries.

I can foresee all sorts of problems, such as the long drawn out situation, not so very long ago, with a prior user (who is best not named or drawn attention to) who wanted to drag the entire site down into convoluted debates about their own obscure treatise and their own pre-occupation with a very circuitous 'biblical topic'.

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  • Such problem users are often very good about asking single topics however. One such user asked the same question about a dozen passages...
    – curiousdannii Mod
    Nov 21 '20 at 22:16
  • @curiousdannii Yes, that also is a problem, but we have (I would say) more and better moderation today, than when that happened.
    – Nigel J
    Nov 21 '20 at 22:17
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Clearly explaining scope rules can be very difficult, so I usually find it helpful to start with a list of questions that we think are on- or off-topic. Then we can see if the community agrees that the questions should be off-topic, and if so, then work on explaining why.

To me, not arising from the text is a very different matter from contemporary application questions. Lots of application questions arise directly from the texts the ask about! I see questions not arising from the text if they are at best only tangentially related to some topic the text discusses. If a question doesn't arise from the text then I'd imagine Moses or Paul replying "What the...? No! That's not what I was talking about. Like, at ALL." I'm exaggerating a little of course, but some of these questions are based on very odd and tenuous inferences.

So here are some that I think should be off-topic because they don't "arise from the text". The question titles alone aren't enough to judge whether a question arises from the text it quotes, so do click through to check them out.

These questions aren't based on tenuous connections, but more seem to me to include a verse reference purely so that they aren't closed as not-referring-to-a-text. Questions like this aren't about the texts they quote. I'm sure there are many more.

And some deleted questions that only high-rep users will be able to see:

What do you all think, do you think these questions all have a commonality to them, and does "not arise from the text" accurate describe them?

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