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In the Biblical Hermeneutics SE one of the VTC reasons has the following text

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

This often misleads users who think that if a question doesn't include a specific Bible passage, then it's worth closing. That is not true and the help center explains it well

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.

Up to this point we've not been able to find a better word choice to convey this meaning.

How can the VTC message be written in a way that doesn't confuse users?

P.S. with this question I'm leveraging the power of different communities in helping each others too... it's not the first time (this question in User Experience SE helped this one in Meta SE).

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Agreed with observations by others that there is significant overlap between the first two existing reasons:

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

Also agreed with dannii's suggestion of merging these two and reusing the other. I'd tweak his and go with something like:

Questions about biblical text interpretation are off-topic which: A) primarily seek current-day application of texts, or B) do not arise from a specific text in its own contemporary context.

Questions about biblical or theological topics are off-topic if they are not seeking an answer about interpretation or the manuscript history of a specific biblical passage, unless it's a question about the field of hermeneutics (hermeneutical approaches).

For the first one, I think it's helpful to have some aspect of 'history' - and for me this hones in on either the manuscript history or the interpretative history of a text.

This second one could use some refining, I think - it would be good to have clearer boundaries around what it means for a question to arise from a text, as I wrote on separately a few weeks ago (but have not had time to follow up on since). It's difficult to be broad enough to allow well-intentioned questions and yet tight enough to restrict questions that are shoe-horned into a text.

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  • The problem I have with my first proposed reason is that it could be used to close a question asking about the interpretative history of a passage. – Steve Taylor Dec 14 '20 at 22:32
  • Do you mean "how has this passage been understood through the ages?" I don't see how your revised first close reason would apply to that. – curiousdannii Dec 15 '20 at 3:44
  • My concern with your first close reason is that it seems a little self-contradictory. A question can't be about biblical text interpretation if it's not about a biblical text. For your second close reason, is it really necessary to mention the field of hermeneutics? Would people really think of it as a biblical or theological topic? (I know some people think hermeneutical approach questions have been wrongfully closed, but I really haven't ever seen evidence of it being widespread. I think it's a non-issue.) – curiousdannii Dec 15 '20 at 3:47
  • I do like that your second proposal includes manuscript history (textual criticism etc). That could be helpful to include. I'll keep thinking about how I might revise my proposal, to bring it closer to yours etc. – curiousdannii Dec 15 '20 at 3:49
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There's definitely scope for changing the close reasons. Because actually we have two close reasons for the one single problem:

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

These are both about Biblical or theological questions that do not primarily concern the exegesis of a passage. But we have two reasons because of the number of questions posted to this site which do not mention a passage at all, and it's much easier to explain what's wrong with a question if you can say "You're asking about a Biblical topic but we can't do exegesis without a passage!" The second close reason is for when they add a Bible reference but the question still isn't about the passage.

But these close reasons could be combined if we could figure out a better way to phrase them. Let me try this as a rough draft:

Questions about biblical or theological topics are off-topic if they do not primarily concern the interpretation of a specific biblical passage.

Thoughts?

(One advantage of combining these close reasons is that it would free up a close reason for either contemporary application or not-arising-from-the-text questions.)

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  • I see what you did there and it's well observed! After placing some thought into it, my suggestion is that we could only have one with the following information, This question isn't about hermeneutical approaches or history / meaning / interpretation of a biblical text.. What do you think? – Tiago Martins Peres 李大仁 Dec 10 '20 at 22:32
  • @TiagoMartinsPeres李大仁 We don't need to mention all of the exceptions in a close reason - we can trust our users to know that questions about hermeneutical approaches don't get closed with this close reason. And I don't think we should mention it because it would be confusing to people who are new to the site. I also find the "history" of a text part a bit unclear, I've never been too sure what that meant. – curiousdannii Dec 10 '20 at 22:39
  • can a new user VTC here? HM... The "history" I presume was used to be broad enough. To me that "history / meaning / interpretation" sounds like exegesis. So it could be substituted to, This question isn't about hermeneutical approaches or exegesis of a biblical text.. I like the hermeneutical approaches there because that kind of questions aren't as common compared with the exegesis ones... – Tiago Martins Peres 李大仁 Dec 10 '20 at 23:08
  • No, new users can't VTC, but the problem doesn't just seem to be those who are new to the site - we do still see closure votes come in from experienced users, often due to lack of understanding around H.M. questions. – Steve Taylor Dec 14 '20 at 9:22
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curiousdannii points out that

One advantage of combining these close reasons is that it would free up a close reason for either contemporary application or not-arising-from-the-text questions.

and I had that in mind when producing this answer (which is actually fruit of a discussion in the comments of that previously linked answer).

Initially I thought it could be substituted to

This question isn't about hermeneutical approaches or history / meaning / interpretation of a biblical text.

but curiousdannii didn't like the hermeneutical approaches and thought the history to be unclear. With that feedback in mind, I've adapted to what o think to be a nice way that would allow us to have only one

This question isn't about hermeneutical approaches or exegesis of a biblical text.

I like the hermeneutical approaches there because that kind of questions aren't as common compared with the exegesis ones.

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