One of the options available for closing a question reads, "Questions about biblical topics but without a specific Bible passage are off-topic as hermeneutical methods cannot be applied when no text is referenced."

But elsewhere it states that "Questions that do not arise from a Biblical text are off-topic unless they are about hermeneutical approaches."

Shouldn't the above criterion be reworded? It seems to conflict with the site's guidance as is.

  • 2
    I do not see a conflict. The second is a qualification of the first. Text-less questions are off-topic (for heremeneutical reasons) unless they are about heremeneutics itself.
    – Nigel J
    Jun 6 at 13:51
  • There is a strict character limit for custom close reason so they can't say everything.
    – curiousdannii Mod
    Jun 7 at 1:12
  • The off topic rule of Bible text is often misused since 6 yrs, if it's not contradictory to other rules. There's no rule that requires specific Bible text reference. It is a new misconception. I have seen good topics here about that by Ruminator but can't find them hermeneutics.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/3179/…
    – Michael16
    Jun 8 at 6:21
  • I think it's not a conflict, but I think the exception for questions about hermeneutical approaches is not well recognized. Also the first guideline above is technically untrue. I'll post an "answer" to explain and suggest a revision. Nov 13 at 18:39
  • Another problem with the guideline has to do with questions related to authorship. Today a question was migrated from C.se to BH.se because it supposedly could be answered better at BH.se. Yet the question contains no biblical passage and could easily be closed on that basis. hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/questions/87855/… Nov 16 at 16:08
  • @DanFefferman HistorySE and LiteratureSE are a better fit for questions like the one you point out. Barely asking about authorship of a book has nothing to do with Hermeneutics, since it is very unlikely that the author's style is narrow enough to singlehandedly clarify or disambiguate an entire book. Nov 16 at 18:18

3 Answers 3


Shouldn't the above criterion be reworded? It seems to conflict with the site's guidance as is.

There is no conflict.

The universe of questions can be partitioned in two sets: One set consists of "questions about specific passages of the Bible", and the other consists of "the rest of questions". The former is on topic by default whereas the rest is on topic only if "about hermeneutical approaches". The component of hermeneutics underlies both sets in a modality that, respectively, is applied or theoretical.

Both criteria could be consolidated as "Questions that neither provide a specific passage of the Bible nor are about hermeneutical approaches are off-topic.", although the current wording has its merits because it explains why questions about biblical topics without a specific passage are considered off-topic.

Is this criterion for closing a question invalid?

It is unclear to which criterion you are referring, so I will address each one.

Questions about biblical topics not only are overly broad, but they also tend to trigger debate, and involve inconsistencies between books of the Bible. Many of these inconsistencies happen because different books of the Bible address different issues and different contexts. Other times a book contradicts itself. The only way to narrow down the scope of a question about an otherwise broad topic is by pointing to specific passages of the Bible. Only to specific passages can hermeneutical principles be applied.

By contrast, questions about hermeneutical approaches do not tend to be overly broad. These questions generally focus on concepts and consistent principles with which to analyze a text.

  • Other times a book contradicts itself I have never yet, in all my studies, found a book of holy scripture to contradict itself.
    – Nigel J
    Jun 22 at 20:23
  • @NigelJ Here is an example from the Gospel of Luke: Hating one's own father, mother, children, brethren, etc. is a requirement for being a disciple of Jesus (14:26). That is at odds with Jesus's reminder of the commandment "Honor thy father and thy mother" (18:20). In turn, that reminder is at odds with Jesus's disavowal of his own mother and brethren (8:19-21). Furthermore, 8:21 implies a dual and conflicting position that some must have toward Jesus for fitting the "mother & brethren" characterization in 8:21 and yet having to hate him in order to be his disciple(s) (14:26). Jun 23 at 17:44
  • The juxtaposition of these very texts highlights the old humanity, the new birth, regeneration, the making of new relationships in the light of Christ's resurrection, the being crucified (in Christ) to all that is of nature and the certainty of rising again in a realm where they neither marry nor are given in marriage. There is no contradiction in all of this if one repents and believes and receives such wondrous truth.
    – Nigel J
    Jun 23 at 19:06
  • @NigelJ "There is no contradiction in all of this if one repents and believes and receives such wondrous truth." This is akin to suggesting that the validity of a theorem depends on the mental state of the individual who proves/studies it. Hermeneutics has nothing to do with the student's repentance. Nor is Hermeneutics to be burdened with dogmatic belief. The latter usually leads to patching all over the place rather than to a consistent, logical approach to the texts. Jun 23 at 23:07
  • The 'validity of a theorem' depends on the wisdom of the one who uttered the theorem. And the ability of that one to communicate it, effectively, to recipients. God has uttered his word. And it is God who, effectively (through the gifts of repentance and faith) communicates his wisdom to those upon whom he has mercy. True belief is never 'dogmatic'. True faith is a matter of yielding to, and receiving, the word of God.
    – Nigel J
    Jun 24 at 6:38
  • @NigelJ "The 'validity of a theorem' depends on the wisdom of the one who uttered the theorem." This proposition showcases how new, unnecessary issues arise from the attempt to argue anything and everything on the basis of some dogma or faith. A theorem, regardless of its author's wisdom, is valid only if that theorem follows logically from other principles. Although in various contexts [actual] authorship sometimes is relevant for supporting certain hermeneutical proposition(s), reader's mental states such as faith or repentance have more to do with epistemology than with hermeneutics. Jun 24 at 15:06
  • I believed I have made my points and I need go no further. No further comment from myself.
    – Nigel J
    Jun 24 at 15:40

As a non-professional, non-scholarly newbie, maybe I can provide insight from this point of view. Some people like me genuinly want the opinion of experts like yourselves on a biblical subject or question. But fear of doing it wrong, and being shut down or shut out, can be very daunting and feel hurtful. When I had a question closed, being the sensitive soul I am, I left for a while and have more or less stayed in the background and only watched and read other’s posts ever since. Especially since in some of my reading I’ve been bewildered to see a bit of disparity between posts left open and posts closed, because sometimes there doesn’t seem to be much rhyme or reason for it and it can feel selective, even though it likely isn’t. I hope no one feels like I’m being accusatory because I’m not, I’m just simply sharing thoughts and feelings in hopes it brings a little insight to you professionals. Thanks for listening.

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  • 1
    I hear you, but how does your answer relate to the matter at issue? Do you see an inconsistency in allowing questions "about hermeneutical approaches" but "without a specific Bible passage"? Nov 24 at 19:50

"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 statement is technically untrue and creates confusion, so the OP is right to question it. I wouldn't say the two statements conflict with each other but the first statement does need to be improved.

My reasoning: Experts can usually figure out the passage/s users refer to with little trouble and are therefore able to apply hermeneutical methods without a reference in the question itself. Therefore only questions whose references are extremely difficult to discern need to be considered off-topic.

More important, questions without specific references are often asked by relatively new users, and it is extremely discouraging for them to have their first questions closed. As much as possible, expert users should help new users improve their question rather than declaring them off topic and/or voting to close them.


I suggest adopting a tolerant attitude toward imperfect questions, especially from new users. Here is my suggestion for a better guideline than the one quoted above:

"Questions about biblical topics should include at least one specific Bible passage. Otherwise they are liable to be closed as off-topic."

  • That wording would, even more than the current wording, lead people to add a token passage just to meet the requirements. We really need questions to start from a Biblical passage, rather than starting from a topic and adding a passage.
    – curiousdannii Mod
    Nov 13 at 21:17
  • And I don't want experts guessing which passage the OP meant, they're too likely to guess wrong. (The exception being if the OP mentions a book name and there's only one relevant section in that book.) The OP can add the passage themselves or the question can remain closed.
    – curiousdannii Mod
    Nov 13 at 21:20
  • I don't understand why including a relevant passage on a biblical topic would be "token." I do see the possibility of wrong guesses from people who answer, but I think discouraging new users is a greater harm. Yes, the OP can add a passage but let's encourage them to do so rather shut them down. Nov 13 at 22:01
  • The important thing is that the question begin with a passage. If a passage has to be added later on, then it's unlikely the question was really a hermeneutical question in the first place.
    – curiousdannii Mod
    Nov 14 at 3:37
  • OK, but I don't think inexperienced questioners should be held to strict standards. Many don't even know the definition of hermeneutics but have important questions about the bible. I don't want to discourage them. Nov 14 at 16:26

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