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Having answered a number of questions and engaged in comments, my conclusion is that BHSE is hamstrung by two factors:

  1. A lack of clarity in defining what Hermeneutics actually is. I've taken many classes on Hermeneutics itself, and classes applying hermeneutics. And, here on BHSE there doesn't seem to be any attempt at even defining what Hermeneutics actually is. For example, when there are text-critical questions that are posted in the Christianity SE, they are pushed over to BHSE. But, text-critical questions are neither theological/dogmatical questions (thus, appropriate for Christianity SE), nor are they Hermeneutical. They are, at best, pre-hermeneutical. TC gives us a text on which to base our dogmatics and hermeneutics. In practice, the prevailing path is basically: "this question requires Greek or Hebrew, and so it belongs in BHSE."

  2. A lack of understanding the limits of hermeneutics. Hermeneutics was never intended to be a stand-alone tool. Instead, in conjunction with biblical theology (isagogics), Studying the source texts (exegesis), Historical theology, and finally Dogmatics, we finally arrive at a full meaning. Hermeneutics is a worthless tool by itself. As an example of this, I submit this.. It isn't very difficult to see that the responders to the question gave answers that overlapped both hermeneutics and dogmatics. For my own part, I have no problem with this. This is open and honest and natural. Again, hermeneutics was never meant to be a stand alone tool. My frustration is the clearly, obvious dichotomy that arose where, if one did not like the interpretation of the other, when exegetically (hermeneutically) both options might fit, the commentator voted down, voted to close, etc.

In working towards a solution might the moderators form a σκόπος, a focused preface as we see in the introductions to bible translations? These provide both useful explanations but also useful boundaries. Might the framers of BHSE make use of a preface to set forth concretely what discussions will be allowed and not, and also then why?

In practice now, (from where I sit), BHSE, on a good day, basically runs/behaves like a non-denominational forum for those with a high view of scripture (and varying degrees of original language training). On a bad day, it reflects the book of Judges: ”בַּיָּמִ֣ים הָהֵ֔ם אֵ֥ין מֶ֖לֶךְ בְּיִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל אִ֛ישׁ הַיָּשָׁ֥ר בְּעֵינָ֖יו יַעֲשֶֽׂה׃“ (Judges 21:25 HMT-W4). As an example of this, cf. This question. I can't see any reason why this wouldn't be a legitimate question on BHSE if decent boundaries/borders were provided. But the commentator adds the chiding, almost condescending words, "Such definition questions should not be considered a hermeneutic ques." He chides the questioner, telling him that his question has nothing to do with hermeneutics. But there is no definition as to what hermeneutics actually is. And yet, the commentator elsewhere transgresses his own self-chosen ("in his own eyes") criterion that he sets forth here.

So, please receive this both as a plea and also a question: What is Biblical Hermeneutics?

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    The site neither depends upon nor functions within the definition of the word 'hermeneutics'. The site is Moderated (by Moderators elected by users) and is run according to the principles, the examples and the explanations set out in the Tour and the Help. The same is true, for example, of SE-English Language & Usage which is run according to, not what the definition is of 'Usage', but according to their own 'Tour' and 'Help' catalogues. And, of course, Users vote upwards and downwards those questions and answers which are valued for their content, not merely respected for their definability.
    – Nigel J
    Nov 16, 2023 at 20:01
  • @NigelJ So, in effect, even though numerous times I've read comments chiding, censoring, 'downvoting', and voting to close questions because they are not "hermeneutical", there isn't any effort to actually define what hermeneutical actually means. How can a person pose a hermeneutical question, when there is deliberately no effort to define what the word means? How can people who blithely condemn questioners for not being clear in their hermeneutical questioning, be so absolutely unclear in their criteria for what hermeneutics actually is? It's just simply brutal and blunt hypocrisy.
    – Epimanes
    Nov 16, 2023 at 23:08
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    The interpretation of scriptural texts; such interpretation as a subject of study or analysis, esp. with regard to theory or methodology. Also: a particular system of interpretation for scriptural texts. 'Hermeneutics' Oxford English Dictionary. I don't see a problem with the definition, myself. It's quite clear and simple. But many try to define the word according to their own agenda. That's when we get problems, I would suggest.
    – Nigel J
    Nov 16, 2023 at 23:47
  • @NigelJ In Historical Theology class we heard the joke that the "Holy Roman Empire" was neither Holy, nor Roman, nor an Empire. That definition of hermeneutics follows the same pattern. Which interpretation? Which subject (what canon)? Which methodology? If there's no defining with thesis and antithesis, then, ironically, you set up an environment for the very thing you deny/defy to thrive: "defining the word according to your own agenda."
    – Epimanes
    Nov 17, 2023 at 8:29
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    But, no, we have not. I repeat : we have elected Moderators ; we have a 'Tour' and a 'Help' ; we vote up what questions we favour ; we vote down that which displeases us ; we vote the answers that are agreeable ; we vote down that which is inappropriate. The environment has purpose ; there is a definite structure of intent . . . . . . we are not servants to an ill-defined definition . . . . . we are a purposeful community. And you are welcome to be among us and to benefit from what has been achieved over the past dozen years . . . . . . . . . .
    – Nigel J
    Nov 17, 2023 at 11:24

2 Answers 2

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The subject of this site is the discipline of Biblical Studies. This is broader than just pure hermeneutics (often equated with exegesis, though sometimes subtly distinguished from it), and includes, as you note, textual criticism, as well as source criticism, form criticism, and so on. Many Stack Exchange sites have names which don't perfectly match their subject matters, but it's not like ours is a misleading name, as probably about 90% of questions are about exegesis proper.

Putting to the side some of the edge cases (such as questions on contradictions, authorship, or hermeneutical methods) the main principle for asking questions on this site is to ask one clear question about the understanding of one Biblical passage. The majority of questions that get closed on this site are closed because they are not primarily concerned with understanding one passage, but are instead asking about general topics without mentioning a specific passage (usually theological or cultural topics), are seeking systematic theology, or are asking for contemporary application. All of these fall outside of the discipline of Biblical Studies, and so I think that is the most helpful way of thinking about the subject and scope of this site.


A single person's comments do not determine the scope of the site - that gets determined by the community here on Meta. I've cleaned up some discouraging comments on that question about the meaning of some Greek words.

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See old questions read definitions, clarifications and scope of the criteria with tags like scope and site-philosophy. These things have been defined and discussed in detail.

Textual criticism maybe actually pre-hermeneutical, but it is fact that TC, like hermeneutics, is closely connected with our philosophy/world-view and systematic theology. Thus, even the best TC authorities sometime seem biased and derive their decisions based on beliefs, presumptions or dogmas, clinging to religious tradition of men rather than truth. Decisions about Textual criticism comes from one's beliefs, hence, if I worship the Bible as a Scripture-Idol equal to God, then I would hold to KJV-onlyism or a similar nuanced creative position of Byzantine/Majority Text to somehow rationalize my views.

The best and oldest mss of Mark 6:3 says Jesus was called "son of a carpenter", i.e. Joseph, his father was a Carpenter, not Jesus himself. But, the critical editions would never accept such variant for some mysterious reasons. Christianity-SE belong to discussions on Church history, rituals, superstition, theological jargons, sectarian-systematic-theology etc. TC is not suitable for those who don't even know what it is. This BH-SE is meant for secular open-minded and open for all, where TC fits. Since it is natural that systematic theology is touched in various questions, it is accepted as an inevitable consequence of bible study or interpretation here; not just TC, but also archaeology or anything that relates to hermeneutics. See Should Textual Criticism be a valid topic for the site?

There are many acceptable questions listed on this topic, which include key-word studies. Are questions about the languages themselves (without referencing a specific text) on topic?

It should not be considered that the criteria of this site demands a bible verse. This recent misconception has led to increased questions on contradictions, many of them very low quality and bogus. Because of growing degradation of the content quality, it has because imperative to reinforce the old show your work criteria, not just on answers, but also on questions. We must expect proper homework (duckduckgo search and lexicons on biblehub, if not google book search) before asking questions to maintain decent quality.

also see Exactly what types of questions is the Biblical Hermeneutics site intended to answer?

The misaligning of questions with the criteria set by the tradition of this site maybe common for many of us. This is caused by the format of the site itself in my opinion which does not give proper training and education to new users. The tour contains silly unrelated abstract examples of criteria, when it should contain the list of the meta topics and questions that I shared. If those topics are shared to all while someone attempt to make new questions or answers, then 90% of manual moderation, and confusion and such debates will be spared from all of us.

The low quality close option should be used, it's given for a reason, however, I often see that people prefer to choose the other options for voting to close weak questions.

To sum this up, the scope of the topics has been sufficiently discussed, however, it cannot be too strict and narrow; thus, it is natural to expect various kinds of surrounding topics like theology, philosophy, authorship, canon, translation as background for the hermeneutical study.

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  • I favor a making the site broader in scope than it currently is. I just can't see why it is necessary to close so many questions as off topic -- especially when the question is clearly about the Bible but doesn't fit into C.se. Since there is no other S.E. available, why not allow them here? I do think the Tour and the help sections need updating to provide better guidance to users who don't follow the Meta site closely. Dec 5, 2023 at 6:34

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