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Recently, Soldarnal suggested a name for our site that I quite like: Biblical Studies. It seems that Stack Exchange would be willing to entertain a name change, if we think it's a pressing issue. Over the last few months, I think we've tackled a number of meta-questions that have clarified our site's aims and policies, but in all honesty there are a number still outstanding. It seems that we ought not worry about our name until we have settled disagreements concerning what our name represents. I've compiled a list of meta-questions that we need to have some sort of consensus on before we can move ahead. From a conversation with GoneQuiet:


And some more recent questions:


I'd like to encourage you to consider these meta-questions. If you think we have reached some sort of consensus on a meta-question, feel free to edit this question and <strike> it out as I've done above. Alternatively, if one or more of the questions are irrelevant, we can just delete them. Finally, if you want to put another item on our stack, go for it. (The edit history will be available to all, so be prepared to justify your actions!)

Please use answers to record your individual thoughts on this roadmap. I'm especially interested in how we can promote our site as a place for Biblical Studies and how that would look different (or not!) from what we are now doing. Thanks!

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In which I perform a U-turn

Looking over the list of meta-questions we'd like to have answered, it seemed like the right time to talk the proposed change with the rest of the Community Manager team. I argued strongly for the change, but the rest of the team convinced me (with effort) that Biblical Hermeneutics is the best name for the site. Allow me to summarize the reasoning:

  1. Biblical Studies and Biblical Hermeneutics are near synonyms according to Wikipedia:

    Biblical studies is the academic application of a set of diverse disciplines to the study of the Jewish and Christian scriptures, the Bible. For its theory and methods, the field draws on disciplines ranging from archaeology, literary criticism, history, philology, and social sciences.

    Biblical hermeneutics is the study of the principles of interpretation concerning the books of the Bible. It is part of the broader field of hermeneutics which involves the study of principles for the text and includes all forms of communication: verbal and nonverbal.

    Both are academic disciplines and both concentrate on the Bible. Neither is particularly Christian—indeed hermeneutics specifically includes the Talmud. (Notice, however, that Biblical studies applies other disciplines to the Bible, whereas Biblical hermeneutics concerns interpretation of the Bible.)

  2. The initial association of Christians to the phrase "Biblical Studies" is to the often undisciplined practice of "Bible Study". In my experience, such groups devolve into vaguely spiritual "self-help" groups unless the leaders guide with a strong hand. Most of the Christians I have discussed the matter with have no association to the word "hermeneutics" or only a cloudy idea that it's something professors might be doing. Searching for "hermeneutics" turns up an article on Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Searching for "biblical studies" turns up ads for Christian colleges.

    My arguments from the early days of the beta still hold water. Our current name might require explanation, but it works once people are in the know. On the other hand, folks might think that Biblical Studies means exactly the opposite of what our site is all about.

  3. It's better to be a big fish in a small pond than a small fish in a big pond. We are the third site that Google turns up in a "biblical hermeneutics" search. We are on page 2 for just "hermeneutics". If we change the name, we should also change the URL, by the way. Getting rid of the hermeneutics label puts us into a much more crowded (and Christian) population of Bible sites.

  4. People don't seem turned off by the name. Since lots of folks find us via search engines these days, they don't necessarily see our site name before they start reading our questions and answers. While this does cause problems, it's actually a good sign. More people are getting our answers (which in my opinion are far above average in terms of quality) than competing answers.

What it comes down to is that the name won't change unless there are far more compelling reasons that have not been brought up. I still like the name "Biblical Studies" (if only because it's easier to spell), but "Biblical Hermeneutics" remains the better choice. It reflects the academic nature that we strive for and it's unambiguous. It communicates that we are exclusive in rigour, but inclusive in a priori assumptions. As the SEP says (only slightly taken out of context):

Hermeneutics turns philosophical.

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I don't think we need to resolve everything on this list before changing the name to Biblical Studies. I would simplify this road map to only one question:

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