This question is somewhat in relation to What does "x" mean in y:z.

If what I have written here is correct, and if the question should arise "What did Paul mean by 'the Israel of God' in Galatians 6:16?", can there be an "accepted answer" since one's answer will inevitably be determined by a particular hermeneutical approach?

Is the "right answer" to give a survey of the main interpretations? Or is such a question out of bounds to begin with?

2 Answers 2


Exegesis involves interpretation. And that interpretation does require a groundwork, a standing point from which to interpret. If we remove the groundwork, the interpretation begins to become a bit wild and unreliable.

Because of that, questions about "What does X mean?" are, to a degree, doctrinal. The interpreter comes from a doctrinal standpoint and all of the interpretations will, to a degree, be filtered through that viewpoint. For example, a Catholic interpreter will interpret from a viewpoint that a Jewish interpreter would not.

The answers, while they are somewhat doctrinally based, do not necessarily have to be doctrine. In other words, while we may interpret a passage based on our background and our underlying beliefs, the answers we give should not include how to apply these passages.

To go one step further (and address your question), most people will not be able to give a solid exegetical/hermeneutical answer that comes from both a Catholic and Jewish perspective. Answers may be survey answers when the author has the ability. However, I believe that answers from a particular viewpoint must be allowed.

With all of this in mind, I still think that "What does X mean in y:z?" is a valid and acceptable question that can have a valid and acceptable answer.


You must remember that accepting an answer simply means that the questioner found it useful for his/her purposes. Furthermore, while exegetical answers will come from a standpoint that contains doctrinal underpinnings, they must not (per our guidelines) contain doctrine. Therefore, feel free to ask questions about "What does X mean in y:z?" and accept whatever answer that you find most useful.

  • 3
    "Accepting" answers is one of those quirks of the StackExchange system that requires a bit of acclimation. On the surface, it means to pick the "right answer", but, as you say, it has come to mean picking the most useful answer from the perspective of the asker. The best answer (by votes or objective measures) is not always the accepted answer. Oct 10, 2011 at 21:33
  • @JonEricson I've seen other posts that emphasize this fact more. I considered adding a whole section about it, since that's what the topic deserves. But, I ended up just adding a few lines. Thank you for pointing this out.
    – Richard
    Oct 10, 2011 at 21:38
  • @Richard How does one do exegesis without doctrine? Is there an example of a bad post because it has doctrine which has been fixed by removing doctrine?
    – Bob Jones
    Oct 21, 2011 at 2:42
  • @BobJones That's a separate meta question: How much doctrine should we allow? Clearly, exegesis requires a doctrinal stance. We have yet to decide how much doctrine should be allowed, though.
    – Richard
    Oct 21, 2011 at 11:26
  • "Clearly, exegesis requires a doctrinal stance." Doesn't that concede that exegesis is invention? And if invention it is eisegesis? Hmm... that may be a good question itself. ;-)
    – Bob Jones
    Oct 21, 2011 at 15:18

Hermeneutics and Doctrine Soldarnal wrote, Answers will inevitably be determined by a particular hermeneutical approach. But it should be noted that true Principles of Hermeneutics are universal, and applicable to every expositor. One does not get to cherry-pick Principles. Doing so demolishes objectivity.

Richard hits on this point exactly: Interpretation does require a groundwork, a standing point from which to interpret. If we remove the groundwork, the interpretation begins to become a bit wild and unreliable.

Doctrine--whether of Jewish, Catholic, or Orthodox belief--is never the starting point for hermeneutical exercises! Doctrine should always be the rational deduction of exegesis, the end result of research, not the beginning. The Groundwork is the exegesis of the original languages (Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek) done in a scholarly way (aided by the Holy Spirit, of course).

It is because of the reversal of this procedure that Dogmatism arises and is allowed to divide Christianity!

The right answer desired by the OP is not, therefore, a survey of interpretations, but an honest, objective application of Universal Principles of hermeneutics (exegesis) on a particular Scripture. And this should be the type of Answer that is the Accepted Answer on B.H.S.E.

[Whether Councils, Synods, or Denominations wish to turn the Results into a hard-fast Doctrine for their synagogue or church is quite another issue.]

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