I've previously highlighted the distinction between Biblical Studies and Scriptural Studies, of which this is a postscript seeking community feedback on future direction. While there is a similar post seeking future direction, I wanted to frame this question a little differently and offer another option on how to carry it out. Stating the dichotomy as "Bible study" vs. "studying the Bible" is somewhat confusing, however, and the distinctions can often be subtle. This is why I prefer the language "Scriptural Studies" vs. "Biblical Studies," respectively.
Scriptural Studies are inherently religious/spiritual. They seek to understand, interpret, and apply the Biblical text. Biblical Studies attempts to begin with as few assumptions as possible, but even this depends on an institution's stated biases. Christian and Jewish-influenced universities generally allow for doctrinal biases. But this is a site for everyone. Although this site is specifically of interest to those studying Judeo-Christian texts, biases that are not shared by a majority of scholars within these traditions should not be taken as 'givens.' At the same time, we are not trying to be a Judeo-Christian religious site, so even further neutrality is desired (especially since we claim to welcome atheist viewpoints).
But to remain 'neutral' is not truly a 'neutral' position. This pseudo-neutrality is a logical fallacy which is also a bias when we approach the text (as Jack and several others have pointed out). So rather than argue for quixotic objectivity and neutrality, I'd like to go on record as admitting that I'd like to see a specific bias here on BH.SE: a pseudo-neutrality. This 'neutrality' would preclude unqualified religious assertions of truth from the Christian and Jewish perspectives.
Here are some of the specific assumptions inherent in Scriptural Studies by many Christians and/or Jews that often go unstated/unqualified (explicitly) on BH.SE:
- The text is true and accurate.
- The text applies to a specific group (or to oneself) today.
- The text is relevant to a later issue or idea in history (cf. anachronism, e.g. asking what a 1st-century text says about a Christian doctrine that developed post-15th century).
- A text is continuous with other Biblical texts. Except when explicitly stated in a text or when demonstrated (such as two texts by the same author), continuity between Biblical texts is an assumption. This is especially true when viewing New Testament texts as continuous with the Hebrew Bible, but also when comparing contemporaneous texts by different authors.
- Any assertion of modern-day-revealed truth concerning the texts (I believe this site should take a decidedly empiricist approach to epistemology; this would rule out answers claiming modern divine/spiritual revelation concerning the text).
How to View & Handle Biases
I certainly don't think that asking a question with one of these assumptions should always be off topic, but I do think that such assumptions require 'leaps' of logic that need to be justified and/or clearly stated/qualified as biases. However, an OP's biases should not preclude answers that do not share the same sets of biases. In other words, a question about the meaning of 1 John 5:7 should remain open to answers challenging the phrase's authenticity as well as answers seeking to explain the meaning of the full verse as recorded in manuscripts such as the Textus Receptus.
Avoiding the list of biases above does not mean that the OP must adopt the opposite biases. For instance, while I don't believe that #1 should be implied/unqualified in a question, this does not mean that the OP must begin with the assumption that the text is false and/or inauthentic. I just would like to see it stated/qualified if the assumption that the text is true is implied by the question (but the OP should still remain open to answers challenging the authenticity/truth of the text in question).
So here is my question: how should we view and handle biases? I've created several options below to vote on, feel free to add your own.