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I think the answer will depend on the type of question, but I'm genuinely interested. As a starter, here are some general 'question types' and 'sub-types' (feel free to address any or none of these, or do whatever):

  • Questions about the original language(s) of a given text

    • Meaning of a word/phrase (i.e. lexical and/or morphological question)

    • Understanding usage of a given clause or statement, or the implications of a grammatical feature (i.e. syntax analysis, literature comparison, historical linguistics / philology, etc.)

    • Understanding translation differences

  • Questions about the historical context of a specific text

    • Seeking external support for (or in contradiction of) textual assertions

    • Understanding cultural references in texts

    • Any way historical context may clarify the text

  • Questions about textual/source criticism

    • Identifying the most reliable readings of texts (where possible)

    • Determining possible sources used by authors of Biblical texts

  • Questions about topics of interest to or sub-disciplines of the field of Biblical Studies

    • Asking about specific hermeneutics

    • Applying additional literary theories to texts

My goal here is NOT to create more rules or requirements that OPs must follow, but merely to create a helpful reference for folks who seem to be struggling to write quality questions.

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Minimal Research Effort in Questions About the Original Languages

Often people are asking questions about the original language(s) of a text because they don't know the language(s) themselves.1 I don't believe there should be any minimum amount of knowledge required to ask about the original language(s) of a specific text. With that said, here are some helpful guidelines to ensuring your questions will get quality answers and not be skipped over by those with knowledge of the original language(s):

  1. Questions seeking clarification about claims concerning the original languages should cite the source of those claims. It helps to know whether you heard a claim in a book written by a Biblical scholar, your local pulpit/bima, or if it is the product of your own reasoning based on using a Strong's lexicon that you found online (see #4). This also helps others find the answer to the question if they heard the claim from the same source.

  2. Properly cite the Bible translation or other resource where you've read the text. How to properly cite the Biblical texts has been covered in depth elsewhere, but please know that this is important because the chapter and verse numbers in the resource/translation you are using are anachronistic divisions of the text (and thus often don't match the divisions used in scholarly critical texts and other resources in the original languages).

  3. If you don't know the language you are asking about, keep speculation to a minimum (preferably none at all). Granted, if your speculation/claim is the only justification for your question, you may have to include it. But most of the time you can simply ask, "What is the meaning of this word/phrase in this specific passage?" Questions with assumptions or speculations that a language expert would find absurd will probably be downvoted/skipped, so it is best to avoid this at all costs.2 We understand that sometimes you don't know what to ask if you don't know the language, but rather than trying to sound like you know what you're talking about (when you don't), just ask what the word/clause of interest means in context without trying to guess.

  4. Looking up a word in a lexicon/dictionary without knowing the original language is merely a speculation as to its meaning. This follows on the heels of #3, it is best not to bring speculations gleaned from resources you've found if you don't know the language. Keep in mind that most Biblical languages are highly inflected, which means that the meaning of a word can change depending on its morphology and immediate context. If this sounds like Greek to you (pun intended), let me rephrase this: simply looking up the meaning of a word in the original language in a lexicon/dictionary without having knowledge about how the language forms grammatical tense, mood, voice, aspect, person, number, gender and case can be misleading.3 It also doesn't help that many of the freely available online lexicons used by popular Bible study tools are obsolete. It is best to simply ask what the word/clause means or if it is translated correctly in a specified translation.


1 I've heard the argument before that just as someone who doesn't know the basics of a programming language shouldn't ask about it on SO, so also someone should not ask about a language they've never studied. I don't think it's a fair comparison to put ancient Aramaic/Hebrew/Greek and programming in C++ side-by-side, as natural languages are far more difficult to acquire than well-documented programming languages that rely solely on Boolean logic (especially dead languages).

2 To give an example, imagine how a mechanic would feel about a question such as, "I think the blinker fluid in my car is low, how do I fill it back up?"—this question will likely not only be downvoted, but also not answered since it shows the OP has no clue what they're talking about.

3 This can be seen in English as well. Consider the phrase, "If you turn right at the right stop, you'll end up right where you should rightly be." Only context can determine the proper meaning and nuance of 'right' in each instance, which requires knowledge of the English language, not just a dictionary.

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