Here is a helpful flowchart for asking questions on BH.SE. Relevant meta posts for each decision are listed below:

Question Flowchart

My goal is for this be a helpful reference and 'one-stop-shop' for users. Also note that this does not say that posts must be edited, closed, or removed that do not meet these criteria (some of these criteria are not firm requirements, but good questions will meet these).

For each decision in the flowchart, the title of the meta post/thread is given, followed by a related quote or summary from it.

Are you seeking answers (not discussion)?

  • Site Tour — "This site is all about getting answers. It's not a discussion forum. There's no chit-chat.... Not all questions work well in our format. Avoid questions that are primarily opinion-based, or that are likely to generate discussion rather than answers."
  • What types of questions should I avoid asking? — "Chatty, open-ended questions diminish the usefulness of our site and push other questions off the front page.... If your motivation for asking the question is 'I would like to participate in a discussion about ______', then you should not be asking here. However, if your motivation is 'I would like others to explain ______ to me', then you are probably OK."
  • How can we educate new users about our site distinctives? — "We are a Q&A site—not a forum! ... We like questions to be just that—honest questions that seek to enhance your knowledge.... If your goal in writing ... a question is to 'make a point,' then sadly, you've missed the point of this site!"

Does your question arise from and focus on the text (and not primarily on those things to which the text applies)?

  • A new guideline for doctrine in questions. What do you think? — "Questions are on topic if they are focused on the text, rather than things to which the text may apply.... Questions that seem to be seeking to apply the Bible are off-topic."
  • How can we educate new users before they post bad answers? — "We don't do 'Bible study'—we study the Bible.... We stop short of application when answering questions about the Bible (which means we don't fully exegete the text in the religious sense of the practice)."
  • How should we handle historicism? — "...questions about whether entity X is the true fulfillment of Prophecy Y are off-topic, unless the answer can be determined exegetically.... "bad questions" ask for an identification that cannot be made from the text. To answer these, the interpreter must go beyond the text and decide that some entity from history did (or will) fit the bill well enough to conclude that this is the true interpretation of the prophecy. The problem is that these interpretations are so varied and depend so much on which hermeneutic you follow (and what your presuppositions are) that the answers can hardly be called exegetical."

Does your question include and/or properly cite the Biblical text(s) of relevance?

  • Should all questions of interpretation include specific texts? — "If you're asking for exegesis, then you're wanting the translation or interpretation of a given piece of biblical text. In this case, you really do need to include at least some text for the question to make any sense."
  • Properly citing the Bible — "There is no prescribed way that you must cite the specific translation/text you are using. The important part is that you somehow make it clear which is being referenced." This usually means either quoting the text of relevance, citing the specific translation, critical text, or manuscript you are using, or linking to the specific text on an online resource.
  • What constitutes “minimal research effort” in questions? — "Properly cite the Bible translation or other resource where you've read the text... 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)."

Have you put forth minimal research effort?

  • Are Some Questions Too Simple? — "...some questions are too simple to be answered ... at least on our sites. Not because they’re bad questions, mind you, but because these types of questions can be definitively and permanently answered by a single link to a standard internet reference site with no additional explanation necessary. We discourage 'answers' that are links, but for these questions, it’s hard to argue that anything else is required.... The key distinction to make here, in my mind, is that all questions are ultimately in service of the people answering them. That is the audience you need to satisfy if you want to have any hope of creating and sustaining a community of peers learning from each other. The minimum bar for a question is not 'is this on-topic?', but rather 'is this somewhat interesting and on-topic?'.... There’s nothing useful any expert can learn from ultra-basic questions."
  • Ban LMGTFY (let me google that for you) links (links to comment) — "Questions with an answer that is trivial to find on Google are not helping the ... community. They are generating superfluous reputation, lowering the bar for asking genuine questions, and generally wasting people's time. Furthermore, the answers to these questions are almost always summarized, plagiarized or synthesized from the Google search results."
  • LMGTFY Questions on the Rise — "...we aren't in the business of doing simple lookups that askers could do themselves. But we are in the business of answering deeper questions and trying to gain understanding...."
  • What constitutes “minimal research effort” in questions? — "Questions seeking clarification about claims concerning the original languages should cite the source of those claims.... If you don't know the language you are asking about, keep speculation to a minimum (preferably none at all).... 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.... Looking up a word in a lexicon/dictionary without knowing the original language is merely a speculation as to its meaning.... It is best to simply ask what the word/clause means or if it is translated correctly in a specified translation."
  • How can we attract high-quality Biblical scholars and still be welcoming to interested amateurs? — "To attract experts, you need a site where people are asking very interesting and challenging questions, not the basic questions found on every other Q&A site."

Does your question show its work for any assertions and/or related texts?

  • What does “show your work” mean in the context of exegesis? — "What makes us different from those sites is that here, our focus is primarily on the process of hermeneutical analysis, not the final output of that process. This distinction is significant and critical for users of this site to understand, but in practice the degrees of implementation are often subtle."
  • What kind of site do we ultimately want to have? — "This may include an extra explanation when later texts are applied to earlier texts (e.g. ones that read Jesus into the Hebrew Bible). Claims that could reasonably be seen as controversial or offensive must be relevant and supported from the text. 'Supported' means an explicit link or citation of text, or clear logical reasoning starting from a cited text. Sometimes the text will be offensive, which we have to accept. The aim should be add no further offence to the the offence of the text."
  • How can we educate new users about our site distinctives? — "...we try to minimize unstated presuppositions in questions and answers. For this reason, we expect good questions and answers to lay out a logical argument beginning from the Biblical text. This is like mathematics homework: you shouldn't give an answer without showing how you derived it.... This is a university, not a church/synagogue. We are interested in questions about Biblical texts and the process of translating and interpreting them, not absolute truth(s)."

Is your question clear and well-scoped, and has it never been asked here before?

  • What is a “closed” or “on hold” question?
    • Your question is unclear if by "The way the question is currenty written, it's hard to tell exactly what is being asked. The explanations in the question are not clear, or it is not clear what kind of answer is expected, or there is not enough information to solve the problem."
    • A question is too broad if "There are either too many possible answers, or good answers would be too long for a Q&A format. The question may be reopened if it is edited to focus on an issue that can be answered in a few paragraphs."
    • Concerning duplicate questions, "Questions that cover exactly the same ground as earlier questions on this topic should be closed."
  • What types of questions should I avoid asking? — "Your questions should be reasonably scoped. If you can imagine an entire book that answers your question, you're asking too much."
  • What topics can I ask about here? — "We welcome Jewish, Christian, Atheist and other viewpoints as long as they take seriously the process of understanding the Biblical texts."

Is your question primarily opinion-based?

  • What is a “closed” or “on hold” question? — "Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to some questions will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise." This is undesirable here.
  • What types of questions should I avoid asking? — "...avoid asking subjective questions where..."
    • every answer is equally valid: “What’s your favorite ______?”
    • your answer is provided along with the question, and you expect more answers: “I use ______ for ______, what do you use?”
    • there is no actual problem to be solved: “I’m curious if other people feel like I do.”
    • you are asking an open-ended, hypothetical question: “What if ______ happened?”
    • your question is just a rant in disguise: “______ sucks, am I right?”
  • Should we avoid stump-the-chumps questions? — "If I ask a question that I already have an answer to and am prepared to scrutinize every answer that doesn't line up with the 'correct' answer, I've just created a trap for the unwary.... We want people to feel free to answer questions the way that they understand them and not be forced to conform to secret requirements imposed by the questioner."
  • 1
    This is terrific. I suggest you change "Minimal research effort" of the flow chart to "demonstrates some research effort."
    – user2027
    Feb 2, 2014 at 20:51
  • 1
    @Sarah I named it that way to conform to existing meta posts and terminology using that wording. Even so, I agree that your way of putting it is easier to understand. However, editing the flowchart is pretty time-consuming, and barring a huge error or change in site direction, I'm probably not going to edit it again for the sake of not spending the time on it (I already redid the whole thing at the suggestion of Jack Douglas and that took awhile). So great suggestion, but teaching Greek II right now + taking an advanced Greek class + working full time + moderating = no time :P
    – Dan
    Feb 2, 2014 at 21:04
  • Sure--and you defined it underneath.
    – user2027
    Feb 2, 2014 at 21:36
  • 1
    Do I understand correctly that no specific text is need if one is asked about methodological issues such as text- and source-criticism, hermeneutical process etc? Nov 2, 2023 at 1:52
  • @DanFefferman yes that's right, 99% of questions are exegetical in nature and thus need a text, but it's also possible to ask questions around the field of hermeneutics as long as they're scoped tightly enough to be answerable. We often emphasise the need to start from texts but it is a generalisation and doesn't apply to everything.
    – Steve can help Mod
    Nov 29, 2023 at 22:57


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