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It has been suggested that questions such as the following should be considered as off topic:

While these posts may be of interest to those in the field of Biblical Studies, they don't start from a text nor ask about specific hermeneutics, which means they are technically off topic. Should we allow questions of this nature, or do they need to be closed as off topic?

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  • As far as your title is concerned, "no". However I'm concerned that this sort of thing might have some direct bearing an hermeneutics (e.g. textual criticism in the case of Ehrman) that should be on topic here. If it's only of interest to the part of Biblical Studies that is not hermeneutics, then no, but what about he cross over interest? – Caleb Feb 11 '14 at 19:52
  • @Caleb good question - I don't have an answer - I could support both sides of this issue happily – Dan Feb 11 '14 at 20:26
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    Well then let's let it collect some feedback here and I'll be thinking about it as well. – Caleb Feb 11 '14 at 20:27
  • @Caleb sounds good – Dan Feb 11 '14 at 20:35
  • Why not direct these sorts of questions not about the text themselves to Meta? – user2027 Feb 11 '14 at 20:46
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    @Sarah Because they are not about the site. Meta is a place for handling issues related to the site itself, not for handing overflow tangentially related stuff from main. – Caleb Feb 11 '14 at 20:52
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If "biblical hermeneutics" is about the art/science/philosophy of interpreting "biblical" texts, then questions about how practitioners have done this in the past, and what we can learn (or avoid) from their work would/should be fair game.

I don't have a strong feeling, though -- except to endorse observation in a comment to the question that the point is the light shed on interpretation, and not a "beauty contest", opinion poll, etc. THAT kind of thing is surely beyond the pale.

In the questions used as illustration in the Question, my hunch would have been that Edersheim shades towards "on-topic", but Ehrman veers "off-topic" -- and yet the Ehrman question elicited a quality and "on-topic" reply. And I'm interested myself in an expert take on Edersheim's legacy (which would say something about the nature of his interpretative project).

Frankly, I'd be interested to get a closer sense of Rashi's "method", and Calvin's, and Kimchi's, and Wright's, and a host of others. This looks towards the method rather than the text, of course, but the two go together.

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    I agree. It feels like there is a rich mine of unasked questions here; though, I suspect it has a lot do with the relative level of knowledge at the popular of the primary vs secondary literature. Along the lines of Rashi, Calvin, etc.., I'm a bit surprised we don't have a karl-barth tag yet too (granted he plays bigger in theology). – Soldarnal Apr 5 '14 at 5:16
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Technically, they are off topic, but since you were the originator of the 1st question, others will give you more 'latitude'. But what if someone with a "1" reputation asks them? Will you be as equally magnanimous?

The Real Question is: Where do you draw the line, and how do you 'define' the line you draw?

You have a definite vision for this site, and you use your 'mod' power to reign in us unruly scoundrels and keep us in line. You do go to extreme lengths to explain it, but at the end of the day, you have to 'enforce' it-how much ambiguity do you want to allow before individuals cry "Foul!" and challenge your leadership and direction?

I've learned w/teenagers that simple, well articulated, enforceable rules are better than ones replete w/exceptions. If you can articulate it, and the boundaries of it, then by all means do, but if someone says,"Wait a minute-you gave a pass to that person who asked this, but when I asked the same thing, the hammer came down", "I told you so" is one of the most useless phrases in the English Language.

Consider our tax code, and I'm sure you'll make the right choice.; > )

As an addendum to my answer: I believe if one 'evaluates' a body of work(Alfred Edersheim et al) as conclusive evidence, either supporting or refuting it as it relates to a particular textual concern(ie: use Edersheim's work because he addresses issue "X" where other scholars avoid or inadequately address) then it is entirely on topic, since one's main concern is the text; the author may be the 'benchmark' by which certain texual issues are addressed.(Consider Rashi, Darby, and a host of other commentaries).

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My recommendations:

I've elsewhere pointed out my opinion that:

Secondary texts open for direct examination are extrabiblical texts that are helpful in understanding primary texts and/or are commonly referenced/studied by Biblical scholars.

Edersheim's book falls into this category, but the question is too broad. It should deal with a specific claim of the work, not the entire work itself.

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    The Ehrman question is among the most useful on the site; I enjoyed answering it, I link to it frequently, and it helps us understand the difficulties and rewards of reading the most popular books ever written on the subject of textual criticism. The question is about a person, but it's also about their body of work. I'd like to leave it open for dissenting answers, if nothing else. I think the Edersheim question is helpful, but it would probably be better if self-answered (or even just answered). – Jon Ericson Apr 4 '14 at 17:03
  • @JonEricson thanks for the input! Makes sense – Dan Apr 4 '14 at 17:08
  • @Daи-A little different now that you wear the diamond..; >) – Tau Apr 4 '14 at 18:34
  • @user2479 I don't follow, my apologies. I don't see how the diamond makes any difference here. – Dan Apr 4 '14 at 18:43
  • @Daи-You presented the 1st question before you were a 'mod'- I'm sure you were concerned about site policy, but it's different when you have to 'police' site policy.... – Tau Apr 4 '14 at 18:55
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    @user2479 I wrote that post a long time ago before I fully understood site policy (and even now much is not set in stone, hence 'beta' mode), and other mods and the whole community had the opportunity to close it - they didn't. I'm actually in favor of closing it. Keep in mind that this site is moderated by you. Anyone with privileges can vote to close, vote up or down, vote to delete, etc. A mod basically can handle flags and other 'exceptions' - and of course our votes are more binding. If you don't like something, you can work to change it via meta and voting. – Dan Apr 4 '14 at 19:00
  • Despite being a mod, I'm still a community member with goals for this site. But anything a mod does can be challenged on meta. If you disagree with some of my actions, feel free to post on meta. Antagonistic posts and comments won't change much, but if you wish to offer constructive feedback - I'm all ears. – Dan Apr 4 '14 at 19:02
  • @Daи-I get it-and I'm not ready to storm the Bastille-yet. – Tau Apr 4 '14 at 19:09
  • BTW-+1 for your response... – Tau Apr 4 '14 at 19:15

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