This is related to two other discussions:

1: ScottS indicates that this site has rejected systematic Theology.
2: Soldarnal has indeed expressed that Systematic Theology is not welcome here.

I can understand this being the case with the elements of the discipline dealing with application, but what about the elements that deal with meaning.

Would a comprehensive investigation of a passage in the context of the whole of Scripture would welcome/on-topic? Why or Why not?

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    Could you elaborate what you think is meant by systematic theology, because "a comprehensive investigation of a passage in the context of the whole of Scripture" is not something I immediately recognize as such. I don't even see that as theology per se, although maybe depending on how you do it, it begins to approach a biblical theology, but that is a different thing than systematic theology.
    – Soldarnal
    Mar 24, 2014 at 3:22
  • @Soldarnal: Interesting. To me, "biblical theology" is looking at something in the context of a single book of Scripture or across a single author. "Systematic theology" begins at linking together all the texts of Scripture (cross author/books) in a systematic way on topics (hence the topical categories like soteriology, eschatology, etc.--though it can be divided in to subtopical areas also). It then moves into understanding how these teachings bear upon our understanding of reality in relation to other forms of possible (non-special revelation) knowledge (science, experience, etc.).
    – ScottS
    Mar 24, 2014 at 20:31
  • @ScottS Your definitions sound accurate to my understanding of the terms, except that in addition to a focus on a single book or author I've seen "biblical theology" also applied to a whole-Bible approach. For instance, Beale's book in the New Studies in Biblical Theology series traces the development of the temple as a theme across Scripture essentially to interpret Revelation 21.
    – Soldarnal
    Mar 24, 2014 at 21:12
  • Not sure if that's the kind of "comprehensive investigation of a passage in the context of the whole of Scripture" Sarah is talking about, though, which is why I qualified my statement as "depending on how you do it."
    – Soldarnal
    Mar 24, 2014 at 21:12
  • @Soldarnal: Yes, I it is true that "biblical theology" is sometimes loosely used to refer to the whole of the Bible or as a synonym for a "bible-based" theology. Mine is more the technical definition as I understand it.
    – ScottS
    Mar 24, 2014 at 22:02
  • @ScottS, if you are still around, would you be willing to take a look at my latest question and answer it from a systematic theological approach.
    – user2027
    Nov 15, 2014 at 1:00
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    @Sarah: I'm still around (busy, but around). I actually upvoted your answer, as it already takes a systematic approach and in my mind came to a correct conclusion.
    – ScottS
    Nov 15, 2014 at 14:20

4 Answers 4


Would a comprehensive investigation of a passage in the context of the whole of Scripture would welcome/on-topic?

This is great question, especially because some hermeneutics rely on bringing in the context of other or all biblical texts to bear.

We are talking about answers here, and my verdict would be a qualified "Yes it is welcome".

The qualification is that the answer still has to show it's work to a reasonable degree, and this is harder when the main line of your reasoning rests entirely on the interpretation of a broad sweep of scripture. You are going to have to give an outline of why you are making this "whole of Scripture" interpretation in a way that is comprehensible1 to a good portion of the community. If you fail to do that, the answer won't fly here, but if you manage it then your answer will be very welcome.

1 'Comprehensible' is going to include issues of style and substance. Even a well-reasoned 'wall of text' is going to be impenetrable!

  • Not sure if this affects your answer at all, but my statement regarding systematic theology was pertaining to questions.
    – Soldarnal
    Mar 24, 2014 at 3:21
  • I like this answer--though it does burden one with having to produce a lot of background material for every answer by having to "show ... work"--it's like one would have to justify the Trinity every time one might want to introduce that into the conversation. It seems like it would be better to simply need to state if you are approaching the answer from a Trinitarian view (just as an example).
    – ScottS
    Mar 24, 2014 at 20:34
  • @ScottS that depends what 'reasonable degree' means I guess: I think it's about communication. If most folk know where you are coming from then you are 'OK'. The more obscure your method or understanding, the more burden there is on you to elaborate about the details. Mar 24, 2014 at 20:47

The answer is different for questions and answers.

For questions, it is important that the question being asked is primarily a text-based exegetical question. We get lots of questions asking us how to synthesise multiple passages into one theological understanding, and it is those which get closed because they're systematic theology.

For answers it's different. Answers can stick just to discussing the passage that was asked about. But they can also draw on other parts of the Bible to give an answer. Good answers will still be exegetical - if an answer only puts forward a theological position (for example, the Catholic Catechism says ...) then that's not exegesis, and such an answer could be deleted. But if an answer gives an exegetical explanation of the passage, but then also shows how some other passages help answer the question (especially if they're connected in some way, like being from the same book, or from the same author) then that would be okay.


While I embrace Jack's position entirely, I'm going to play Devil's Advocate and say "No, it is not welcome."


Because Systematic Theology at it's core relies on a "system of beliefs" that one must accept 'prime facie' before one can produce hermeneutically a response which addresses an OP's question. Whether it be about the nature of God, His Church, the Resurrection, the Trinity, or various doctrines which at their core express our fundemental beliefs, those beliefs are 'sacrosanct' and therefore 'outside' of the scope of discussion, even though an OP may give a scriptural example of why it isn't so.

Having said that, we all have a core of beliefs we consider sacrosanct: we are not here to 'defend' those beliefs(appologetics), but to derive from scripture the meanings contained within(exegesis), of which in the process we use certain methodologies(hermeneutics) which help to form a common framework for our discussion.

Our "theology" is going to leak into our answers, this is a given. Our hermeneutics will help us 'craft' those answers and find the widest range of support for our conclusions.

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    A problem I have with this answer is that all higher levels of knowledge rely on a "'system of beliefs' that one must accept 'prime facie.'" Hermeneutics requires beliefs in how language works, how interpretation should be done (of which there are differing answers), whether the text is purely man-made or divinely inspired (and what inspired might mean), etc. Systematic theology is simply another set of beliefs (built off the larger witness of Scripture and what we understand of reality in light of it) that may inform exegesis/hermeneutics. To ignore it is to ignore commentary on its own text.
    – ScottS
    Mar 24, 2014 at 20:24
  • @ScottS-Although I am sympathetic to your POV, theology=beliefs=outside of scope of discussion on this site. An "honest" answer using hermeneutics that are recognized. yet would be based off of one's belief system, provided that textual proofs and not beliefs are the criteria for which the answer is given is acceptable.
    – Tau
    Mar 25, 2014 at 4:41
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    The problem is one's epistemology=beliefs, one's hermeneutic=beliefs, one's exegetical understanding=beliefs. Various points of view on these are allowed to influence interpretation, but not one's systematic theology. It's like expecting one to answer a question about the human brain without making any reference to how the brain affects and is affected by the rest of the human body. Without the whole context of Scripture being allowed to potentially (if applicable) inform an understanding of a passage, one may not (and quite likely will not) get the whole meaning, but only a part of it.
    – ScottS
    Mar 25, 2014 at 14:05
  • @ScottS-Like I said, I feel your pain. "Why can't we just come out and say what we believe? We base it on Scripture...." Those powers that be decided that "Hermeneutics" and "questions and answers derived from the text" form the only basis for exchange. We are not even allowed "application" which in my estimation is the purpose for hermeneutics in the 1st place. In the final analysis, this is a 'site specifically devoted to hermeneutics' and not a forum. A forum would have no problem conveying belief systems, this site stays within the realm of textual interpretation.
    – Tau
    Mar 26, 2014 at 0:11
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    As I understand it, "Those powers that be decided" is still in flux. There are many questions/answers on meta here that are of the nature of what do "you the community" want the site to be. So if you believe systematic theology should be allowed, you should voice that.
    – ScottS
    Mar 26, 2014 at 0:50
  • @ScottS-I only say it because I have pushed the limits of the envelope to no avail. They really want to welcome "all POV" here, and theology has a tendency to get in the way of that. Having stated this, it is obvious that everybody has some sort of 'theological paradigm', and it becomes evident in the comments and answers they give. It's just that the focus is on the 'answer' and not the paradigm, one may 'agree' with an athiest on a given point, yet be a polar opposite in theological persuasion. We let our content, not our presuppositions determine our discourse.
    – Tau
    Apr 3, 2014 at 6:35
  • This answer silently presupposes that cross-referenced Bible verses always and necessarily equate to sys theo. That is a false premise. It often can, but not always and not necessarily.
    – Jesse Mod
    Aug 19, 2022 at 0:21
  • @Jesseיִשַׁי Having given this answer in the "Beta" stage of this Stack Overflow site, the answer Jack gave is still true....."A Qualified "Yes". I was playing Devil's Advocate for those who squirmed with the idea of a fundemental Theological Construct being introduced as a "Leading Argument" for an answer. The Real Solution is Maturity; answers are recognized as being within an acceptable Theological Viewpoint and therefore gain credence as understanding the text is given. But at the time, ALL POV's were encouraged-including those which fell into the "Post-Modernist" catagory.
    – Tau
    Aug 29, 2022 at 3:37
  • @Tau I peraonally find the "Devil's advocate" construct as superflous; one either presents a sound case or doesn't. It seems you mean "Under some circumstances..." because this statement from your comment I find very agreeable: a fundemental Theological Construct being introduced as a "Leading Argument" for an answer ...would certainly be off-topic. But, I'm not sure what you mean after that. Answers should be good inasmuch as they explain the hermeneutical process, not agree with a theo POV. Are you saying that in beta days, answers were good or bad based on agreeing to some mainline theo?
    – Jesse Mod
    Aug 29, 2022 at 23:48
  • @Tau I hope I don't come across rude. But, I like your "theology as leading arg..." rubric. And, I'm curious about our history.
    – Jesse Mod
    Aug 30, 2022 at 2:10
  • @Jesseיִשַׁי I apologize for my delay-a very busy season. A "Theological Construct" assumes one buys into a certain set of beliefs before one introduces their 'hermeneutic' for obtaining an answer. For example: most Catholics believe that Mary was perpetually a virgin. That belief(or set of beliefs-there are a number of theological constructs you must assume) would precondition an answer to the question: "Was James the brother of the Lord?" If they could exegetically prove their answer that "Brother means fraternal relationship" would be On Topic. Assuming Mary was a perpetual virgin-Not.
    – Tau
    Oct 3, 2022 at 9:44
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    @Tau I respectfully don't agree that theology must always be developed in that order. One could merely start with reading the Bible, then build a theological framework based only on the given "if" of whether the Bible is reliable. The order of epistemological development is not universal. But, the examples you gave are certainly true for many and seem to be very consistent with a Roman Catholic, viz Latin Rite, manner of thinking. I won't dissent on that at all.
    – Jesse Mod
    Oct 3, 2022 at 10:08

I'll add to the "yes" answer and say that they are welcome, as long as they have a focus on how Bible books and authors use the term. This could include multiple authors or books, but they need to be clearly juxtaposed so we can learn from the comparison.

Using Bible verses from different books or authors does not necessarily mean that one is developing a theology "system" in terms of the type of category used to develop doctrine. It could also serve to see how a word was used in a language or culture. Such observation comprises much of the work of Kittel. His books use multiple Bible verses and references to explain what words mean, but it is a hermeneutical work, not a systematic theology work.

We can do accordingly.

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