Currently BH.SE has a tag which currently gives this info:

Questions regarding the science of textual criticism which attempts to reconstruct the oldest or original wording of a given text.

I also recently answered a question that had a strong text critical component to it. However, Noah's comment to my answer brought out a point in my mind that, upon searching, I cannot find that anyone as significantly addressed--whether textual criticism fits BH.SE?

Exegesis and hermeneutics presupposes a text to work with. That is, one can only derive meaning from a given text. Further, exegesis and hermeneutics have nothing to do with determining which texts among textual variations is a "correct" (i.e. original autograph) text. Note that this is contra to the opening sentence of the second paragraph of this meta answer, which states (emphasis added):

Our field is Biblical Hermeneutics: the field of study covering textual criticism of the Biblical canon, the understanding of its original languages, the historical knowledge necessary to place them in context and the process of interpreting these texts to make sense in contemporary languages including solving references and making associations as necessary draw out the meaning of the text.

Such identification is precisely what the field of textual criticism is about, not hermeneutics and exegesis.

Now back to the question itself that I answered, it originally asked this as its final goal:

If we put our attention in the characteristics of the Koine Greek, what was added or removed from the autograph text?

Note that such a question is not about textual meaning, but a question of "which text is correct" among the variations. It was seeking an answer by "what can we conclude from the text in Greek?", but as I note in my answer, textual questions rarely can be answered by that (though the possibility exists in that question that such an answer might be able available to disprove the omission; read all the following discussion there for details).

After my original answer, the OP followed up with an edit to the question that was more in line with exegesis/hermeneutics, when he posted:

Assuming that the phrase does not exist in the autograph, what is the translation of οὖσιν καὶ?

Now the question is not about "which text is correct," but has (at least for the sake of argument) assumed a text form, and is seeking an answer to possible meaning given that text form. This change of focus is without question in proper context for the site.

However, as my original answer to that question noted, and my comment to Noah indicates, resolving text critical questions on variation is wholly based on which text critical methodology one assumes to be correct in deriving an answer, which means what one presupposes about textual preservation and analysis is going to lead to differing answers in many cases. On this basis, it would seem to me that such questions are off topic (as I understand how the site desires to shape itself).

Bottom line:

  1. Is resolution of textual variations on topic for the site, especially in cases where the text itself cannot be used to answer the question (which is most cases for the significant, disputed variants)?
  2. Are questions about the field of textual criticism itself valid, since the field is not about obtaining meaning itself, but correct text form (the conclusions from which can obviously impact greatly the meaning, but only in the sense of changing "what" was written, not in changing what each variation might itself mean when exegeted and interpreted)?

As of this writing, there are 55 questions tagged as , though a quick perusal tells me not all really are very related to that (for example, this question currently tagged with it is not about text criticism at all, except perhaps in being "critical" of the text as it is stated). However, some are very much related.

Any links to previous discussions about this that I could not track down are appreciated. As well as any new or revised discussion based on this. This question has similarities to this one on source criticism, but authorship and dating questions are far easier to bring both textual and historical evidence to light that may answer it. Textual form questions are far more challenging to answer by such "evidence," especially since often the evidence can be looked at equally logically and coherently from the two main presuppositional viewpoints--making the presupposed methodology of how to do textual criticism the driving factor behind the conclusion of which text is more likely accurate.

This would seem to make the whole area off limits for the site; only allowing discussion of "if it is there, it means this, if it is not, it means this..."

  • Note: I believe Jon tagged the question about Jesus sweating blood as text critical because his answer to the question hinges on textual variants.
    – Soldarnal
    Commented Apr 3, 2014 at 21:40
  • @Soldarnal: Hmmm. Since when is a question retagged for the track that an answer takes? That seems backwards for Stack Exchange network tagging. However, that makes sense (as to why).
    – ScottS
    Commented Apr 3, 2014 at 22:59
  • If I have time to answer later hopefully I will. For now I'll just say, yes it is on topic and I hope it remains on topic, and one's belief framework certainly does influence how one uses it in answers. However, this question touches on some of the dissonant positions at this site, and goes back to site viability in my opinion as well.
    – Dan
    Commented Apr 3, 2014 at 23:25
  • Regarding the viability link... indeed! That was why I posted this question. To have you link to my earlier question about viability I guess just shows that I'm consistent in pointing out inconsistencies in what this site believes it wants to be, versus what it in reality can be. One cannot get away completely from presuppositions and theological viewpoint. Both are foundations and outcomes of exegesis and hermeneutics.
    – ScottS
    Commented Apr 4, 2014 at 0:02

1 Answer 1


You've raised a number of good points and I'll try and give my take on the main one's at least:

Should Textual Criticism be a valid topic for the site?

Yes, it should. Textual Criticism (also called 'lower criticism') is a topic of interest to many of the experts we have and are keen to attract. By the same logic Robert uses here, we should let folk ask questions that are likely to be of interest to our experts.

Exegesis and hermeneutics presupposes a text to work with

And you might think that it is therefore especially important to define precisely what we mean by the 'text' we are considering as on-topic here, both in terms of variant and of canon. In fact neither is necessary, for two reasons:

  1. Broadly speaking, the texts are agreed on. If there was an infinite variety of textual variants or books that are debated for canonicity, this site would be a mess, but these questions are all edge-cases: there is a bulk of work for which there is no debate and that provides the bedrock of agreement for topicality.
  2. With the textual variants that do exist, it's usually possible to consider the implications either way. Again if there was much more textual uncertainty, the permutations would be so numerous as to make interpretation very painful, but where there are two or three possibilities it is manageable to consider each permutation in turn.

the OP followed up with an edit to the question

I think that edit should be rolled back: the questions are related but as you rightly point out, the analysis is very different in each case. Both questions are valid and on-topic here (we are not a site just about exegesis and interpretation), but it isn't helpful to combine them.

As of this writing, there are 55 questions tagged as textual-criticism, though a quick perusal tells me not all really are very related to that

Funnily enough this was discussed in chat very recently. Please join in the conversation in The Library and feel free to correct mis-tagged questions.

Is resolution of textual variations on topic for the site, especially in cases where the text itself cannot be used to answer the question (which is most cases for the significant, disputed variants)?

I think in most cases the text can be brought into play, for example if your variant analysis concludes that two variants are equally likely, you may be inclined to move on to reasoning about which variant is more in keeping with the theology of the author (or you may not of course). Either way the OP and experts are both likely to find your answer interesting regardless of whether they agree, as long as you reason and communicate well (which is clearly the case with your answer)

  • Your discussion is very helpful. I fully agree with the first two points. I would strongly disagree about a roll back on the question. It was not until after the edit that it became clear to me that the OP was looking specifically at the meaning of οὖσιν καὶ as a possible way to resolve the textual issue (is such a valid Greek construction and with what meaning if καὶ is not a conjunction here). As to the last point, you are moving into "theology" if you examine "keeping with the theology of the author" for an argument (which I believe both you and I agree should be okay).
    – ScottS
    Commented Apr 4, 2014 at 9:34

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