This is an SE site that is fundamentally about Christianity. Can we safely assume that we all see the Bible as foundational truth? What other works should be considered foundational?

Second half of the question. If the bible is foundational, should it be limited to the traditional cannon or are the books that comprise the Apocrypha included as well? Should these be considered foundational if there is debate about their canonization?


3 Answers 3


I believe when asking a question the commonly accepted canon should be assumed, unless there is something specifically related to an apochryphal book.

Also in answering a question, if part of the answer relies upon an apochryphal book, that should be specifically stated to avoid confusion for all readers.

For instance:

In reading of the apochrypha book Clement VIII, I believe {X} is the answer to this question.

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    Probably wouldn't hurt to tag apocrypha as well...
    – wax eagle
    Commented Aug 23, 2011 at 19:53
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    I guess this begs the question... What happens with theological and doctrinal questions that don't specify a source? Do we want to define a scope of common ground upon which the greater majority of christians agree as foundational truth? There are a common set of books of the bible that are widely accepted as canonical across all denominations, but which exclude common and uncommon Apocrypha. How do we formulate a stable basis for answering unsourced theological and doctrinal questions?
    – jrista
    Commented Aug 23, 2011 at 20:53
  • @jrista Unfortunately I don't know any way to deal with this at a site-wide level (a la - forcing user to click checkbox before submitting question/answer informing of apochrypha-type information). I think there will only be a small percentage of edge-case situations where there will be any confusion as to the (apochrypha/non-apochrypha) source of questions & answer. the apochrypha tag may be the best bet.
    – Patrick
    Commented Aug 23, 2011 at 21:02
  • @jrista apocrypha don't say anything related to most questions, so that should rarely be an issue. We're mostly on common ground here. As for the rare cases, I like Patrick's suggestion to explicitly mentioning if the answer relies on apocrypha. Commented Aug 23, 2011 at 21:02
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    Apocrypha is a somewhat meaningless tag: assuming all faiths and groups that consider themselves Christian are welcome here, one man's apocrypha is another man's canon.
    – user72
    Commented Aug 23, 2011 at 21:15
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    @Mark: Regardless of whether some faiths/groups include apocrypha or not, there is a core set of books of the bible that, at least to my knowledge, all "christian" faiths do acknowledge as canonical. Would it not be wise to base answers to unsourced questions on that common ground, and not include sources that might give rise to contention in answers and comments?
    – jrista
    Commented Aug 23, 2011 at 21:41
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    @jrista Well, take for example the question about sola fide. One of the primary books Catholics use to refute the doctrine, James, is considered apocryphal by many Protestant denominations but is canon by Catholics. Marking James as solidly apocryphal is saying the Catholic perspective is not welcome.
    – user72
    Commented Aug 23, 2011 at 21:45
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    @Mark Trapp I know Luther questioned the authority of James, but he didn't leave it out of canon (nor did Lutherans that I know of). Can you provide a reference to a (preferably major) denomination that considers James apocryphal? Commented Aug 24, 2011 at 8:34
  • Really, there is a broad consensus on the canon of the New Testament. As for the OT, we have the 39 generally accepted books and then some that vary per denomination. Commented Aug 24, 2011 at 8:38

Do we need to define this? Other StackExchange sites don't, AFAIK - for example, you don't find at Programmers.SE something along the lines of "You can reference Programming for Numbskulls but you can't reference Bob's Software Making Guide" - if it's useful, it's useful.

We've already defined what a Christian is for the purposes of this site - someone who self-identifies as a Christian. Surely, then, it follows that whatever is foundational to a self-identifying Christian is foundational for this site, and that will be different for different people (and people groups). If we try to pin it down more than that, we start to define what a Christian is by what they consider to be foundational literature, undermining the self-identifying thing.


It is I hope obvious that the foundational canon depends on the group being asked about. If it's Protestant Evangelical Christianity then you can assume the Protestant Canon. If It's Catholicism then you can include any additional books recognized by Catholicism. If it's specifically about Mormonism then you can include Mormon scriptures.

It has to be stated strongly that the Protestant Scriptures don't get preferential treatment here, any more than Protestantism gets preferential treatment here.

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    Why does that have to be stated strongly? - has there been any suggestion to the contrary?
    – Waggers
    Commented Sep 20, 2011 at 14:12
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    I believe this post sums up why this site will fail. Groups of people with drastically different beliefs can't be grouped together under a single name - Christianity (no matter how culture defines the word). If a Mormon asks about the eternal nature of God, and a Christian answers using the 66 books in his/her Bible, then they will be downvoted. Why? Because there are fundamental doctrinal differences.
    – James Hill
    Commented Sep 20, 2011 at 17:10
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    @JamesHill There have already been questions on that very topic that have been handled without any confusion or problematic downvoting. As long as questioners specify the tradition they are asking about and/or answers specify their viewpoint, everyone should be able to get along here.
    – jimreed
    Commented Sep 20, 2011 at 17:27

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