There's two sites that seem related to the Bible and Christian studies:

Hermeneutics is kind of like interpretation of the bible. But in Christianity there are several denominations which also have their own interpretations, so what is the difference between the two sites?

  • 3
    I found two related meta posts from the Hermeneutic site: How can this site distinguish itself from Christianity.SE? | What kind of site do we ultimately want to have? – 3961 Feb 14 '16 at 18:59
  • 4
    In a nutshell, as I understand it, Christianity.SE views everything through the lens of doctrine, and we ask questions on that. Biblical Hermeneutics tries to get rid of that lens, and focuses on what the text actually says. – El'endia Starman Feb 14 '16 at 20:09
  • 2
    But there is a large overlap between this site's exegesis tag and BH. – curiousdannii Feb 14 '16 at 21:56
  • 5
    C.SE views everything through the lens of doctrine and questions need to specify a denomination/doctrine. BH requires that questions start from the text rather than from doctrine, but permits (and gets a lot of) doctrine in answers, mostly evangelical Christian. So if you're looking at answers it's hard to tell the sites apart, but there are differences in the questions. – Monica Cellio Feb 15 '16 at 23:15

Before either site existed, I wrote:

Biblical Hermeneutics, as I've come to understand, turns out to be a very technical topic not dissimilar from programming (at least the debugging side) or historical research.


I am a Christian and I believe a general Christianity Q&A site will be very challenging to moderate because of the question of authority. To put it simply, not all Christian traditions rely on the same set of authority for answering questions of faith.

I was largely correct on the hermeneutics side. One of the most often referenced question on meta.hermeneutics is What are we looking for in answers? Like many questions on meta, it defines boundaries of the methods of interpretation acceptable to the community. Appeal to authority is heavily discouraged by community standards. The controversies in meta tend to revolve around whether posts deal with reproducible methods of interpretation or whether there is an implicit appeal to authority.

It happens I was hilariously wrong about how the Christianity site would work. (This is why I didn't quote the majority of my drivel in those posts.) I was more or less correct that answers would be grounded in authority. But what I failed to anticipate was that the early users of this site (of which I was not one) would use tagging to create scope for questions to be answered in. Yes, answers appeal to as many authorities as there are Christian traditions. But no, it's not chaos because good questions set understandable restrictions on answers.

The most often cited question on meta.Christianity is the provocatively titled Brothers, we are not Christians‼ The idea is that users must check their tradition at the door (unless they happen to be asking or answering questions in that tag) for the good of the greater community. Users might find themselves writing answer they personally disagree with when answering questions from the perspective of some other viewpoint. Answers on Biblical Hermeneutics are more likely to reflect the views of their author which need not be Christian.

A lot of the work of answering on Christianity consists of gathering evidence and interpreting it. The most often cited meta BH meta question is What texts are open for examination? So one way to look a the difference between the sites is corpus open to examination. Christianity—Stack Exchange is hermeneutics of all Christian texts and Biblical Hermeneutics studies a (very important) subset.

Finally, there is a question of site culture. Having participated on both sites, I can tell you there is a different vibe (for lack of better words) to each site. There are numerous and nearly unnoticeable differences that arise from the character traits of the people who participate. We've tried to merge seemingly-similar communities in the past and it hasn't always gone well. That's because communities differ in ways that simply can't be measured objectively.

  • I don't think it's productive to tag questions as "Catholic" or "non-Catholic" - read general Christian. That's why I am trying to set up a specific Catholic Stack Exchange site: area51.stackexchange.com/proposals/95992/catholicism Unless a question is about the relationship between Catholic and non-Catholic faiths, Catholics shouldn't need to explain all the differences to other denominations (which doesn't mean it's not good to know about them if someone wants to). – Greg Feb 26 '16 at 20:47
  • 2
    @Amiramix I think you're missing the point. Whether asked on a separate site or under a tag here, questions would still need to explain the beliefs being asked about. A good answer would cover the same ground either place. There is nothing saying every question here needs to explain all the differences to other denominations, just that they have to answer the question that was asked. – Caleb Feb 27 '16 at 7:59

In addition to Jon's great answer, I wanted to weigh in on a few additional differences. BH.SE's site distinctives were based directly off of C.SE's, so there are a lot of similarities. One of the main differences is that BH.SE narrowly focuses on questions that start from a specific biblical text or the processes of studying/interpreting biblical texts and not later ideas about the text (that's the goal, at least—eliminating all bias is a pipe dream). With this distinction in mind, what follows is a summary of the most important distinctions from C.SE:

  • BH.SE focuses on what the biblical texts meant to their original authors and audiences (and within its original historical, linguistic, and literary setting), whereas C.SE focuses on what the Bible means to religious followers today.
  • Answers on BH.SE must "show their work." Simply citing a source based on authority is not always sufficient, users must actually explain how the source answers the question, sort of like showing the work of solving a problem in a math course. It's not sufficient to say, "Math Book A says the answer is 'X'." Instead, answers must reproduce the method used by Math Book A in order to derive X (whereas on C.SE, as an example, citing an authoritative Roman Catholic source for a question asking for a Roman Catholic perspective is generally sufficient, assuming the answer also summarizes or quotes the relevant content).
  • On BH.SE, answers must "connect the dots" starting (solely) from the text. Whereas on C.SE, it is generally understood that one will presuppose a religious framework when approaching the text (which is often what the OP is looking for). BH.SE doesn't always do a good job in this area, because it requires a significant amount of prerequisite knowledge and "unlearning" devotional (religious) approaches to biblical studies in order to begin from the frame of reference of the original context of the text.
  • BH.SE is best equipped to deal with the historical, linguistic, and literary aspects of the biblical texts. Religious, theological (or 'doctrinal'), ethical, and liturgical aspects of the text should be handled "in historical, linguistic, and literary terms, and not as aspects of personal conviction, or the belief and praxis of historic and contemporary faith communities" (cf. meta).
  • "Claims that could reasonably be seen as controversial or offensive must be relevant and supported from the text" (cf. meta). This is considered part of showing work on BH.SE, and the biggest implication for Christian participants is that the continuity and relevance of New Testament texts when answering questions about the Hebrew Bible ("Old Testament") should not be assumed, i.e. answers should not read Jesus into the Hebrew Bible without explicitly defining a Christian hermeneutical approach to the text and stating this as a bias up front, and even then the answer should first begin solely from the text in question and deal with it in its original historical, linguistic, and literary context (in which case later texts would be anachronistic to the original meaning of the text). Many questions and answers that jump straight from the Hebrew Bible to Jesus are downvoted heavily on BH.SE.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .