3

There are two types of questions that have been asked here that are a bit contentious. I'd like to propose definitions for the question types and solicit comments, changes and additions to these suggestions.

  • Where does the Bible say X?

    • This type of question is asking for a text search of the Bible and should be asked in the form "Where does the Bible say X?" and then give details for why and how you want the search. Perhaps some background. These questions should shy away from any kind of doctrinal explanations and stick to the text. In these questions any translation is permitted in answer and the person answering the question must specify the translation they use. The question asker may mandate a specific translation or canon, but it is not necessary. If the question requires a search of the original languages it would be preferred to use a secondary source for the translation, but if its a personal translation please post the original language and also the translation. It is strongly preferred that you use a translation that is widely available, preferably online, but if not should be freely available in print and purchasable.
  • What does the Bible say about X

    • This type of question is asking for exegesis on a passage. This site would prefer that we use established interpretations of passages instead of personal ones. Please use available commentaries or other secondary sources. In this case the person asking the question needs to determine some kind of doctrinal framework for the question to placed in. This can be as simple as asking about a specific concept or as complex as asking about a denomination's stand on a particular subject. Answers should be from the desired perspective of the asker. Answers need not cite sources, but should be able to be referenced if needed.

Please feel free to provide feedback and suggestions in answers below.

  • 1
    The second class of question that ask for exegesis is likely on-topic at Biblical Hermeneutics. – Jon Ericson Nov 10 '11 at 21:13
  • I tried editing the title to hopefully draw more community in. If you don't like it, feel free to roll it back. (It's totally subjective, I know.) – Richard Nov 11 '11 at 13:29
  • no, its fine, and I hope we get a couple of more opinions. – wax eagle Nov 11 '11 at 13:29
10

The reason that I don't like this idea is because the first question is actually a doctrinal question masqeurading as a Bible question.

Example

Let's look at some examples:

  • "Where does the Bible say that Jesus was a separate god?"

  • "Where does the Bible say that a wife is property of the husband?"

  • "Where does the Bible say that Jesus was crucified on a stake instead of a cross?"

  • "Where does the Bible say that parents will be accountable for their children's sins?"

Why they are bad

Each of these questions will garner multiple answers from different viewpoints.

While most of these will gain a bunch of "The Bible doesn't say that!" answers, each of these questions are actually doctrinal questions. From a specific doctrine, each of these questions has a valid, fact-based, uncontentious answer.

The problem is that we have no way to separate doctrine from answers about the text! An individual Bible verse can be interpreted multiple ways, based on the doctrine of the poster.

Without a doctrinal position, each of these questions is completely open-ended and ready to accept opinions.

Open-Ended Questions

A quote from Mark Trapp seems all too appropriate:

If I'm not also familiar with the Biblical interpretation an answer uses, how do I know it's correct? I can't test it: the interpretation is not cited, or worse: completely synthesized by the answerer.
Mark Trapp

This rule allows for questions that call for biblical interpretation. Therefore, they are open-ended questions.

Anyone can answer from the standpoint of any opinion rather than fact. The interpretation of the Bible is an open subject and an individual verse is open to interpretation, based on the doctrine of the poster!

Solution

This understanding results in two possible courses of action:

  1. The original problem statement and solutions were completely wrong and they need rewritten. (And I'm not discounting this idea whatsoever.)

  2. The original rules should stand.

If we want to re-expand the scope, I think that's a valid way to go. However, this proposed change unravels the accepted changes and does nothing to improve them.

Summary (TL;DR)

The questions like "Where does the Bible say X?" are doctrinal questions masquerading as Bible questions. Anyone can come in with any opinion about the Bible (and call it "doctrinal interpretation") and we have no way to stop them.

Either we need to entirely scrap the new standards or we need to hold fast to them. I think that this change does neither.

  • Another example: "Where does the Bible say that women are to give themselves sexually to men whenever the man wants?" (1 Cor 7:4, depending on the doctrinal interpretation.) – Richard Nov 10 '11 at 20:06
  • I've made dramatic edits clarifying my thesis. Before it was a big, long rant. Much cleaned up now. – Richard Nov 11 '11 at 13:30
  • If you've got this book. You pretty much don't need to ask the question. It's kind of like "Let me google that for you" for Christians. – Peter Turner Nov 11 '11 at 17:06
  • 2
    Crucified on a steak? – DJClayworth Nov 11 '11 at 21:40
  • @DJClayworth. I noticed that too. I'm not sure what's the most appropriate response. (a) That sounds tasty. (b) Being attached to a stake isn't really crucifixtion, as such, is it? – TRiG Nov 11 '11 at 22:35
  • Steak... stake... same thing. :P LOL – Richard Nov 12 '11 at 14:53
  • 3
    Good answer. If the question is instead "where does the Bible literally say X" then it's too trivial. To be non trivial the question has to stray into doctrine. – Waggers Nov 13 '11 at 14:10
4

Abstract

Bible questions should be redirected to Biblical Hermeneutics unless they are doctrine questions in disguise. Those should be couched in terms of the doctrine they are addressing, not in terms of the Bible directly. Unless the question is literally asking for a trivial search of the Bible, in which case the question needs to be closed.

The Bible doesn't really define Christianity

As a participant on the Hermeneutics site, I come from a slightly different place than most Christians. The fact is, the Bible plays a prominent role in many theologies and none can claim a monopoly on being rooted in the Scripture. This isn't exactly the place to argue that assertion, but consider the difference between the Sadducees and the Pharisees who certainly knew the Torah better than any of us know the Bible. And yet, they disagreed about fundamental theological issues (including whether there was life after death) and were both utterly wrong (from the Christian perspective). Proving that something is or is not in the Bible doesn't help us understand Christianity as much as we might think.

From the earliest moments of the church, people have been misusing the Bible to prove things that are false:

And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures.—2nd Peter 3:15-16 (ESV)

If you want to understand the Bible, go to the people who know the Bible

Obviously, I think the crowd over at the site dedicated to understanding the Bible has some useful things to say about it. However, I'm thinking first of your pastor/priest/mentor. You could make their week by pulling out a Bible and asking them your question instead of us. Presumably, you'll get a more trustworthy answer than just approaching random people on the internet. If you insist on asking random people on the internet, why not go to the site dedicated to answering those types of questions?

I used to think there was some utility in asking Bible questions here if you wanted to know the Christian interpretation. But then I started reading questions and answers tagged and . I find far more diversity in answers than I expected. And, laying the cards on the table, I find that many of the answers are lined up against millenia of scholarship of the Scripture. Since many of these answers don't cite sources, I gotta assume they are personal interpretations. The exceptions are usually: a) Catholic answers or b) from people I recognize on the Biblical Hermeneutics site.

Consider for a moment, Peter's advice on the topic:

You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.—2nd Peter 3:17-18 (ESV)

Let's focus on what we know

If we are all trying to grow in the grace and knowledge of Christ and His Church, let's focus on that instead of Bible trivia. I'm currently teaching a series in Sunday School on the minor heroes of the faith found at the end of Hebrews 11: Rahab, Gideon, Barak, Samson, and Jephthah. There's a lot of fun stuff in these stories, but we aren't studying them so that we can pass a test to get through the pearly gates.

Bible Trivia

We learn these old stories in order to understand ourselves, our faith, and our relationship to God. The history of Christianity is the history of people struggling with their faith. Often that struggle revolves around Biblical texts, but the context is always doctrine. Let's ask about the doctrine and not directly about the Bible so that we are swinging in our strike zone.

Conclusion

We are very close to graduation and while maintaining traffic will continue to be important, maintaining quality as more and more of the general public find us will be more important. When looking at our self-evaluations, I'm struck by how our best questions are the ones asking about specific doctrines within specific traditions. Broad questions about the Bible don't turn out well on Christianity.SE, in my opinion. Let's ask the questions that we are equipped to answer.

  • 2
    I used to oppose this pretty dramatically, but I've definitely softened and think that bible question are probably best left to people who are actually skilled in interpreting and analyzing whether or not interpretations follow good literary heuristics rather than doctrinal consistency. I'm not saying we need to migrate them all, but we probably need to direct these questions to BH more often then we currently are. – wax eagle Sep 18 '12 at 19:36
  • But in all seriousness, don't you agree that the Bible is rich in contradiction? – Jim G. Sep 21 '12 at 3:15
  • @Jim G.: "Rich" is the correct adjective to describe the contradictions in the Bible! – Jon Ericson Sep 21 '12 at 17:54

You must log in to answer this question.

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