I'm seeing this in comments more and more. Is this comment really appropriate?

The types of answers one will get on BH.SE and on C.SE are different. How is someone to know which type of answer the OP is looking for?

Furthermore, is it wise to send many of our best questions to another site, when they are on topic here? (Or have we decided that anything that can be construed as related to biblical hermeneutics is now off-topic here?)

3 Answers 3


The current standards are very clear that any question that can't be related to doctrine is pretty much off topic.

Having said this, there are questions regarding doctrinal exegesis that are considered on-topic for this site. To re-state, questions that are asking for interpretation based on a specific doctrinal standing are on-topic here.

The criteria at BH.SE is exactly opposite (as you might imagine). Doctrine is strictly off-topic there. So, if the question is "Is X a valid translation?", it is not a doctrinal question and really does belong on BiblicalHermeneutics.SE.


Per our current standards, if a question is not seeking a doctrinal interpretation of text and it is asking about the text, it is off topic for this site.

  • 6
    Can I propose that these questions ought to just be outright migrated (or voted accordingly), then? (Unless/until your stated opinion becomes the new standard) Simply commenting, without migrating, makes it appear like an attack from a "topic Nazi."
    – Flimzy
    Nov 22, 2011 at 18:48
  • @Flimzy Despite the reputation that I seem to be earning, I don't really like to outright close and migrate questions immediately--especially from new users. Often times, questions can be edited into shape or reformed to take a more doctrine-centric approach. Sometimes, the asker really is looking for more of a BH.SE approach, but sometimes they're more interested in the interpretation. We can definitely be a bit more liberal with the migrations, though.
    – Richard
    Nov 22, 2011 at 18:55
  • If there's a specific question that needs migrated, flag it and we can migrate it. Most of the times, I'll add a comment to a question like this and then forget which question I added the comment to (or even forget that I added the comment).
    – Richard
    Nov 22, 2011 at 18:56

This already has some answers, but a follow-up is in order. Many subjective considerations are assumed in cases when folks recommend migration. This post is intended to encourage more comments to determine the OP's intent before recommending migration.

I propose the following test for whether or not a question should be migrated to BH.SE (to be used in conjunction with the existing flowchart for asking questions on BH.SE):

BH.SE Migration Test

  1. Is the OP seeking to understand how a specific text was understood in its original historical context by its original audience (and/or attempting to discern the human author's intent)?

    This is often not clear from the question itself. If a user asks, "what does this passage mean?", they could mean several things:

    1. What does this passage mean to me (in my current context)?
    2. What does this passage mean to religious practitioners in [any context that is anachronistic to the original text (including interpreting Hebrew Bible passages through the New Testament)]?
    3. What does this passage mean in light of other Scripture? [this is assuming a theological/doctrinal belief about the text itself]
    4. What did God mean in this passage (other than where God speaks/acts as a literary character in the text)?
    5. What is prescribed by this passage? [BH.SE seeks to describe the text without prescribing beliefs/practices to readers]

    Discerning the OP's intent will often mean asking them questions in comments. The answers may not be apparent from the question itself. Often, the OP is not aware of these assumptions since they are shared by others in their faith tradition and recommending migration will only serve to needlessly frustrate and confuse the OP (it is reasonable to assume that an OP who asked a question about the Bible on a site named "Christianity" expects to hear Christian perspectives that align with traditional Christian interpretative traditions).

    None of these should be migrated to BH.SE. If the OP wants to understand how the text applies to them today, BH.SE is not the place for it. If the user is asking about the entire "Bible" (which is often not defined nor agreed upon even among Christians) rather than a specific text, it is also not a good fit for BH.SE (imagine the average Christian OP receiving an answer citing 4 Maccabees or an answer claiming that "El" in Psalm 82 refers to a Ugaritic deity and teaches a polytheistic worldview). If the OP wants to know what God meant in a passage (aside from God's appearance as a literary character in the text), it is (again) not a good fit for BH.SE.

    It could be closed as primarily opinion-based if it does not specify a specific doctrinal perspective, but it is not a candidate for migration to BH.SE. On the other hand, if the user clearly is seeking information about the original historical, linguistic, or literary context of the text, then BH.SE is the right place for it.

  2. Does the OP start solely from the specific text being asked about and "connect the dots" leading to their question?

    It is important that questions on BH.SE avoid anachronistic assumptions. A clear-cut example is assuming the continuity of the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) and New Testament. If a question is focused on understanding a Hebrew Bible text but references New Testament passages or characters (e.g. Jesus), it is not a good candidate for migration to BH.SE (please note that it is perfectly alright for questions focused on understanding New Testament passages to reference Hebrew Bible passages as this is not anachronistic). Many Christians want answers that use the New Testament to elucidate the Old. This site (C.SE) is likely a better place for these users to ask their questions, since they can focus on the specific Christian perspective(s) they wish to hear about. On BH.SE, they will need to show a lot more work to connect the dots that are often assumed in Christian interpretation.

    Many questions assume a theological/doctrinal framework or idea without even realizing it. For instance, asking whether a passage teaches Arminianism or Calvinism reads anachronistic theological positions into the text. Also, sometimes passages are really about an idea and merely use the text as a backdrop (but the actual question is about an idea that does not arise naturally from the text itself — for instance, asking about the practice of marriage when asking about a text about Adam and Eve's relationship, or asking "what does this text say about the Trinity?"). Such questions are not a good fit for BH.SE (BH.SE is seeking exegesis over eisegesis).

  3. If the OP is not asking about #1 or #2, is the OP asking about source criticism, textual criticism, the process of hermeneutics, or related academic sub-disciplines of biblical studies (e.g. Assyriology or philology as related to biblical interpretation)?

    These questions are generally off topic here at C.SE but may fit well at BH.SE. Hermeneutics itself is a gray area. BH.SE is much more interested in the process of hermeneutics than theological/doctrinal perspectives from which hermeneutics stem (but recognizes that these are intertwined for many Christian interpreters). Questions about the process of hermeneutics are best suited for BH.SE.

A Few Sidenotes

  • While questions asking about the original language(s) of a passage are usually better suited for BH.SE, be sure to focus the question solely on the linguistic aspects of the text before migrating or it will be closed. Often migrated questions have commingled issues: the OP is asking, "what does the Greek of [passage X] say about [doctrine Y]?" This is not a good fit for BH.SE, since doctrine Y is likely not a linguistic issue. In this case, the OP should be encouraged to ask two questions: one about the grammar/morphology/syntax on BH.SE and then a follow-up question about the doctrinal issue this may elucidate on C.SE (possibly referencing answers to the BH.SE question as context).

  • Be careful to differentiate between the original historical context and later Christian historical context of passages. For instance, asking how early Church Fathers interpreted a passage is a better fit here than on BH.SE, as is asking how a passage figured in early ecclesiastical councils.

  • Be careful when multiple texts are related to one another. The relationship should go beyond mere (topical) "proof-texting" when asking about related texts on BH.SE. The most common example is asking about contradictions between two texts written by different authors. These questions are sometimes better suited for C.SE, especially when they assume theological beliefs such as inerrancy. However, if the connection between the two texts is on another basis, then the question may be better suited for BH.SE (e.g. same author, same linguistic expression, same literary device/pattern, etc.). This is another gray area.

  • Keep in mind that BH.SE is not C.SE's "sister site". BH.SE attempts to distinguish itself from traditional Christian approaches to the biblical texts. Non-religious approaches are welcome (and encouraged), including those that reject/repudiate Christian approaches to the text (such as Judaism, atheism, historical criticism, etc.).

  • 2
    It was never clear to me exactly what the "sister site" language was intended to indicate. I don't think it's necessarily inappropriate (in a way all of the SE sites are "sisters"), just weird and ambiguous.
    – Susan
    Oct 28, 2016 at 5:24
  • @Susan In that sense, sure. However, I've seen it used as a reason for non-Christian participants to avoid participating under the assumption that BH.SE is primarily for Christian interpretation.
    – Dan
    Oct 28, 2016 at 13:11

This has already recently been discussed here: Cross-recruiting between Christianity.SE and Biblical Hermeneutics.SE

Here are some take away points from there, other threads, and chat that I think we kind of all agree on:

  • We don't want to be trying to steal traffic from the other site. Either we both win or we both lose, it's not a competition. If we think the OP might want to consider the other site, we want them to get what's in their best interest.

  • Asking for general exegesis of passages is on topic on both sites. Anything that is in the cross-over zone where either site could field it will not be migrated.

  • Some things really are better addressed on one site or the other.

    • Hermeneutics has to stop short of providing doctrinal conclusions or practical applications. That is for the Christianity (or Judaism) sites to handle. They also can't handle specific questions about doctrine or broad ones about theological frameworks. They are about the just the texts.
    • Christianity isn't very good at dealing with the textual issues from multiple understandings at once. If Judaic scholarship or other diverse traditions are expected to interact on the same text, this isn't the place.

But basically, it's a judgement call -- even for some OP's a matter of preference. I think if comments are discrete and on questions that really might be better on another site, then it's ok to comment to offer the suggestion.

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