7

I'd like to invite you all to look over and hopefully participate in a new StackExchange site: Biblical Hermeneutics. The purpose of the site is to study the Bible on its own terms. We try be be doctrinally neutral (if such a thing is possible). The majority of the text that is on topic for us is the Tanakh, but it seems the majority of the participants are Christian. To be successful as a site that is trying to understand that text without favoring a particular doctrine, we really need a more diverse community.

So I'm asking for your help.

A sample question that I personally would like help with is about Psalm 22. I've found plenty of Christian resources about the Psalm, but unfortunately most of the Jewish sources seem to be most interested in refuting the Christian interpretation. What I (and others in our community) would like to know is what people thought about it before there were Christians. There must be answers, but as a non-Jew I haven't been able to find them. (Seriously, my answer to the question is pitiful.)

Here are a few more questions that could use some help from a Jewish perspective:

No doubt there will be many more as time goes on. Are you willing to help us?

  • 1
    @MonicaCellio, I haven't looked around the site much, but I checked out one of the questions linked to here. Oddly, although the question was about Tanach, an answer claimed that the pasuk was talking about Jesus. Go figure. I commented on it and gave, l'havdil, a Jewish explanation in a separate answer. But I doubt I'll frequent the site. – msh210 Oct 31 '11 at 7:18
  • 3
    @msh210: Thank you for taking a look and helping us out with an answer. Obviously there is a cultural divide between the two sites and not everyone will move freely between them. (I'm afraid I can't even read most of the questions here without looking up half the words on Wikipedia. ;-) Since we include Christian texts in the scope of our site, we are going to always have Jesus read into the Tanach as well. And we don't explicitly discourage it unless, as in this case, the analogy is clearly wrong. (And we are still very much in the community-forming stage, so things may change yet.) – Jon Ericson Oct 31 '11 at 16:32
  • 3
    I think one of the challenges is that SE participants conventionally both ask and answer questions. Yeah, not necessarily (I have 6K+ rep on english.SE and have never asked a question), but it's what SE is designed for. Jews will never ask text questions on hermeneuitcs.SE; why should we when we can ask them on judaism.SE? So we can still read and answer (as I've done a little), but it's going to be lop-sided like that. Is that viable long-term? Hard to say. – Monica Cellio Oct 31 '11 at 19:13
  • @Monica: Well, you could ask questions about the Christian texts... ;-) – Jon Ericson Oct 31 '11 at 19:27
  • Re "if you want answers to it from a Jewish perspective and are not satisfied with what you get there, you might try asking here": now at judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/11035/… – msh210 Nov 1 '11 at 15:48
  • 4
    Update almost 2 years later: I no longer recommend this site for Jews because "We try be be doctrinally neutral" has some serious implementation problems. – Monica Cellio Sep 9 '13 at 1:19
  • @MonicaCellio: I appreciate your candor. I would appreciate even more if you expanded this into an answer either here or (if applicable) on your own question: Under what conditions may a Jew participate in the Biblical Hermeneutics SE site? – Jon Ericson Sep 9 '13 at 1:47
  • @JonEricson ok, I can do that. (Here, since my question seeks sources that I don't necessarily have.) I left a comment, which doesn't bump the question, for the benefit of future readers, but if you'd like an answer I can supply one. – Monica Cellio Sep 9 '13 at 1:54
  • 1
    @JonEricson - From a historical standpoint, it is entirely logical for Jews to refute the Christian interpretation, because Jesus and Christians didn't exist when the Psalms were written, and so any interpretation that makes reference to Jesus is obviously incorrect. Academics is the magesterium of objective analysis, not devotional statements. – Wad Cheber Aug 20 '15 at 2:54
  • 1
    @JonEricson I may be biased, but as far as I'm concerned, apologists aren't really scholars if they manipulate the textual evidence to support their beliefs. Scholarly textual criticism is supposed to be about figuring out what the text says, not trying to cram it into the box that is most convenient to your agenda. If you're interpreting a text in such a way that you claim it predicts future events, you're not trying to read it, you're trying to rewrite it. – Wad Cheber Aug 20 '15 at 3:54
  • 2
    @JonEricson - I think you're going to have trouble getting people from this site to participate in that site unless you apply some kind of academic standards. As it stands now, Biblical Hermeneutics.SE has a disproportionate number of apologists for evangelical Christianity, which is a serious problem for Jews. People don't like being told that they're evil, or that they killed G-d. Real textual criticism and interpretation is supposed to be a scholarly endeavor, not an exercise in proselytizing. – Wad Cheber Aug 21 '15 at 0:11
  • @JonEricson I'm actually a member of both sites. I'm an atheist studying textual and historical criticism and early Christology at Princeton Theological Seminary, albeit by auditing courses (and sometimes sneaking into classrooms). I am a member of Mi Yodeya because I am also interested in Judaism, not because I'm Jewish (I was born and raised Methodist). I have seen the problem with BH.SE myself - someone questioning Bart Ehrman's credentials because he doesn't believe in the resurrection. I would actually participate much more if this wasn't such a significant issue. – Wad Cheber Aug 21 '15 at 0:22
  • @WadCheber: Ah. Well, I would direct you to chat for this sort of discussion. The one for BH, which is where this is most on topic, is The Library. – Jon Ericson Aug 21 '15 at 0:26
  • 1
    @JonEricson - You're clearly a good moderator, and an open minded guy. I genuinely appreciate that, and I think Monica's very valid complaints reflect the fact that there aren't enough people like you on BH. I would be happy to chat with you if you have the time and want to shoot the breeze. – Wad Cheber Aug 21 '15 at 0:29
14

At Jon's request, I am expanding a comment into an answer.

Jon, I'm sorry -- I wish I could give a different answer. But I can't.

Summary

I do not recommend this site for Jews now because of the religious nature of the site. Participation by Jews is actively harmful.

If you are considering participating there, particularly to contribute answers that teach torah, I strongly recommend that you seek rabbinic guidance first. I have now done so (belatedly) and no longer participate there. If you do participate, I recommend a short disclaimer on your answers; this practice is permitted by SE (so long as you don't use it as a soapbox, of course).1

Details

I became active on Biblical Hermeneutics early on (in 2011) and was for a time the #2 user by reputation. There are a lot of questions that don't apply to us since they consider Christian books too, but it seemed like I could provide useful Jewish answers to Tanakh questions, and since the site claimed not to have a doctrinal basis (as noted in this question, and also in the site's "about" page and numerous places on meta), that seemed like an ok thing to do. I received positive feedback from users who only ever learned the Christian spins on our texts and aren't able to read the original Hebrew, so I thought I was doing a good thing by countering some mistaken notions that Christians sometimes spread. And there are some smart, educated people on BH who I enjoy(ed) interacting with.

However, I no longer recommend this site for Jews. Why? Because that doctrinal/dogmatic neutrality hasn't worked out in practice. Despite the charter, and despite a massively up-voted meta post saying "Any discussion of beliefs, doctrines or theology belongs on Christianity.SE", too many answers (and sometimes questions) assert Christian truth claims that are decidedly counter to the Tanakh (now with explicit permission to do so). Efforts to move them toward neutral or descriptive statements failed. Even a request that offensive claims should be relevant and supported was resisted. The environment became hostile over time; replacement theology, reading Jesus into the Tanakh, and sermonizing are common there now, and the vast majority of the users don't see the problem. The ones who do see it have been unable to correct it.

About two years after I began participating, I finally realized that this is no place for Jews. Not only was I not doing any good by participating there, but I was most likely doing harm (later confirmed) -- I was teaching torah in an idolatrous setting, an online church. That's no good, so I left.


1 Example disclaimer (this was approved for use at one time there): "Please note: This answer was written for a neutral, academic audience and is not intended to be interpreted in the context of a religious belief or doctrine."

  • 1
    Sorry to see you go, Monica. I appreciated your contributions. I myself have contributed much less to the site of late, partly because of life busyness and partly because the level of meta-fighting was hard on my morale. Thanks for your good contributions. – Kazark Oct 1 '13 at 0:41
  • 1
    Thanks @Kazark, I appreciate that. I'd noticed that you haven't been around much lately and I think the site is diminished by that. It's frustrating that meta discussions (like about site direction) have to be so contentious. – Monica Cellio Oct 1 '13 at 2:07
  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Monica Cellio Aug 21 '15 at 3:58

You must log in to answer this question.

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