I am trying to ascertain whether, or to what extent, scholarly (1) answers about Judaism (as opposed to faith-based answers written from a believer's perspective) are on-topic on this particular site.

(1) By the term scholarly I am simply referring to factual, objective, and (hopefully) informative approaches, written from a detached (rather than partizan) perspective; though I would personally welcome both, the community might not feel the same way.

I couldn't help but notice that (some of) my scholarly posts have been down-voted and/or deleted, which is what prompted me to ask this question in the first place, being uncertain of whether the method itself, or only my (deficient?) use of it, are what seem to have triggered the (negative) reaction.

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    The implication that faith-based answers aren't scholarly is probably offensive to many, no? Can faith-based answers not provide factual, objective, and (hopefully) informative approaches? Maybe pick other words to describe what you are trying to describe. – Double AA Nov 9 '20 at 21:00
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    To be clear all your deleted answers were deleted by you (except one which had zero votes and was deleted when its question was deleted for other reasons). No mods or other users have deleted answers for being too "scholarly" (AFAICT) – Double AA Nov 9 '20 at 21:04
  • @DoubleAA: It is hard for me to think of specific examples. And no, why would it be offensive ? Think, for instance, of how a scholar might approach the same topic differently than, say, a mystic, or a student of the Kabbala. – Lucian Nov 9 '20 at 21:34
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    think of a how a student of kabbala who learned a lot may eventually also consider himself a scholar. Are all these posts wrong judaism.stackexchange.com/search?q=%22torah+scholar%22 – Double AA Nov 9 '20 at 21:37
  • @DoubleAA: As already pointed out in my second paragraph, I am speaking about applying the scholarly method, not about one's expertise or erudition in a certain field of knowledge, which is how the examples you provided seem to employ the term. – Lucian Nov 10 '20 at 0:19
  • You can define terms however you want. I'm suggesting you use different terminology to avoid any offensive implications. – Double AA Nov 10 '20 at 0:34
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    @DoubleAA: I did not define it, nor am I aware of any other better term for the concept, nor have I failed to provide an explanation for its meaning in my original question. – Lucian Nov 10 '20 at 0:54
  • All your extant answers combined have but one downvote. I can't speak to your deleted answers though. – Alex Nov 10 '20 at 1:27
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    I think there are many scholar answers in the site. Many users are more scholar than yeshivish. There are also modern orthodox people that quote doctors and professors – kouty Nov 10 '20 at 14:00

There is nothing inherently wrong with a scholarly1 or non-scholarly answer to a question, assuming that the question itself doesn't disqualify one or the other. Answers should be judged by whether they answer the question. If it answers a question, an answer shouldn't be deleted (excepting extreme cases that shouldn't apply to an answer purporting to be scholarly).

Downvotes on scholarly answers could be for various reasons. Readers might consider the answer to be poorly-written, not useful, or even wrong. Naturally, the reception of the question depends on what the readers think of it, and there is often room for disagreement. Voters have to judge answers by their own subjective criteria. But if the answers are truly useful to someone, they should be well-received.

1 By "scholarly" I understand "written from a detached (rather than partizan) perspective," since, as Double AA pointed out on comments on the question, the other elements of the definition given could be applied to non-scholarly answers as well.


There are many reasons why secular scholarship is not appreciated by many of the users on this website, myself included. I will outline a few of the reasons.

The basic problem is assuming that by being detached, the scholars somehow gain a superior vantage point from which to study the issues. The problem is that they are trying to understand something from the outside that was deliberately written by and for people on the inside, with the assumption that the readers all buy into the same basic premises. So they often miss basic cultural aspects of what they study. For example, they often try to ascribe motivations for why this Rabbi held this view based on whichever circumstance, even though to someone who lives within the framework of the Jewish law, the supposed motivation does not make sense.

Because of this issue, many scholars just assume that there is no point to In addition, many of the secular scholars' knowledge is only impressive to people without a thorough background in Torah study. I can't tell you how many examples I have seen of supposed academic scholarship that would be laughed out of a yeshiva. A friend of mine once had a class in law school in which a visiting professor put up a page of Talmud and then misidentified the main commentaries on the page. When my friend pointed out her error, she replied that she was an academic and knew what she was talking about, never mind that my friend had studied Talmud since before his bar mitzvah.

In another case, I went to see an exhibit of archaeological artifacts from Israel at a museum. There was a vessel from the second Temple era with the word korban on it. The label speculated that it may have been used to carry offerings to the Temple. Apparently, the "scholars" did not know that these vessels are described in the Mishnah (which is from shortly after that period), in the tractate called Vessels, as being used to store the meat of offerings.

An even deeper issue is that the major books such as the Mishnah, Talmud, etc. were never meant to be understood without a teacher. When it comes to the Rambam's Mishnah Torah, the Rosh (R' Asher ben Yechiel) said it could not be understood without knowing the underlying Talmudic passages. There are rules, never specified in the Mishnah or Talmud, for how to extract the final ruling from their discussions. These were passed down orally, and only collected into writing in later generations.

So basically, academic and secular perspectives are often not appreciated because they are not valid methods of analysis. They rely on deliberately discounting important context just because otherwise they would have nothing to say.

  • I'm not sure how this answers the question. The question was are they on topic. You are answering if they are often good. – Double AA Nov 24 '20 at 15:46
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    The question was why are they downvoted, and if the problem is the method iitself. My answer is yes. – N.T. Nov 24 '20 at 20:50
  • The question could be construed as are the downvotes indicative of off-topic-ness. Your answers then is no, they are indeed on topic? – Double AA Nov 24 '20 at 20:56

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