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?

See also meta.hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/questions/51. –  msh210 Oct 23 '11 at 4:17
My experience there so far has been that Jews are a real minority and many questions won't apply to us, but enough do that I've found it worth following so far. The couple of times I've brought a Jewish perspective on a question it seems to have been well-received. (I won't engage on Christianity-specific questions; not gonna argue with believers about Jesus.) The prominent people there (including Jon Ericson) seem firm in saying that that is not the place for dogma. I've only encountered one frequent poster who doesn't seem to get that yet, but he appears to be learning. Worth a look. –  Monica Cellio Oct 25 '11 at 16:13
I added the Jephthah question, which I just saw there and would like to see answers to. –  Monica Cellio Oct 30 '11 at 3:21
@MonicaCellio, if you want answers to it from a Jewish perspective and are not satisfied with what you get there, you might try asking here: there may be some users who will see and answer it here and not there. –  msh210 Oct 30 '11 at 4:03
@msh210, I considered that and will if I don't see appropriate answers there. I'm not sure what the etiquette is of lifting questions from one SE site to another, so I figured I'd wait to see if anything happens there first. –  Monica Cellio Oct 30 '11 at 17:08
@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
@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
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
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 Answer 1

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.


I do not recommend this site for Jews now because of the religious nature of the site. The presence of my answers there is problematic enough that I made a plea for their removal; I believe the community team gave my request thoughtful consideration, but that request was denied.

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 (here's mine, at the bottom); this practice is permitted by SE (so long as you don't use it as a soapbox, of course).


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 (that's +14/-7 at this writing, for those who can't see, which wasn't enough to effect a change). To me, the environment on the site is not only not welcoming but rather hostile. This was not always true -- I would not have participated initially had it been -- but it is true now. I think it is a hostility of negligence, not a willful hostility, but they also have not moved to address the problem:

Since most people here (and all moderators) agree with those basic assertions of truth (if not all the details), they don't see the problem even when someone objects. To them it's like saying that the sun rises in the morning. To people in this group, doctrinal assertions in posts add character and couldn't possibly do any harm. [...]

I came to teach and learn in a classroom. But people brought in an altar, crucifix, and communion wafers, and the custodians gave them directions. (September 2013, source)

I had a realization on Rosh Hashana during the shofar service when I read the "arise, you slumberers" Rambam passage including "you are wasting your years in vain pursuits that neither profit nor save". That seems to apply to my Jewish voice on BH. It doesn't seem to be profiting or saving anybody, and after further consideration I realized I'm actually doing harm. I certainly can't in good faith contribute any more answers, and continuing to expose myself to all the Christian evangelism there is a bad idea.

Sites change, and perhaps some day Biblical Hermeneutics will move toward the more religiously-neutral, scholarly state it once aspired to. If the site changes, you should of course take that into account when you seek your rabbi's guidance.

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
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

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