Doctrinal answers are a challenge for us (which is why I asked that meta question, on which we don't have much agreement or even apparent interest). Everyone comes to the text with his own perceptions, of course, and I'm certainly not claiming to be an exception to that. But as I understand it, what distinguishes BH from Christianity.SE, Mi Yodeya, and Islam.SE is that we base our analysis on the text. If that's not true I think we're doomed.
To me, reading Jesus/trinity/etc into Tanakh texts is not reading the text in its context. Even if you hold that the tanakh was all about foreshadowing Christianity, you have to deal with the hundreds of years that preceded Christianity. Are we to hold that the Tanakh was meaningless until Jesus came along? Presumably not. So if not, what did it mean?
When I see an answer like "this verse in Tanakh is clearly about Jesus" (or the trinity, or a virgin Mary, etc), I tend to tune out -- not just because it's not my doctrine, but because if you're resorting to doctrine to answer a text question, you're doing it wrong. It's like saying that the three little pigs are about the brave disciples in the face of the devil. That you can retrofit an interpretation doesn't make it correct, or appropriate.
@Kazark feels pretty strongly that he would be remiss in his Christianity if he didn't consider such readings to be everywhere. But I think there's a proper place for that, and that place is C.SE. Or here for questions on Christian scriptures. But not Ecclesiastes, a book attributed to King Solomon and that nobody (so far as I know) thinks was written post-0CE. I respect Kazark and I certainly don't want to be unwelcoming, but I think his calibration is off.
Of course, maybe mine is. I don't think so, but I did worry about this from pretty early on (back in Area51, even) -- could we build a site that's about the text and not about doctrine? I sure hope we can; I've invested a lot of effort here and I want it to succeed. @swasheck, @JonEricson, and I push back on doctrine and other weaknesses in answers, but I'm getting the sense that most people either disagree or don't care. That's disappointing.
@JackDouglas - just noticed I got through all ^^^ that without pinging you.
Hi @MonicaCellio, I have a somewhat different take on this than you do.
I too tend to tune out answers that read Jesus into the Tanakh because that goes against my doctrinal perspective, but I think all people who take the Bible seriously like to read prophetic passages in light of their later fulfillment.
There are many passages in Tanakh that I think can only be understood in light of later events.
יאמרו גאולי ה' אשם גאלם מיד צר ומארצות קבצם ממזרח וממערב מצפון ומים...
There are many examples of this in Yirmiyahu, Yeshayahu Yechezkel, Habakuk, etc.
I don't usually post these ideas on BH because I think most people on the site wouldn't care for such a reading, but I don't think a post-facto historical reading of the text is antithetical to hermeneutics
Here's a less controversial example: In Jeremiah 44 the prophet promises that those who run away to Egypt will be destroyed...I think it's possible to address when/how was this prophecy fulfilled without getting into doctrine and I think this type of questioning is important in fully understanding that passage in Jeremiah.
@Ami That's looking both forward and back. I assume those verses are referring to the final redemption (time of moshiach), but I haven't made a deep study of psalms. The beauty of texts like these is that after any redemption we can find something resonant -- rebuilding the (second) temple, surviving the middle ages, returning to the land of Israel... or ones yet to come. That doesn't necessarily mean the prophecy has been fulfilled; there may be more to come. Am I misunderstanding you?
@Ami I don't see a problem with questions of the form "was such-and-such prophecy fulfilled? when?", and you should feel free to answer them as you've described here. Historical analysis is part of hermeutics as I understand it. My problem is reading post-facto interpretation, clearly antithetical to the source text, into texts where that wasn't what was asked for.
Because of the Psalm's content, I choose to read that passage in Tehillim, (which is in future tense) as describing the most recent return of Jews to the land of Israel after the Holocaust. Similarly, I read many passages in the later prophets in light of recent Jewish history. If it's fair to ask "when was such-and-such a prophecy fulfilled?" then it becomes difficult to draw the line between doctrine and unambiguous history?
You may be right about certain specific cases where a post-facto historical analysis is completely uncalled for...I'm not talking about specific examples here. I'm just saying that in general I see such tendencies in myself and I respect them.
Perhaps the key distinction in "when was it fulfilled" is singular vs. plural. Identifying events that satisfy the prophetic text, ideally through multiple perspectives, is different from saying "this is talking about this singular 20th-century event". (I can see why you want to read the psalm that way, I think. I don't share that reading, but it's possible that future scholars will look back and call me blind.)
It does risk straying into too much doctrine, though. You're right about that. I need to think more about this. (But right now I need to drop off. Catch you tomorrow.)
@MonicaCellio I think you have correctly understood my position. :) If the powers that be agree that it is a problem for me to exegete Old Testament Scriptures through Christology and Trinitarianism, then I will resign my membership here without hard feelings.
@MonicaCellio Just a ping to say that even if (and I say if because I'm still working through the issue) I disagree with some of implementation details, I fully agree with this particular statement and I appreciate your input on the issue including the push-back when we start approaching (or crossing) lines into other territory.
For me the balance here is: how much do we set aside our own personal preferences in order to accommodate others in the community. There are deeply held beliefs here that potentially make this more difficult. At first glance it may seem that Kazark is being intransigent - however I do not think that is the case: he has not asked other answerers to change how they write their own answers to fit his views, he is only asking for freedom to write his own answers remaining true to his own principles.
In order to succeed as a community I think we need that principle: "contributors are free to answer questions according to their own beliefs and conscience".
If I can pick out one thing you have said: "but because if you're resorting to doctrine to answer a text question, you're doing it wrong" - I'd like to suggest that statement is a doctrinal position. I also don't agree with it any more than I agree with Kazark's reading of the trinity in Ecclisiastes (if that is what he was doing - @Caleb reads it differently)
@Kazark As Jon noted, you ARE one of the powers that be, in some ways more so than some of us with diamonds after our names. You are free to push an agenda and campaign for how you think this site should be, while we're wearing other shoes and must move lock-step with consensus. That said, I do appreciate your willingness to work with the system and respect the opinions of others.
I would encourage you to keep considering how both sets of needs can be met: a focus on working from the text that allows -- neigh encourages and requires -- ecumenical participation without being a doctrinal vacumn.
@JackDouglas I would agree that that is a doctrinal position. However there are two ways a post could treat both doctrine and a text here. One way I too think would be "doing it wrong", and that is to start with a doctrinal idea and work backwards to the text. There is a place for that, but it's not BH.SE. The other is to start from the text and work up, possibly ending by showing how that text can/does play into a related doctrine. That, I would argue, is a reasonable thing to do here.
@JackDouglas I agree. As long as those who don't share that goal can participate while still showing some level of respect (not in that they validate views contrary to their own, just that they disagree with decency) then I think there can be a place here for people who don't have a vision for it being cooperative.
@JackDouglas Oh I would mandate it. But not on the answer level so much as the question scope. If somebody comes along asking where the trinity shows up in the OT or even "What was Isaiah's view of the Godhead?", I think that's off topic and I'd VTC. However if an answer to a question about a specific text went on to paint that piece into a doctrinal picture, I'd say it should have a place.
The FAQ says:
Questions that do not arise from a Biblical text are generally off-topic, even if they are about ... Christian doctrine ...
Just to clarify - are questions about Christian doctrine on topic if they do arise from a Biblical text?
In other words, can I ask about the doctrinal...
@JackDouglas That's what I was trying to get at. I think we DO have a mandate for requiring that already, the question you linked to and all the other meta posts we have on the issue of doctrine already take it for granted that questions of doctrine not starting from a text are out of scope. We already have that foundation, the issue we're debating is several steps beyond that.
@JackDouglas That's exactly where I was going with this even if I was rambling a bit.
postgres=# select version(); version -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- PostgreSQL 9.2.1 on x86_64-unknown-linux-gnu, compiled by gcc (GCC) 4.4.6 20120305 (Red Hat 4.4.6-4), 64-bit
@Kazark I would like to start by saying that I appreciate your perspective and also find your contributions to this site to be extremely valuable. it would be a shame to see you go - so please don't.
having said that - the goal of hermeneutics and exegesis is not doctrine, it is truth. it is meaning. it is an attempt to uncover the meaning that the original author had for their original audience. from this related, cumulative knowledge, religions develop their framework of belief ("doctrine" via the process of "theology").
@Ami With luck I'll be more coherent today. You said "There are many passages in Tanakh that I think can only be understood in light of later events." I, on the other hand, think that a text worthy of being included in the canon can stand on its own. It can also be read as "oh, that must have been talking about (later event)", but it needed to be meaningful to the people listening to Jeremiah, Isaiah, et al. [cont]
@swasheck Christians read that as refering to Lucifer? I didn't know that. Do those who say it refers to Lucifer say it also refers to Nebuchadnezzar, that N. was some sort of agent of Lucifer, that it doesn't refer to him at all, or what?
Honestly ... I didn't grow up as a Christian so tradition is not inextricably connected with my faith. However, Christan tradition for Isaiah 14 is that this is referring to the fall of "Satan" from the ranks of the angels. There's a whole demonology dedicated to describing who "Satan" was and how he fell and such - it's based primarily on Isaiah14
even though the immediate context is one that addresses Nebuchadnezzar. he's almost an afterthought in all of this.
@swasheck agreed. Some questions are more entwined with doctrine than others; bringing doctrine to ones that aren't reads to me like "I already have an answer and I'm hanging it off this question", and I'd rather we not do that. It is possible to answer questions without doctrine. Maybe not always, but probably more than we do.
@swasheck :-) You'll be home-schooling to reduce the impact from bullying, I trust? :-)
@MonicaCellio I think that this is a good point - and a good corrective to what I've been saying all along. I'm not anti-doctrine/anti-theology and if the question necessitates it then, by all means, it should be included.
I appreciate all the thoughtful discussion here. I don't know how much closer we are to an answer, but it feels like we're making progress. Several of us are acting out of our firmly-held beliefs, which is good; those beliefs are sometimes colliding, which isn't so good. I am glad that @Kazark is part of our community; it also seems that he and I take very different approaches to text-primacy vs. doctrine-primacy. (We've seen the same thing with Bob.) How do we make everyone comfortable?
@swasheck I think doctrine is more appropriate when "locally scoped", so to speak. I can totally imagine doctrine-ful answers about gospels predicting Jesus's resurrection, for example. The farther afield you go text-wise, the more careful you have to be. I know Christians hold that Genesis 1 predicts Jesus and I hope we would agree that that's a stretch on a question about the text there.
@MonicaCellio I think burden of establishing a consensus falls on those who think we should 'actively' restrict contributors freedom to answer as they please (this does not apply to questions as we already have broad agreement there). I am personally against that in this case for a variety of reasons I've mentioned, but of course as a mod I'll be led by the community if it does reach a consensus.
Your meta question is probably the best place for a resolution and if you are willing to sum up your own ideas in a self-answer.
Near the end of Romans there are details about financial relationships between churches. It's never really occurred to me to read it as anything but the face value in English:
Romans 15:25-26 (ESV)
25 At present, however, I am going to Jerusalem bringing aid to the saints. 26 Fo...
Maher-shalal-hash-baz (; - "Hurry to spoil!" or "He has made haste to the plunder!" - was the second mentioned prophetic child in Isaiah ch.7-9.
The prophet Isaiah's first son Shear-jashub is mentioned only once in Isaiah 7:3. Commentators, Jewish and Christian, traditionally note that this first son's name is also prophetic - meaning "the remnant shall return" - but no account of why, when or how this son was named is given in the Book of Isaiah.
The child Maher-shalal-hash-baz is the second prophetic-name child after the birth of Immanuel - traditionally understood as the son of Abi...
I don't think this issue has gone away and we continually struggle as a community to maintain ourselves as a welcoming place to understand the biblical texts. I thoroughly agree with Richard; his answer applies as well now as it did then. But after almost a year of experience, I believe the ten...
@swasheck that's wise. I don't know if everything they say here is correct, but I don't have anything to add, at least not without consulting dictionaries and lexicons and stuff. (Which won't happen before Shabbat, especially since this is the first rain-free day this week and I'm really hoping to get my sukkah up between work and sundown!)