There are two questions I'm aware of asking for this currently:

It should be noted the first question was asked about six months ago and still has not garnered a quality answer, and the second question was just asked an hour ago (which prompted this question/discussion).

In addition to the complexities of answering these questions well,1 are they just glorified forms of "searching for a text", which is off topic here? Or are these types of questions acceptable here (and if so, what parameters should be given so they are answerable)?

Please upvote answers to this question with which you agree, and downvote those with which you don't so the voting pattern is clear. No one loses rep for downvoting on meta.


1 For instance, should only the original languages be used or English translations? If translations, which ones or how many should be compared? What about where words are similar in the original language but translate into English differently? Which books constitute 'the Bible'? Should apocryphal works be considered, too? Why do you want to know the frequency? Are you trying to determine how the word is understood in a specific context (why not just ask about that context if so?) or are you using this site to give you a neat statistic for a sermon? The variegated linguistic issues involved complicate this (i.e. 'fear' and 'awe' are similar concepts in Hebrew, word sense must be disambiguated between these in Hebrew that may not translate into English, in Greek should hortatory subjunctives be included as imperatives or merely imperatives of so-called 'entreaty', etc.?).

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3 Answers 3

These should be closed as off topic

These are merely another type of "searching for a text" question (or 'no text specified'), except they don't necessarily need the specific textual occurrences to be specified, merely their count/frequency. Answering these questions doesn't really help anyone better understand the Biblical text(s). If the OP is interested in the occurrences of a specific word or phrase, popular concordances and Bible software tools can help. If they are seeking to understand a word/phrase in a specific context, they should ask directly about this rather than for a frequency/occurrence count. The amount of time it takes to write a good answer to these question (i.e. using the original languages, properly disambiguating word sense, determining what grammatical features might impact certain results, etc.) is too great merely to produce a statistic that doesn't really help folks understand the text much better.

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Agreed. Perhaps we can give people who ask such questions a link to an interlinear text and a concordance search tool. I think most don't realize they can do this in the original language without learning the language. Despite all the limitations of such strategies you've cited here and elsewhere, people can be prompted to learn more and perhaps figure out what their question really is. –  Susan Jun 18 at 19:34
    
This would have my vote if I could vote on my own post. –  Dan Jun 18 at 19:34
    
It seems like this has some momentum (and both questions now closed), but should there be a change to the wording of the reason. While it is a "searching for a text" idea, we may want to change the wording of that to be something like "lacking a specific text to interpret." –  ScottS Jun 19 at 14:18
    
@ScottS we actually have a close reason for that: no text specified. So it could definitely be 'either or'. I added a parenthetical statement to this effect. –  Dan Jun 19 at 14:37

Theoretically they fit our subject matter, but in practice the questions tend to be full of hot air. Usually they are somebody trying to validate some hunch they have or doctrinal conclusion they have already drawn. The answers are either easy (grep -c anybody?) or crazy hard (sure you write a script that parses ancient Hebrew and reliably gets the context right!). Either way they end up being "do my homework for me" on an issue that only the OP even finds interesting. I have yet to see one of this exact format that would be of serious interest to an expert, and the variants that could potentially be of interest would be too big for a single question space.

I say close 'em for the same reasons we close doctrinal queries looking for a proof text.

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These are answerable, but need specific parameters to be given by the OP and by all those answering

At minimum, the OP needs to specify the following and those giving answers must address how they handled these issues so that others can understand and duplicate their methodology (remember that BH.SE is concerned about the process of understanding the texts, not just the conclusions / results) :

  • What constitutes 'the Bible'? Should apocryphal works be considered? Which specific texts? Should the Hebrew Bible be consulted only in the Hebrew or should the Greek Septuagint (LXX) also be consulted?

  • Should answers only consider the original languages or are English translations acceptable?

    • If translations are acceptable, which ones are preferred or how many should be consulted / used for comparison?

    • What should be done in the event of conflicts between translations or manuscript variants in the original languages affecting the results? Should a certain translation or manuscript tradition be preferred?

  • How should word sense disambiguation be handled (i.e. 'fear' and 'awe' in Hebrew can be synonymous but have different connotations depending on the context, in Greek should hortatory subjunctives be included as imperatives or merely imperatives of so-called 'entreaty', through/by faith can be determined by the case of the noun or by a preposition and these are translated in different ways depending on context, etc.)?

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This is not my preference. I think these are off topic. But if they are going to be on topic, the answers would still need to show their work, which would at minimum include explaining the method they used and answer all of these questions. –  Dan Jun 18 at 19:33

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