This question was closed because "it is primarily opinion-based". At the moment it is much edited so it has lost its original content.

I don't understand why this is "opinion based". It refers to the Bible but only as a primary source of everyday life of people. I don't ask if Jesus was a Messiah or not. I use Bible citations to show what we can know about carpenter's life. Maybe this was not true, but it is possible the same as you read a Greek myth.

Why do you think this question can be answered only with someone's opinion?

(BTW is it ok to ask a question why other question was closed?)

  • Perhaps a subtle reformulation would help? E.g., what do historians know about the economic situation of tradespeople in outlying Roman provinces, esp. Judaea, some 2000 years ago? Are there data on specific trades -- e.g., carpenters vs. blacksmiths vs. cooks? Commented Sep 30, 2013 at 17:15
  • If someone edits the question to lose its original meaning, just roll the edit back.
    – Luke_0
    Commented Oct 1, 2013 at 17:49

5 Answers 5


Some topics are known to cause flamewars on the Internet.

A history site needs to handle a number of classes of question with care:

  • Politics (in the sense of answers having implications in current political struggles)
  • Conspiracy theories
  • Perceptions of minorities
  • Religion (especially when touching on the existence of God and miracles)
  • Popular philosophy

The extremely polarizing topics have a strong tendency to attract the wrong sort of audience: people who care more about the subject than they do about the study of history.

In the view of many participants on this site all questions about Jesus are, by definition, opinion-based. The top-voted answer to Can the new testament be a valid historical record on the real life of Jesus? boils down to: scholars are divided. There are enough questions about the validity of religious texts that many people dismiss them as historical sources. Therefore if you ask about events in the New Testament that are not found in other sources, the only possible answers are opinion-based.

Now, I happen to disagree with that approach. For one thing, I find strong evidence that the early Christian writings were based on eyewitness accounts. For another, it's a double standard. (We accept all sorts of self-serving and politically-motivated documents as having historical value, so why not religiously-biased texts?) Every bit of historical evidence should have it's day in court and be judged on it's own merits. Lumping all religious sources into a single blob is, in my opinion, poor (and perhaps, lazy) history.

But my opinion is less important than our opinion. As a group, the consensus is that asking about Jesus is more trouble than it's worth. However, the rephrased question about the economic status of a generic Galilean carpenter, er builder, under Roman rule can be answered (in theory) without reliance on religious sources. It's not the choice I would have made, but it seems to be where this site has landed.

Different sites have different rules.

I can imagine variations on this question being asked on at least four sites:

  1. History,
  2. Christianity,
  3. Biblical Hermeneutics, and
  4. Skeptics.

But each site has its own cultural standards, so the question would need to be asked differently on different sites. For instance, I asked a regular on Biblical Hermeneutics who told me that the original version would fit there if it included the relevant New Testament references (Matthew 13:55 & Mark 6:3). It would be harder (but possible, I suspect) to ask on Skeptics and, perhaps, easier to ask on Christianity. The key is to know your audience.

Also, it would help if you'd been more careful with terminology, as Mark C. Wallace mentioned.

  • 2
    +1 For "the wrong sort of audience: people who care more about the subject than they do about the study of history." But a nitpick: The top voted answer on the bible question clearly states the answer as "no". It does not boil down to "scholars are divided". It does mention that scholars are divided on who the Historical Jesus was, but on the topic of the bible as history, even the minimalist and maximalist schools are getting near to each other. And the consensus is: "No, not unless supported by other independent sources". And for the new testament, there are NO independent sources. Commented Oct 2, 2013 at 5:03

As you say the question was heavily edited; I can't say what state the question was in when I voted to close. The underlying question is interesting, but I think it is a bad fit for H:SE. My first thought when reading the question was "This is a question that is more likely to result in debate/discussion/long comment thread; this is not a question that will produce a solid, clear, unambiguous answer that can be used for reference."

My biggest problem with the question was that the terms in the question weren't defined. Any answer based on ill-defined terms is, in effect, a discussion, not an answer.

  • "middle class" is a modern term with no definition. In practice "middle class" is used to mean "earns roughly as much as I do". I have acquaintances earning middle six figure incomes who own their own business and claim to be "middle class". The term has no meaning and therefore the question is opinion based.

  • The economic system of Rome in 1CE isn't like the modern economic system; they had a defined "class" system, which is very different from the American "class" system, or the British "class" system. Was the carpenter a citizen? an equite? a member of the urban tribes? A resident of Rome? Urban or rural? Citizen of a client state? Probably most important of all, did the carpenter in question have a patron, and who was the patron? A wealthy carpenter at the top of his trade who was the client of a weak patron had a lower status than a middling carpenter with a strong patron. An unemployed citizen whose father was a carpenter had a higher status than a very wealthy and skilled slave. (I realize that some of these are improbable).

With all the undefined terms, the question is a little like asking whether the taste of green is similar to the scent of the number 3. Anyone can answer the question, and there is no way to tell which answer is better.

I believe that it is entirely correct to ask why a question was closed and to use meta to refine our common understanding of what is on and off topic.

  • 1
    In my opinion all that you've written in the second punctuation (in short: "it depends on who a carpenter was") could be a valid answer. I also think that in such case the close reason should be "too broad" rather than "opinion based". Thank you for your feedback.
    – Voitcus
    Commented Sep 30, 2013 at 12:18
  • I agree that the factors you list are valid reasons for closure. However none of your contentions justify the butchering job that was performed on the question (which I am not blaming you for)
    – user2590
    Commented Oct 1, 2013 at 5:15

Asking about Jesus is mostly off-topic, because we don't know anything about him as a historical person. I personally do not doubt he existed, but the texts written about him are all written with religious goals, not with the goal to teach us about the historical person.

As such, the statement that he offered two pigeons instead of a lamb might have been added by somebody who was claiming that Jesus was poor, because that better suited his religious positions.

Hence, we can't take anything the bible says about Jesus Christ as being a true statement about the first century religious leader Yeshua ben Yosef. Hence, asking if Jesus was poor is not a question about history, but about religion.

And therefore the question was changed to "How rich were carpenters in the Roman province of Iudaea in the 1st century AD?" A question that is about history. And then the biblical background material was irrelevant.

I didn't to the edit, but I completely agree with it. The alternative would have to close. And indeed, the question was closed, but then reopened. I can only assume most of the close votes came in before the edit.

  • 1
    Thank you for the answer. My intention was to find background of everyday Jesus's life. I know that Bible is not a historical source, one can doubt, the other can be sure, but background might be correct. I have no other source about carpenters in Iudaea in this era, so I'm asking.
    – Voitcus
    Commented Oct 1, 2013 at 6:01
  • @Voitcus Right, and I think that as it stands it's a very good question, and I'd be interested to know more about carpenters in that time and are as well. Commented Oct 1, 2013 at 7:26
  • 1
    Many historical texts are written with goals other than teaching us about history. That doesn't mean we can't glean a thing or two from them....
    – Dan
    Commented Oct 2, 2013 at 0:53
  • 2
    @Dan You can learn a thing or two from North Korean propaganda as well. But you can't take it as an accurate description of North Korea. Commented Oct 2, 2013 at 4:52

The "heavy edits" appear to be just deletion of a bunch of Biblical background material that really contributed nothing to the question.

Let's do a little diversion to remove religon from this issue. If the same question were to be asked about a mythological figure like Jason, would it also be off topic?

Some would probably say "yes", as mythology is specifically off-topic.

However, if the question is something along the lines of "During the Mycenaean period, how rich would a King of Thessaly's family be, and what exactly would have been their social position?", but using Jason as the point of curiosity, it seems like a reasonable historical question.

I just made a (very minor) edit of the question along these lines. I also added a small mention of Jesus back in (he is, after all, the only reason the question came up).

  • 2
    -1 : the biblical material was very pertinent and should not have been removed. They had nothing to do with theology or religion and everything to do with history and the subject of the question.
    – user2590
    Commented Oct 1, 2013 at 5:13
  • @Vector - On your say-so, just relooked over the removed material in case I missed something. Nope. It is all relating to the activities of Jesus and his specific family. Nothing to do with carpentry in there whatsoever, which is what the question is supposedly about. Interesting material for sure, but it doesn't help anyone understand or address the question, so it doesn't need to be in there.
    – T.E.D. Mod
    Commented Oct 1, 2013 at 13:38
  • I am going to submit a new edit for that question - perhaps you will reconsider...
    – user2590
    Commented Oct 1, 2013 at 18:15
  • 1
    I gotta say, removing Leviticus, which was used as historical background has me utterly baffled. It's possible to be skeptical of the Bible's account of Jesus, but it's hardly possible to imagine that ancient religious rules have no value as background on a question about ancient economic status. I'm also not sure what sense it makes to exclude a historical record simply because it is religious in nature. I don't see that approach used when I read historical analysis, so if it's a site policy, it should be made explicit. Commented Oct 1, 2013 at 21:44
  • 1
    @JonEricson - I wasn't the one who removed it. However, it doesn't seem to have much relevance to the economic status of Jewish Carpenters in general. There was nothing in the removed text about carpenters. Perhaps I'm missing something, but if so I missed it after multiple readings. If the question is instead about Jesus's specifc family, yes it makes sense (but I suspect if that were the question, there'd instead be a rousing debate about which stack it belongs on).
    – T.E.D. Mod
    Commented Oct 1, 2013 at 22:06

The bible is not an adequate primary source for naïve historical exegeses online.

Theology an admirable disciplinary humanity belongs elsewhere.

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