David Lose: History and inerrancy

In David Lose's recent post arguing against literal Bible reading and inerrancy, his second argument is about the history contained within the Bible. Under the heading "Reading the Bible literally distorts its witness," he makes the claim that to read the Bible as history ignores its theological character and assertions. The apostle John never meant to write history, Lose claims, and to wrestle with the different timing and order of events, like the cleansing of the Temple, on the level of a historical problem to solve distorts what John was trying to do. History in the Bible, specifically in the Gospels, is not an easy nut to crack. I agree with Lose that an over-emphasis on history can cause the reader to miss what the authors were trying to communicate. They were theologians, and they were in fact writing to convince and persuade their readers about theological truths. However, Lose swings the pendulum much to far in the other direction. His argument implies that the biblical authors were in no way interested in history and switched things up willy-nilly as they desired so they could tell a good story. That is just as problematic as his "only-history" reading. All the biblical authors, especially the Gospel authors, were very concerned with history. Christianity is a historical faith in that it believes certain truths about people who lived and events which occurred within space and time. They were concerned to communicate not only theological truth, but theological truth about Jesus and things he did during his life on earth. They were just as concerned about history as they were about theology.

This means that under the rubric of inerrancy Bible readers have to balance the two as they read. The biblical authors wrote theologically and historically. Our responsibility as readers is to understand how they did what they did. They did not conceive of history in linear and cause-effect fashion as much as we do, so they may indeed write in ways that appear non-historical from our standards. But they were very interested in history, and a literal reading of the Bible takes this into account. In the same vein, they also wrote theologically. We must work to understand their message on their terms. A literal reading of the Bible seeks to understand the theology of the author so that can then be applied personally. Long and short, the biblical authors wrote history and theology, not one or the other. A literal reader understands and looks for both.