Any serious undertaking in the study of the scriptures has to address a central question - how are we to understand the historic value of the scriptures? Or put another way, when we say the scriptures are "a historical account," what exactly are we claiming about the nature of the scriptures? Are they "historically accurate?" Is "historicity" even on the radar of the writers?
For some the answer is obvious - of course the scriptures are historically accurate. If we cannot trust them historically, then how are we to trust them theologically? However, this kind of all or nothing thinking causes some difficulties. The scriptures are presented as being either 100% "correct and accurate" or 100% "inaccurate and untrustworthy." Hhhmmm.
While doing some reading for Community of God, I came across this:
Biblical examples of such literature ["historic" texts from the Second Temple period] are Daniel and Esther, both of which have proved problematic for those who believe they recount historical events...
... Nebuchadnezzar and Belshazzar (called a king although he apparently never did become one) are known from other sources, and Cyrus, too, is familiar. However, in Daniel he is not the conqueror of Babylon, and no one knows who is meant by Darius the Mede, pictured in Daniel as the immediate successor of Belshazzar and thus as the conqueror of Babylon. The Persian king Darius was not of Median extraction, while Daniel's Darius is said to be the "son of Ahasuerus, by birth a Mede, who became king over the realm of the Chaldeans" (9:1). These are only a few of the reasons that have led many scholars to conclude that the stories in Daniel are not historical literature...
... Neither Esther nor Mordecai appears in extra-biblical historical sources about King Xerxes (in them Xerxes has a wife by a different name), and the book has other improbable claims such as the existence of 127 provinces in the empire. So it too does not appear to be a historical account, but like the other texts mentioned above, it pictures capable Jewish people entrusted with high positions in the great foreign empire." [James C. VanderKam, An Introduction to Early Judaism, pp. 10-11.]
Faced with such historical issues, a whole host of questions necessarily arise that we must wrestle with:
How do these historic inconsistencies relate to theologies of scripture, like inerrancy for example? If the text displays historical inaccuracies, can we still claim inerrancy for the text or do we need to therefore amend our definition of inerrancy? Perhaps the issue of inerrancy is arguing the wrong point.
Is the historic accuracy of a particular text the only determining factor of the truth of a text? What is the role of parable and myth in communicating truth? [If Daniel, or Esther, or even Job for that matter, is not historical literature, does it make it any less true per se?]
Did the biblical authors work with the same sense of need for "historicity" that we modern interpreters do? In other words, were the biblical writers completely adverse to passing along traditions that were less than 100% historically accurate to make a theological point?
I think the last line of question is central to this discussion. My own hunch is that when we argue for a 100% historical position, we can actually miss what certain texts and writers are trying to accomplish. Not every writers is trying to portray "what actually happened, the way it actually happened." The main goal of the writers is to present truth utilizing the history, political and social settings, and literary genres of their day.