Scripture as Literature
These past two semesters have included two Hebrew classes, one on narrative and one on poetry. Both of those classes have been fertile ground for the cultivation of my thinking on the relationship of the OT, especially to historical events. The question as it stands in my mind right now is something like this: What is more important: the historicity of the recorded event or the recording of the historical event? Now I phrase that question very carefully. Neither option denies historicity per se. However, I am interested in discovering whether it is necessary to hold that certain events happened as described or whether it is more important to simply understand what the biblical author is trying to communicate by conveying the event in the way that he does.
For example, in the story of Jonah, it is doubtful that Jonah's prayer was exactly as recorded for us in chapter 2. Jonah 2 records a beautifully worded prayer of Hebrew poetry. It's great! But is that a literary device or an actual historical account?
The two phrases that have been key in my thinking have been "historicized fiction" and "fictionalized history." What I am proposing is that it may be appropriate and helpful to view some of the OT as "fictionalized history." That is, while maintaining the historicity of the events, I may see the recording of those events as a feat of literature, not historiography. I do not view the OT material as "historicized fiction," that is, a story about events that never took place.
The implications for inspiration and authority are very significant. If we speak of the text of Scripture as being "inspired" or "God-breathed" based on 2 Timothy 3:16 we speak rightly. And according to 2 Peter 1:21, the recording of prophetic material at least bears the authoritative mark of the Holy Spirit's guidance. For some reason, however, I have tended to equate "inspiration" with "historicity." Is that necessary or even right?