Q & R: Acceptable standards of accuracy

Here’s the Q:

After reading “a generous orthodoxy”, I went back and studied it. It came at the perfect time for me, helpful in my own journey.
There is one concept in the book that I can’t get my head around – “The Bible…recounts by standards of accuracy acceptable to its original audience what happened”. I feel like I need a “for dummies” book for this one. How can we get in the heads, into the multiple cultures of the people whose stories are contained in the Bible to a sufficient degree to be able to know what their “acceptable standards of accuracy” are? I’ve struggled with this one for months, and am making little progress.

Here’s the R:

Thanks for the question. I’m pleased that AGO continues to reach and bless people.
As to the “how” question – this is where we need scholars in the Christian community who put in the hard work of studying ancient culture, of being sensitive to literary genre, and so on. We can’t perfectly “get in the heads” of ancient people, but we can at least not be stuck in our own heads so completely …
I remember in university in an ancient history class when we read some ancient texts from Assyria or Babylon (can’t remember which), and the heroes were described as living thousands or hundreds of thousands of years. And when they described battles, the sizes of the armies seemed to be inflated by a factor of one hundred or one thousand … The professor just said in passing, “In the ancient world, often numbers were obviously used for effect, not for accuracy – to impress, not to inform. We have to allow ancient literature to play by its own rules.” That helped me in reading the Bible as an ancient Middle Eastern document. Thankfully we have more and more good scholarship to help us in this regard in reading the Bible. Scholars like Walter Brueggemann and Craig Hill have been especially helpful to me.