There's precious little history in the Bible.
That's comforting. It means we - those of us raised to regard the Bible as holy writ - can relax somewhat. Whatever we might mean by 'inspired', it sure as heck doesn't mean factual. How did we ever imagine otherwise?
The first part of Genesis is the obvious (and overused) example. It didn't happen. No Adam, no Eve, no talking snake, no fall, no global deluge.
But there's more. There was no exodus from Egypt. Millions of refugees wandering about on the Sinai peninsula for all those years? No evidence whatsoever, and evidence would still be there for any diligent researcher if such an event had really happened.
The entire history of Israel prior to the Second Temple period seems dubious. It was at this late stage that the national narrative of Israel was probably created as part of a religio-political agenda. It seems they cooked the books! No evidence for a powerful United Kingdom under David and Solomon. A truckload of evidence to the contrary.
These are some of the conclusions reached by minimalist scholars. They're hard to disregard simply because the evidence from a variety of disciplines converges here.
Yet great literature transcends bare facts simply because it speaks to the human condition. Does anyone care that Homer's Iliad and Odyssey is something other than objective reporting? Is the value of Herodotus diminished by the improbabilities salted throughout the text (and Herodotus does at least contain some solid history). We think of these ancient texts as examples both of literary art, and ripping good yarns. We accept that ancient literature had norms and standards very different from today's. Knowing that wily Odysseus is more of a character in a novel than a historical figure doesn't detract from the power of the storyline. Troy endures as a city of the imagination (Schliemann's misidentification notwithstanding), and we too are caught up in Priam's pain at the death of Hector. Surely Homer's one-eyed Cyclops will also exist in legend till the end of human civilisation. And if, along the way, we're led to think about the fruits of lust, pride and obsession, that can't be a bad thing.
While there's no way back to a naive understanding of the Bible, if we can extend these courtesies to Homer, is it any great stretch to do the same for the authors of Samuel and Kings? Could it be that the problem isn't - and never has been - the Bible itself, but the lying delusion that lifts it beyond criticism, that fashions it into an instrument of oppression, and that wilfully ignores its very human origins.