In two previous posts I sketched out two principles I think are important to keep in mind for an accurate and honest statement of inerrancy: taking the Bible is taken on its own terms and the idea of divine accommodation. I now offer a third: distinguishing literary techniques in the text from a modern, empirical sense of inerrancy/errancy. More simply stated, we shouldn’t judge something in the text as an error when there is a coherent literary explanation for what’s there, especially when there are literary parallels in other ancient texts.
As an example, I have posted three articles below (two very short) on the problem of the large numbers in the OT exodus and census accounts. The first article (Davies) lays out the problem nicely. It is the largest article (20 pp) but need not be read in its entirety. When you read it, read the footnotes – #6 for example illustrates in very understandable terms why the numbers are untenable. The second article (Fouts) argues for literary hyperbole. This conclusion is similar to that of the first article. The third (Rendsburg, commenting on the work of others) argues that there is a literary – mathematical intent behind the numbers that requires taking them as artificial but having a point.
No matter what view you find persuasive, the point is the same – there is a literary artificiality about the numbers. And that shouldn’t be seen as a problem–it’s the solution. We need to keep this kind of thing in mind when talking about inerrancy.