Israel's history reflects both an inner and an outer dimension, i.e. there is both confessional witness and common public testimony. The contrast lies in viewing history from Israel's confessional stance, from within a community of faith, rather than from a neutral, phenomenological reconstruction. Nevertheless, the relation between the two is subtle, as neither perspective functions as a hermetically sealed system which functions in absolute independence from the other. The theological challenge is to exegete the passages in such a way as “to avoid rationalistic assumptions of a common reality behind all religious expression or the threat of super-naturalism which would deny in principle any relation between an outer and inner side of historical events.”
Israel's history involves both divine and human agency. The biblical witness to divine intervention in time and space is threatened if a historical methodology interprets such formulations as merely literary conventions which must be made to conform to the general laws of historical causality. However, the Bible reflects a great variety of relationships between the human and divine which spans a spectrum from closest interaction to harshest discontinuity. The exegetical challenge is "to do justice to the different dimensions of textual intensity (Dichtigkeitsgrad) without being trapped into rigid philosophical systems of historical causality."
Israel's history is construed within the Old Testament as oscillating between the past, present and future. The methodological challenge is to avoid a theological move “which would objectify Israel's history into a separate sphere of Heilsgeschichte which functions independently of all common experience. Conversely it is not helpful to flatten Israel's special historical experiences into general chronological patterns which have been reconstituted from extra biblical sources.”
Israel's history is depicted within the Old Testament in terms of foreground and background, i.e. there is conscious selection. One must learn to do justice to to Israel's peculiar assigning of significance to certain events and situations while denigrating others. The challenge is to avoid the arrogance of correcting Israel's judgement on the assumption of modern critical superiority while maintaining a sophisticated historical sensitivity which can "adjudicate the just claims arising from two sides of this genuine dialectical tension."