Accommodation

Accommodation a technical term in theology, first innocently used by certain mystical interpreters, who maintained that although the sense of holy Scripture is essentially but one, yet that certain passages were made the vehicle of a higher and more distant import than the mere literal expressions exhibited (Walch, Bibl. Theol. 4, 228). SEE HYPONOIA. From this, however, the term was extended by writers of a Socinian tendency to indicate a certain equivocal character in the language of the sacred writers and speakers. (See Whately's Bampton Lect.; Conybeare, Lect. on Theol.; Tittmann's

Meletem. Sacra, pref.; Hauft, Bemerk. 12b. d. Lehrart Jesu; Forster, Crit. Essays, p. 59; Marsh, in Michaelis's Introd. 1, 473 sq. Express treatises on the subject have been written in Latin by Pisansky [Gedan. 1781], Pappelbaum [Stargard, 1763], Weber [Viteb. 1789], Bang [Amst. 1789], Van Hemert [Amst. 1791, and Dortm. 1797], Krug [Viteb. 1791], Kirsten [Amstadt, 1816], Cramer [Havn. 1792], Carus [Lips. 1793], Detharding [Gott. 1782]; in German, by Zacharii [Butz. and Wism. 1762], Eckermann, in his Theol. Beitr. 2, 3, 169 sq.; Hauff [Bresl. 1791], Senff [Halle, 1792], Vogel, in his Aufsatze, 2, 1 sq.; Flatt, in his Verm. Versuche, p. 71 sq.; Gess [Stuttg. 1797], Nachtigal, in Henke's Mug. 5, 109 sq.; Hartmann, in his Blicke [Dusseld. 1802], p. 1 sq.; Jahn, in his Nacktraige, p. 15 sq.; Crell, in Zobel's Mag. 1, 2, p. 199-252; Eichhorn, Allg, Bibl. 2, 947 sq.; comp. Henke's Mag. 2, 2, 638 sq.; also the Journ. f. Pred. 42, 129 sq.; 44, 1 sq.; and, generally, Davidson's Sacred Hermeneutics, p. 199 sq., 334 sq., 487 sq.) It is now applied,

1. To explain the application of certain passages of the Old Testament to events in the New to which they have no apparent historical or typical reference. Citations of this description are apparently very frequent throughout the whole New Testament, but especially in the Epistle to the Hebrews.

See also the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia.

The difficulty of reconciling such seeming misapplications, or defections from their original design, has been felt in all ages, although it has been chiefly reserved to recent times to give a solution of the difficulty by the theory of accommodation. By this it is meant that the prophecy or citation from the Old Testament was not designed literally to apply to the event in question, but that the New Testament Writer merely adopted it in order to produce a strong impression, by showing a remarkable parallelism between two analogous events which had in themselves no mutual relation. Thus Dr. Adam Clarke, in his Commentary on Jer 31:15-17, remarks: "St. Matthew, who is ever fond of accommodation, applied these words to the massacre of the children of Bethlehem; that is, they were suitable to that occasion, and therefore he applied them, but they are not a prediction of that event." There is a catalogue of more than seventy of these accommodated passages adduced by the Reverend T. H. Home, in support of this theory, in his Introduction (2, 317, Am. ed. 1835), but it will suffice for our purpose to select the following specimens:

Mt 13:35, cited from Ps 78:2. Mt 8:17, cited from Isa 53:4. Mt 2:15, cited from Ho 11:1. Mt 2:17-18, cited from Jer 31:15. Mt 3:3 cited from Isa 40:3.

It will be necessary, for the complete elucidation of the subject, to bear in mind the distinction not only between accommodated passages and such as must be properly explained (as those which are absolutely adduced as proofs), but also between such passages and those which are merely borrowed, and applied by the sacred writers, sometimes in a higher sense than they were used by the original authors. Passages which do not strictly and literally predict future events, but which can be applied to an event recorded in the New Testament by an accidental parity of circumstances, can alone be thus designated. Such accommodated passages therefore, if they exist, can only be considered as descriptive, and not predictive.

The accommodation theory in exegetics has been equally combated by two classes of opponents. Those of the more ancient school consider such mode of application of the Old Testament passages not only as totally irreconcilable with the plain grammatical construction and obvious meaning of the controverted passages which are said to be so applied, but as an unjustifiable artifice, altogether unworthy of a divine teacher. The other class of expositors, who are to be found chiefly among the most modern of the German Rationalists (see Rose's Protestantism in Germany, p. 75), maintain that the sacred writers, having been themselves trained in this erroneous mode of teaching, had mistakenly, but bona fide, interpreted the passages which they had cited from the Old Testament in a sense altogether different from their historical meaning, and thus applied them to the history of the Christian dispensation. Some of these have maintained that the accommodation theory was a mere shift resorted to by commentators who could not otherwise explain the application of Old Testament prophecies in the New consistently with the inspiration of the sacred writers. SEE CONDESCENSION.

2. The word is also used to designate a certain rationalistic theory, viz., that Christ fell in with the popular prejudices and errors of his time; and so accommodated himself to the mental condition of the Jews. The Gnostics seem to have first originated this theory. They asserted that Christ's doctrine could not be fully known from Scripture alone, because the writers of the New Testament condescended to the stage of culture existing at the time (Irenaeus, Adv. Hoer. 3, 5). The theory derives all its plausibility from confounding two things essentially different, viz., condescension to ignorance and accommodation to error. The former was indeed employed by the great Teacher (e.g. in his use of parables); the latter would have been utterly unworthy of him. In this last sense, the theory is one of the most pernicious outgrowths of German rationalism. See Home, Introd. 1, 317, 324; and for the rationalistic view, Seiler, Bib. Herm. 418; Planck, Introd. 145; Neander, Life of Christ, 113,114.

 
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