Condescension a term both earlier and more correct for the modern theory of the ACCOMMODATION SEE ACCOMMODATION (q.v.) of Scripture; we have therefore reserved for this place some remarks supplementary to the article under that head. The general idea expressed by the term Accommodation is that some object is presented, not in its absolute reality as it is in itself, but under some modification, or under some relative aspect, so as the better to secure some end at which the writer or speaker aims. Of this leading conception there are several forms known among Biblical scholars under the titles of formal and material accommodation. The following is a somewhat fuller analysis.
1. Real. — This takes place when a person is set forth as being or as acting under some modified character, accommodated to the capacity for conceiving him, or the inclination to receive him, of those to whom the representation is addressed. Thus God is frequently in Scripture described anthropomorphically or anthropopathically, i.e. not as he is in himself, but relatively to human modes of thought and apprehension. SEE ANTHROPOMORPHISM. So also the apostle describes himself as becoming all things to all men, that by all means he might save some; i.e. he accommodated himself to men's habits, usages, and modes of thought, and even prejudices, in order that he might disarm their opposition, and secure a favorable reception for the gospel of salvation which he preached. This species of accommodation is what the Christian fathers usually have in view under the terms συγκατάβασις, or condescensio, and οἰκονομία, or dispensatio. They apply these terms also to the incarnation and state of humiliation of Christ, which they regarded as an accommodation to the necessities of man's case for his redemption. (See Suicer, Thesaurus Eccl. s.v. συγκατάβασις and οἰκονομία; Chapman's Miscellaneous Tracts relating to Antiquity, London, 1742.) To this head may be referred many of the symbolical actions of the prophets.
2. Verbal. — This takes place when a passage or expression used by one writer is cited by another, and applied with some modification of the meaning to something different from that to which it was originally applied. Such accommodations are common in all languages. Writers and speakers lay hold of the utterances of others for the sake of giving to their own ideas a more graceful and a more forcible clothing than they feel themselves able to give them, or for the purpose of procuring for them acceptance, by uttering them in words which some great writer has already made familiar and precious to the general mind. Sometimes this is done almost unconsciously. "Wherever," says Michaelis, "a book is the object of our daily reading and study, it cannot be otherwise than that passages of it should frequently flow into our pen in writing; sometimes accompanied with a conscious recollection of the place where we have read them, at other times without our possessing any such consciousness. Thus the lawyer speaks with the corpus juris and the laws, the scholar with the Latin authors, and the preacher with the Bible" (Einleit. 1:223). Our own literature is full of exemplifications of this, as is too well known to need illustrative proof. In the writings of Paul we find him making use in this way of passages from the classics (Ac 17:19; 1Co 15:34; Tit 1:12), all of which are of course applied by him to Christian subjects only by accommodation. We need not be surprised, then, to find the later Biblical writers quoting in this way from the earlier, especially the N.T. writers, from the great classic of their nation, the ἱερὰ γράμματα of the former dispensation. As instances may be adduced, Ro 10:18 from Ps 19:4, and Ro 12:20 from Pr 25:21-22. See also Mt 2:15,18, with Calvin's notes thereon. "They have done this," says Michaelis, "in many places where it is not perceived by the generality of readers of the N.T., because such are too little acquainted with the Septuagint."
3. Rhetorical. — This takes place when truth is presented, not in a direct and literal form, but through the medium of symbol, figure, or apologue. Thus, in the prophetical writings of Scripture, we have language used which cannot be interpreted literally, but which, taken symbolically, conveys a just statement of important truth, e.g. Isa 4:5; Isa 27:1; Isa 34:4; Joe 2:28-31; Zec 4:2,10, etc. Many instances occur in Scripture where truth is presented in the form of parable, and where the truth taught is to be obtained only by extracting from the story the spiritual, or moral, or practical lesson it is designed to enforce. In all the sacred books there are instances constantly occurring of words and statements which are designed to convey, under the vehicle of figure, a truth analogous to, but not really what they literally express. (See Knobel, Prophetismus der Hebraer, § 30-33; Smith, Summary View and Explanation of the Writings of the Prophets, Prel. Obss. p. 1-22; Glassius, Phil. Sac. 1. v, p. 669 sq., ed. 1711; Lowth. De Sac. Poesi Heb., pl. loc.; Davidson, Sacred Hermeneutics ch. 9.)
4. Logical. — In arguing with an opponent it is sometimes advantageous to, take him on his own ground, or to argue from principles which he admits, for the purpose of shutting him up to a conclusion which he cannot refuse, if he would retain the premises. It does not follow from this that his ground is admitted to be the right one, or that assent is given to his principles; the argument is simply one ad hominemn, and may or may not be also ad veritatem. When it is not, that is, when its purpose is merely to shut the mouth of an opponent by a logical inference from his own principles, there is a case of logical accommodation.
5. Doctrinal. — This takes place when opinions are advanced or statements made merely to gratify the prejudices or gain the favor of those to whom they are addressed, without regard to their inherent soundness or truthfulness. If, for instance, the N.T. writers were found introducing some passage of the O.T. as a prediction which had found its fulfillment in some fact in the history of Jesus Christ or his Church, merely for the purpose of overcoming Jewish prejudices, and leading those who venerated the O.T. to receive more readily the message of Christianity; or if they were found not only clothing their ideas in language borrowed from the Mosaic ceremonial, but asserting a correspondence of meaning between that ceremonial and the fact or doctrines they announced when no such really existed, thereby warping truth for the sake of subduing prejudice, they would furnish specimens of this species of accommodation.
In both respects, a charge to this effect has been brought against them. It has been alleged that when they say of any event they record that in it was fulfilled such and such a statement of the O.T., or that the event occurred that such and such a statement might be fulfilled, they did so merely in accommodation to Jewish feeling and prejudices. A fitter place will be found elsewhere for considering the import of the formulae ἵνα πληρωθῇ, τότε ἐπληρώθη, and the like. SEE QUOTATION. At present it will suffice to observe that it may be admitted that these formulae are occasionally used where there can have been no intention on the part of the writer to intimate that in the event to which they relate there was the fulfillment of a prediction; as, for instance, where some gnome or moral maxim contained in the O.T. is said to be fulfilled by something recorded in the N.T., or some general statement is justified by a particular instance (comp. Mt 12:35; Joh 15:25; Ro 1:17; Jas 2:23; 2Pe 2:22, etc.). It may be admitted, also, that there are cases where a passage in the O.T. is said to be fulfilled in some event recorded in the N., when all that is intended is that a similarity or parallelism exists between the two, as is the case, according to the opinion of most, at least, in Mt 2:17-18. But, whilst these admissions throw the onus probandi on those who, in any special instance, maintain that there is in it an actual fulfillment of an ancient prediction, it would be preposterous from them to foreclose the question, and maintain that in no case is the N.T. passage to be understood as affirming the fulfillment in fact of an ancient prediction recorded in the Old. Because some accommodations of the kind specified are admitted, it would be folly to conclude that nothing but accommodation characterizes such quotations. If this position were laid down, it would not be easy to defend the N.T. writers, nay, our Lord himself, from the charge of insincerity and duplicity.
Still more emphatically does this last observation apply with respect to the notion that our Lord and his apostles accommodated their teaching to the current notions and prejudices of the Jews of their own times. It might seem almost incredible that any one should venture to impute to them so unworthy and so improbable a course, were it not that we find the imputation broadly made, and the making of it defended by some very eminent men of the anti-supernaturalist school, especially in Germany. By them it has been asserted that our Lord and his disciples publicly taught many things which privately they repudiated, and an attempt has been made to save them from the charge of downright dishonesty which this would involve by an appeal to the usage of many ancient teachers who had an exoteric doctrine for the multitude, and an esoteric for their disciples. (Semler, Programm. Acad. Sel. Hal. 1779; Corrodi, Beytrdge zur beforderung des verninftigen Denkens in d. Religion, 15th part, p. 1-25; 'P. Van Hemert, Ueber Accom. in N.T. Leipz. 1797, etc.). The prompt and thorough repudiation of such views even by such men as Wegscheider (Instt. Theologicoe, p. 105, 6th ed.) and Bretschneider (Handb. der Dogmat. 1:260, 265, 2d ed.) renders it unnecessary to enlarge on the formal refutation of them. These writers, however, contend that, though our Lord and his apostles did not make use of a positive accommodation of their doctrine to the prejudices or ignorance of the Jews, they did not refrain from a negative accommodation, by which they intend the use of reserve in the communication of truth or refutation of error, and the allowing of "men to retain opinions not authorized by truth without express or formal correction of them. They adduce as instances, Joh 16:12; Joh 6:15; Lu 24:21; Ac 1:6; 1Co 3:1-2; 1Co 8:9, etc. By these passages, however, nothing more is proved than that in teaching men truth our Lord and his apostles did not tell them everything at once, but led them on from truth to truth as they were able to receive it or bear it. In this there is no accommodation of the material of doctrine; it is simply an accommodation of method to the capacity of the learner. In the same way Paul's assertion, which they have also cited, that he became all things to all men, that he might by all means save some (1Co 9:22), is to be regarded as relating merely to the mode and order of his presenting Christian truth to man, not to his modifying in any respect the substance of what he taught. Wlien he spoke to Jews, he opened and alleged out of their own Scriptures that Jesus was the Christ (Ac 17:2-3). When he spoke to the Athenians on Mars' Hill, he started from the ground of natural religion, and addressed the reason and common sense of his audience; but in either case it was the same Jesus that he preached, and the same Gospel that he published. Had he done otherwise, he would have been found a false witness for God.
This accommodation theory is often spoken of as identical with the historical principle of interpreting Scripture. It is so, however, only as the historical principle of interpretation means the treating of the statements of our Lord and his apostles as merely expressing the private opinions of the individual, or as historically traceable to the prevailing opinions of their day. This is not to be confounded with that true and sound principle of historical interpretation which allows due weight to historical evidence in determining the meaning of words, and to the circumstances in which statements were made as determining their primary application and significancy. (Storr, Opusc. Acad. vol. 1; Abhandlung u. d. Zweck des Todes Jesu, § 10; Lehrb. d. Chr. Dogmatik, § 13 [Eng. tr. by Schmucker, p. 67, Lond. 1836]; Planck, Introd. to Sac. Interpretation, tr. with notes by Turner [N. Y. 1834], p. 138, 276; Unselt, De accommodatione orthodoxa [Lips. 1766]; Smith, First Lines of Christian Theoloqy, p. 518; Alexander, Connection and Harmony of the Old and New Testaments, p. 45-48; 148- 157, 416, 2d edit.). SEE HERMENEUTICS.