1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Accommodation

ACCOMMODATION (Lat. accommodare, to make fit, from ad, to, cum, with, and modus, measure), the process of fitting, adapting, adjusting or supplying with what is needed (e.g. housing).

In theology the term “accommodation” is used rather loosely to describe the employment of a word, phrase, sentence or idea, in a context other than that in which it originally occurred; the actual wording of the quotation may be modified to a greater or lesser extent. Such accommodation, though sometimes purely literary or stylistic, generally has the definite purpose of instruction, and is frequently used both in the New Testament and in pulpit utterances in all periods as a means of producing a reasonably accurate impression of a complicated idea in the minds of those who are for various reasons unlikely to comprehend it otherwise. There are roughly three main kinds. (1) A later Biblical passage quotes from an earlier, partly as a literary device, but also with a view to demonstration. Sometimes it is plain that the writer deliberately “accommodates” a quotation (cf. John xviii. 8, 9 with xvii. 12). But New Testament quotations of Old Testament predictions are often for us accommodations—striking or forced as the case may be—while the New Testament writer, “following the exegetical methods current among the Jews of his time, Matthew ii. 15, 18, xxvi. 31, xxvii. 9” (S. R. Driver in Zechariah in Century Bible, pp. 259, 271), puts them forward as arguments. To say that he is merely “describing a New Testament fact in Old Testament phraseology” may be true of the result rather than of his design. (2) Much besides in the Bible—parable, metaphor, &c.—has been called an “accommodation,” or divine condescension to human weakness. (3) German 18th-century rationalism (see Apologetics) held that the Biblical writers made great use of conscious accommodation—intending moral commonplaces when they seemed to be enunciating Christian dogmas. Another expression for this, used, e.g., by J. S. Semler, is “economy,” which also occurs in the kindred sense of “reserve” (or of Disciplina Arcani—a modern term for the supposed early Catholic habit of reserving esoteric truths). Isaac Williams on Reserve in Religious Teaching, No. 80 of Tracts for the Times, made a great sensation; see R. W. Church’s comments in The Oxford Movement. Strictly, accommodation (2) or (3) modifies, in form or in substance, the content of religious belief; reserve, from prudence or cunning, withholds part. “Economy” is used in both senses.