I’m pleased to announce that The Biblical Accommodation Debate in Germany: Interpretation and the Enlightenment will be published by Palgrave Macmillan. Since the days of the Enlightenment, one of the most significant aspects of interpreting the Bible has been the question of how God accommodated his revelation to humanity. Since God is infinite and humans are finite, God had to somehow communicate with his creatures in a way they could understand. Ever since the time of Augustine, accommodation has been a crucial doctrine for interpreters of the Bible who also seek to understand the Bible’s authority, and it remains so today. However, the contemporary discussion of the doctrine is hampered by an ignorance of its history and how a seventy-five-year debate reshaped accommodation for the modern era. My book aims to redress this misunderstanding.
In this book I set out to fill a lacuna in the history of biblical interpretation. To date, there is no work on the doctrine of accommodation during the Enlightenment. Given that eighteenth-century Germany witnessed the greatest concentrated discussion of accommodation, all in the context of historical criticism, this void in the history of biblical interpretation is quite unfortunate. My book meets this need by examining the accommodation debate of 1761–1835 in conjunction with the German Enlightenment and the rise of historical criticism.
The book also enters into the current dialogue of biblical accommodation. Recent biblical scholars have once again begun utilizing the doctrine in their exegesis. However, this resurgence fails to account for the history of the doctrine. As a result, biblical scholars confuse the various definitions of accommodation, attributing heterodox definitions to accommodationists who upheld an orthodox understanding and who in fact combated this heterodoxy. My book provides a study of the two main definitions of accommodation, dispensing with the mistaken understanding in current biblical studies.
The central feature of the book is my argument that the history of this doctrine reveals two mutually exclusive definitions of accommodation. While each group has its distinctions and nuances, the two can be categorized based on their understanding of errors in the Bible. Augustinian accommodationists argued that divine condescension occurred only in manner and form, never compromising the accuracy of the revelation. Socinian accommodationists contended that since God adapts the thoughts and beliefs of ancient Israel, errors are inevitable in divine revelation, resulting in an accommodation of matter and content.
I contextualize this argument in the Enlightenment, allowing for a broad understanding of the Enlightenment. The Enlightenment was a diverse movement, which included radicals, moderates, and the religiously minded alike. As the current literature is increasingly recognizing, the Christian voice played a definite role in Enlightenment discussions, and this volume gives that voice a historically deserved platform in the accommodation debate. An examination of the debate shows how Christians partook in the Enlightenment not merely as critics but as contributing members of an ongoing discussion on the relationship between reason, authority, philosophy, and religion.
The accommodation debate also helps us understand how the issues of the Enlightenment affected theology, hermeneutics, and exegesis. Specifically, the book examines three philosophical systems during the debate: Leibnizian-Wolffian, Spinozian, and Kantian.
Lastly, the book contributes to our understanding of historical criticism. It corrects misunderstandings about the rise of historical criticism, such as the common argument in some circles that Pietistic hermeneutics led to historical criticism. I show that early Pietists intentionally broke from the Socinian accommodationists’ development of historical criticism, preferring to side with their orthodox Lutheran foes than to align themselves with Socinian accommodationists.
It was Socinian accommodation that significantly contributed to the rise of historical criticism. A partnership between the two was found to be mutually beneficial and lasted well into the nineteenth century. No less than Johann Salomo Semler, the father of historical criticism, prolifically used Socinian accommodation, which provided him theological justification for his historical-critical approach, while historical criticism in turn provided him with the historical evidence for the validity of Socinian accommodation. It was this partnership, not eighteenth-century rationalism, that sustained historical criticism and Socinian accommodation into the nineteenth century.