"Take it upon oneself" λαμβάνειν + inf. Mc.14:8 Diodorus Siculus 13.90.2

Semantic Range, Lexicography, and other approaches to word meaning - in general, or for particular words.
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Stephen Hughes
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Joined: February 26th, 2013, 7:12 am

"Take it upon oneself" λαμβάνειν + inf. Mc.14:8 Diodorus Siculus 13.90.2

Post by Stephen Hughes »

LSJ doesn't offer a clue to the construction (-)λαμβάνειν + inf. and doesn't cite classical examples, so perhaps it is a syntactic construction that arose in the post-classical period. The BDAG entry for προ-λαμβάνειν is a step up from the LSJ entry for the λαμβάνειν verbs in that is conjectures a contextual meaning of "do" for λαμβάνειν in the entry for προλαμβάνω, but that BDAG entry follows the line of the implications for the temporal sequence because of the addition of the προ-, but does not specifically look at the construction of λαμβάνειν + inf. with the infinitive either. So, LSJ mentions the construction but not the meaning, and BDAG the meaning but not the construction.

In considering the λαμβάνειν + inf. construction προέλαβεν μυρίσαι, I think it is beneficial to see λαμβάνειν + inf. as a construction. That is to say that the vagueness and conjectural nature of the first part of the BDAG entry is something worth looking into. In considering the only NT verse:
Mark 14:8 wrote:Ὃ ἔσχεν αὕτη ἐποίησεν· προέλαβεν μυρίσαι μου τὸ σῶμα εἰς τὸν ἐνταφιασμόν.
to use this periphrastic construction, I have found it useful to consider the following passage from:
Diodorus Siculus, Library, 13.90.2 wrote:μιᾷ γὰρ πράξει διελάμβανεν ἀφελέσθαι θεῶν ἀσέβειαν, πολεμίων ἁρπαγὰς πολλῶν χρημάτων, μέγιστον ἑαυτοῦ τὴν εἰς τὸ σῶμα ἐσομένην ὕβριν.
The meaning of that is that Tellias killed three birds with one stone.

In both Mark and Diodorus Siculus the prefixed preposition is used at a syntactical rather than lexical level - ie the meaning of the verb is not changed, but its relationship to the other elements in the narrative is made clear.

If the λαμβάνειν and the λαμβάνειν family of verbs are taken together as verbs of thinking, rather than just several of them are given individual metaphorical senses, then the idea of decision, deciding to do, or "taking it upon oneself" (+ inf.) to do something, is clearly novel, but not much of an extension of the meaning present in the Classical idiom.
Γελᾷ δ' ὁ μωρός, κἄν τι μὴ γέλοιον ᾖ
(Menander, Γνῶμαι μονόστιχοι 108)
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