From: Carl W. Conrad (
Date: Wed Mar 12 1997 - 13:20:56 EST

At 11:42 AM -0600 3/12/97, S. M. Baugh wrote:
>Dear All,
>I'm afraid I feel old fashioned or something in this regard, but when I
>have a question on translation of an word or idiomatic phrase I reach
>for BAGD and LSJ. Is this cheating or something? Perhaps it does take
>some of the fun out of the discussion if we regard them as the last
>word. I certainly don't recommend that, although perhaps they should
>have the first word?
>Since no one seems to have quoted these sources, let me simply issue
>their opinions into the mix of discussion: "ARCHN LAMBANEIN *begin*
>[they cite Polybius, Aelian; Diogenes Laertius, Sextus Empiricus, and
>Philo] LALEISQAI *be proclaimed at first* Hb 2:3, cf. IEph 19:3" (BAGD,
>p. 112; the *'s mark italics [art. ARCH]). The reference in Ignatius
>renders "and that which had been perfected in the counsels of God began
>to take effect." LSJ does not discuss this pair directly under ARCH, but
>give an interesting reference to acc. ARCHN used absolutely to mean "to
>begin with" or "not at all" w/ a negative citing ARCHN MHDE LABWN in
>Herodotus (3.39) [which I don't have at home].

You started out with ARCH, no doubt. But the original question was not
about ARCH, it was about how LABOUSA fit in. I will admit that I'd never
seen ARCHN LAMBANEIN anywhere else, but then, I haven't really been reading
much in Hellenistic philosophers, and for that matter next to nothing in
Polybius either. ARCHN LAMBANEIN as "get a start" sounds like a reasonable
idiomatic expression. Perhaps it is distinctive Hellenistic philosophic
vocabulary; the phrase is a bit like Aristotle's celebrated comment on why
tragedy stopped developing after Euripides: ESCE THN FUSIN--"it had
attained its mature growth."

The Herodotus passage looked interesting so I pursued it; I suspected at
the outset that LSJ meant, by saying that ARCHN used absolutely meant used
as an adverb, and that's exactly what Herodotus 3:39 shows:

Here the form ARCHN is adverbial, meaning "in the first place"; LABWN has
nothing to do with it except that it is modified adverbially by ARCHN. "For
he said that he would do his friend a greater favor by giving back what he
had taken than by not taking it in the first place."

>If I were inclined to pursue this, I would ask whether: (1) ARCHN
>LAMBANEIN were a Hellenistic idiom coming alongside ARCOMAI + inf. as
>virtually synonymous and hence of little further interest; or, (2) the
>phrase has a slightly different nuance than ARCOMAI + inf. which focuses
>on the inception of an action; i.e., "which was *at the very beginning*
>spoken through. . . " in Heb. 2:3. I'm not defending either idea, and
>the second is just a guess, but if someone wanted to do some lexical
>research in TLG, this might be a fruitful inquiry.

I might run a quick search on ARCHN and LAMBANW used together and see what
comes up on the TLG. It still strikes me as sort of awkward to have the
passive infinitive with ARCHN LABOUSA, but if it has assumed an idiomatic
standard philosophical usage, that would be an interesting and curious fact.

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University
One Brookings Drive, St. Louis, MO, USA 63130
(314) 935-4018 OR

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