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ερχομαι επι for sexual activity

Posted: July 26th, 2015, 9:13 pm
by Evan Blackmore
I'm puzzled by a turn of phrase in the Antiochene text of 2 Regn. 17:25:

ὁ δὲ Ἀμεσσὰ ἦν υἱὸς Ιἕθερ τοῦ Ἰεζραηλίτου· ὃς ἦλθεν ἐπὶ τὴν Ἀβιγαίαν θυγατέρα Ἱεσσαὶ

The expected wording would be εισερχομαι προς--which is what one finds here in the "standard" Septuagint. Where the subject is a man and the object a woman, I would have thought that ερχομαι επι might suggest (i) a hostile attack, or (ii) an encounter with a stranger, or (iii) an ascent onto a woman substantially larger than oneself--but I can't believe that the Antiochene reviser intended to imply any of those. Nor can I find ερχομαι επι listed as a standard idiom for sexual activity in any of the standard lexicons (LSJ, LEH, Muraoka, DGE). Can anyone shed any light on it?

Neither of the modern language translations of the Antiochene text seems to have seen anything unusual in the phrasing here. LXX.D has der zu Abigaia... eingegangen war; BGS has que se había llegado a Abigaia.

Re: ερχομαι επι for sexual activity

Posted: July 27th, 2015, 2:47 am
by Stephen Hughes
You're considering a verbal construction, but beyond that the nominal form ἔφοδος (3 in LSJ) is translated as "intercourse". You would have to check if meant the more general forms of intercourse, or more specifically what you are considering.

ἐπι- does not always have a very strongly adversarial meaning.

Re: ερχομαι επι for sexual activity

Posted: July 27th, 2015, 8:20 am
by Ken M. Penner
Evan Blackmore wrote:Where the subject is a man and the object a woman, I would have thought that ερχομαι επι might suggest (i) a hostile attack, or (ii) an encounter with a stranger, or (iii) an ascent onto a woman substantially larger than oneself--but I can't believe that the Antiochene reviser intended to imply any of those. Nor can I find ερχομαι επι listed as a standard idiom for sexual activity in any of the standard lexicons (LSJ, LEH, Muraoka, DGE). Can anyone shed any light on it?
Two ways of answering this question:
1. What would an ancient reader have understood? Like you, I think ancient readers would consider this an odd expression. They would expect it to be used for your suggestion (i). As you noted, ερχομαι επι tends to be for an encounter: usually an event "happens to" someone, or someone "arrives at" a place, or an adversary "attacks" a person or group.
2. What was the reviser intending? He didn't really care how it was understood. He was simply trying to achieve lexical consistency by using the most basic Greek equivalent for each Hebrew word. בא = ἦλθεν and אל = ἐπὶ .

Re: ερχομαι επι for sexual activity

Posted: July 28th, 2015, 2:00 am
by Evan Blackmore
Thanks, Ken, that's very helpful.
Ken M. Penner wrote:2. What was the reviser intending? He didn't really care how it was understood. He was simply trying to achieve lexical consistency by using the most basic Greek equivalent for each Hebrew word. בא = ἦλθεν and אל = ἐπὶ .
I suppose that has to be the explanation. If we were talking about (say) the translator of Ecclesiastes, I'd have no hesitation about it. But it's strange to find such a tactic used by the Antiochene reviser. When he alters, it's almost always in the direction of more stylish, or at least more Atticizing, Greek. And everywhere else (e.g., in 2 Regn. 3:7; 16:21; 16:22) he uses or accepts εισερχομαι προς for בא אל--so if he was aiming for lexical consistency within this particular clause, it was at the expense of lexical inconsistency with everything else he did (which would be most uncharacteristic of him; stylistic homogeneity is one of his hallmarks).

I feel almost as if I'm seeing an isolated patch of Julia Smith or Jay Green in the midst of the Revised English Bible. I'd wonder (a) why anyone put it there, and (b) whether it's as Julia Smith-ish as it seems, or whether it's in reality some highly idiomatic Briticism that just happens to be unfamiliar to me.