3

At the very beginning (§1) of his first oration entitled, "On the Holy Pascha and on His Reluctance/Delay," Gregory writes,

Ἀναστάσεως ἡμέρα, καὶ ἡ ἀρχὴ δεξιὰ...

Browne/Swallow translate καὶ ἡ ἀρχὴ δεξιὰ as "my beginning has good auspices." Is this an accurate translation? It seems to me that it should be translated as "and the auspicious beginning," taking δεξιὰ as an adjective in FemNomSing modifying ἡ ἀρχὴ.

Is resurrection day (Easter Sunday) known in Catholic or Orthodox liturgy as "the auspicious beginning"?

Source text available here.

4

I will attempt1 to answer Is this an accurate translation? and leave the liturgical question to someone else.

First the text for reference:

Ἀναστάσεως ἡμέρα, καὶ ἡ ἀρχὴ δεξιὰ, καὶ λαμπρυνθῶμεν τῇ πανηγύρει, καὶ ἀλλήλους περιπτυξώμεθα.

It is the Day of the Resurrection, and my Beginning has good auspices. Let us then keep the Festival with splendour, and let us embrace one another. (Browne/Swallow)

The question boils down to the distinction between an attributive (the auspicious day) and predicate (the day is auspicious) adjective. I think it is necessarily a predicate adjective, as Browne/Swallow have it. I see two reasons.

  1. The word order and position of the article in ἡ ἀρχὴ δεξιὰ are that of a subject/predicate noun clause rather than an nominal phrase with an attributive adjective.

    If the noun is articular but the adjective is anarthrous...then the adjective is functioning as a predicate adjective.1

    Recall that the constructions that are acceptable representations of an attributive relationship (if at least one article is present) are

    • ἡ δεξιὰ ἀρχὴ (=first attributive position, ~=English); and
    • ἡ ἀρχὴ ἡ δεξιὰ (=second attributive position); and
    • ἀρχὴ ἡ δεξιὰ (=third attributive position, uncommon).
  2. It’s hard for me to see how a nominative phrase could make a semantically agreeable sentence.

    ?It is Resurrection Day, and the auspicious beginning, and let us keep the Festival...

    I suppose you’re thinking of an appositive relationship (?). (It is Resurrection Day, that is, the auspicious beginning...) The lack of concordance in definiteness is a bit disconcerting, although I’m not sure that’s (for lack of a better word) definitive. The introjection of καὶ is also unusual for simple apposition.

Primarily for the first reason, and supported by the second, I read this clause as a predicate adjective, according with the Browne/Swallow translation quoted above.3


1. Admittedly, my grammar is about 300 years outdated for this question, but I offer it anyway as possibly helpful.

2. William D. Mounce. Basics of Biblical Greek. Zondervan, 2009: pp 67-68.

3. The details of how it is construed as auspicious and mine are not totally transparent to me, but that doesn’t seem to be bothering you. I suspect there is a semantic association between ἡμέρα and δεξιὸς that pushes the latter in the direction of “auspicious”.

  • As for Resurrection day; the day is auspicious (adj.) - my impression is that the semantics of ἀρχὴ, ἡμέρα, and δεξιὸς collocated suggests the “the beginning of my day (is auspicious)” translation (despite the absence of the possessive pronoun), but I’m mostly gathering that from the translation you linked, so I think I don’t know whether it’s possible for it to be a comment on “Resurrection day” rather than “my day”. Why not, really? :-) – Susan Oct 7 '15 at 0:49
  • I Googled "auspicious" and "Easter" for some help earlier, and I did find the two terms related. What do you think? (Also noteworthy was this.) – user900 Oct 7 '15 at 1:15

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