Abarim Publications' online Biblical Greek Dictionary
The verb αρπαζω (arpazo) means to seize, snatch up and take away — mostly of desirable goods that are stolen, but also of persons who are abducted; both instances emphasizing violence and transgression of law or propriety. In sufficiently poetic minds, our verb may describe the transfer of a lover's inclinations (Bob stole Alice from Steve), the adaptation of an existing theme by a lesser author (ranging from plagiarism to a homage to character development or the furtherance of an archetype), the seizing of opportunities, offices or posts, the comprehending of complex ideas or simply the seeing of something obvious. But even in all these flowery applications there is a dark undertone of violence, abuse, transgression and degradation.
It's unclear where our verb came from but whatever its pedigree, it became securely lodged in the Greek language and spawned a broad pallet of derivations, all having to do with robbery and bereavement, rape, rapine and ravishings — and note that the latter of these English words all relate to the Latin verb rapare, of similar meaning. But still, it's a mystery where all these related words came from. There is the Proto-Indo-European root "serp-", meaning to creep or crawl (hence the English word serpent; see below), and the Greek language has long been suspected of playing fast and loose with leading sigmas (see for a few examples, our article on the noun σειρα, seira, cord or rope), which means that "serp-" could have been become "erp-", and from there αρπαζω (arpazo), or erp-ize, meaning to slither around, to be sneaky or snaky (sneak, snake, even snail share another PIE root, namely "sneg-", also meaning to creep).
Then, of course, there's the Hebrew noun ערף ('orep), meaning neck, but rarely in literal reference to the body part and nearly always in expressions such as to have one's dominant hand on someone's submissive neck (Genesis 49:8), to turn one's neck to someone in fear (Exodus 23:27), and being stiff-necked in arrogance and rebellion (Exodus 32:9, Jeremiah 7:26), which are all sentiments closely akin to what's expressed by our verb αρπαζω (arpazo). An identical root has to do with water drops: noun עריף ('arip) means cloud, and see our article on νεφελη (nephele), cloud, for some hints at the significance of this.
Note that our verb αρπαζω (arpazo) emphasizes the transgression of a common law or social code, which typically causes a decrease in social freedom (see for an explanation of this our article on ελευθερια, eleutheria, or freedom-by-law). Since the right to property is the most fundamental principle of economy, any violation or absence of property right causes humanity to plummet back to the animal world and the principle of survival of the fittest. The New Jerusalem, therefore, is based on a perfectly just economy, where everybody understands the purpose of law and wholeheartedly plays by its rules, and thus attains the utter freedom that comes from the perfect fulfilment of a perfect law (Galatians 5:1, Matthew 5:17-19, Romans 13:8). Note that the word Christ means Anointed, and anointing signified anyone without an earthly superior, anyone sovereign and autonomous. That means that our verb essentially describes a violation of Christhood, and signifies Antichrist.
Our verb αρπαζω (arpazo), to take by force, is used 13 times, see full concordance, and from it derive:
- The noun αρπαγη (harpage), which denotes an instance of the parent verb: a robbery, a violation of property or rights or personal autonomy (Matthew 23:25, Luke 11:39 and Hebrews 10:34 only). In the classics, this noun could also describe certain kinds of hooks or rakes, instruments to hook or rake in items from afar.
- The noun αρπαγμος (harpagmos), which denotes the nature or legal category of the general effect of the parent verb. This curious and very rare noun occurs in the New Testament in Philippians 2:6 only, in Paul's enigmatic statement that Christ, in the form of God, did not consider equality with God to be a violation of property rights, social codes or personal autonomy. This obviously visits the assertion of the locutionary snake in Paradise, who promised equality with God after violating God's command to not eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 3:5). This tree was not the "knowledge tree", and thus a cognitive thing, as per primitive folklore (which also tells that Prometheus was punished for giving fire to humanity), but rather a "good and evil tree", which is an ethical and judgmental thing.
Love fulfills the law, and love neither judges nor rejects (1 Corinthians 13:7, Jude 1:8-9). God is love (1 John 4:7-9), yet God judges (Psalm 75:7), yet God does not compete (Isaiah 45:5-7) or show favor (Romans 2:11, Colossians 3:25). Somewhat less obvious: the oneness of Christ, the Spirit, the Father and all the saints (John 17:21-23) has nothing to do with a Triad, a Trinity, or any such Greco-Roman pantheon, but rather with the fractal nature of creation (John 14:2, Psalm 78:2; also see our riveting article: Stars and fractals — the many hearts of wisdom).
- The adjective αρπαξ (harpax), meaning rapacious. This adjective is mostly used substantially to describe a rapacious person (hence our word harpy), a person who violates property, personal or social rights, and thus produces bondage (darkness, foolishness, hate), the opposite freedom (enlightenment, wisdom, love). This adjective is used 5 times; see full concordance.
- Together with the prefix δια (dia), meaning through or throughout: the verb διαρπαζω (diaparzo), meaning to wholly violate, to rip to pieces, to totally plunder. This verb is used 4 times in two verses; see full concordance.
- Together with the preposition συν (sun), meaning together or with: the verb συναρπαζω (sunarpazo), meaning to jointly violate, or overpower all constituting elements. In Luke 8:29, this verb describes the overpowering of an unclean spirit, which is a spirit of brokenness — the word רע (ra'), evil, comes from the verb רעע (ra'a'), to be broken, the opposite of שלם (shalem), to be whole, from which comes the familiar noun שלום (shalom), wholeness or peace. This verb is used 4 times; see full concordance.
The noun ερπετον (herpeton) means creeper or slow-goer (hence the English word herpes, a slow-spreading inflammatory skin affliction). It comes from the unused verb ερπω (herpo), meaning to creep (of infants, lame men, reptiles), or simply to go slow (of pedestrians perambulating, time passing and fate unfolding, tears welling in eyes, words whispered on the grapevine, and so on). As mentioned above, this verb exists in Latin as serpo, from which English gets the word serpent, and possibly in Greek as the verb αρπαζω (arpazo), to overpower or violate. In the Septuagint, our noun is used as synonym of רמש (remes), the collective creepers that creep, which were created on day 6, distinguished from the birds, the swarmers that swarm (and creep) and the great aquatic beasts of day 5 and the cattle and greater land animals of day 6 (Genesis 1:24, Acts 11:6).
The creepers are characterized by poorly functioning or lack of feet, which forces their whole bodies to become a kind of foot and drag along the earthly dust (see κονια, konia, dust). In Greek, the word for foot, namely πους (pous), emphasizes the elevation of the rest of one's body, and subsequent freedom of motion and field of vision. In Hebrew the word רגל (regel) includes a sexual connotation, suggesting that the base act of sexual reproduction ought to be followed by two decades of caring for and training one's children (that's the social equivalent of physical uprightness; see ישר, yashar, upright). This sexual uprightness is conductive of social complexity, which in turn leads to freedom (see the noun ελευθερια, eleutheria, or freedom-by-law, mentioned above).
All this suggests that the creeper that got the best of Eve may have been crafty in its time but obviously of a much more primitive mind than that of sophisticated moderns with the benefit of the gospel (Genesis 3:1, Revelation 12:9).
Our noun ερπετον (herpeton), creeper, is used 4 times; see full concordance.