Like, You Know, It Happened That It Came To Pass •
ἐγένετο in Luke and Acts
When we speak and write we place into our word flow little turns of phrase and wordings that distinguish us individually from others. Others might be able to tell from the nuances of our speech and writing that the words come from Larry and not from Lenny.
Scholars look for these nuances of word and phrase when examining Biblical texts. Much energy in Biblical scholarship has been in identifying authors of Biblical books, and debating actual versus traditional claims of authorship. Examination of writing style and word usage is therefore a heavily used used analysis technique.
Luke the physician is widely accepted as being the author of the companion books of Luke and Acts. This Bible Bit illustrates an example of word usage by Luke the author.
Consider the Greek word ἐγένετο (egeneto). This word is rooted in the it’s parent γίνομαι (ginomai) which carries the basic meaning to come into being, to happen, to be manifest, to be born, created, and so on. Our word ἐγένετο carries the derived meaning it happened that and the traditional it came to pass.
Note the ability of “it came to pass” or “it happened that” to serve as a transitional phrase. It serves as a device for the writer to indicate movement from one narrative action to another, and from one line of thought to another.
ἐγένετο does not always receive translation in this transitional form, but it is used this way often enough to become a recognized “Bible phrase.”
Here are a few examples from the good ol’ King James Version. At times ἐγένετο is used in the sense of it came to pass, and at other times it expresses the more benign was, became, has been and the like.
Matt 7:28 And it came to pass, when Jesus had ended these sayings, the people were astonished at his doctrine: (KJV)
Mark 1:9 And it came to pass in those days, that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee, and was baptized of John in Jordan. (KJV)
John 3:25 Then there arose a question between some of John’s disciples and the Jews about purifying. (KJV)
Rom 11:34 … or who hath been his counsellor? (KJV)
1 Thes 3:4 For verily, when we were with you, we told you before that we should suffer tribulation; even as it came to pass, and ye know. (KJV)
2 Tim 3:9 But they shall proceed no further: for their folly shall be manifest unto all men, as theirs also was. (KJV)
Hebrews 2:2 For if the word spoken by angels was stedfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompence of reward; (KJV)
Hebrews 5:9 And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him; (KJV)
Rev 2:8 And unto the angel of the church in Smyrna write; These things saith the first and the last, which was dead, and is alive; (KJV)
Rev 6:12 And I beheld when he had opened the sixth seal, and, lo, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood; (KJV)
Rev 6:12 in the Morphological Greek: 6:12 καὶ εἶδον ὅτε ἤνοιξεν τὴν σφραγῖδα τὴν ἕκτην καὶ σεισμὸς μέγας ἐγένετο καὶ ὁ ἥλιος ἐγένετο μέλας ὡς σάκκος τρίχινος καὶ ἡ σελήνη ὅλη ἐγένετο ὡς αἷμα
We count 72 occurences of the Greek ἐγένετο in Luke and 53 in Acts. Be careful to note these are counts of the Greek word, not counts of English translation words or phrases. Here are all 72 + 53. We have highlighted a;; those translated “it came to pass,” but have not done this for (most of the) others.
From Luke, using the King James Version:
(1:5) There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judaea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the course of Abia: and his wife [was] of the daughters of Aaron, and her name [was] Elisabeth. … (1:8) And it came to pass, that while he executed the priest’s office before God in the order of his course, … (1:23) And it came to pass, that, as soon as the days of his ministration were accomplished, he departed to his own house. … (1:41) And it came to pass, that, when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost: … (1:44) For, lo, as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in mine ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy. … (1:59) And it came to pass, that on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child; and they called him Zacharias, after the name of his father. … (1:65) And fear came on all that dwelt round about them: and all these sayings were noised abroad throughout all the hill country of Judaea.
(2:1) And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed. … (2:2) ([And] this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) … (2:6) And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. … (2:13) And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, … (2:15) And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us. … (2:42) And when he was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem after the custom of the feast. … (2:46) And it came to pass, that after three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them, and asking them questions.
(3:2) Annas and Caiaphas being the high priests, the word of God came unto John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness. … (3:21) Now when all the people were baptized, it came to pass, that Jesus also being baptized, and praying, the heaven was opened,
(4:25) But I tell you of a truth, many widows were in Israel in the days of Elias, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, when great famine was throughout all the land; … (4:36) And they were all amazed, and spake among themselves, saying, What a word [is] this! for with authority and power he commandeth the unclean spirits, and they come out.
(5:1) And it came to pass, that, as the people pressed upon him to hear the word of God, he stood by the lake of Gennesaret, … (5:12) And it came to pass, when he was in a certain city, behold a man full of leprosy: who seeing Jesus fell on [his] face, and besought him, saying, Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean. … (5:17) And it came to pass on a certain day, as he was teaching, that there were Pharisees and doctors of the law sitting by, which were come out of every town of Galilee, and Judaea, and Jerusalem: and the power of the Lord was [present] to heal them.
(6:1) And it came to pass on the second sabbath after the first, that he went through the corn fields; and his disciples plucked the ears of corn, and did eat, rubbing [them] in [their] hands. … (6:6) And it came to pass also on another sabbath, that he entered into the synagogue and taught: and there was a man whose right hand was withered. … (6:12) And it came to pass in those days, that he went out into a mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God. … (6:13) And when it was day, he called [unto him] his disciples: and of them he chose twelve, whom also he named apostles; … (6:16) And Judas [the brother] of James, and Judas Iscariot, which also was the traitor. … (6:49) But he that heareth, and doeth not, is like a man that without a foundation built an house upon the earth; against which the stream did beat vehemently, and immediately it fell; and the ruin of that house was great.
(7:11) And it came to pass the day after, that he went into a city called Nain; and many of his disciples went with him, and much people.
(8:1) And it came to pass afterward, that he went throughout every city and village, preaching and shewing the glad tidings of the kingdom of God: and the twelve [were] with him, … (8:19) Then came to him [his] mother and his brethren, and could not come at him for the press. … (8:22) Now it came to pass on a certain day, that he went into a ship with his disciples: and he said unto them, Let us go over unto the other side of the lake. And they launched forth. … (8:24) And they came to him, and awoke him, saying, Master, master, we perish. Then he arose, and rebuked the wind and the raging of the water: and they ceased, and there was a calm.
(9:18) And it came to pass, as he was alone praying, his disciples were with him: and he asked them, saying, Whom say the people that I am? … (9:28) And it came to pass about an eight days after these sayings, he took Peter and John and James, and went up into a mountain to pray. … (9:29) And as he prayed, the fashion of his countenance was altered, and his raiment [was] white [and] glistering. … (9:33) And it came to pass, as they departed from him, Peter said unto Jesus, Master, it is good for us to be here: and let us make three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias: not knowing what he said. … (9:34) While he thus spake, there came a cloud, and overshadowed them: and they feared as they entered into the cloud. … (9:35) And there came a voice out of the cloud, saying, This is my beloved Son: hear him. … (9:37) And it came to pass, that on the next day, when they were come down from the hill, much people met him. … (9:51) And it came to pass, when the time was come that he should be received up, he stedfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem,
(10:21) In that hour Jesus rejoiced in spirit, and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes: even so, Father; for so it seemed good in thy sight.
(11:1) And it came to pass, that, as he was praying in a certain place, when he ceased, one of his disciples said unto him, Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples. … (11:6) For a friend of mine in his journey is come to me, and I have nothing to set before him? … (11:14) And he was casting out a devil, and it was dumb. And it came to pass, when the devil was gone out, the dumb spake; and the people wondered. … (11:27) And it came to pass, as he spake these things, a certain woman of the company lifted up her voice, and said unto him, Blessed [is] the womb that bare thee, and the paps which thou hast sucked. … (11:30) For as Jonas was a sign unto the Ninevites, so shall also the Son of man be to this generation.
(13:19) It is like a grain of mustard seed, which a man took, and cast into his garden; and it grew, and waxed a great tree; and the fowls of the air lodged in the branches of it.
(14:1) And it came to pass, as he went into the house of one of the chief Pharisees to eat bread on the sabbath day, that they watched him.
(15:14) And when he had spent all, there arose a mighty famine in that land; and he began to be in want.
(16:22) And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried;
(17:11) And it came to pass, as he went to Jerusalem, that he passed through the midst of Samaria and Galilee. … (17:14) And when he saw [them], he said unto them, Go shew yourselves unto the priests. And it came to pass, that, as they went, they were cleansed. … (17:26) And as it was in the days of Noe, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of man. (17:28) Likewise also as it was in the days of Lot; they did eat, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they builded;
(18:35) And it came to pass, that as he was come nigh unto Jericho, a certain blind man sat by the way side begging:
(19:9) And Jesus said unto him, This day is salvation come to this house, forsomuch as he also is a son of Abraham. … (19:15) And it came to pass, that when he was returned, having received the kingdom, then he commanded these servants to be called unto him, to whom he had given the money, that he might know how much every man had gained by trading. … (19:16) Then came the first, saying, Lord, thy pound hath gained ten pounds. … (19:29) And it came to pass, when he was come nigh to Bethphage and Bethany, at the mount called [the mount] of Olives, he sent two of his disciples,
(20:1) And it came to pass, [that] on one of those days, as he taught the people in the temple, and preached the gospel, the chief priests and the scribes came upon [him] with the elders,
(22:14) And when the hour was come, he sat down, and the twelve apostles with him. … (22:24) And there was also a strife among them, which of them should be accounted the greatest. … (22:44) And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground. … (22:66) And as soon as it was day, the elders of the people and the chief priests and the scribes came together, and led him into their council, saying,
(23:44) And it was about the sixth hour, and there was a darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour.
(24:4) And it came to pass, as they were much perplexed thereabout, behold, two men stood by them in shining garments: … (24:15) And it came to pass, that, while they communed [together] and reasoned, Jesus himself drew near, and went with them. … (24:19) And he said unto them, What things? And they said unto him, Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, which was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people: … (24:21) But we trusted that it had been he which should have redeemed Israel: and beside all this, to day is the third day since these things were done. … (24:30) And it came to pass, as he sat at meat with them, he took bread, and blessed [it], and brake, and gave to them. … (24:31) And their eyes were opened, and they knew him; and he vanished out of their sight. … (24:51) And it came to pass, while he blessed them, he was parted from them, and carried up into heaven.
Now from Acts, again in the King James:
(1:19) And it was known unto all the dwellers at Jerusalem; insomuch as that field is called in their proper tongue, Aceldama, that is to say, The field of blood.
(2:2) And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting.
(4:5) And it came to pass on the morrow, that their rulers, and elders, and scribes,
(5:5) And Ananias hearing these words fell down, and gave up the ghost: and great fear came on all them that heard these things. … (5:7) And it was about the space of three hours after, when his wife, not knowing what was done, came in. (5:11) And great fear came upon all the church, and upon as many as heard these things.
(6:1) And in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplied, there arose a murmuring of the Grecians against the Hebrews, because their widows were neglected in the daily ministration.
(7:13) And at the second [time] Joseph was made known to his brethren; and Joseph’s kindred was made known unto Pharaoh. … (7:29) Then fled Moses at this saying, and was a stranger in the land of Madian, where he begat two sons. … (7:31) When Moses saw [it], he wondered at the sight: and as he drew near to behold [it], the voice of the Lord came unto him, … (7:40) Saying unto Aaron, Make us gods to go before us: for [as for] this Moses, which brought us out of the land of Egypt, we wot not what is become of him.
(8:1) And Saul was consenting unto his death. And at that time there was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judaea and Samaria, except the apostles. (8:8) And there was great joy in that city.
(9:3) And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven: … (9:19) And when he had received meat, he was strengthened. Then was Saul certain days with the disciples which were at Damascus. … (9:32) And it came to pass, as Peter passed throughout all [quarters], he came down also to the saints which dwelt at Lydda. … (9:37) And it came to pass in those days, that she was sick, and died: whom when they had washed, they laid [her] in an upper chamber. … (9:42) And it was known throughout all Joppa; and many believed in the Lord. … (9:43) And it came to pass, that he tarried many days in Joppa with one Simon a tanner.
(10:10) And he became very hungry, and would have eaten: but while they made ready, he fell into a trance, … (10:13) And there came a voice to him, Rise, Peter; kill, and eat. … (10:16) This was done thrice: and the vessel was received up again into heaven. … (10:25) And as Peter was coming in, Cornelius met him, and fell down at his feet, and worshipped [him].
(11:10) And this was done three times: and all were drawn up again into heaven. … (11:26) And when he had found him, he brought him unto Antioch. And it came to pass, that a whole year they assembled themselves with the church, and taught much people. And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch. … (11:28) And there stood up one of them named Agabus, and signified by the Spirit that there should be great dearth throughout all the world: which came to pass in the days of Claudius Caesar.
(12:18) Now as soon as it was day, there was no small stir among the soldiers, what was become of Peter.
(14:1) And it came to pass in Iconium, that they went both together into the synagogue of the Jews, and so spake, that a great multitude both of the Jews and also of the Greeks believed. … (14:5) And when there was an assault made both of the Gentiles, and also of the Jews with their rulers, to use [them] despitefully, and to stone them,
(15:39) And the contention was so sharp between them, that they departed asunder one from the other: and so Barnabas took Mark, and sailed unto Cyprus;
(16:16) And it came to pass, as we went to prayer, a certain damsel possessed with a spirit of divination met us, which brought her masters much gain by soothsaying: … (16:26) And suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken: and immediately all the doors were opened, and every one’s bands were loosed.
(19:1) And it came to pass, that, while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul having passed through the upper coasts came to Ephesus: and finding certain disciples, (19:10) And this continued by the space of two years; so that all they which dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus, both Jews and Greeks. … (19:17) And this was known to all the Jews and Greeks also dwelling at Ephesus; and fear fell on them all, and the name of the Lord Jesus was magnified. … (19:23) And the same time there arose no small stir about that way. … (19:34) But when they knew that he was a Jew, all with one voice about the space of two hours cried out, Great [is] Diana of the Ephesians.
(20:3) And [there] abode three months. And when the Jews laid wait for him, as he was about to sail into Syria, he purposed to return through Macedonia. … (20:37) And they all wept sore, and fell on Paul’s neck, and kissed him,
(21:1) And it came to pass, that after we were gotten from them, and had launched, we came with a straight course unto Coos, and the [day] following unto Rhodes, and from thence unto Patara: … (21:5) And when we had accomplished those days, we departed and went our way; and they all brought us on our way, with wives and children, till [we were] out of the city: and we kneeled down on the shore, and prayed. … (21:30) And all the city was moved, and the people ran together: and they took Paul, and drew him out of the temple: and forthwith the doors were shut. … (21:35) And when he came upon the stairs, so it was, that he was borne of the soldiers for the violence of the people.
(22:6) And it came to pass, that, as I made my journey, and was come nigh unto Damascus about noon, suddenly there shone from heaven a great light round about me. … (22:17) And it came to pass, that, when I was come again to Jerusalem, even while I prayed in the temple, I was in a trance;
(23:7) And when he had so said, there arose a dissension between the Pharisees and the Sadducees: and the multitude was divided. … (23:9) And there arose a great cry: and the scribes [that were] of the Pharisees’ part arose, and strove, saying, We find no evil in this man: but if a spirit or an angel hath spoken to him, let us not fight against God.
(27:27) But when the fourteenth night was come, as we were driven up and down in Adria, about midnight the shipmen deemed that they drew near to some country; … (27:39) And when it was day, they knew not the land: but they discovered a certain creek with a shore, into the which they were minded, if it were possible, to thrust in the ship. … (27:42) And the soldiers’ counsel was to kill the prisoners, lest any of them should swim out, and escape. … (27:44) And the rest, some on boards, and some on [broken pieces] of the ship. And so it came to pass, that they escaped all safe to land.
(28:8) And it came to pass, that the father of Publius lay sick of a fever and of a bloody flux: to whom Paul entered in, and prayed, and laid his hands on him, and healed him. … (28:17) And it came to pass, that after three days Paul called the chief of the Jews together: and when they were come together, he said unto them, Men [and] brethren, though I have committed nothing against the people, or customs of our fathers, yet was I delivered prisoner from Jerusalem into the hands of the Romans.
We have highlighted the English phrase “it came to pass.” For those verses not so translated, we will leave it to you to look up the Greek, find the word ἐγένετο, and see how the creators of the King James Version chose to translate ἐγένετο into English in these places.
For the remainder of the 27 New Testament books, all written originally in Greek, here are the counts of ἐγένετο:
Matthew 13 Mark 17 Luke 72 John 15 Acts 53 Romans 2 1 Corinthians 1 2 Corinthians 1 Galatians 0 Ephesians 0 Philippians 0 Colossians 0 1 Thessalonians 1 2 Thessalonians 0 1 Timothy 0 2 Timothy 3 Titus 0 Philemon 0 Hebrews 3 James 0 1 Peter 0 2 Peter 0 1 John 0 2 John 0 3 John 0 Jude 0 Revelation 17
So Luke was a heavy user of ἐγένετο and, in effect, the English expression “it came to pass.” The word is used 198 times in the Greek text of the New Testament, and Luke is responsible for 125, or 63 percent, of these.
Thanks to the Online Greek Bible, Bill Mounce’s online Greek resources, the Blue Letter Bible and Bible Hub.
We at Bible Bits are not Greek experts. We cannot even read Hebrew or Greek. But we can use what skills we do have to consult commentaries, lexicons, Greek language resources, and those experts who do have knowledge of Greek and its use in the Bible. And if we can do this, so can you!
Please comment with information you have gleaned from your study of ἐγένετο and its variations, and how translators have dealt with this and similar words. We ask that you cite scripture and scholarly sources.
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