This article examines the meaning and sources of the Greek word ἐγγίζω (seen in the form of ἤγγικεν or Ἤγγικεν), which renders into Roman letters as eggizo or eggizō. This word is translated as "is at hand" in the KJV of the Bible. This article also looks at the unusual history of the word since it is not used in any other traditional Greek texts.
This word is important because it appears in a key phrase. The phrase that Jesus and John the Baptist both used to announce their message is translated as "Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." (Matthew 4:17)
If using the Perseus research tool, you may assume that Jesus invented this word as I did initially since the New Testament is the first Greek work that uses this word. However, research shows that it first occurs in the Greek Old Testement, the Septuagint.
The Meaning of the Word
The meaning is not mystery. The Greek eggizo verb means "to bring near", "to join one things to another," to draw near," and "to approach." This word does not appear in the Perseus ancient Greek dictionary. It comes from an adverb ἐγγύς, eggus, which means 1) (of place) "near", "nigh", "at hand," 2) (of time) "nigh at hand" 3) (of numbers) "nearly", "almost", "coming near," and 4) (of relationship) "akin to." Generally, the verb suffix "izo" added to a word gives it the sense of "to be." So the meaning of the word is "to be near."
However, what is interesting about the word is that it is used by the Jewish scholars who created the Septuagint to translate three different Hebrew words: nagash, qarab, and qarowb. The first two are verbs and they both mean to come near or to draw near. The only difference, at least in the Bible is that nagash, is used to refer to sexual intercourse. However, examining Jewish religious writing, I find the following:
"The three words karab, “to come near,” naga’, “to touch,” and nagash, “to approach,” sometimes signify “contact” or “nearness in space,” sometimes the approach of man’s knowledge to an object, as if it resembled the physical approach of one body to another.
…Wherever a word denoting approach or contact is employed in the prophetic writings to describe a relation between the Almighty and any created being, it has to be understood in the latter sense.
— Maimonides, The Guide for the Perplexed
Note that in the above naga and nagash are from the same root so both have the sense of to touch. This is similar to how we talk about something "touching on the meaning" of an idea. It doesn't capture the meaning, but it comes close to it.
The other word, qarowb, is an adjective, not an adverb like eggus. It is obviously from the same root as qarab. It means "near" in terms of place, time, or personal relationships, like kindship. This last idea it interesting because Jesus's other primary message was about our kinship to God and to each other. He is out father and we are all his children.
Jesus's Use of the Word
Jesus uses the word eggizo eighteen times. He uses it to refer to a variety of forms of "coming closer," referring to both closer in place and time and feeling and meaning. In the Septuagint, eggizo appears a great number of times in a variety of very different contexts and Jesus seems to use the word freely as well. The other writers in the New Testament also continue this tradition, using the word even more frequently than Jesus and also in a variety of circumstances.