Mark 4:4 And it came to pass, as he sowed,

KJV Verse: 

Mark 4:4 And it came to pass, as he sowed, some fell by the way side, and the fowls of the air came and devoured it up.

Greek Verse: 

Literal Alternative: 

And it happened in the sowing, the one that truly fell beside the path. And he showed up, those winged ones, and it devours it.

Interesting and Hidden Aspects: 

The verse has an interesting play on words.  The terms for "sowed", "way side," and "bird" all have double meanings here. However, this verse is odd because all the verbs are singular. For most, the subject is a word that isn't translated correctly but which means "the sowing."  The other subject, the birds, are clearly plural but the verbs referring to them are singular.  This was clearly intentional. One explanation is that the "birds" are represented by a single actor in a portrayal of the parable.  There is also an untranslated word here that is the Greek equivalent of the Aramaic "amen."

KJV Analysis: 

And -- The Greek word translated as "and" is used as the conjunction "and", but it also is used to add emphasis ("also"). In a series, is best translated as "not only...but also." After words implying sameness "as".

it came to pass The verb translated as "it came to pass" means "to become," that is, to enter into a new state. In Greek, especially as used by Christ, it is the opposite of "being," which is existence in the current state. When referring to events, it means "it happened."

as The word translated as "as" actually is the preposition that means "in" and also means "within", "with," or "among."

he This is the standard Greek definitive article. It gives the following verb the form of singular, neuter, indirect object. 

sowed, The Greek verb translated as "sowed" means specifically to "sow seeds" and "to scatter" as in sowing seeds. However, the form is not an active verb. It is an infinitive, preceded by an article. In Greek, this  making the verb into a noun describing its action,like an article with the gerund in English, "the sowing." The phrase is "in the sowing," which is translated as "as he sowed." However, this form is important here because all the following verbs refer to this verbal noun, not the seeds. 

some The word translated as "some" is a demonstrative pronoun ("this" "that"), but it often acts as a pronoun ("the one that), especially a connective pronoun ("the one that") introducing a dependent clause. Here, the form indicates that it refers to "the sowing". It seems that "the sowing" means a single tossing out of seeds.  Its translated as "some" allows for the use of singular verbs here, but "some" is usually from the plural of a different Greek word.

untranslated Untranslated here is a particle, which. when used alone. expresses certainty, "truly" and "certainly".

fell -- "Fell" is translated from a Greek word that means "to fall" and "to fall down." It is the root word for dozens of Greek terms involving moving from a higher state to a lower one. Like our word "to fall" it has a number of special meanings including "to fall into a given class", "to prostrate", "to fall from power", "to perish," and so on. This verb is singular, "it fell." The tense indicates it happening at a specific time in the past, present, or future. This is typical for a story.

by The Greek preposition translated "by," primarily means "besides" and "beyond." It also has a number of specialized meanings. There is a play of words here on both "beside" and "beyond."

the This is the standard Greek definitive article.

way side, "The way" is from a word meaning "the way" or "the road" but which is used symbolically to mean "a way of doing things" or "a philosophy of life." In Acts, followers of Jesus are described as those "belonging to the way". This is where the double meaning of the previous preposition comes in. The phrase means "beside the path" but it has a philosophical sense of "beyond the proper way of thinking."

and The Greek word translated as "and" is used as the conjunction "and", but it also is used to add emphasis ("also").

the This is the standard Greek definitive article. It appears to change the next adjective into a noun.

fowls This adjective means "winged." The sense with the previous article is "the winged ones."  Jesus always uses this word for bird, but it is conscious choice here not to use the Greek word for bird or its diminutive, both of which are common.  All the English scientific words referring to birds coming from common Greek forms not this unusual one.

of the air None of these words appear in the Greek for this verse. Jesus often uses this description with "winged ones," and does in the parallel, Luke 8:5, but he doesn't here.

came The word translated as "came" primarily means "to start out" but Jesus usually uses it to mean "come" but not always. This verb is singular, which the apparent subject, "the winged ones," is plural. This word indicates movement, especially its beginning, without indicating a direction toward or away from anything, so it works either as "come" or "go," but it is more like our phrase "being underway." Our English word "show up" captures both the "start" and "come" ideas. 

and The Greek word translated as "and" is used as the conjunction "and", but it also is used to add emphasis ("also").

devoured "Devoured" is from a verb that means "to eat up" and "to devour." It is a term applied to animals of prey. It also means "to corrode" or "to be gnawed."  This verb to is singular though "the birds" seems to be the subject.

it The word translated as "it" is the Greek word commonly translated as pronouns in English, but it has a few shades of meaning our pronouns do not have. The word technically means "the same," and when used as a pronoun can mean "the true self" as opposed to appearances. This word, referring to the sowing, is again singular.

up. There is no Greek for this word.

Greek Vocabulary: 

καὶ (conj/adv) "And" is kai, which is the conjunction joining phrases and clauses, "and," or "but." After words implying sameness, "as" (the same opinion as you). Used in series, joins positive with negative "Not only...but also." Also used to give emphasis, "even", "also," and "just."

ἐγένετο ( verb 3rd sg aor ind mid ) "Came to pass" is ginomai, which means "to become", "to come into being", of things "to be produced," of events "take place", "come to pass", "to be engaged in", math "to be multiplied into", "become one of", "turn into".and "to be." It means changing into a new state of being. It is the complementary opposite of the verb "to be" (eimi)which indicates existence in the same state. --

ἐν (prep) "In" is en, which means "in", "on", "at", "by", "among", "within", "surrounded by", "in one's hands", "in one's power," and "with". --

τῷ ( article sg neut dat ) "He" is the Greek definite article, hos, ("the"), which usually precedes a noun and, without a noun, takes the meaning of "the one" or, in the plural, "the ones."

σπείρειν ( verb pres inf act )  "He sowed" is speiro, which means "to sow a seed", "to beget offspring", "to scatter like a seed," and "to sow a field."

( pron sg neut nom/acc) "Some" is hos, which means "this", "that", "he", "she", "which", "what", "who", "whosoever", "where", "for which reason," and many similar meanings.

μὲν ( partic) Untranslated is "Indeed" is men, which is generally used to express certainty and means "indeed", "certainly", "surely," and "truly." Used with the conjunction de, as it is here, it points out the specific word being contrast after the conjunction. In English, we usually say, one one hand...on the others... See the article here for specific uses with other particles. --

ἔπεσεν ( verb 3rd sg aor ind act ) "Fell is the verb pipto, which means "to fall", "to fall down", "to be cast down," "fall upon", "intersect (geometry)", "meet", "pass through", "fall violently upon", "attack", "fall in battle", "sink{in water)", "fall short i.e. fail", " fall out of", "lose a thing", "escape from", "fall asleep", "to be accessible to perception", "to fall (between her feet, i.e. to be born)", "to let fall[dice)", "turn out," and "fall under (belong to a class)." The verb is singular, "it fell."

παρὰ (prep) "Along" is para, which means "beside", "from the side of", "from beside,", "from", "issuing from", "near", "by", "with", "along", "past", "beyond", "parallel (geometry)", "like (metaphor)", "a parody of (metaphor)", "precisely at the moment of (time)," and "throughout (time)."

τὴν ὁδόν, ( noun sg fem acc ) "The way side" is hodos, which means literally "the way" or "the road" but it also means "travel" and "journey."  It is interesting that a term joining a path with philosophy exists in many languages from the west to the east. -- 

καὶ (conj/adv) "And" is kai, which is the conjunction joining phrases and clauses, "and," or "but." After words implying sameness, "as" (the same opinion as you). Used in series, joins positive with negative "Not only...but also." Also used to give emphasis, "even", "also," and "just." --

ἦλθεν ( verb 3rd sg aor ind act ) "Came" is erchomai, which means "to start," "to set out", "to come", "to go," and any kind of motion. It means both "to go" on a journey and "to arrive" at a place. --

τὰ πετεινὰ ( adj pl neut nom) "Fowls" is from the Greek, peteinos, (peteinos) which means "fully-fledged", "able to fly" or "winged." In the form used, peteinon, it refers to any winged thing. There was clearly a conscious choice here not to use the Greek word for bird, which is ornis, or, in the diminutive, ornithion. All the English words referring to birds coming from Greek begin with this "ornith" prefix, incluidng ornithology, the study of birds.

καὶ (conj/adv) "And" is kai, which is the conjunction joining phrases and clauses, "and," or "but." After words implying sameness, "as" (the same opinion as you). Used in series, joins positive with negative "Not only...but also." Also used to give emphasis, "even", "also," and "just.

κατέφαγεν (verb 3rd sg aor ind act) "Devoured" is from katesthiô, which means "to eat up" and "to devour." It is a term applied to animals of prey. It also means "to corrode" or "to be gnawed."

αὐτό. (adj sg neut acc) "It" is autos, which means "the same," and the reflexive pronouns, "myself", "yourself", "himself", "herself", "itself," or the oblique case of the pronouns, "him", "her," and "it." It also means "one's true self," that is, "the soul" as opposed to the body and "of one's own accord." --

Wordplay: 

Double meaning if "beside the path" is "beyond the way."

Related Verses: 

Jun 12 2019