My guess is that it has to do with the physical process of scanning, moving your eyes over the words, but I can't find any confirmation.

  • I wouldn't be surprised if there is some biblical connection. – Hot Licks May 9 '17 at 11:35

The idea is of a piece of writing that connects the previous to the next one, as in a sequence of passages:

passage (n.) :

  • early 13c., "a road, passage;" late 13c., "action of passing," from Old French passage "mountain pass, passage" (11c.), from passer "to go by" (see pass (v.)). Meaning "corridor in a building" first recorded 1610s. Meaning "a portion of writing" is from 1610s, of music, from 1670s.


From The Tryal of Henry Sacheverell Before the House of Peers for High Crimes and ... (1710)

  • would therefore beg Leave to read a Passage where he explains himself, and plainly declares what his Thoughts are concerning the Indulgence granted by Law : This Passage is in the twentieth Page, where speaking of some wholesome Severities us'd in former Reigns, he adds, I would not here be misunderstood, as if I ...

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