A student paper crossed my desk this week, in which the author wrote that the Letter to the Hebrews "pathed the way" for an understanding that Christ's superior sacrifice renders redundant the daily sacrifice in the Temple.
A quick Google check for the phrase (new to me) shows about 167,000 results; it doesn't seem to show up in the eggcorn database or the forums (though I may be searching poorly). The substitution makes ample sense (apart from the nonstandard verb "pathe"), but I hadn't noticed it until today.
I suspect that the Google search count is an unreliable as such counts generally are, but the pattern is certainly Out There (though many of the examples have clearly been written by people whose native language is other than English):
Mr Moog helped path the way for a whole range of electronic music genres [link]
With the consecutive poor financial results, it is time for me to hand over the responsibility to a new leadership team to path the way for a new era. [link]
However, after September 11, we are challenged to path the way for a kind of sustainable human rights awareness! [link]
These new techniques pathed the way for modern surgery and also contributed to Aesculap's breakthrough. [link]
In the middle period Petri Kontiola, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Stanislav Chistov pathed the way for the win before again Kuznetsov added another one at 52:52. [link]
This pathed the way forward for the Shorthorn breed and gained back industry respect/reputation and demand amongst the commercial beef industry in Australia. [link]
Rugby scholarship paths the way for future stars [link]
Real-time marketing paths the way to delight consumers [link]
Explore and experience together the lively celebration of 500 different activities which paths the way for you to interact, express yourself, communicate with style and have fun in your own way. [link]
Is Samsung pathing the way for cable free charging? [link]
C-Cure is pathing the way for a healthy ticker [link]
Seeing as my concept addresses almost every issue, pathing the way for more complex additions, what is it they are hoping to accomplish and is my idea any good but not something they would ever think of pursuing? [link]
And there are a handful of literary precedents, e.g. William Watt's A Prayer (1860):
May my sins be all forgiven
Through His all-atoning blood,
Which hath pathed the way to heaven
In an overflowing flood.
But there are two paths to verbal pathing. One is the always-available conversion of a noun to a verb, of which Calvin famously said that "Verbing weirds language":
The other path involves an analogy to the pair bath/bathe, in which the verbal form falls into the FACE lexical set, and thus becomes phonetically confusable with pave.
It took a while for this second version to occur to me, so that at first I was puzzled by the re-interpretation of "paved the way" as "pathed the way". But when pathed is pronounced with the FACE vowel, the only difference between pathed and paved is the interdental voiced fricative /ð/ vs. the labiodental voice fricative /v/, in a syllable-final cluster before /d/. And /peɪðd/ vs. /peɪvd/ is about near to a homonymous pair as non-homonyms can get in English.
The FACE-vowel version has been around long enough to make it into the Oxford Middle English Dictionary as pathen, v., and into the OED as pathe, v., glossed as "In early use: to pave (a street, floor, etc.). In later use only fig. in to pathe the way = to pave the way".
The OED speculates, plausibly enough, that this is "Apparently a variant of pave v., probably by association with path n.", and further remarks that
Examples from before the 20th cent. not having the -ed or -ing form are rare, so that the spelling and pronunciation of the base form are unclear; but compare paithment n., with Middle English long ā and its later reflexes. In recent use the base form (with and without the 3rd singular present ending -s) has been spelt pathe, implying the pronunciation /peɪð/ .