By Stephen Poxon
A student who just about manages to reach the pass mark in an exam is said to have passed by the skin of their teeth. This saying can be traced back to the Book of Job in the Old Testament of the Bible. Job is a good man who goes through appalling suffering. He loses all his children and his property, and is afflicted with a hideous disease.
He cannot understand why so much evil happens to him when he is not evil himself. He tries to live life to please God, but rather than help him, God seems to desert him.
At one point Job complains: 'I am nothing but skin and bones; I have escaped by only the skin of my teeth' (19:20 NIV).
In other words, Job is alive – but only just. He feels as though he has had a narrow escape from death.
There are differing schools of thought regarding the saying and what it means. Some say the Hebrew words of the original text should be translated, 'with only the skin of my teeth' or 'with only my gums'.
Whatever the case, most accept that the phrase implies a close shave.
The remarkable thing about Job is that, despite the calamities he suffers, he does not lose his faith in God. He may have felt abandoned by God. Indeed he complained that when he called to God he received no answer. But ultimately he continued to believe that God could be trusted.
It has been said that faith is not faith until it's all you're hanging on to. •