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Common sayings with a biblical origin

In our last issue, Martin Hallam introduced us to the naval origin of sayings like ‘mind your Ps and Qs’ and ‘Groggy.’ Now, Aubrey Raye, informs readers of The Wychwood about some of the many everyday sayings that have a biblical origin.

By the skin of your teeth A suffering character in the Old Testament, Job, was completely down in the dumps, everything had gone wrong for him and he had only escaped with his life by the skin of his teeth (Job 19:20)
Drop in the bucket The prophet Isaiah tells that God’s kingdom is so great that even the individual nations are insignificant; they are just a drop in the bucket (Isaiah 40:15)

An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth Jesus tells his followers that taking revenge was not an option, unlike the old custom of saying that taking an eye for an eye and a tooth for tooth was the right way to go about things (Matthew 5:38)

A fly in the ointment Something very small can spoil something perfectly wholesome as the book of Ecclesiastes explains: ‘As dead flies give perfume a bad smell, so a little folly outweighs wisdom and honour’ (Ecclesiastes 10:1)

Go the extra mile This saying, meaning to go above and beyond what is expected, finds its origin in one of Jesus’ phrases when he tells his followers ‘ If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.’ (Matthew 5:41)

Good Samaritan Jesus tells a story about a man who is robbed and beaten up. He is ignored by two upstanding characters, but a foreigner from Samaria picks him up, deals with his wounds and takes him to a place of safety; help had come from a most unexpected source, hence being called a Good Samaritan today. (Luke 10:30-37)

Nothing but skin and bones This saying is back to poor old Job again; he is so woebegone, both mentally and physically, that he declares that he is made of only skin and bones. (Job 19: 19,20)

Pride comes before a fall Witnessing to the perils of bigheadedness, one biblical proverb states that ‘Pride goes before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall.’ (Proverbs 16:18)

Rise and shine This cheery early morning greeting has its origins in the book of Isaiah when the prophet states: ‘Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you.’ (Isaiah 60:1)

Scapegoat A scapegoat is someone who pays the price for someone else’s faults and originates from an ancient Old Testament law, when a goat had to be sacrificed to pay for a man’s sin (Leviticus 16:9,10)

See eye to eye This saying, about agreeing with one another, comes again from the prophet Isaiah when he states; ‘The watchmen shall lift up the voice; with the voice together they will sing: for they will see eye to eye when the Lord returns to Zion.’ (Isaiah 52:8)

Keep to the straight and narrow Jesus says that the right way through life is not an easy one, stating: ‘Small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.’ (Matthew 7:14)

Wash your hands of the matter When Jesus was arrested and accused of various offences, Pilate wanted nothing to do with the dispute so he very publicly washed his hands to show his separation from any judgments. (Matthew 27:24)

October – November 2018