The Bible and Teeth

“What does the Bible have to say about teeth?

Just when I thought I had heard every question that could possibly be asked about the Bible, I heard that one last week.

A member of the last church I served – and my dentist for the years I was there – emailed me with that question. Turns out he was asked to speak about his vocation to the older adult ministry at my former church, and he thought he would toss in a reference or two to the Bible.

And naturally that’s when he thought of me.

So, the question wasn’t about the position that Bible takes regarding teeth, but simply about tooth references.  Actually, writing about the Bible’s position on teeth might have been a more interesting question to explore.  I would like to think that Bible takes a strong and conservative stand on teeth, not a liberal and wishy-washy one.

In any case, I approached the question the way I approach nearly all questions these days.  I turned to Google and typed “Bible and teeth.”

The result?  Well, you won’t be surprised to know that the Bible contains many, many references to “weeping and the gnashing of teeth,” which biblically speaking is often the sound you hear from some very sad and grief-stricken people.

I didn’t know before, but as the result of my research I am now aware that the idiom or expression “by the skin of my teeth” comes from the Bible – from the Book of Job, as a matter of fact.  As with most idioms, it’s meant to be taken figuratively, not literally – as in “you’re pulling my leg,” which to my knowledge is not found in the Bible.

Okay, but the biblical reference that I thought had the most potential for my old friend’s talk was one from Amos 4:6 where God says he has given his people “cleanness of teeth.”  Sounds good, right?  Not so fast. That’s another idiom or expression, and in context it means that the people haven’t had much to eat of late … and so their teeth are clean.

Look – and it has taken more than 300 words to get here – we tend to use the Bible in some very peculiar ways … for a laugh during a talk at a seniors gathering, for example, or to back up our views on a variety of topics, or to find names for our children, etc.

What I hope we never lose sight of is that the Bible is mostly a story – our story, of course, but more importantly God’s story. So, the Bible tell us not only who we are, but also who God is, and what the relationship between us is like or ought to be like. That’s an amazing gift when you think about it.

And if the Bible gives us a smile or two about our teeth, I suppose that’s okay too.

If Dan gets a big ovation from his audience in Michigan, I told him he’s invited to speak to our older adults in Florida, minus the biblical references.

About Doug

I have been a writer ever since fifth grade when I won second prize in a “prose and poetry” contest. I am also a Presbyterian pastor, and for several years toward the end of my career I lived and worked in Zürich, Switzerland. I am now retired and live just north of Holland, Michigan, along the lake.

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