Adiaphora Part Deux: The Drinking Issue

I wrote an article recently where I covered issues of “Adiaphora”, that is contemporary (and contentious) issues within the church which are neither explicitly commanded nor condemned.  I received a comment recently to which I responded in-depth.  By the time I was finished it was several pages long, so I felt it might be helpful to post it as a follow-on article. (Besides, reading multiple paragraphs in the comments section is brutal!)

I’ll post the original comment, followed by my response.  I want to reiterate (and no matter how clearly or often I state this, it’s going to be misinterpreted) Drunkenness is a sin and is prohibited, explicitly, and repeatedly in scripture.

It. is. a. sin. to. get. drunk. 

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“Christian” wrote: 

“Thanks for your kind reply, please consider the 2 points below.

First is the concept of “drunkenness” (Eph 5:18). This word is methuskō. To be completely impaired is obviously forbidden, but what isn’t carried over from the Greek is the additional concept of not even beginning the process of impairment “to begin being softened.”

Second is the concept of being “sober” (1 Thess 5:4-8, 1 Pet 1:13, 1 Pet 5:8). The root word here is Nepho. This word carries with it in the Greek the force of abstaining from alcohol.”

My Response: 

You make several assertions which I would challenge:

1. “The concept of  ‘drunkenness’ (Eph 5:18). This word is methusko. To be completely impaired is obviously forbidden, but what isn’t carried over from the Greek is the additional concept of not even beginning the process of impairment ‘to begin being softened.’”

2. “The concept of being “sober”. The root here is Nepho. This word carries with it in the Greek the force of abstaining from alcohol.”

First, I would like to ask, respectfully, are you, personally, proficient in biblical greek?  I ask because it will determine how I respond moving forward.

Upon what do you base the assertion above? I have looked at both the greek texts and the Symantec range of both words you list (μεθυσκω, νηφω) and nowhere do I see the “additional concepts” you mention.  What are your sources for this assertion?

Below, I’ll take each occurrence of the two words in question (μεθυσκω, νηφω:

Μεθυσκω

1. μεθυσκεσθε

V-PNM/P-2P

Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit,

(Ephesians 5:15-18 ESV)

Comment: There is no sense, whatever, from the greek that this is “imbibing”, the verb tense here is “becoming intoxicated (passive).  To say that this is anything other than “becoming intoxicated” is eisegesis, or inserting ideas from outside the text.

Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes. Truly, I say to you, he will set him over all his possessions. But if that servant says to himself, ‘My master is delayed in coming,’ and begins to beat the male and female servants, and to eat and drink and get drunk,

(Luke 12:43-45 ESV) (This parable is also in Matthew 24)

Comment:  The language is clear here, the unfaithful servant is drinking to become intoxicated. (Though this parable is not speaking specifically against drunkenness, rather the unfaithfulness of the servant.) Again, there is no sense whatsoever that this is speaking to imbibing in alcohol, it is explicit in describing drunkenness.

 

Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers, you have no need to have anything written to you. For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, “There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief. For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness. So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, are drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him. Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.

 

(1 Thessalonians 5:1-11 ESV)

 

Comment: Context here is to be aware of the “Day of the Lord”. The charge is to not to be as those who sleep or are drunk, but to be vigilant in faith, love and hope. The context here is not teaching a prohibition of alcohol any more than it is teaching a prohibition against sleeping.  Context is key here.

μεθυω

Now there were six stone water jars there for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. And he said to them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast.” So they took it. When the master of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now.” This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him.

 

(John 2:6-11 ESV)

 

Comment: The amount of wine here is between 120-180 gallons. We do not know how much of it was consumed by the guests. To assume that this was “too much wine” to be alcohol as it would have made every guest intoxicated is speculation. We just don’t have the “math” here: We don’t know how many guest, nor do we know how much was consumed.

With that, there are 2 important notes here;

1. The water was for rites of purification.

2. Jesus first miracle was to turn those waters used for “ritual purification” into the very symbol of his blood (wine)!

It is staggeringly beautiful in its imagery and of my favorite passages in scripture! Jesus is, indeed, the better wine!

But Peter, standing with the eleven, lifted up his voice and addressed them: “Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and give ear to my words. For these people are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day.

 

(Acts 2:14-15 ESV)

Comment: Again, no clear prohibition of drinking or drunkenness. The point here is that Peter was responding that the men they heard speaking the gospel in various languages were not intoxicated.

Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers, you have no need to have anything written to you. For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, “There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief. For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness. So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, are drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him. Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.

 

(1 Thessalonians 5:1-11 ESV)

 

Comment: As previously written: Context here is to be aware of the “Day of the Lord”. The charge is to not to be as those who sleep or are drunk, but to be vigilant in faith, love and hope. The context here is not teaching a prohibition of alcohol any more than it is teaching a prohibition against sleeping.  Context is key here.

Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and said to me, “Come, I will show you the judgment of the great prostitute who is seated on many waters, with whom the kings of the earth have committed sexual immorality, and with the wine of whose sexual immorality the dwellers on earth have become drunk.”

(Revelation 17:1-2 ESV)

 

Now to discuss the term νεφω (sober)

Strong’s Greek: 3525. νήφω (néphó) — 6 Occurrences

1 Thessalonians 5:6 V-PSA-1P

3525 /nḗphō (“be sober, unintoxicated”) refers to having presence of mind (clear judgment), enabling someone to be temperate (self-controlled). 3525 /nḗphō (“uninfluenced by intoxicants”) means to have “one’s wits (faculties) about them,” which is the opposite of being irrational.

But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief. For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness. So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, are drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation.

 

(1 Thessalonians 5:4-8 ESV)

Comment: I do believe in this case sober does (in one sense) mean “not intoxicated” as it is contrasted to those who are drunk.  The contrast is also between those who are asleep and those who are alert.  The symantic range of  νεφω allows for both and I think in this context, both are intended.

For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.

 

(2 Timothy 4:3-5 ESV)

 

Comment: This text clearly shows that being “sober-minded”, alert, and having clear judgment (as listed in every lexicon I’ve researched).  Context here would make “no drunk” untenable.

Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories. It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look.

Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

 

(1 Peter 1:10-13 ESV)

 

Comment: As above, suber-minded as “not drunk” makes no sense here. Context clearly shows that this is referring to alert and of clear judgment.

For the time that is past suffices for doing what the Gentiles want to do, living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry. With respect to this they are surprised when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery, and they malign you; but they will give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. For this is why the gospel was preached even to those who are dead, that though judged in the flesh the way people are, they might live in the spirit the way God does.

The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers.

(1 Peter 4:3-7 ESV)

Comment:  Again, an explicit charge to avoid drunkenness among other sins and to be self-controlled and sober-minded.  No argument here.

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen.

(1 Peter 5:6-11 ESV)

 

Comment here: The context again is to be sober-minded/watchful and alert as our adversary prowls like a roaring lion.  While I certainly believe that being intoxicated near a prowling lion on the hunt would be ill advised, I don’t think anyone would logically conclude that as being the context here.

In closing:

1.  None of the passages above prohibit the consumption of alcohol. None. I believe you continue to bring an external pietism into the text.  I would humbly ask if you would have read the texts above, with no cultural influence, and come to the conclusion that consuming alcohol is sinful or prohibited.

2. Those teaching that the consumption of alcohol is sinful do so by logic and personal experience rather than through any scriptural prohibition.  The effects of alcohol abuse are indisputable.  But we do not call what God has called “good” as “bad” because man sins through violating their created purpose. By the extension of this logic, we would not prohibit sex due to abuse outside of its intended purpose, nor food, nor money.

In spite of the questions, assertions, and extra-biblical argumentation, the fact remains that there is no biblical prohibition on the consumption of alcohol. If you choose to abstain, God bless you. It is certainly understandable to avoid areas which may cause you to stumble. However, no man has the right to decree a thing “evil” which God has created as “good”, nor to burden His people with “sin” which has not been labeled such in scripture.

Thanks again for the dialog, brother!

sDg

Marc

 

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23 comments on “Adiaphora Part Deux: The Drinking Issue
  1. I recall at least one of the passages typically presented to me by my evangelical friends, 1 Corinthians 11:21, was addressed to a congregation that was fond of getting hammered during communion.

    The problem is “moderation” has been effectively used in preaching by evangelicals who couldn’t persuade people to abstain completely. Now they’ve switched horses and it’s ok to have “a beer or two.” They’ve reframed it so that showing visible signs of intoxication is wrong. They often take advantage of the subjectivity of the word “drunk.”

    Does drunk mean “buzzed?” Does it mean “tipsy?” Does it mean being “blacked out?” Good luck getting a hard definition out of them, but if you ask most modern college pastors (mine was of the Presby tradition), many will place it anywhere between buzzed and tipsy.

    My home church is Reformed Episcopal and comes from a denomination with a better grasp of Christian history and a comfortable relationship with alcohol (wherever you can find 4 Episcopalians, you’ll find a fifth). My first time hearing it was wrong to get tipsy with friends (overage, of course) was meeting my protestant cousins in college. They honestly treated it like it was the devil’s sauce taking hold of you when they began to feel the warm and happy emotions bubbling up that alcohol usually brings.

    I guess the overarching point of this comment is that virtually nobody’s arguing that “drinking” itself is bad in the church today except for a few shut-in hardcore Baptist shacks. The real question is whether any level of intoxication beyond “a little buzzed” is ok. By modern Evangelicals’ definition, you should always be able to drive even if you’ve been drinking. I find it suspect anybody at that wedding at Cana could have operated heavy machinery.

  2. Christian says:

    It’s interesting that in all your studies you never looked at Vine or Strong.

    “Drunk” (methyskō) as in Eph 5:18 is an inceptive verb – it relates to the very beginning of something. In this case it is forbidding the beginning of becoming drunk. Quoting directly from Vine “signifies ‘to make drunk, or to grow drunk’ (an inceptive verb, marking the process or the state expressed in No. 1), ‘to become intoxicated'”

    There is no eisegesis involved we are merely looking at the part of speech and its plain definition.

    “Sober” (nēphō) as in 1 Pt 1:13: Quoting from Vine “to abstain from wine” and “signifies ‘to be free from the influence of intoxicants;’ in the NT, metaphorically, it does not in itself imply watchfulness, but is used in association with it” Quoting directly from Strong G3525 “to abstain from wine”

    Again, no eisegesis, no inserting my modern definitions or anything of the like. I am merely letting the Greek and Greek experts speak for themselves.

    • marc5solas says:

      Christian,

      You’ve not responded to either of my questions. Are you, personally, proficient in the original greek? I ask because you state that this is an inceptive verb. That is correct. However, it is in the present and not aorist tense which would make your “process” premise (which I’ve heard before) untenable.

      The grammar here indicates a present-tense imperative to stop doing something. In Ephesians 5:18 it is, in essence, to stop getting drunk.

      Regarding νεφω:

      Your use of Strongs and Vines are interesting as both prove my point. A common tool used in eisegesis is to misuse (intentionally or not) lexical aids. “Lexical abuse” is taking whichever term best suites your eisegetical view and inserting it into a context where it doesn’t fit. I apologize if this sounds disrespectful, but I want to ensure you understand the error here. Notice the parts I put in bold to emphasize. The entire entry is:

      signifies “to be free from the influence of intoxicants;”

        in the NT, metaphorically, it does not in itself imply watchfulness, but is used in association with it

      , 1 Thess. 5:6,8; 2 Tim. 4:5;

        1 Pet. 1:13

      ; 4:7, RV (AV, “watch”); 5:8. Cp. eknepho and ananepho, under AWAKE, No. 3 and Note.

      Definition
      to be sober, to be calm and collected in spirit
      to be temperate, dispassionate, circumspect

      The semantic domain here allows for both. 1 Peter 1 has nothing whatsoever to do with not being intoxicated. Let’s try various definitions IN CONTEXT:

      Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories. It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look.
      Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being _____________, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

      a. sober-minded
      b. circumspect
      c. not drunk

      (1 Peter 1:10-13 ESV)

      If I handed this passage to 10 people who had never read it, how many do you think would insert c? It simply doesn’t fit contextually.

      Again, there is not a single unambiguous prohibition against consuming alcohol. None. I understand your argument. It’s not novel, it’s just (at the risk of sounding disrespectful) a bad argument. It’s easily refuted by grammar, context, and other clear texts on the teaching.

      I’ll respectfully ask again if your view is one that you have come to after a study of the text? How did you come upon the “process” argument?

      Again, I’m certainly not trying to convince anyone to consume alcohol. I’m simply trying to speak to those who would place others under condemnation where scripture has not. Personally, it would be unusual for me to have more than a glass of wine or a single beer a week, so it’s not like I’m an “alcohol advocate”.

      I hope you’ll take a look at the issue again. I’ve shown, using every scripture in which the issue is addressed, in the original language, how , at best, this is an issue of adiaphora, as stated in the original article.

      Marc

      • TheoLogix says:

        Marc, I’ve appreciated your defense of Christian liberty where scripture allows liberty. I would also like to add to your argument that, short of dissection Greek for those who may not know Greek, one could add some more blatant scripture to the discussion. An important rule for hermeneutics is to interpret the vague by the explicit.

        Luke 7:34 — (Words of Jesus– the “red ones”)
        The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’

        The glutton defines the eating, and the drunkard defines the drinking. In other words, Jesus just told us that he drank alcohol (for who calls a Kool-Aid drinker a drunkard?) The “don’t even start the process” interpretation falls apart when Jesus admits that He drank wine.

        1 Timothy 5:23 — (Paul instructs Timothy, a young pastor)
        No longer drink only water, but use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments.

        Instructing a pastor to drink a “little wine” severely damages the “don’t even start” interpretation forced on the scriptures in question.

        Anyway, I enjoy your blog. Blessings.

  3. Christian says:

    Thanks for your kind reply Marc,
    I appreciate your arguments being laid out so plainly, I assure you I don’t take them personally. While I doubt my Greek credentials are as impressive as yours, I do think I’m capable enough of examining your arguments in light of the text.

    Regarding aorist/persent tense, you merely make an assertion my argument is untenable. What rule of grammar are you calling upon to refute this argument? You say you easily refuted it but in actuality you didn’t.

    Whether the tense is present or aorist, the idea of the word is still the same. “Don’t begin the process of becoming intoxicated.”

    Regarding your second point, I hope you see you are doing what you accuse me of – eisegesis of modern views into the text. You are trying to insert the modern definition of “sober” into the text (If I handed this passage to 10 people, they’d say…) to make your point.

    This is a straw man, no one is arguing abstinence from alcohol is the sole idea being conveyed. Your argument trying to make definitions a, b and c mutually exclusive is wrong. They aren’t. The argument being made from the word “sober” is that in ancient times, abstinence from alcohol was ONE OF the inherent in the definitions – it’s certainly not ALL the word means – as you correctly point out.

    • marc5solas says:

      Christian,

      Thank you for the charitable tone. It is often difficult to gage tone in writing, and I appreciate you giving me the benefit of the doubt. I can assure you that the cordial tone would be clear if we were sitting across the table discussing this (over an iced tea) 😉

      I’m certainly not a greek scholar, and wasn’t making an appeal to authority.. just wanted to understand if I needed to expound on the present/inception issue. The “process” argument is untenable because the verb in the text we are discussing is in the active tense. For the command to be “do not begin the process of becoming drunk” by which one would extrapolate complete abstinence would require the aorist tense. Even THEN, it would not always follow that it would be inceptive. (In short, if it WERE aorist it COULD be inceptive, but since it’s active, it cannot be inceptive).
      (It’s been a long day, I hope I explained that well.)

      I was not attempting to sneak a “modern” view of sobriety into the “fill in the blank” section. My purpose was to show that words have a symantic domain. Sometimes, BOTH terms are cleverly used by the writer. (Paul is masterful at this). In this case, however, the thought of sobriety as “non-intoxication” just doesn’t work, contextually. I was afraid that when I suggested “10 people”, it would be a flawed analogy (And it was). I certainly don’t believe that we vote on the validity of the text. I was attempting to show that unless one brought a view of abstinence into 1 Peter 1, it wouldn’t be found from a reading of the text itself.

      As to your last paragraph, I do agree that the term can mean both “non-intoxication” or “watchfulness”. I disagree that it means *abstinence*. To reach this conclusion would be to presuppose that into the word by using the “process” argument.

      Thanks again for your thoughts. I appreciate the dialogue.

      Marc

      • Christian says:

        Marc, thanks again for the kind discussion as we examine these various points.

        We can certainly go back and forth on interpretation and application but not so much on rules of grammar. The fact is, whether a word present or aorist makes no difference, a word is inceptive by virtue of it’s basic meaning, regardless of the verb form or tense. Both the present and aorist have inceptive uses.

        The argument that a present tense cannot be inceptive is simply wrong. The better argument against this point would be ask where the “entering into” the forbidden state of drunkenness begins. From what I understand commentators fall on both sides in regard to this question, in light of this I think the argument is compelling enough to mention. I’m not saying this argument alone proves x, y or z, this is merely one thing to consider before drawing a conclusion.

        The far stronger argument is the one drawn from the command to be “sober.” The word itself entails abstinence from intoxicants. This does not hinge on presupposing the previous one mentioned, they are two completely different words with two completely different definitions.

        When all the arguments (not only these two, but many more) are taken into account, and when the weaknesses and assumptions of the opposing arguments are examined I don’t see how anyone could justify to themselves drinking in private much less publicly and emboldening others to do the same.

        I would like to more clearly address some of your positive arguments in the previous article, but in the meantime, I look forward to your thoughts on this.

      • marc5solas says:

        Christian,

        Didn’t forget about you, brother! Chaotic day for me in the “real world”, so I’ll respond to this soon!

  4. marc5solas says:

    Christian,

    OK, after a full nights sleep and some strong coffee, I’m ready to take a crack at the grammar here and address one of your points above:

    1. Words have semantic domains. They *can* mean multiple things, so we look at context and grammar to see what fits. I absolutely do not deny that νεφω can mean sober as in non-intoxicated/free the influence of intoxicants. It also means “circumspect”. Looking at the context, the use of νεφω in 1 Peter 1 is pretty clear.

    “It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look.
    Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being _____________, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”

    There is nothing in context here which would support “not intoxicated” or abstaining from alcohol. It simply isn’t the context. However, being circumspect is a perfect fit. Even as someone who believes scripture is clear in forbidding drunkenness, this text is not speaking to “sobriety” in that sense in this passage. Bad hermeneutic, bad exegesis, bad use of lexicon.

    Now, to Ephesians 5:18. I knew the grammar would not allow this to be an inchoative, so I enlisted the help of a couple of people who are far, far beyond me to break down for me WHY, grammatically, this isn’t an inchoative. I found it interesting that both (one a christian and one a secular greek expert) broke the passage in question down in exactly the same way.

    καὶ μὴ μεθύσκεσθε οἴνῳ ἐν ᾧ ἐστιν ἀσωτία, ἀλλὰ πληροῦσθε ἐν πνεύματι

    1. This is a negative command.

    2. It is composed of the negative conjunction μὴ used in prohibitions and the 2nd.person plural of the present imperative *middle-passive voice* of the inchoative verb μεθύσκω that in its active voice means “I make drunk, I intoxicate, I inebriate” as a transitive verb.

    HOWEVER, in its *middle passive voice* it means “I get drunk” as an intransitive verb where the subject receives the action expressed by the verb: hence the meaning “I[myself] get drunk” instead of “I make [someone] drunk”.

    I think the confusion here comes with not only the voice, but the “σκ” suffix which does not, of itself, indicate an inchoative.

    So, with reference to the negative command μὴ μεθύσκεσθε (2nd.person plural of the present imperative middle-passive voice of the inchoative verb μεθύσκω), the correct translation is “Do not get drunk”. There is no sense of “don’t even begin the process” (and the extrapolation to total abstinence.)

    Again, μεθύσκομαι (passive) means “to be made drunk by”, or in the reflexive, “to make oneself drunk”. Therefore, μὴ μεθύσκεσθε οἴνῳ” means “don’t make yourselves drunk with wine”, or – due the passive morphology of the verb – “don’t be made drunk by wine”.

    So, we look past not only the 2 texts we’ve discussed so far, we look at the entirety of scripture and the fact remains:

    There is not a single passage of scripture which forbids the consumption of alcohol.

    Warnings of it’s dangers? Yes
    Drunkenness as sin? Absolutely.

    Enjoy your weekend brother!

    Marc

    • Christian says:

      Thanks again for the reply Marc,

      Regarding your argument of “drunk”, if a word is by definition inceptive, it is inceptive despite in whatever voice or mood it stands, some think that such also affects the inceptive force, which it does not. The inceptive is either a product of the lexeme itself (the meaning of the word) or the verb tense as affected by context and modification. In this case it is the former rather than the later.

      Your argument from the context regarding sober is interesting, and in part we are in agreement. “Circumspect” is indeed part of being “sober” anytime the word is used we can include in its connotation being circumspect – we could rightly say an intoxicated person is failing to be circumspect, this does not mean they are not intoxicated. You should realize, your argument from context hinges on the two definitions being mutually exclusive. They aren’t. They go hand-in-hand.

      In context 1 Pt 1:13 is unequivocally dealing with the state of the mind (gird up/prepare your minds…), intoxicating substances affect the ability to be circumspect, they are of necessity included in the context no matter what definition of “sober” we use.

      Kittle “It is compelling that the Greek word for sober (self-controlled) in numerous passages… is a word that also means, ‘holding no wine'”

      W.E Vine “Nepho (sober) signifies to be free from the influence of intoxicants; in the NT, metaphorically, it does not in itself imply watchfulness, but is used in association with it.”

      “to abstain from wine,” is used metaphorically of moral “alertness,” and translated “to watch,” in the AV of 2Ti 4:5.

      John MacArthur “Nephalios (temperate) literally means ‘wineless’ or ‘unmixed with wine.'”

      Please consider these scholars’ thoughts on the matter. All the best.

  5. marc5solas says:

    Christian,

    OK, last response here. As much as I enjoy a good dialog, I’ve got to weigh arguing greek grammar against some of the more pressing responses I need to write to some folks lookign for some more gospel-centered questions. I apologize if it looks like i’m “fleeing the field” here, but I think my responses have been pretty thorough, include all verses involved, and are pretty detailed. I’d ask anyone still unsure on the issue to take time to consider what has been written here and consult scripture, *in context*, in its entirety on the issue.

    You wrote:

    “Regarding your argument of “drunk”, if a word is by definition inceptive, it is inceptive despite in whatever voice or mood it stands, some think that such also affects the inceptive force, which it does not. The inceptive is either a product of the lexeme itself (the meaning of the word) or the verb tense as affected by context and modification. In this case it is the former rather than the later.”

    Absolutely incorrect. I’ve asked 2 separate greek experts to look at this text (one a christian, one not). Both came to the exact same translation, and same reasoning, without consulting each other. I realize this could be taken as an appeal to authority, but take it for what it’s worth. Here is the feedback:

    “Please note that my statement about the inchoative verbs, marked with the suffix -σκ- in ancient Greek such as μεθύσκω or γηράσκω, and –sc- in Latin such as “senesco” or “floresco”, meant that the inchoative verbs had eventually lost their original meaning of the beginning of an action and ended by expressing the action in itself, so that e.g. μεθύσκω does not mean “I begin to make [someone]drunk”, but simply “I make [someone]drunk” as well as μεθύσκομαι does not mean “I begin to get drunk”, but simply “I get drunk”.

    To sum up, μεθύσκω and its middle passive voice μεθύσκομαι (from which the imperative μεθύσκεσθε) are definitely inchoative verbs from the grammatical point of view, though they have lost its original semantic meaning of verbs expressing the beginning of an action.

    It is therefore clear that μεθύσκω and μεθύσκομαι are grammatically inchoative verbs whose semantic value has however changed.”

    To summarize, this is NOT an inchoative verb. It’s not listed as an inchoative in any of the interlinears I consulted either. This is a prime example of lexical abuse and “a little greek being a dangerous thing.”

    Again, there are ZERO passages of scripture which explicitly prohibit the conusmption
    of alcohol.

    —————————————————————————————————————–

    You wrote:

    “Your argument from the context regarding sober is interesting, and in part we are in agreement. “Circumspect” is indeed part of being “sober” anytime the word is used we can include in its connotation being circumspect – we could rightly say an intoxicated person is failing to be circumspect, this does not mean they are not intoxicated. You should realize, your argument from context hinges on the two definitions being mutually exclusive. They aren’t. They go hand-in-hand.”

    I absolutely reject the notion that these two terms are mutually exclusive, so on that we agree. My point is that they are not *interchangeable*.

    You continued:
    “In context 1 Pt 1:13 is unequivocally dealing with the state of the mind (gird up/prepare your minds…), intoxicating substances affect the ability to be circumspect, they are of necessity included in the context no matter what definition of “sober” we use.”

    This is a really, really bad argument. Of course being intoxicated can impact the ability to be circumspect, but to link the two together here is just outside of the context. I could also say that in the phrase “be watchful” for the return of the Lord really means “don’t sleep” because, of course, sleeping inhibits the ability to be watchful. I hope you see the obvious error here. So to somehow attempt to shoehorn “not being intoxicated” into 1 Peter 1 simply because being intoxicated could keep you from being “circumspect” is poor exegesis. Read the chapter, with an open mind, and ask yourself if you would (in context) ever come away with the notion that it was a prohibition against drunkenness?

    Don’t get me wrong, there are prohibitions against drunkenness, and you and I agree that drunkenness is a sin. This however, is not a verse I would use to support that position.

    You sourced:

    “Kittle “It is compelling that the Greek word for sober (self-controlled) in numerous passages… is a word that also means, ‘holding no wine’”

    W.E Vine “Nepho (sober) signifies to be free from the influence of intoxicants; in the NT, metaphorically, it does not in itself imply watchfulness, but is used in association with it.”

    “to abstain from wine,” is used metaphorically of moral “alertness,” and translated “to watch,” in the AV of 2Ti 4:5.”

    I agree with all of this. It doesn’t mean, however, that the words are interchangeable. Please re-read my comment above. Think through how that hermeneutic would play out if you took all possible meanings in a semantic domain and interchanged them!

    And finally:

    “John MacArthur “Nephalios (temperate) literally means ‘wineless’ or ‘unmixed with wine.’”

    I love John MacArthur. I respect him immensely. Are you honestly stating that John MacArthur would exegete “νηφω” in 1 Peter 1 as “not intoxicated”?

    Your sourcing here is misleading. MacArthurs own words on this passage:

    1 Peter 1:13 (MacArthur Study Bible)

    Prepare your minds for action: Some translations render this “gird up the loins of your mind.” The ancient practice of gathering up one’s robes when needing to move in a hurry; here, it is metaphorically aplied to one’s though process. The meaning is to pull in all the loose ends of one’s thinking, by rejecting the hinderences of the world and focusing on the future grace of God (cf. Eph 6:14; Col 3:2).

    Keep sober: Spiritual sober-mindedness includes the ideas of steadfastness, self-control, clarity of mind, and moral decisiveness. The sober Christian is correctly in charge of his priorities and not intoxicated with the various allurements of the world.

    —————————————————————————————————————

    My final summary is this: There is simply no scriptural prohibition on the consumption of alcohol. It’s a strong social more in this nations history and there is a large amount of writing out there which attempts to eisegete these into scripture. I know the proof texts. I’ve dealt with nearly all of them in the 2 posts and multiple comments. In the end, the entire article was about adiaphora. You, brother, are free to not drink. You are free to warn others of the dangers of alcohol. What you are not free to do is falsely teach that alcohol, a thing created as good, is evil.

    Marc

  6. Christian says:

    Marc,

    I too have sourced Greek experts and they disagree with your conclusion. Vine plainly says of g3182 the verb is inceptive.

    Making arguments from things that are not parallel is poor logic. You know sleep and intoxication are not equal, that argument is a weak straw man.

    You only agree with the experts insofar as you change their definitions to mean what you want. Sourcing MacArthur was not misleading, it plainly says he is speaking of different english word, temperate. Please don’t try to make it look like I am being misleading.

    The basis of your positive argument is that the only “wine” in ancient times was alcoholic and that grape juice didn’t exist until the 1800s this is a common and easily debunked myth. Anyone who has studied the issue as thoroughly as you claim would never make that absurd statement.

    Ancient writers such as Cato, Columella, Pliny, Varro, Aristotle, Virgil, Josephus, Polybius, Hippocrates, Celus and many more all write of the existence and preservation of non-intoxicating “wine” pure, sweet grape juice.

    There are many modern historians as well as biblical accounts that confirm this fact as well. The foundation of your argument is non existant myth.

    You fail to prove non-intoxicating wine didn’t exist, you fail to prove Jesus made intoxicating wine at the wedding, you fail to prove He ever drank intoxicating wine and you fail to prove the Bible ever speaks of intoxicating wine as a good thing. You merely make a lot of assertions and assumptions.

  7. Derek says:

    Christian, how do you get around the command in timothy for elders to take a little wine for their stomachs? Or the fact that Christ changed water into wine? Christ never sinned.

    • Christian says:

      Why won’t you approve my comment Marc? Are you being honest in how you are portraying the discussion? If something inappropriate was said, please address it. If not, and if you think you are right, you should not be afraid for the other side to be presented.

      • marc5solas says:

        Christian,

        Sorry brother! Just got back from a week of spring break with the kids. If it makes you feel any better, I’ll admit that this didn’t even cross my mind while I sat on the beach! 😉

        I’m back in the office today and catching up on replies.

        Marc

      • Christian says:

        Apologies, I saw a number of other comments pop up over the course of the week while mine hadn’t. Feel free to delete it.

      • marc5solas says:

        No worries. Some were quick and easy responses. Yours, not-so-much. 😉

  8. Christina says:

    Greetings Marc,

    I discovered your blog when a friend posted a link about reasons why young people are leaving the church. I decided to stick around and read some of your other blog posts. This one stands out to me.

    Another reason youth (or anyone) leave the fellowship of other believer’s is the blatant ignoring of Scripture as a whole even while preaching that the Bible is the Word of God.

    In viewing the discussion you have with Christian, we see this to be the case. No matter how you interpret the Hebrew and Greek texts, there are verses in the Bible that are plain as the nose on your face which are just flat out ignored… the Christ turned water into wine, that Christ himself partook of wine, and that one of the Apostles recommends wine as a health tip.

    Add to that blatant ignoring of other Scripture, which is what non-believers latch on to at every juncture of a Christian debate, is the fact that Christians are not bound by LAW. Rather we are bound by conviction. Having stated that, what the Holy Spirit convicts me of does not mean that I can turn that conviction on my brothers and sisters expecting them to act as well.

    I have friends who abstain from alcohol. I honor their decision. I also choose to abstain when I am in their presence because I honor them and that decision. However, I do drink from time to time. The Holy Spirit has convicted me of a great many things, but the occasional drink with dinner is not one of them.

    Thank you for your boldness in sharing His Word.
    God bless!

  9. kevin says:

    this whole ‘it’s okay for christians to drink’ thing is just another example of the modern church evolving to fit into society. i’ve seen christians who 15 years ago would never have touched a drop of alcohol…suddenly saying ‘a few beers is fine…just a glass of wine is okay’ they pour over the scriptures just like in this blog….searching for passages that do indeed prove it a gray area. however, christians are not developing a taste for wine because they are interested in health benefits. they are not cracking open a guiness because they developed a taste for bitter, dark beer overnight. they are not pouring kahlua in hot chocolate because it makes the taste better. who are we kidding? christians are trying to live in a gray area because they fit into both the ‘church’ and with everyone else….and there we have the modern music/dress/etc….that has become today’s church as well. at some point, the church’s inability to blend into american culture is going to become blatantly obvious and the popularity of christianity will continue to plummet.

    • marc5solas says:

      I disagree. In fact, it’s the polar opposite. The early church fathers drank wine all the way through Luther and Calvin. The movement to tea-totaling is a response to the pietistic temperance movements.

      Church history is not on your side here, my friend.

  10. kevin says:

    i said it was an example of ‘the modern church trying to fit into society’. if you look at the typical evangelical church 15-20 years ago, i doubt you would find many vocal social drinkers…. you must admit, social drinking is something becoming more and more common among christians as well as their views on homosexuality, marijuana, etc…it’s like you said in your ‘top ten reasons our kids are leaving church’ entry….it’s a mixture of church and the ‘world’ or something like that…the thing is, how far do you go? do we christians abide by their own convictions. do we really need to dissect how many drinks make you drunk to find a standard to drink by? it’s kind of silly. i don’t think christians realize that making exceptions and dawdling in gray areas is makes your faith look weak. i see mormons riding bikes through blizzards to witness door to door and yet when i see christians ‘witnessing’…it is usually a verse posted on Facebook while sipping coffee. if christians really had faith, they would be everywhere sharing the good news….not trying to blend in. if christians really had faith, they wouldn’t need a multi-million dollar building to worship in. this is comfortable, americanized christianity and it just looks fake in general. you want to witness to someone, then cast off your belongings and suvs you drive to church and go into all the world and preach…or at least start on your street.

    • marc5solas says:

      Again, I disagree. If those who were previously pietists now, due to pragmatism, begin drinking to be “missional”, they yes.. it’s a cultural issue and you’ve traded one bad theology for another. (Pietism for Pragmatism).

      You wrote: “if you look at the typical evangelical church 15-20 years ago, i doubt you would find many vocal social drinkers”
      Perhaps. I think what is more likely is that many evangelical churches have stopped pushing pietism. Unfortunately, the turn has simply been to another form of works; pragmatism.

      You wrote: “you must admit, social drinking is something becoming more and more common among christians as well as their views on homosexuality, marijuana, etc”

      I think we’re getting the first peak at your underlying view here. You’ve linked drinking with homosexuality and illicit drugs. Surely you must see that the three are unrelated. While a pragmatic view *could* lead someone to accept all three for the sake of “unity”, there are fundamental differences. One is explicitly forbidden in scripture, one is implicitly forbidden (as it’s illegal), and the third is adiaphora.

      You wrote: “the thing is, how far do you go? do we christians abide by their own convictions. do we really need to dissect how many drinks make you drunk to find a standard to drink by? it’s kind of silly. i don’t think christians realize that making exceptions and dawdling in gray areas is makes your faith look weak”

      Uh-oh, it’s clearer now. How far? How many? Finding a standard? Making exceptions? Dawdling in gray areas makes your faith look weak?
      Legalism! (I knew this was coming!) There is no other way this could have ended. You’re looking for rules. They aren’t here. Grace is funny that way in matters of adiaphora.

      You wrote: “i see mormons riding bikes through blizzards to witness door to door and yet when i see christians ‘witnessing’…it is usually a verse posted on Facebook while sipping coffee. if christians really had faith, they would be everywhere sharing the good news….not trying to blend in. if christians really had faith, they wouldn’t need a multi-million dollar building to worship in. this is comfortable, americanized christianity and it just looks fake in general. you want to witness to someone, then cast off your belongings and suvs you drive to church and go into all the world and preach…or at least start on your street.”

      And here we have it. Your rules. Those folks who have faith are doing MORE than us. “If christians really had faith”? Great googly moogly, they’d do this stuff and not that stuff! But these are standards that you’ve set, brother. And you’re obviously critical of anyone who doesn’t meet them. I get it as I do it too, so if I come across as sarcastic it’s because I’m guilty of it as well. So, dear brother, you ride your biek through blizzards door to door? Why? I mean, if you really had faith wouldn’t you sell that materialistic bike and give that money to poor and walk instead? You see the trap here, right? It’s where legalism always ends up.

      Think about it.

      Marc

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