Do the words "carousing" or "reveling" condemn social drinking?


My preacher said that the words "carousing" and "reveling" are often misused today. Some have associated these words with social drinking. However, carousing and reveling refer to parties where drunkenness is either the goal or by-product of the party. I tried to discuss I Peter 4:3 with him, suggesting that "tippling" means drinking in any amount, but he wouldn't accept the definition because it was some man's commentary on what the word means.


Let me see if I have this straight: A man uses another man's dictionary to determine that "carousing" and "reveling" are not being used appropriately, but when confronted with evidence from a man's dictionary that he is not using the word "tippling" appropriately he is able to dismiss it because it comes from a man's dictionary. This appears to be hypocritical to me. Paul did warn about such men, "Remind them of these things, charging them before the Lord not to strive about words to no profit, to the ruin of the hearers" (II Timothy 2:14). Paul also said, "If anyone teaches otherwise and does not consent to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which accords with godliness, he is proud, knowing nothing, but is obsessed with disputes and arguments over words, from which come envy, strife, reviling, evil suspicions, useless wranglings of men of corrupt minds and destitute of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain. From such withdraw yourself" (I Timothy 6:3-5).

The verse we are interested in is I Peter 4:3, "For we have spent enough of our past lifetime in doing the will of the Gentiles--when we walked in lewdness, lusts, drunkenness, revelries, drinking parties, and abominable idolatries." There are three words that we are interested in knowing the definition: "drunkenness" (oinophlugia), "revelries," which is also translated as "carousing" (komos), and "drinking parties" (potos).

Oinophlugia is a word only found in I Peter 4:3. It is a compound word of "wine" (oinos) and "bubble up" (phluo). It refers to someone who is overflowing in wine; in other words, a person who is a rolling in the gutter drunk.

Komos is found three times in the New Testament (Romans 13:13; Galatians 5:21; and I Peter 4:3). In classical Greek, it referred to the festivals worshipping Bacchus, the god of wine, and related pagan deities. Since heavy drinking occurred at these feasts, komos is always connected with drunkenness, but where oinophlugia refers to a person who usually drunk (i.e. an alcoholic), komos is reserved for those who are occasionally drunk as a result of excessive partying. The college fraternity parties comes to mind when one reads of komos.

Potos is again only found in I Peter 4:3. In classical Greek it referred to drinking in a social setting, such as at a party. Some Greek dictionaries associate it with excessive drinking or sexual parties (orgies), not because the word is defined as such, but because of the other terms associated with it in I Peter 4:3. In other words, these authors can't see anything wrong with social drinking, so they assume that Peter's use of the word includes something worse to cause him to condemn it. Of interest is how potos was used in the Septuagint translation of the Hebrew Bible. It was used in Genesis 19:3 regarding the feast Lot served the angels, again in Genesis 40:20 to describe the birthday party of Pharaoh, the feast given to celebrate Esther becoming queen in Esther 2:18, and God's warning to Jeremiah not to go to a house of feasting to eat and drink in Jeremiah 16:18. The latter is interesting because Jeremiah is a priest (Jeremiah 1:1). Priests were not allowed to use strong drinks and not allowed to get drunk. If houses of feasting were places of drunkenness, then God's warning is simply redundant. However, if houses of feasting was where casual drinking took place (like our restaurants, inns, or bars of today), then the warning makes sense. Similarly, I have a hard time associating the celebration of Esther becoming queen with a drunken orgy. The Hebrew word in these verses is mishteh which means "drinking" but is often extended to a feast or a festive meal. It is usually used in reference to a meal where drinks are served (i.e. social drinking). For example, in Daniel 1:5, 8, 10, 16 mishteh is behind the word "drank" when Daniel and his friends refused the wine from the king's table. This was the beverage the king drank with his everyday meals. It doesn't imply that Nebuchadnezzar was a daily drunker. There are cases where a feast (mishteh) does include someone getting drunk, such as I Samuel 25:36, but the breath of the word shows that it was not limited to drunken situations. In each example the Hebrew word mishteh is translated into Greek in the Septuagint with the Greek word potos, indicating that potos has a similiar breath of meaning.

The problem your preacher faces is that two of these three words are only found in I Peter 4:3. Any knowledge of the meaning of the words comes from the research of uninspired men. While these men could be mistaken, he must find a greater, more credible source from which to argue his point. The thing you should note is that he doesn't. He uses the same sources as anyone else, but he only uses them when he agrees with them. When he disagrees, he uses his own opinion, which, frankly, has proven to be extremely inaccurate. I will grant him this: "carousing" and "reveling" indeed doesn't refer to social drinking. His mistake is that he is focused on the wrong word. Peter's use of the three words for drinking shows a progression from over imbibing to occasional excessive use to casual social usage. He is making sure that we understand that drinking alcoholic beverages recreationally is condemned no matter what quantities of consumption or situations for drinking are under consideration.

January 15, 2018