I Peter 4:3 and 'Social Drinking'

by Ron Halbrook
(edited for length)
Searching The Scriptures, June, 1973

Three words are used in I Peter 4:3 which have a bearing on modern drinking practices. All three words describe the life style of the old man, dead in sin living "in the flesh to the lusts of men." Peter pleads with those who are alive "to the will of God" to leave buried in the shameful past such practices as the OINOPHLUGIA, KOMOS, and POTOS.

  1. OINOPHLUGIA. The KJV translates this "excess of wine." The word METHE (drunkenness, Galatians 5:21) refers to habitual intoxication, deep drinking, drunken bouts. No one respects the down-and-out drunk, the sickening wino. Such extreme indulgence and debauchery is universally a shame. The gutter drunk "may induce permanent mischief on the body" by his habitual, senseless excesses. The body, mind, and soul are deadened and finally destroyed. But, "excess of wine" (OINOPHLUGIA) while indicating intoxication, "marks a step in advance of METHE." In other words, it is a level of drinking that is less than that indicated by habitual "drunkenness" (METHE). The fatal debauch of Alexander the Great, for instance, is signified by OINOPHLUGIA in ancient records.
  2. KOMOS. This word appears as "revelings" in KJV. There is a descent or digression in the strength of our three words. There is a level of drinking in KOMOS which is distinguishable from "excess of wine." The one who practices OINOPHLUGIA staggers, stumbles, or even sleeps in his stupor. If he swings his fist, he is the one likely to get hurt. If he drives, he is more danger to himself than to others; he will likely to drive right up a tree, but other drivers can see him a mile away and get out of the way. But the one who practices KOMOS is a "live wire." He is intoxicated, but not so debauched as to miss all the fun. "He's flying high." KOMOS combines intoxication with merrymaking. It suggests shouting, singing, dancing, and generally stirring wanton desires with merry companions all with the help of intoxicants. "Take one down, pass it around, 49 bottles of beer on the wall," and the songs go on. "Wine, women, and song" is the modern way of saying KOMOS. Where do we go from here? What's the next level down?
  3. POTOS. This word is translated "banquetings," which is obscure to the modern reader. Or, worse, he may confuse this word with our practice of a social meal with speakers, awards, or entertainment. Today's English Version and the New American Standard translates POTOS as "drinking parties"; be careful not to read that "drunken parties," which would be KOMOS. Rotherham has "drinking bouts" not necessarily drunken bouts. The New English Bible says "tippling" drinking, especially continuously in small amounts. Literally, POTOS is "a drinking," without reference to amount. The verb form is POTTZO, "to give to drink," without regard to amount (as Matthew 10:42 "give to drink... a cup of cold water"). R. C. Trench says concerning POTOS, "not of necessity excessive" (Synonyms of the N. T., p. 211). He further explains that POTOS is related to words of excess in that it gives "opportunity for excess." This, then, is the cocktail party drinking, sipping the wine, "having a few drinks with the boys," social drinking.

Rather than excusing our sins, let us cease from them (I Peter 4). Let us put off the old man and put on the new man (Colossians 3). "Ye are the salt of the earth. ... Ye are the light of the world" (Matthew 6). Let us live so as to bring men to Christ and glory to God.