Nephalism – teetotalism in Bible and Greek usage

Nephalism definition

Nephalism: teetotalism; total abstinence from consuming alcohol.

Nephalism: “total abstinence from alcoholic beverages” (Miriam-Webster Dictionary)

History and Etymology for nephalism: Middle Greek nēphalismos soberness, from Greek nēphalios sober (from nēphein to be sober, drink no wine) (Miriam-Webster Dictionary)

This term is of Greek origin, and found in Scripture.

Nephō: “to be free from the influence of intoxicants.” (Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words)

Nēphaleos: “of drink, unmixed with wine… sober … of persons” (Liddell and Scott Lexicon)

Nephalism examples in Scripture (Greek New Testament)

1 Cor 15:32 If I fought with animals at Ephesus for human purposes, what does it profit me? If the dead are not raised, then “let’s eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.” [Isa. 22:13]
1 Cor 15:33 Don’t be deceived! “Evil companionships corrupt good morals.”
1 Cor 15:34 {Eknēpsate} Get sober righteously, and don’t sin, for some have no knowledge of God. I say this to your shame.

1 Thess 5:6 so then let’s not sleep, as the rest do, but let’s watch and {nēphōmen} let’s be sober.
1 Thess 5:7  For those getting sleepy, sleep in the night; and those getting drunk are drunk in the night.
1 Thess 5:8 But since we belong to the day, {nēphōmen} let’s be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet, the hope of salvation.

1 Tim 3:2 The overseer therefore must be without reproach, the husband of one wife, {nēphalion} sober, sensible, modest, hospitable, good at teaching;
1 Tim 3:3 not around-wine, not violent, not greedy for money, but gentle, not quarrelsome, not covetous
Likewise the the deacons have regard for no more wine. (See 1 Tim. 3:8.)
Deaconesses: likewise these women must be “reverent, not slanderers, {nēphalious} sober, faithful in all things” (1 Tim. 3:11)

2 Tim 2:25 in gentleness correcting those who oppose him: perhaps God may give them repentance leading to a full knowledge of the truth,
2 Tim 2:26 and {ananēpsōsin} they can again sober up out of the devil’s snare, having been taken captive by him to his will.

2 Tim 4:5 But you {nēphe} be sober in all things, suffer hardship, do the work of an evangelist, and fulfill your ministry.

Male presbyters: “Old men must be {nēphalious} sober…” (Tit. 2:2) Likewise female presbyters must be controlled by no more wine, and be good teachers. (See Tit. 2:3). Teach the young people to be sensible.

1 Pet 1:13 Therefore each prepare your mind for action: {nēphontes} be sober, perfectly, set your hope on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ—
1 Pet 1:14 as children of obedience, not conforming yourselves according to your former lusts as in your ignorance,
1 Pet 1:15 but just as he who called you is holy, you yourselves also be holy in all of your behavior

1 Pet 4:1 Therefore, since Christ suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same mind; for he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin,
1 Pet 4:2 that you no longer should live the rest of your time in the flesh for the lusts of men, but for the will of God.
1 Pet 4:3 For we have spent enough of our past time doing the desire of the Gentiles, and having walked in lewdness, lusts, drunken binges, orgies, parties, and abominable idolatries.
1 Pet 4:4 They think it strange – because you don’t run together into their own un-saved outburst – maligning you.

1 Pet 4:7 But the end of all things is near. Therefore be sensible, and {nēpsate} be sober in prayers.

1 Pet 5:8 {Nēpsate} Be sober! Be watchful! Your adversary, the devil, walks around like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.

Other examples of “Nephalism”

“The leavings of the caterpillar the grasshopper has devoured,
and the leavings of the grasshopper the locust larva has devoured,
and the leavings of the locust larva the rust has devoured.
{Eknēpsate} Sober up, drunkards, from their wine and weep;
wail, all you who drink wine unto intoxication…” (Joel 1:4-5, New English Translation of the Septuagint) Of course this same word in 1 Cor. 15:34 cannot be translated as merely reduce your drinking, o drunkards.

Greek historian Xenophon (Cyropaedia 7.5) said Cyrus gave a pep talk to his soldiers shortly before the great Babylonian Chaldean Empire was successfully overthrown (539 B.C.):

“we are now to march are the same men that we have repeatedly defeated, and that, too, when they were all drawn up in battle line with their allies at their side, and when they were all wide awake and {nēphontas} sober and fully armed; whereas now we are going to fall upon them at a time when many of them are asleep, many drunk, and none of them in battle array. And when they find out that we are inside the walls, in their panic fright they will be much more helpless still than they are now.”

“Then Noe {exenēpsen} sobered up from the wine…” (Gen. 9:24, New English Translation of the Septuagint) Noe = Noah.

“And it happened in the morning, when Nabal had {exenēpsen} sobered up from the wine…” (1 Sam 25:37, New English Translation of the Septuagint)

In Lamentations (Septuagint – Lam. 2:18; 3:49), somebody’s tears won’t run {eknēpsin} “dry”. In a similar way the English term “dry” sometimes describes places where alcohol is prohibited, and sometimes it means lacking moisture.

“After this the soul goes on to deny that it drinks wine or strong drink, boasting in its being continually {nēphein} sober throughout the whole of its life. For to have the reasoning powers really free, and unfettered, and pure, and intoxicated by no passion, was really a very important and admirable thing.” (Philo, Drunkenness, 37, 151, translated by Charles Duke Yonge from Greek)

“He also enjoined them, not only to observe purity in their sacred ministrations, but in their daily conversation, that it might be unblamable also. And on this account it is that those who wear the sacerdotal garments are without spot [Compare 2 Pet. 3:14], and eminent for their purity and {nēphalioi} sobriety [Compare 1 Pet. 1:13; 4:7; 5:8]: nor are they permitted to drink wine so long as they wear those garments [Compare Rev. 7:13-14]. Moreover, they offer sacrifices that are entire, and have no defect whatsoever.” (Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, 3.12.2 (278-279), translated by William Whiston from Greek)

Josephus was commenting about priests who were — under great penalty — required to be sober wearing the sacerdotal garments: “Do not drink wine or intoxicating drink, you, nor your sons with you, when you go into the tabernacle of meeting, lest you die. It shall be a statute forever throughout your generations, that you may distinguish between holy and unholy, and between unclean and clean, and that you may teach the children of Israel all the statutes which the LORD has spoken to them by the hand of Moses.” (Lev. 10:9-11)

Greek word forms

G366: ἀνανήφω, ἀνανήψωσιν, ανανήψωσιν, ἀνανήφει.

G1594: ἐκνήφω , ἐκνήψατε, εκνηψουσιν, εκνηψιν, εκνηψον, εξενηψεν.

G3524: νηφάλεος, νηφαλέος, νηφάλιος, νηφάλιον, νηφαλίους.

G3525: νήφω, νήφωμεν, νῆφε, νήφοντες, νήψατε,
νῆψις.

English word forms

nephalism

nephalist

nephalistic

nepsis

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