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Synonyms of the New Testament :: Richard C. Trench

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lxi. μέθη, πότος, οἰνοφλυγία, κῶμος, κραιπάλη.

The notion of riot and excess in wine is common to all these; but this with differences, and offering for contemplation different points of view.

Μέθη, occurring in the N. T. at Luke 21:34; Rom. 13:13; Gal. 5:21; and πότος, found only at 1 Pet. 4:3, are distinguishable as an abstract and a concrete. Μέθη, (stronger, and expressing a worse excess, than οἴνωσις, from which it is distinguished by Plutarch, De Garr. 4; Symp. iii. 1; cf. Philo, De Plant. 38), defined by Clement of Alexandria, ἀκράτου χρῆσις σφοδροτέρα, is drunkenness (Joel 1:5; Ezek. 39:19); πότος (== εὐωχία, Hesychius; cf. Polybius, ii. 4. 6), the drinking bout, the banquet, the symposium, not of necessity excessive (Gen. 19:3; 2 Sam. 3:20; Esth. 6:14), but giving opportunity for excess (1 Sam. 25:36; Xenophon, Ahab. vii. 3, 13: ἐπεὶ προὐχώρει ὁ πότος).

The next word in this group, οἰνοφλυγία (“excess of wine,” A. V.), occurs in the N. T. only at 1 Pet. 4:3; and never in the Septuagint; but οἰνοφλυγεῖν, Deut. 21:20; Isai. 56:22. It marks a step in advance of μέθη. Thus Philo (De Ebriet. 8; De Merc. Mer. 1) names οἰνοφλυγία among the ὑβρεῖς ἔσχαται, and compare Xenophon (Oecon. i. 22): δοῦλοι λιχνειῶν, λαγνειῶν, οἰνοφλυγιῶν. In strict definition it is ἐπιθυμία οἴνου ἄπληστος (Andronicus of Rhodes), ἀπλήρωτος ἐπιθυμία, as Philo (Vit. Mos. iii. 22) calls it; the German ‘Trinksucht.’ Commonly, however, it is used for a debauch; no single word rendering it better than this; being as it is an extravagant indulgence in potations long drawn out (see Basil, Hom. in Ebrios, 7), such as may induce permanent mischiefs on the body (Aristotle, Eth. Nic. iii. 5. 15); as did, for instance, that fatal debauch to which, adopting one of the reports current in antiquity, Arrian inclines to ascribe the death of Alexander the Great (vii. 24, 25).

Κῶμος, in the N. T. found in the plural only, and rendered in our Version once ‘rioting’ (Rom. 13:13), and twice ‘revellings’ (Gal. 5:21; 1 Pet. 4:3), may be said to unite in itself both those notions, namely, of riot and of revelry. It is the Latin ‘comissatio,’ which, as it hardly needs to observe, is connected with κωμάζειν,Etym. Note. 31 not with ‘comedo.’ Thus, κῶμος καὶ ἀσωτία (2 Macc. 6:4); ἐμμανεῖς κῶμοι (Wisd. 14:23); πότοι καὶ κῶμοι καὶ θαλίαι ἄκαιροι (Plutarch, Pyrrh. 16); cf. Philo, De Cher. 27, where we have a striking description of the other vices with which μέθη and κῶμοι are associated the most nearly. At the same time κῶμος is often used of the company of revellers themselves; always a festal company, but not of necessity riotous and drunken; thus see Euripides, Alces. 816, 959. Still the word generally implies as much, being applied in a special sense to the troop of drunken revellers, ‘comissantium agmen’ (the troop of Furies in the Agamemnon, 1160, as drunk with blood, obtain this name), who at the late close of a revel, with garlands on their heads, and torches in their hands,1 with shout and song2 (κῶμος καὶ βοά, Plutarch, Alex. 38), pass to the harlots’ houses, or otherwise wander through the streets, with insult and wanton outrage for every one whom they meet; cf. Meineke, Fragm. Com. Groec. p. 617; and the graphic description of such in Juvenal’s third Satire, 278–301; and the indignant words of Milton:

‘when night
Darkens the streets, then wander forth the sons
Of Belial, flown with insolence and wine.’

Plutarch (Alex. 37) characterizes as a κῶμος the mad drunken march of Alexander and his army through Carmania, on the return from their Indian expedition. On possible, or rather on impossible etymologies of κῶμος, see Pott, Etym. Forsch. 2. 2. 551.

Κραιπάλη, the Latin ‘crapula,’ though with a more limited signification (ἡ χθεσινὴ μέθη, Ammonius; ἡ ἐπὶ τῇ μέθῃ δυσαρέστησις καὶ ἀηδία, Clement of Alexandria, Poedag. ii. 2), is another word whose derivation remains in obscurity. We have rendered it ‘surfeiting’ at Luke 21:34, the one occasion on which it occurs in the N. T. In the Septuagint it is never found, but the verb κραιπαλάω thrice (Ps. 77:65; Isai. 24:20; 29:9). ‘Fulsomeness,’ in the early sense of that word (see my Select Glossary of English Words, s. v. ‘fulsome’), would express it very well, with only the drawback that by ‘fulsomeness’ is indicated the disgust and loathing from over- fulness of meat as well as of wine, while κραιπάλη expresses only the latter. [Aristophanes compounds these two synonyms into the word kraipalo/kwmos (Ran. 217).]


1 ἔοικε ἐπὶ κῶμον βαδίζειν.
φαίνεται.
στέφανον γέ τοι καὶ δᾷδ᾽ ἔχων πορεύεται.

Aristophanes, Plut. 1040

2 Theophylact makes these songs themselves the κῶμοι, defining the word thus: τὰ μετὰ μέθης καὶ ὕβρεως ᾄσματα.

[The following Strong's numbers apply to this section:G2897,G2970,G3178,G3632,G4224.]

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