by Mike Harding
What does Paul mean by ‘not given to wine’? (1 Timothy 3:3)
1 Timothy 3:1 This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work. 2 A bishop then must be … 3 Not given to wine…
The word that concerns us is ‘not given to wine’, translated in English these ways: KJV “not given to wine”; NIV “not given to drunkenness”; NASB “not addicted to wine”; NKJV “not given to wine”; ESV “not a drunkard”; HCSB “not addicted to wine.”
The underlying Greek word is ‘paroinos’, which is defined as “drunken, addicted to wines” (BDAG), “given to wine, drunken” (Thayer), “From G3844 and G3631; staying near wine, that is, tippling (a toper): given to wine.” (Strong).
Greek word study scholars give references to ancient documents on this word that may indicate a metaphorical meaning.
Vincent’s Word Studies: “Only here and Titus 1:7. The verb means to behave ill at wine, to treat with drunken violence, is found in Xenophon, Aeschines, Aristophanes, and Aristotle. Once in LXX, Isaiah 41:12. Rev. renders brawler, which is not definite enough. Better, quarrelsome over wine.”
Wuest in his Word Studies in the Greek New Testament has some interesting comments. For our purposes here, he references Expositors as saying, “The word means ‘violent temper,’ not specially excited by over-indulgence in strong drink.”
Jamieson Fawcett Brown: “1 Timothy 3:3 – Not given to wine — The Greek includes besides this, not indulging in the brawling, violent conduct towards others, which proceeds from being given to wine.”
The definitions of paroinosoffer a few exegetical possibilities:
This word may tell us that a man is not qualified for the office of a overseer if he is beside wine (this is the simplest rendering of the word.). This word may also tell us that a man is not qualified for the office of an overseer if he spends time beside wine (regularly drinking alcohol as a beverage).
This word may also tell us that a man is not qualified for the office of an overseer if he exhibits the behavior of those that spend time beside wine (violence and brawling). The leadership of the OT (kings – Proverbs 31:4, and priests – Leviticus 10:9) were supposed to abstain while performing the duties of their office.
It is clear that leadership of God’s people ought to be extremely careful as to what they consume so that they are not impaired from doing their office.
It is strongly encouraged that any man who is to be qualified for ministry be able to demonstrate that he is not one that is “given to wine.” One very good way to do this is to have a commitment to abstain from all alcoholic beverages which is easily accomplished in our modern world.
Mike Harding is the pastor of First Baptist Church of Troy, Michigan and a member of the FBFI Executive Board.
This article is excerpted from a single, longer piece by pastor Harding. Proclaim & Defend will make the original article available in pdf format when our serialization is complete.