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Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible

Temperance

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TEMPERANCE . 1. In the RV [Note: Revised Version.] ‘temperance’ is the tr. [Note: translate or translation.] of the Gr. word enkrateia , the root-meaning of which is ‘power over oneself,’ ‘self-mastery.’ It is a comprehensive virtue, and on this account ‘ self-control ,’ the tr. [Note: translate or translation.] of RVm [Note: Revised Version margin.] , is to be preferred ( Acts 24:25 , Galatians 5:23 , 2 Peter 1:5 ). The corresponding adjective is found only in Titus 1:8 , and the verb only in 1 Corinthians 7:9 ; 1 Corinthians 9:25 . The negative form of the adjective is translated ‘without self-control’ ( 2 Timothy 3:3 ), and of the noun ‘excess’ ( Matthew 23:25 ), and ‘incontinency’ ( 1 Corinthians 7:5 ). The RV [Note: Revised Version.] tr. [Note: translate or translation.] another Gr. word ( nçphalios ) ‘temperate’ in 1 Timothy 3:2 ; 1 Timothy 3:11 , Titus 2:2 ; its root-meaning points to the avoidance of intemperance in the form of drunkenness, but in actual usage it condemns all forms of self-indulgence. This extension of its significance must be remembered in expounding the passages in which the corresponding verb is found, for the RV [Note: Revised Version.] always tr. [Note: translate or translation.] it ( nçphein ) ‘to be sober ’ ( 1Th 5:6 ; 1 Thessalonians 5:8 , 2Ti 4:5 , 1 Peter 1:18 ; 1 Peter 4:7 ; 1 Peter 5:8 ).

2. From the philosophical point of view, ‘self-control’ is mastery over the passions; it is the virtue which holds the appetites in check; the rational will has power to regulate conduct without being unduly swayed by sensuous appetites. From the NT point of view the grace of ‘self-control’ is the result of the Holy Spirit’s indwelling; it is the Spirit-controlled personality alone that is ‘strengthened with power’ ( Ephesians 3:18 ; cf. Ephesians 5:18 ) to control rebellious desires and to resist the allurements of tempting pleasures.

3. The NT passages in which reference is made to this virtue form an instructive study. To Felix, with an adulteress by his side, St. Paul discoursed of ‘self-control,’ directing his stern condemnation against the vice of unchastity (cf. 1 Corinthians 7:5 ; 1 Corinthians 7:9 ). But to every form of ‘excess’ ( Matthew 23:25 ) it is directly opposed. In 1 Timothy 3:3 ‘not given over to wine’ ( paroinos , AV [Note: Authorized Version.] ‘brawler,’ cf. RVm [Note: Revised Version margin.] ) balances ‘temperate’ ( 1 Timothy 3:2 , cf. 1 Timothy 3:8 ), and from this chapter it is plain that the Apostle regards violent quarrelling ( 1 Timothy 3:3 ), false and reckless speech ( 1 Timothy 3:8 ), self-conceit ( 1 Timothy 3:6 ), greed of filthy lucre ( 1 Timothy 3:8 ), as well as fondness for much wine ( 1 Timothy 3:8 ), as manifold forms of Intemperance by whose means men ‘fall into reproach and the snare of the devil’ ( 1 Timothy 3:7 ).

4. ‘Self-control,’ in its widest sense, as including mastery over all tempers, appetites, and passions, has a prominent place in two NT lists of the Christian graces. In 2 Peter 1:6 , faith is regarded as the germ of every virtue; it lays hold of the ‘divine power’ which makes possible the life of godliness ( 2 Peter 1:3 ). The evolution of faith in ‘manliness, knowledge, self-control’ is the reward of its ‘diligent’ culture ( 2 Peter 1:8 ). This ‘self-control,’ as Principal Iverach says, ‘grows out of knowledge, it is using Christian knowledge for the guidance of life’ ( The Other Side of Greatness , p. 110). In Galatians 5:23 , ‘self-control’ closes the list of the graces which are all ‘the fruit of the Spirit,’ just as ‘drunkenness and revellings’ close the list of ‘the works of the flesh’ ( Galatians 5:21 ). The flesh and the Spirit! these, indeed, are ‘contrary the one to the other’ ( Galatians 5:17 ). The flesh triumphs when the Spirit is quenched; but the Spirit’s victory is gained, not by suppressing, but by controlling, the flesh. Those who are ‘led by the Spirit’ ( Galatians 5:18 ), who ‘live by the Spirit’ and ‘by the Spirit also walk’ ( Galatians 5:25 ) attain, in its perfection, the grace of complete ‘self-control.’

J. G. Tasker.


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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Temperance'. Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/hdb/t/temperance.html. 1909.

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