Sober in the KJV
The word Sober occurs 12 times in the King James Version.
The Greek word νήφω nepho occurs 6 times. The KJV translates it 4 times as “sober” and 2 times as “watch”.
Here are all the verses which have νήφω nepho and the balance of those that have the word “sober” in the KJV:
For whether we be beside ourselves, it is to God: or whether we be sober [σωφρονέω sophroneo = be of sound mind, sane], it is for your cause.
– 2 Corinthians 5:13 KJV
Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober [νήφω nepho = to abstain from wine].
– 1 Thessalonians 5:6 KJV
But let us, who are of the day, be sober [νήφω nepho = to abstain from wine], putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for an helmet, the hope of salvation.
– 1 Thessalonians 5:8 KJV
A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober [σωφρονέω sophroneo = be of sound mind, sane], of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach;
– 1 Timothy 3:2 KJV
Even so must their wives be grave, not slanderers, sober [νηφάλεος nephaleos = sober], faithful in all things.
– 1 Timothy 3:11 KJV
But watch [νήφω nepho = to abstain from wine] thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry.
– 2 Timothy 4:5 KJV
But a lover of hospitality, a lover of good men, sober [σώφρων sophron = safe (sound) in mind, self controlled], just, holy, temperate;
– Titus 1:8 KJV
That the aged men be sober [νηφάλεος nephaleos = sober], grave, temperate, sound in faith, in charity, in patience.
– Titus 2:2 KJV
That they may teach the young women to be sober [σωφρονίζω sophronizo = make of sound mind], to love their husbands, to love their children,
– Titus 2:4 KJV
Young men likewise exhort to be sober [σωφρονέω sophroneo = be of sound mind, sane] minded.
– Titus 2:6 KJV
Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober [νήφω nepho = to abstain from wine], and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ;
– 1 Peter 1:13 KJV
But the end of all things is at hand: be ye therefore sober [σωφρονέω sophroneo = be of sound mind, sane], and watch [νήφω nepho = to abstain from wine] unto prayer.
– 1 Peter 4:7 KJV
Be sober [νήφω nepho = to abstain from wine], be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour:
– 1 Peter 5:8 KJV
Noah Webster’s 1828 Dictionary defines Sober as:
SO’BER, a. [L. sobrius.]
1. Temperate in the use of spiritous liquors; habitually temperate; as a sober man. Live a sober, righteous and godly life.
2. Not intoxicated or overpowered by spiritous liquors; not drunken. The sot may at times be sober.
3. Not mad or insane; not wild, visionary or heated with passion; having the regular exercise of cool dispassionate reason. There was not a sober person to be had; all was tempestuous and blustering. Not sober man would put himself in danger, for the applause of escaping without breaking his neck.
4. Regular; calm; not under the influence of passion; as sober judgment; a man in his sober senses.
5. Serious; solemn; grave; as the sober livery of autumn. What parts gay France from sober Spain? See her sober over a sampler, or gay over a jointed baby.
SO’BER, v.t. TO make sober; to cure of intoxication. There shallow draughts intoxicate the brain and drinking largely sobers us again.
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
The ISBE writes on Sober:
Sober; Sobriety; Soberness
sō´ber, sṓ-brı̄´ḗ-ti, sō´bẽr-nes (Greek adjective sṓphrōn, and its related nouns, sōphrosúnē, sōphronismós; verbs sōphronéō and sōphronı́zō; adverb sōphrónōs, “of sound mind,” and sōphronı́zō; “self-possessed,” “without excesses of any kind,” “moderate and discreet”):
In Mar_5:15; Luk_8:35, “sane,” said of one out of whom demons had just been cast. In the Pastoral Epistles, this virtue is especially commended to certain classes, because of extravagances characterizing particular periods of life, that had to be guarded against, namely, to aged men, with reference to the querulousness of old age (Tit_2:2); to young men, with reference to their sanguine views of life, and their tendency to disregard consequences (Tit_2:6); enjoined upon young women, with reference to extravagance in dress and speech (Tit_2:5; 1Ti_2:9); and, in a similar manner, commended to ministers, because of the importance of their judgment and conduct, as teachers and exemplars (1Ti_3:2). “Words of soberness” (Act_26:25) are contrasted with the “mania,” “madness,” that Festus had just declared to be the explanation of Paul’s eloquence (Act_26:24).
In a few passages, the Greek verb nḗphō and its derivative adjective nēphálios are used in the same sense. The word originally had a physical meaning, as opposed to drunkenness, and is thus used in 1Th_5:6, 1Th_5:8, as the foundation of the deeper meaning. Used metaphorically also in the Pastoral Epistles and 1 Peter, as sometimes in the classics, for “cool,” “unimpassioned.” Ellicott, on 1Ti_3:2, 1Ti_3:11, distinguishes between the two words by regarding sōphrōn “as pointing to the outward exhibition of the inward virtue” implied in nēphalios.