An unfavorable sense (the usual sense of the word today) is applicable to the adjective in Ephesians 4:14 (“cunning craftiness”) and to the adverb in 2 Peter 1:16 (“cunningly devised fables”).

The change in the usual force of the word since the time of KJV is reflected in ERV, ASV and RSV and uses “cunning” or “cunningly” ten times. An example is “the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning” (2 Cor 11:3).


OED; HDB; R. Bridges and L. A. Weigle, The Bible Word Book (1960), 91, 92.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

For cunning the American Standard Revised Version gives "skilful" (Ex 31:4, etc.; Isa 3:3 "expert"); for "cunning work" the work of the "skilful workman" (Ex 26:1,31, etc., the English Revised Version "cunning workman"); for "curious," "skilfully woven," the English Revised Version "cunningly woven" (Ex 28:8, etc.).