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In Ephesians 4:14, Paul instructs "that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery [Strong's 2940, kubeia] of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting" (NKJV, emphasis added). Apparently, kubeia means "properly, dice-playing (WS, 859); hence, 'gaming, trickery, sleight' (Souter). 2940 (kybeia ), associated with a 'sleight of the hand,' implies the use of trickery and cheating."

Does Paul's reference to false teachers' evil schemes as "dice-playing" suggest a negative tone toward dice-playing in particular and gambling in general? Does Paul's word choice shed any light on a biblical perspective on gambling?

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  • Had I been Paul, I would have had overall negative attitude to the gambling; however, I would have distinguished between an honest gambling and a gambling with a trickery and fraud. But I am not Paul, so, please disregard what I have just wrote :) Have an amusing day! Feb 20, 2023 at 14:57

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We need to look into the context of that verse. The things we need to avoid in v14 are being contrasted with what Paul wants for us in v13. We are to get v13 so that we do not fall into v14.

v13 says "... Until we all attain the the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ" (RSV).

Therefore Paul must be warning us in v14 against things which interfere with "unity of the faith and knowledge of the Son of God". Such as being untaught "children". Such as "winds of doctrine", referring to fluctuating and insubtstantial fashions of teaching. So the "cunning" and "craftiness" of men (as the RSV puts it) presumably refer to the more deliberate distortions of doctrine. It is about conscious deception of any kind. He could have been thinking about deception for the purposes of theft or fraud, rather than gambling in particular.

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  • You are correct that Paul's purpose is to condemn those spreading cunningly crafted teaching that interfere with the unity of the faith. Thank you for clarifying in case someone would get the wrong impression. Would it be accurate to say that Paul uses the metaphor of dice-playing to demonstrate how deceptive these false teachers were, a metaphor that works only if dice-playing is, in fact, rooted in deception?
    – The Editor
    Feb 20, 2023 at 15:14
  • @The Editor The metaphor works best, I would have thought, if it is about those who cheat at dice etc rather than those who get fleeced. Their victims are just being foolish. Feb 20, 2023 at 15:25
  • P.S. I suggest that the best way of Biblically criticising those who lose money by gambling would be to extend the strictures on the sluggard (Proverbs ch24 vv30-34) who commits the same folly. Feb 20, 2023 at 15:31
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You're committing the etymological fallacy, if you are searching for some hint of gambling in Paul's passage. The dicing (kybia) is a metaphor for trickery because trickery and deception is the essence of gambling. He is not referring to gambling.

Ellicott comments,

Tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine.—The metaphor is of a ship drifting at the mercy of a storm, tossed by the waves, and carried round from time to time by every blast. The word “tossed” is more properly used of the waves (compare Jas. 1:6) themselves, but the following words seem to show that here it is applied to the ship rising and falling with them. The word “doctrine,” as usual, is a general word for all deliberate “teaching,” whether acting on the understanding or the heart. It includes, in fact, all influence consciously exercised to a definite end. The metaphor is then dropped, and the evil influences to which childish instability is a prey are described—first, as the “sleight,” i.e., the sleight of hand of the dice-thrower, describing quick, sudden deceit of detail; next (to substitute an accurate translation for the unusually paraphrastic rendering of our version), as a “craftiness devoted to the systematic plan of deceit,” thus referring to deeper and subtler forms of delusion. This reference is so definite in the original, that we are tempted to believe St. Paul to have had in view some particular scheme of erroneous teaching, which had already struck root in the soil of Asia Minor. The Epistle to the Colossians shows that such false teaching had appeared itself at Colossæ; it was, perhaps, the germ of the more full-grown Gnosticism noted in the Pastoral Epistles.

"Lucy, why do you call your children 'kids?' Don't you see how offensive it is to liken your children to immature little goats?" The word for baby goats is 'kid'. The speaker is arguing that 'kid' can only refer to baby goats.

One word with an unchanged meaning and a misleading etymology is antisemitism. The form of the word suggests that it refers to opposition to Semites, but when the word was coined in the 19th century, it specifically signified anti-Jewish beliefs and behaviors. Many peoples who are not Jewish were thought to be Semitic, and since the word Semite could thus also refer to someone not Jewish, the etymologically fallacious argument is made that antisemitism is not restricted to anti-Jewish beliefs and that opposition to other would-be Semitic peoples should also be considered antisemitism.

Or Appeal To Dictionary fallacy:

Description: Using a dictionary’s limited definition of a term as evidence that term cannot have another meaning, expanded meaning, or even conflicting meaning. This is a fallacy because dictionaries don’t reason; they simply are a reflection of an abbreviated version of the current accepted usage of a term, as determined by argumentation and eventual acceptance. In short, dictionaries tell you what a word meant, according to the authors, at the time of its writing, not what it meant before that time, after, or what it should mean.

Dictionary meanings are usually concise, and lack the depth found in an encyclopedia; therefore, terms found in dictionaries are often incomplete when it comes to helping people to gain a full understanding of the term.

Suggested reading: Exegetical Fallacies by D.A. Carson, a book that offers updated explanations of the sins of interpretation to teach sound grammatical, lexical, cultural, theological, and historical Bible study.

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  • I don't want to commit the etymological fallacy, but there is one question I have for clarification. In your words, the reason the term "is a metaphor for trickery" is "because trickery and deception is the essence of gambling." If this is true, then wouldn't this suggest opposition to gambling since the Bible opposes what, in your words, "is the essence of gambling"? (In other words, deception is condemned in many passages, such as John 8:44, and deception "is the essence of gambling." Therefore, wouldn't "the essence of gambling" be condemned?)
    – The Editor
    Feb 20, 2023 at 15:10
  • Of course the bible condemns all forms of trickery and deception, but your question asked if Paul was hinting to gambling in his choice of words here. By trickery being its essence, I meant that someone is always tricking someone in gambling.
    – Michael16
    Feb 20, 2023 at 15:13
  • @Michael16 “trickery and deception is the essence of gambling” - honest gamblers would not agree! Real gamblers are honest gamblers! Feb 20, 2023 at 16:31
  • I meant trickery or sleight of hand is bound to happen or inherent in gambling this is why the word is used as a metaphor for trickery.
    – Michael16
    Feb 20, 2023 at 16:40
  • @Michael16 Yes, it is inherent as, for instance, faking injury for prolonging time is in football (which is unhappily also called “soccer”), but that is not the essence of football. The essence of gambling is not a fraud, but a courageous and magnanimous risk of loosing a lot of money, or all possessions, at a prospect of winning even more; it is a life and death play with a fate of a reckless, not a petit bourgeois soul. The gambling was forbidden to Christians, because gambling game was preceded by a prayer to Τυχή or Fortuna, the strongest deity of pagan pantheon, stronger than even Zeus. Feb 20, 2023 at 19:15
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It's true that the etymology of the Greek word relates it to κύβος (kubos - viz. "cube"), which is the word used for a gaming die. Paul is making an oblique reference to gambling, but I don't think it is right to assume that he is referring directly to gambling.


John Chrysostom is a Greek commentator from antiquity who here explains the verse:

That we may be no longer, he says, children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, in craftiness, after the wiles of error.

And carried about he says, with every wind. He comes to this figure of speech, to point out in how great peril doubting souls are. With every wind, saith he, by the sleight of men, in craftiness, after the wiles of error. The word sleight [κυβεία] means the art of gamesters. Such are the crafty whenever they lay hold on the simpler sort. For they also change and shift about everything.

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