Clement of Alexandria was fed up with the Sophists—the self-proclaimed wise teachers of the second century. He said they were enslaved to pleasures and chose to disbelieve; they laughed at the truth which is worthy of all reverence. They were “babbling away in their own jargon…greater chatterers than turtle-doves; scratching and tickling…the ears of those who wish to be tickled.” He said they were like old shoes—when all the rest is worn and is falling to pieces, the tongue alone remains. Flapping tongues, itching ears—not a healthy combination!
The phrase “itching ears” is found only once in the New Testament. The Greek word for “itching” used by Paul in his warning to Timothy in 2 Timothy 4:3 was knetho (KNAY tho). He had had his own encounters with people who had itching ears, especially when he spoke to the philosophers in Athens. Acts 17:21 says they “spend their time in nothing except telling or hearing something new.” (Literally, the text says something new-er. What was new yesterday had to be new-er today. None of that “tell me the old, old story” for them!)
So it is today. Scholars love new ideas; they often have contempt for yesterday’s truths. An old, old book like the Bible may be treated with disdain, or even worse, with a condescending smile. The scholars who rush to be on camera when the cable channels deal with the Bible usually take pride in exposing it as a fallible human book.
I choose, however, to stand with Jesus.
He is the one who said, “Scripture cannot be broken” (John 10:35). He is the one who said, “Thy word is true” (John 17:17). He is the one who used Adam and Eve, Noah’s flood, and Jonah’s great fish—all stories modern “experts” quickly reject—as cornerstones for his teaching on marriage, his second coming, and his resurrection.
Have a bad case of itching ears? Jesus can cure that.