The majority of translations and commentaries render the phrase κνηθόμενοι τὴν ἀκοήν in 2 Tim 4.3 as ‘having itching ears’ (or something to the same effect). Many commentaries and lexica claim, furthermore, that this figure of speech expresses curiosity. The present study demonstrates that the phrase found in 2 Tim 4.3 is an idiom that occurs quite frequently in first- and second-century ce literature. Contemporary usage of this expression suggests, first, that the translation at 2 Tim 4.3 should be ‘having their ears tickled’, rather than ‘having itching ears’, and, second, that the idiom refers primarily to the experience of pleasure rather than curiosity. This translation and interpretation of κνηθόμενοι τὴν ἀκοήν fits the context of 2 Timothy better than other commonly proposed readings and is significant for how we understand the author's portrayal of his opponents and their appeal to the believers.
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