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Saturday, January 21, 2006

Heart in the Bible

According to a Blue Letter Bible search, the word, "heart," occurs in the KJV Bible 830 times in 762 verses. I didn't read through all of these, but it looks like all, or nearly all, of these are in the sense of "the center of the will," or "the seat of the emotions." The first occurrence is Gen 6:5 "And GOD saw that the wickedness of man [was] great in the earth, and [that] every imagination of the thoughts of his heart [was] only evil continually." (KJV) Only 98 of the 762 verses are in the New Testament. The Blue Letter Bible says that the Hebrew word was lebab, or some variation thereof.

Here's an important passage, from Mark 12:30 "And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this [is] the first commandment." (KJV) This is part of a dialogue between Jesus and a teacher of the law, and Jesus is quoting Deuteronomy 6:4, and responding to the teacher's question about what part of the law is most important. The teacher agrees.

A previous post is on the heart, in the same sense. The Wikipedia's "disambiguation page" on heart lists the two important meanings, namely a "muscular organ" and "Symbolism and Metaphor," as well as some which are much less important. The article on the heart in symbolism begins with a reference to the Bible, and says that Bible use of the word is as "the moral core of a human being including the intellect and not just the emotions," referencing JewishEncyclopedia.com on that point.

The Online Etymology Dictionary says that heart, or a recognizable predecessor, has been around since Proto-Indo-European, perhaps 5500 years ago.

What is the physical seat of the emotions, the center of the will, if there is such a physical seat? I don't believe we have any scientific evidence that definitely locates such, but would suppose that it is some part of the cerebral cortex, or the entire brain. I don't suppose it matters much whether or not there is such a specific location. We act as if there was one, and mostly believe that there is.

Some time ago, I posted on a work of fantasy by Patricia A. McKillip, concluding that the theme concerned the heart.

2 comments:

Bonnie said...

Thanks for this post, Martin.

As you know, the theme of the heart being (inextricably?) related to the mind is one I've been working on myself.

What's intriguing to me here (as well as in the previous post you linked) is the idea of the heart being something one gives. It seems that modern evangelical language speaks of "letting in" (receiving) things to one's heart, but I don't know that I've heard much about giving one's heart.

I would think that the "giving" is really where it's at -- "letting in" sounds like something you do to a door-to-door salesman, or the cat, or something. But to Jesus? Hmmm.

Well, that would be "hospitality," I guess.

I must think on this some more! Thanks again.

Martin LaBar said...

Thanks for reading, and commenting, Bonnie.

Yes, I think that God wants our emotions given to Him, and that that's not the way we want to do things.