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Bible Dictionaries

Holman Bible Dictionary


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The center of the intellectual activity, an English term translating several different Hebrew and Greek terms. The biblical languages possess no one word parallel to the English, mind . KJV translates at least six different Hebrew terms, mind . The primary word is leb , which means “heart.” For example, Moses said, “The Lord hath sent me to do all these works; for I have not done them of mine own mind” (Numbers 16:28; compare 1 Samuel 9:20; Nehemiah 4:6 ). In addition, the word nephesh (soul) is translated “mind” in Deuteronomy 18:6 when it refers to the desire of a man's mind (soul) and in Genesis 23:8 where it refers to mind in the sense of a decision or judgment. The word ruach (spirit) is rendered “mind” in Genesis 26:35 . It speaks of the “grief of mind” (spirit) which Isaac and Rebekah experienced because Esau married heathen wives. Also used are the words lebab (heart) in Ezekiel 38:10; yetser (imagination) in Isaiah 26:3; and peh (mouth, speech) in Leviticus 24:12 ).

The New Testament has a similar situation because of the large number of terms which are used to describe mankind's “faculty of cognition.” As in the Old Testament the term heart ( kardia ) is sometimes used to represent the concept mind . Matthew 13:15 speaks of understanding with the “heart.” Other words include ennoia , which means “mind” in the sense of “intent” (“arm yourselves likewise with the same mind” (1 Peter 4:1 ). Gnome refers to mind in the sense of “purpose” ( Revelation 17:13 ) or “opinion” (Philemon 1:14 ). Noema is also used to denote the mind, especially the “thought process.” Paul said that Israel's “minds were blinded” so that they could not understand the Old Testament ( 2 Corinthians 3:14; see also 2 Corinthians 4:4; 2 Corinthians 11:3 ). The word phronema refers to what one has in the mind, the “thought”: “To be carnally minded is death” ( Romans 8:6 ).

The more common terms for mind, however, are nous and dianoia . Dianoia occurs twelve times in the New Testament. It refers to “thinking through” or “thinking over” of something or to the “understanding” or “sentiment” which results from that process of reflection. Paul said that in times past we all lived according to the flesh, “fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind” (those things we had already thought over, Ephesians 2:3 ). Nous is the most prominent term for mind; it occurs twenty-four times. Nous represents the “seat of understanding,” the place of “knowing and reasoning.” It also includes feeling and deciding. Hence it sometimes includes the counsels and purposes of the mind. An example is Paul's statement: “Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind” ( Romans 14:5 ). The meaning of purpose is found in Romans 11:34 , which says, “Who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counselor?”

Mind is sometimes associated with the human soul. Three times in the King James Version the word psuche (soul or life) is rendered by the word mind . Philippians 1:27 says believers are to be of “one mind (soul).” Hebrews 12:3 urges believers not to “faint in your minds (souls).” (See Acts 14:2 also.) These passages illustrate the fact that the mind is considered to be the center of the person. However, in Scripture the heart is more often considered to be the center of the human personality. In the Old Testament, especially, this is true because of the lack of an exact equivalent for mind . The word heart fills this void, and the New Testament follows the practice of the Old Testament very closely. Why then can the mind as well as the heart be spoken of as the center of a person? Because in Hebrew thought a person is looked at as a single entity with no attempt to compartmentalize the person into separate parts which act more or less independently of one another. Therefore, the heart, mind, and soul, while in some ways different, are seen as one.

The mind is portrayed oftentimes, especially in the New Testament, as the center of a person's ethnical nature. The mind can be evil. It is described as “reprobate” (Romans 1:28 ), “fleshly” (Colossians 2:18 ), vain (Ephesians 4:17 ), corrupt (1 Timothy 6:5; 2 Timothy 3:8 ), and defiled (Titus 1:15 ). On the other hand, three Gospels command us to love God with”all” our mind (Matthew 22:37; Mark 12:30; Luke 10:27 ). This is possible because the mind can be revived and empowered by the Holy Spirit (Romans 12:2 ) and because God's laws under the new covenant are put into our minds (Hebrews 8:10; Hebrews 10:16 ). See Heart; Soul; Anthropology; Humanity .

Gerald Cowen

Copyright Statement
These dictionary topics are from the Holman Bible Dictionary, published by Broadman & Holman, 1991. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman & Holman.

Bibliography Information
Butler, Trent C. Editor. Entry for 'Mind'. Holman Bible Dictionary. 1991.

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