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Bible Dictionaries

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament

Hardening of Heart

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HARDENING OF HEART.—(a) The relation in Scripture between the blood and the life (Leviticus 17:11) is such that the heart is naturally ‘the typical centre of personal life’ (cf. Westcott on Hebrews 4:12 and 1 John 1:7 Add. Notes); the seat of understanding (1 Kings 3:9; 1 Kings 3:12), affection (Deuteronomy 6:5), will (Jeremiah 5:23), character (1 Kings 9:4, Ezekiel 11:21); the fountain at which all issues (Proverbs 4:23) may receive a Divine direction, (b) It is described as tender (2 Kings 22:18 f.), hard (Exodus 8:19), of flesh or of stone (Ezekiel 11:19 ff.), not in the popular sense of merciful or cruel, but according to its receptivity (or otherwise) of Divine impressions. Of the Greek words employed to express such hardness the two more remarkable (see below) represent the heart as callous (i.e. ossified) or fat. (c) An important distinction is to be made between two expressions:—(i.) ‘Hardness of heart.’ To a certain extent this is an unavoidable infirmity of man’s natural condition. As such, it is the object of Divine condescension, which (as Christ directly asserts) is the explanation of much OT legislation (Matthew 19:8 ||). It is referred to in the Gospels as (1) σκληροκαρδία, Matthew 19:8 || Mark 10:5 [Mark 16:14]; as (2) καρδ. πεπωρωμένη, Mark 6:52; Mark 8:17. (ii.) ‘Hardening of heart.’ This is a voluntary process: the object therefore of Divine condemnation (cf. Matthew 11:20 ff; Matthew 13:15; Matthew 23:37 ff., Romans 2:5). Its active nature, as distinguished from passive infirmity, is indicated by the form πώρωσις, Mark 3:5 (cf. Romans 11:25, Ephesians 4:18), in contrast to the pf. pt. pass. Mark 6:52; Mark 8:17. (d) Hardening is represented, alternatively with conversion, as a direct consequence of contact with grace and the gospel (Matthew 13:15, John 3:19 f., John 9:39; cf. 2 Corinthians 5:10). The origin of the process is variously stated, according to the side from which it is viewed. Thus—(1) The heart is hardened, as though by the action of a mechanical law: Matthew 13:15 = Isaiah 6:10 LXX Septuagint (cf. Acts 19:9, Romans 11:7; Romans 11:25, 2 Corinthians 3:14). (2) Man hardens his heart. This aspect, though necessarily involved in man’s responsibility and often stated in the OT (Exodus 9:34, 1 Samuel 6:8, 2 Chronicles 36:13), is not expressly referred to in the NT, except in Hebrews 3:8 = Psalms 95:8. (3) God hardens it: John 12:40 = a paraphrase of Isaiah 6:10; see Westcott, ad loc., and cf. Romans 9:18. This is often known as ‘judicial hardening’: it is ‘the inexorable law of moral consequence’ (Westcott on Hebrews 3:8). It comes to pass that ‘he who will not turn at last cannot. And God, who established that law of man’s nature, is said in Scripture to do that which occurs under it or results from it’ (Vaughan on Romans 9:18). (e) In the OT the typical case is that of Pharaoh; in which all three statements are remarkably exemplified (Exodus 7:14; Exodus 8:15; Exodus 9:12). Bunyan’s ‘Man in the iron cage’ is a powerful picture of hardening in its final stage: at the same time, the man who is past repentance is usually past feeling (Ephesians 4:18 f.).

F. S. Ranken.


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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Hardening of Heart'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/hdn/h/hardening-of-heart.html. 1906-1918.

Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, June 25th, 2019
the Week of Proper 7 / Ordinary 12
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