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Bible Encyclopedias

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia


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hart ( לב , lēbh , לבב , lēbhābh ; καρδία , kardı́a ): The different senses in which the word occurs in the Old Testament and the New Testament may be grouped under the following heads:

1. Various Meanings

It represents in the first place the bodily organ , and by easy transition those experiences which affect or are affected by the body. Fear, love, courage, anger, Joy, sorrow, hatred are always ascribed to the heart - especially in the Old Testament; thus courage for which usually rūaḥ is used ( Psalm 27:14 ); joy (Psalm 4:7 ); anger (Deuteronomy 19:6 , "while his heart is hot," lēbhābh ); fear (1 Samuel 25:37 ); sorrow (Psalm 13:2 ), etc.

Hence, naturally it came to stand for the man himself ( Deuteronomy 7:17; "say in thine heart," Isaiah 14:13 ).

2. Heart and Personality

As representing the man himself, it was considered to be the seat of the emotions and passions and appetites (Genesis 18:5; Leviticus 19:17; Psalm 104:15 ), and embraced likewise the intellectual and moral faculties - though these are necessarily ascribed to the "soul" as well. This distinction is not always observed.

3. Soul and Heart

"Soul" in Hebrew can never be rendered by "heart"; nor can "heart" be considered as a synonym for "soul." Cremer has well observed: "The Hebrew nephesh ("soul") is never translated kardia ("heart").... The range of the Hebrew nephesh , to which the Greek psuchḗ alone corresponds, differs so widely from the ideas connected with psuchē , that utter confusion would have ensued had psuchē been employed in an unlimited degree for lēbh ("heart"). The Biblical lēbh never, like psuchē , denotes the personal subject, nor could it do so. That which in classical Greek is ascribed to psuchē (a good soul, a just soul, etc.) is in the Bible ascribed to the heart alone and cannot be otherwise" (Cremer, Lexicon , article "Kardia," 437ff, German edition).

4. Center of Vital Action

In the heart vital action is centered ( 1 Kings 21:7 ). "Heart," except as a bodily organ, is never ascribed to animals, as is the case sometimes with nephesh and rūaḥ (Leviticus 17:11 , ה , nephesh ; Genesis 2:19; Numbers 16:22; Genesis 7:22 , ה , ruaḥ ). "Heart" is thus often used interchangeably with these two (Genesis 41:8; Psalm 86:4; Psalm 119:20 ); but "it never denotes the personal subject, always the personal organ."

5. Heart and Mind

As the central organ in the body, forming a focus for its vital action, it has come to stand for the center of its moral, spiritual, intellectual life. "In particular the heart is the place in which the process of self-consciousness is carried out, in which the soul is at home with itself, and is conscious of all its doing and suffering as its own" (Oehler). Hence, it is that men of "courage" are called "men of the heart"; that the Lord is said to speak "in his heart" (Genesis 8:21 ); that men "know in their own heart" (Deuteronomy 8:5 ); that "no one considereth in his heart' (Isaiah 44:19 the King James Version). "Heart" in this connection is sometimes rendered "mind," as in Numbers 16:28 ("of mine own mind," Vulgate (Jerome's Latin Bible , 390-405 ad) ex proprio corde , Septuagint ap' emautoú ); the foolish "is void of understanding," i.e. "heart" (Proverbs 6:32 , where the Septuagint renders phrenō̇n , Vulgate (Jerome's Latin Bible , 390-405 ad) cordis , Luther "der ist ein Narr"). God is represented as "searching the heart" and "trying the reins" (Jeremiah 17:10 the King James Version). Thus, "heart" comes to stand for "conscience," for which there is no word in Hebrew, as in Job 27:6 , "My heart shall not reproach me," or in 1 Samuel 24:5 , "David's heart smote him"; compare 1 Samuel 25:31 . From this it appears, in the words of Owen: "The heart in Scripture is variously used, sometimes for the mind and understanding, sometimes for the will, sometimes for the affections, sometimes for the conscience, sometimes for the whole soul. Generally, it denotes the whole soul of man and all the faculties of it, not absolutely, but as they are all one principle of moral operations, as they all concur in our doing of good and evil."

6. Figurative Senses

The radical corruption of human nature is clearly taught in Scripture and brought into connection with the heart. It is "uncircumcised" (Jeremiah 9:26; Ezekiel 44:7; compare Acts 7:51 ); and "hardened" (Exodus 4:21 ); "wicked" (Proverbs 26:23 ); "perverse" (Proverbs 11:20 ); "godless" (Job 36:13 ); "deceitful and desperately wicked" (Jeremiah 17:9 the King James Version). It defiles the whole man ( Matthew 15:19 , Matthew 15:20 ); resists, as in the case of Pharaoh, the repeated call of God (Exodus 7:13 ). There, however, the law of God is written (Romans 2:15 ); there the work of grace is wrought (Acts 15:9 ), for the "heart" may be "renewed" by grace (Ezekiel 36:26 ), because the "heart" is the seat of sin (Genesis 6:5; Genesis 8:21 ).

7. Process of Heart Renewal

This process of heart-renewal is indicated in various ways. It is the removal of a "stony heart" (Ezekiel 11:19 ). The heart becomes "clean" (Psalm 51:10 ); "fixed" (Psalm 112:7 ) through "the fear" of the Lord (1 Samuel 25:1 ); "With the heart man believeth" (Romans 10:10 ); on the "heart" the power of God is exercised for renewal (Jeremiah 31:33 ). To God the bereaved apostles pray as a knower of the heart (Acts 1:24 - a word not known to classical writers, found only here in the New Testament and in Acts 15:8 , kardiognō̇stēs ). In the "heart" God's Spirit dwells with might (Ephesians 3:16 , eis tón ésō ánthrōpon ); in the "heart" God's love is poured forth (Romans 5:5 ). The Spirit of His son has been "sent forth into the heart" (Galatians 4:6 ); the "earnest of the Spirit" has been given "in the heart" (2 Corinthians 1:22 ). In the work of grace, therefore, the heart occupies a position almost unique.

8. The Heart First

We might also refer here to the command, on which both the Old Testament and New Testament revelation of love is based: "Thou shalt love Yahweh thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might" (Deuteronomy 6:5 ); where "heart" always takes the first place, and is the term which in the New Testament rendering remains unchanged (compare Matthew 22:37; Mark 12:30 , Mark 12:33; Luke 10:27 , where "heart" always takes precedence).

9. A T erm for "Deepest"

A bare reference may be made to the employment of the term for that which is innermost, hidden, deepest in anything (Exodus 15:8; Jonah 2:3 ), the very center of things. This we find in all languages. Compare Ephesians 3:16 , Ephesians 3:17 , "in the inward man," as above.

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Bibliography Information
Orr, James, M.A., D.D. General Editor. Entry for 'Heart'. International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. 1915.

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