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Bible Encyclopedias

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature

Heart

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in the Biblical sense (καρδία ; לֵב or לֵבָב, often exchanged for קֶרֶב, in a more extended sense, as in Psalms 39:3-4; Psalms 109:22; 1 Samuel 25:37, the whole region of the chest, with its contents; see Delitzsch, System of Biblical Psychology, § 12, 13. According to Hupfeld, חֵלֶב, in Psalms 17:10, and Psalms 73:7, means simply the heart, which is not very likely).

1. In the Biblical point of view, human life, in all its operations, is centered in the heart. The heart is the central organ of the physical circulation; hence the necessity for strengthening the body as a support for the heart (סָעִד לֵב, Genesis 18:5; Judges 19:5; Psalms 104:15); and the exhaustion of physical power is called a drying up of the heart (Psalms 102:5; Psalms 22:15, etc.). So, also, is the heart the center of spiritual activity; for all spiritual aims, whether belonging to the intellectual, moral, or pathological spheres, are elaborated in the heart, and again carried out by the heart. In fact, the whole life of the soul, in the lower and sensual, as well as in the higher spheres, has its origin in the heart (Proverbs 4:23, For out of it are the issues of life"). In order to follow this train of thought, and to establish in a clearer light the Biblical view of the heart, it will be best to consider the relation the heart bears to the soul (ψυχή, נֶפֶשׁ ). This is one of the difficult questions in Biblical psychology; Olshausen (in the Abh. de naturae humanae trichotomia, opusc. theol. p. 159) says, "Omnium longe difficillimum est accurate definire quidnam discrimen in N.T. inter ψυχήν et καρδίαν , intercedat." Nevertheless, the task is facilitated by the fact that there is essential agreement on this point in the anthropologies of the Old and New Testament.

(1) We first note that, while, as before said, the heart is the center of all the functions of the soul's life, the terms "heart" and "soul" are often used interchangeably in Scripture. Thus, in Deuteronomy 6:5 (compare Matthew 22:37; Mark 12:30; Mark 12:33; Luke 10:27), and Deuteronomy 26:16, we are commanded to love God and obey his commandments with all our heart and all our soul (compare 1 Chronicles 28:9); the union of the faithful, in Acts 4:12, is designated as ην καρδία καἱ ψυχὴ μία . (In these passages, as in others, for instance, Deuteronomy 11:18; Deuteronomy 30:2; Jeremiah 32:41, there is, moreover, to be noticed that the heart is always named first.) Thus the indecision and division of the inner life can be designated either by δίψυχος (James 1:8) or by καρδία δισσή. It is said of both ἁγνιζειν καρδίας (James 4:8) and ἁγνίζειν ψυχάς (1 Peter 1:22); also שָׁפִךְ נָפְשׁוֹ (Psalms 42:5; comp. Job 30:16) and שָׁפִךְ לַבּוֹ (Lamentations 2:10; Psalms 62:9), the self-impelling to the love of God applies as well to the soul (Psalms 103) as to the קְכַבַים, of which the heart is the center, etc. But in the majority of passages, where either the heart or the soul are separately spoken of, the term "heart" can either not be exchanged at. all for the term "soul," or else only with some modification in the meaning.

(2) Note also the following fundamental distinction: The soul is the bearer of the personality (i.e. of the ego, the proper self) of man, in virtue of the indwelling spirit (Proverbs 20:27; 1 Corinthians 2:11), but yet is not itself the person of man; the heart, on the contrary (the חִדנְרֵי בֶטֶן, Proverbs 20:27), is the place where the process of self-consciousness is developed, in which the soul finds itself, and thus becomes conscious of its actions and impressions as its own ("in corde actiones animae humanae ad ipsam redeunt," as is concisely and correctly said by Roos in his Fundam. psychol. ex s. scr., 1769, p. 99). Accordingly the soul, not the heart, is spoken of when the 8:39; Luke 16:15; Proverbs 17:3; Psalms 7:10; Psalms 17:3; Jeremiah 11:20). Therefore also man is designated according to his heart in all that relates to habitual moral qualities; thus we read of a wise heart (1 Kings 5:12; Proverbs 10:8, etc.), a pure heart (Psalms 41:12; Matthew 5:8; 1 Timothy 1:5; 2 Timothy 2:22), an upright and righteous heart (Genesis 20:5-6; Psalms 11:2; Psalms 78:72; Psalms 101:2), a single heart (Ephesians 5:5; Colossians 3:22), a pious and good heart (Luke 8:15), a lowly heart (Matthew 11:29), etc. In all these places it would be difficult to introduce נֶפֶשׁ or ψυχή :

(2) We must also observe that the original divine rule of conduct for man was implanted in his heart, and therefore the heart is the seat of the συνείδησις , or conscience, which has a mission to proclaim that rule (Romans 2:15). All subsequent divine revelations were also directed to the heart (Deuteronomy 6:6); so the law demands that God should be loved with the whole heart, and then, as though by radiation from this center, with the whole soul (comp. Deuteronomy 11:18; Psalms 119:11, etc.). The teaching of wisdom also enters the heart, and from thence spreads its healing and vivifying influence through the whole organism (Proverbs 4:21-23). The prophetic consolations must speak to the heart (Isaiah 40:2), in contradistinction from such consolations as do not reach the bottom of human nature; thus also in Matthew 13:9; Luke 8:15, we find the heart described as the ground on which the seed of the divine Word is to be sowed. That which becomes assimilated to the heart constitutes the θησαυρὸς τῆς καρδίας (Matthew 12:35). This, however, may not only be ἀγαθός, but also πονηρὀς ; for the human heart is not only a recipient of divine principles of life, but also of evil.

(3) In opposition to the superficial doctrine which makes man in regard to morals an indifferent being, Scripture presents to us the doctrine of the natural wickedness of the human heart, the יֵצֶר לֵב (Genesis 8:21), or, more completely, מִחְשְׁבֵתּ לֵב יֵצֵר (Genesis 6:5; compare 1 Chronicles 28:9), and considers sin as having penetrated the center of life, from whence it contaminates its whole course. "How can ye, being evil, speak good things? for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh" (Matthew 12:34; comp. Ecclesiastes 8:11; Psalms 73:7); and those things which come out of the heart defile the man (Matthew 15:18). The heart is described as "deceitful (or, more properly, עָקבֹ, crooked, the opposite of יָשָׁר straight) above all things, and desperately wicked" (אָנוּשׁ ) (Jeremiah 17:9); so that God alone can thoroughly sound the depths of its wickedness (compare 1 John 3:20). Hence the prayer in Psalms 139:23. In this natural state of insusceptibility for good the heart is called uncircumcised, עָרֵל (Numbers 26:41; compare Deuteronomy 10:16; Ezekiel 44:9). Man, frightened at the manifestation of divine holiness, may take within himself the resolution of fulfilling the divine commands (Deuteronomy 5:24); yet the divine voice complains (Deuteronomy 5:29), "Oh that there were such a heart in them that they would fear me!" etc. Therefore the whole Revelation has for its object to change the heart of man; and its whole aim is to destroy, by virtue of its divine efficacy, the insusceptibility ("stupiditas, qua centrum animse laborat," as Roos expresses it, p. 153) and the antagonism of the heart, and to substitute for them the fear of God in the heart (Jeremiah 32:40), so that the law may be admitted (Jeremiah 31:33). This is the effect of the operations of the Holy Spirit, whose workings, as shown in the O.T., point to the regeneration of the heart in redemption (Ezekiel 36:26 sq.; Ezekiel 11:19), transforming the prophets to new creatures by means of a change of heart (1 Samuel 10:6; 1 Samuel 10:9), and implanting a willingness to obey God's law in the pious (Psalms 51:12-14).

(4) On the part of man, the process of salvation begins in the heart by the faith awakened by the testimony of revelation; which, as giving a new direction to the inner life, belongs entirely to the sphere of the heart, and is described as a fastening (according to the original meaning of הֶאֵַמין ), a strengthening (האמיוֹ, Psalms 27:14; Psalms 31:24), a supporting of the heart (comp. particularly Psalms 112:7) on the ground which is God himself, the צוּד לֵבָב (Psalms 73:26). The N.T. says in the same manner: καρδίᾷ πιστεύεται (Romans 10:9-10), πιστεύειν ἐξ ὅλης τῆς καρδίας ; faith is a μὴ διακρίνεσδαι ἐν καρδίᾷ (Mark 1:23). God purifies the heart by faith in Christ (Acts 15:9), for by the sprinkling of the blood of atonement the heart is rid of the bad conscience (Hebrews 10:22; compare 1 John 3:19-21), and the love of God is shed in it by the Holy Ghost (Romans 5:5). The same spirit also seals in the heart the assurance of being a child of God (2 Corinthians 1:22); the heart becomes the abode of Christ (Ephesians 3:16), is preserved in Christ (Colossians 3:15; Philippians 4:7), and strengthened in sanctification (1 Thessalonians 3:13, etc.).

When, on the contrary, man rejects the testimony of revelation, the heart becomes hardened, turns to stone (הַקַשָׁה, Psalms 96:8; Proverbs 28:14; אַמֵּוֹ . 2 Chronicles 36:13; חַזֵּק, Exodus 4:21; כַּבֵּד, 1 Samuel 6:6), for which we find it also said that the heart is shut (Isaiah 44:18), made fat (Isaiah 6:10; compare Psalms 119:70). In the N. Test. we find πωρώσις καρδίας (Mark 3:5; Ephesians 4:18); σκληροκαρδία (Matthew 19:8, etc.). The most important passage in this respect is Isaiah 6:10, where we find it particularly stated how the unsusceptible heart renders one unable to see the work of God, to hear his Word, and how this inability reacts on the heart, and renders its state incurable.

3. Finally, the question of the position the heart, as center of the spiritual life of the soul, holds in regard to the heart, considered as the center of the organic (physical) life, cannot be fully treated except in a thorough investigation of the relations between the body and soul in general. We will only remark here that the Scriptures not only draw a parallel between the body and the soul, by virtue of which the bodily actions are considered as symbols of the spiritual, but also establish the position that the soul, which is the bearer of the personality, is the same which directs also the life and actions; and thus the bodily organs, in their higher functions, become its adjuncts. Now, in view of the well-known fact that emotions and sufferings affect the physical economy for example, that the pulsations of the heart are affected by them - no one will consider it a mere figure of speech when the Psalmist says, "My heart was hot within me" (Psalms 39:3), or Jeremiah speaks of "a burning fire shut up in his bones" (Jeremiah 20:9; comp. Jeremiah 4:19; Jeremiah 23:9).

But there is one point worthy of special attention in Biblical anthropology, namely, the specific relation the Bible establishes between certain parts of the bodily organism and particular actions (see what Delitzsch, Biblical Psychology, § 12, 13, deduces from the Biblical signification of the

רִחֲמַים, the liver, the kidneys), and then the part attributed to the heart in knowledge and will, considered aside from the head and brain. It is well known that all antiquity agreed with the Biblical views in these respects. In regard to Homer's doctrine, see Nagelsbach's Homer. Theologie, p. 332 sq. We may also on this point recall the expressions cordatus, recordari, vecors, excors, etc. (see especially Cicero, Tusc. 1, 9, 18, and Plato, Phaed. c. 45, and-the commentators on these passages). As Delitzsch correctly observes, the spiritual signification of the heart cannot be traced back to t from the mere fact of its being the central organ of the circulation. The manner in which that writer has made use of the phenomena of somnambulism to explain this is deserving of due notice, yet physiology has thus far been unable to throw any light on the subject. Oehler, in Herzog, Real-Encyklop. 6, 15 sq.

4. The heart expresses the middle of anything: "Tyre is in the heart," in the midst, "of the sea" (Ezekiel 27:4). "We will not fear, though the mountains be carried into the heart of the sea" (Psalms 46:2). "As Jonah was three days and three nights in the whale's belly, so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth" (Matthew 12:40). Moses, speaking to the Israelites, says, "And the mountain burnt with fire, unto the heart of heaven;" the flame rose as high as the clouds.

To "say in one's heart" is a Hebrew expression for thinking (Psalms 10:6; Psalms 14:1). (See SOUL).

5. Of special religious importance are the following practical uses of the word:

Hardness of heart is "that state in which a sinner is inclined to and actually goes on in rebellion against God. This state evidences itself by light views of the evil of sin; partial acknowledgment and confession of it; frequent commission of it; pride and conceit; ingratitude; unconcern about the Word and ordinances of God; inattention to divine providences; stifling convictions of conscience; shunning reproof; presumption, and general ignorance of divine things."

Keeping the heart is "a duty enjoined in the sacred Scriptures. It consists, says Flavel, in the diligent and constant use and improvement of all holy means and duties to preserve the soul from sin, and maintain communion with God; and this, he properly observes, supposes a previous work of sanctification, which hath set the heart right by giving it a new bent and inclination.

1. It includes frequent observation of the frame of the heart (Psalms 77:6).

2. Deep humiliation for heart evils and disorders (2 Chronicles 32:26).

3. Earnest supplication for heart purifying and rectifying grace (Psalms 19:12).

4. A constant holy jealousy over our hearts (Proverbs 27:14).

5. It includes the realizing of God's presence with us, and setting him before us (Psalms 16:8; Genesis 17:1).

This is,

1. The hardest work; heart work is hard work indeed.

2. Constant work (Exodus 17:12). 3. The most important work (Proverbs 23:26).

This is a duty which should be attended to if we consider it in connection with,

1. The honor of God (Isaiah 66:3).

2. The sincerity of our profession (2 Kings 10:31; Ezekiel 32:31-32).

3. The beauty of our conversation (Proverbs 12:26; Psalms 45:1).

4. The comfort of our souls (2 Corinthians 13:5).

5. The improvement of our graces (Psalms 63:5-6).

6. The stability of our souls in the hour of temptation (1 Corinthians 16:13).

The seasons in which we should more particularly keep our hearts are,

1. The time of our prosperity (Deuteronomy 6:10; Deuteronomy 6:12).

2. Under afflictions (Hebrews 7:5-6).

3. The time of Sion's troubles (Psalms 46:1; Psalms 46:4).

4. In the time of great and threatening danger (Isaiah 26:20-21).

5. Under great wants (Philippians 4:6-7).

6. In the time of duty (Leviticus 10:3).

7. Under injuries received (Romans 12:17, etc.).

8. In the critical hour of temptation (Matthew 26:41).

9. Under dark and doubting seasons (Hebrews 12:8; Isaiah 1, 10).

10. In time of opposition and suffering (1 Peter 4:12-13).

11. The time of sickness and death (Jeremiah 49:11).

The means to be made use of to keep our hearts are,

1. Watchfulness (Mark 13:37).

2. Examination (Proverbs 4:26).

3. Prayer (Luke 18:1).

4. Reading God's Word (John 5:39).

5. Dependence on divine grace (Psalms 86:11). See Flavel, On Keeping the Heart; Jamieson, Sermons on the Heart."

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Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Heart'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/tce/h/heart.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

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