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International Standard Bible Encyclopedia

 

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HEART

hart (lebh, lebhabh; kardia): 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 ruach is used (Ps 27:14); joy (Ps 4:7); anger (Dt 19:6, "while his heart is hot," lebhabh); fear (1 Sam 25:37); sorrow (Ps 13:2), etc.
Hence, naturally it came to stand for the man himself (Dt 7:17; "say in thine heart," Isa 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 (Gen 18:5; Lev 19:17; Ps 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 psuche alone corresponds, differs so widely from the ideas connected with psuche, that utter confusion would have ensued had psuche been employed in an unlimited degree for lebh ("heart"). The Biblical lebh never, like psuche, denotes the personal subject, nor could it do so. That which in classical Greek is ascribed to psuche (a good soul, a just soul, etc.) is in the Bible ascribed to the heart alone and cannot be otherwise" (Cremer, Lexicon, article "Kardia," 437 ff, German edition).
4. Center of Vital Action:
In the heart vital action is centered (1 Ki 21:7). "Heart," except as a bodily organ, is never ascribed to animals, as is the case sometimes with nephesh and ruach (Lev 17:11, nephesh; Gen 2:19; Nu 16:22; Gen 7:22, ruach). "Heart" is thus often used interchangeably with these two (Gen 41:8; Ps 86:4; 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" (Gen 8:21); that men "know in their own heart" (Dt 8:5); that "no one considereth in his heart' (Isa 44:19 the King James Version). "Heart" in this connection is sometimes rendered "mind," as in Nu 16:28 ("of mine own mind," Vulgate (Jerome's Latin Bible, 390-405 A.D.) ex proprio corde, Septuagint ap' emautou); the foolish "is void of understanding," i.e. "heart" (Prov 6:32, where the Septuagint renders phrenon, Vulgate (Jerome's Latin Bible, 390-405 A.D.) cordis, Luther "der ist ein Narr"). God is represented as "searching the heart" and "trying the reins" (Jer 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 Sam 24:5, "David's heart smote him"; compare 1 Sam 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" (Jer 9:26; Ezek 44:7; compare Acts 7:51); and "hardened" (Ex 4:21); "wicked" (Prov 26:23); "perverse" (Prov 11:20); "godless" (Job 36:13); "deceitful and desperately wicked" (Jer 17:9 the King James Version). It defiles the whole man (Mt 15:19,20); resists, as in the case of Pharaoh, the repeated call of God (Ex 7:13). There, however, the law of God is written (Rom 2:15); there the work of grace is wrought (Acts 15:9), for the "heart" may be "renewed" by grace (Ezek 36:26), because the "heart" is the seat of sin (Gen 6:5; 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" (Ezek 11:19). The heart becomes "clean" (Ps 51:10); "fixed" (Ps 112:7) through "the fear" of the Lord (verse 1); "With the heart man believeth" (Rom 10:10); on the "heart" the power of God is exercised for renewal (Jer 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, kardiognostes). In the "heart" God's Spirit dwells with might (Eph 3:16, eis ton eso anthropon); in the "heart" God's love is poured forth (Rom 5:5). The Spirit of His son has been "sent forth into the heart" (Gal 4:6); the "earnest of the Spirit" has been given "in the heart" (2 Cor 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" (Dt 6:5); where "heart" always takes the first place, and is the term which in the New Testament rendering remains unchanged (compare Mt 22:37; Mk 12:30,33; Lk 10:27, where "heart" always takes precedence).
9. A Term for "Deepest":
A bare reference may be made to the employment of the term for that which is innermost, hidden, deepest in anything (Ex 15:8; Jon 2:3), the very center of things. This we find in all languages. Compare Eph 3:16,17, "in the inward man," as above.
J. I. Marais

Bibliography Information
Orr, James, M.A., D.D. General Editor. "Definition for 'HEART'". "International Standard Bible Encyclopedia". bible-history.com - ISBE; 1915.

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