My last post Heart knowledge vs. head knowledge?, opened a can of worms that I am not really qualified to deal with. However, a commenter raised some questions (primarily concerning the nature of the “heart” and the ministry of the Holy Spirit) that I thought deserved at least an attempt at an answer. I’ll take my best stab at it…
By no means did I wish to indicate in my previous post that the Bible has little to say about the heart—only that I find no contrast between a knowledge that is housed in the heart and a knowledge that is housed in the intellect. Nor do I find justification in the pages of the Bible for a spiritual, hierarchical structure of the self wherein the intellect is of a more base nature than that of the heart or even of the soul.
In the Old Testament, the Hebrew word that is most often rendered heart is לֵבָב (lebab), meaning inner man, mind, will, heart. In other words, it is synonymous with mind. Indeed, it is at times translated as intelligence (Job 12:3, 24), mind (Dan 1:8; 1Sam 9:19, 1Kings 4:29), purpose (Isa 10:7), thought (1 Kings 8:47), and understanding (Job 36:5).
Similarly, one of the words that is rendered mind in the Old Testament is כִּלְיָה (kilyah), which literally means kidneys. This is somewhat akin to our idea of heart—the seat of the emotions or the inner man.
Even the Hebrew word for soul (נֶפֶשׁ, nephesh) gets in on this parallelism action. It’s primary meaning is soul, life, or self, but it can also be rendered heart, appetite, desire, feelings, passion, or strength. And in some translations—mind.
It is when we get to the New Testament that we see the modern figurative language in which the physical organ, the heart (καρδία, kardia) represents the inner person. Even here, though, the idea is that of the very center of the self, including thoughts, feelings, and motives.
Let’s compare Deuteronomy 6:5 with Jesus’ later reference to this passage.
Deuteronomy 6:5 (NASB)
5 “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.
Mark 12:30 (NASB)
30 AND YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND, AND WITH ALL YOUR STRENGTH.’
I have already demonstrated that there is good reason to understand the Deuteronomy passage as a list of synonymous words that build emphasis and provide a thorough sense of what it means to love God with our whole selves.
The following sentence is an oversimplified example of what I mean by this:
Conquering the summit required him to use every ounce of his strength, to push his muscles to their very limits, and to exhaust all the reservoirs of his power.
Each phrase adds something to the overall idea, but the differences in meaning is slight.
In the parallel passage from Mark, I am unsure if Jesus is quoting a Greek translation of the OT or if his words are only recorded in Greek. In any case, the Greek words for soul and strength are much more exclusive in their meaning than the corresponding Hebrew words, and the word mind is added. I believe the sharp distinction between these words is owing to the precision of the Greek language, not to a new, intentional contrast between human attributes. All the same ideas are present. In fact, I suspect mind is added here because it was an idea inherent in the original Hebrew words translated heart and soul, but not as much in their Greek counterparts.
Jesus, or a New Testament author may choose, in other passages, to use only heart, soul, or mind for a specific emphasis, but this does not mean the other ideas are excluded or contrasted.
So, my point?
We have words to describe the different attributes of personhood, but, in my opinion, they are ways to describe different nuances of a unified whole—not three separate parts of a being.
God attributes thought, emotion, and identity to himself. We would not say that his person was more spiritual than his emotions, or that his emotions were deeper or higher than his thoughts. They all speak of the core of who he is, and they are all interdependent on each other.
Do we really have justification for assigning qualitative spiritual value to these words simply because we are speaking of human persons? This lady doesn’t think so.
One other issue the commenter brought up was the direct influence of the Holy Spirit. This is not threatened or diminished if there is no real contrast between the heart and the mind. The Holy Spirit interacts with our soul (self). He illuminates, inspires, directs, convicts, and comforts us. But these things are accomplished by engaging our intellect, our motives, and our emotions, each inseparably bound to the other.
You do not have water if you do not have both hydrogen and oxygen. And you cannot say that one is more essential to water than the other.
The soul is the self, the sum of who we are. What we feel in our heart, we acknowledge with our mind, and vice-versa. How we choose to shape and respond to our own thoughts, motives, and feelings (or respond to God as he engages them), determines our character and condition of our soul—the person that we are.
What do you think (or feel 🙂 )?
Is it reasonable or scriptural to divorce any of these from another?
Does a soul exist apart from thoughts and emotions?