Thursday, May 15, 2014

All Your Heart: A Definition

This post is part of a continuing study on The Greatest Commandment
Use that link to read other articles in this series.

Defining Terms

We have already completed a rough comparison of the different places in scripture that reference the Greatest Commandment: To love The Lord with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. The next logical hermeneutical step is to define our terms. We will do this with each topic when we embark on that study.

NOTE: Since I do not personally read Hebrew or Greek, I rely on study tools like Strong's in order to put this information together.

Old Testament Definition

We begin with Deuteronomy 6:5. The term, in Hebrew, is "lebab," (Strong's 3824) and it occurs 252 times in scripture.
lebab: inner man, mind, will, heart

NASB Translation:
anger (1), breasts (1), conscientious* (1), consider* (5), courage (1), desire (1), encouragingly* (1), fainthearted* (3), heart (185), heart and the hearts (1), heart's (1), hearts (27), hearts like his heart (1), intelligence (1), intended (2), mind (8), purpose (1), thought (1), timid* (1), understanding (2), wholehearted* (1), wholeheartedly* (1), yourself (1).
Notice the range of translations based on context; in addition to a literal translation, sometimes "lebab" refers to the domain of the mind, sometimes of the will, and sometimes of emotion. The breakdown is as follows:
  1. Literal Translation(216)

    * Breasts (1)
    * Heart (185)
    * Heart and the hearts (1)
    * Heart's [possesive] (1)
    * Hearts [plural] (27)
    * Hearts like his heart (1)

  2. Domain of the Mind (19)

    * Consider (5)
    * Intelligence (1)
    * Mind (8)
    * Thought (1)
    * Understanding (2)

  3. Domain of the Will (10)

  4. * Conscientious (1)
    * Courage (1)
    * Desire (1)
    * Fainthearted (3)
    * Intended (2)
    * Purpose (1)
    * Timid (1)

  5. Domain of Emotion (4)

  6. * Anger (1)
    * Encouragingly (1)
    * Wholehearted (1)
    * Wholeheartedly (1)
Reader, you undoubtedly had a few disagreements with the strict placement of some of these terms. I had a bit of difficulty strictly relegating terms to the Domain of the Will instead of Emotion. Specifically courage, desire, fainthearted and timid. This has to do with the ambiguity of language. One can easily place these terms in either category. Courage is both the desicion to do what is right (Will) and feeling emboldened to do right (Emotion). This same interplay between will and emotion is true for the remaining three terms.

The expansive meaning of lebab accounts for the missing "mind" in Deuteronomy 6:5. Here, the one term expresses both the idea of the heart and the mind. We will deal with the mind at a later time. Here, we need to know what is meant by the Heart.

We can safely conclude, once we exclude references to the mind, that The Heart has to do with the development of once's emotions and will. Or, more specifically, how one's perception of their environment (emotions) influences their reaction to their environment (will). When an individual receives a stimulus from their environment, they must react to it in one way or another. One may feel timid, but will they react faintheartedly or courageously? When a person is wronged and anger burns within them will they desire justice or vengeance?

New Testament Definition

Now we turn our attention to the synoptic gospels. The term, in Greek, is "kardia," (Strong's 2588) and it occurs 158 times in scripture.
kardia: heart

heart (102), heart's (1), hearts (49), mind (2), minds (1), quick (1), spirit (1)

[Explanatory note] "the affective center of our being" and the capacity of moral preference (volitional desire, choice; see P. Hughs, 2 Cor, 354); "desire-producer that makes us tick" (G. Archer), i.e our "desire-decisions" that establish who we really are.
Note, again, the ambiguity caused by variance in the translations. Again, there is interplay between the term "heart" and "mind." Please note that while I consider the translation of "heart" as literal, scripture rarely refers to a physical heart. Typically, when these terms are translated "heart" it is used figuratively to refer to something deeper than just a blood-pumping organ.

The explanatory note hits at the heart of the issue (pun intended). As "the affective center of our being" it is the part of us that receives input (emotion) and processes output (will). The Greek usage confirms what we have found in the Hebrew translations, that the term "heart" refers to the way an individual receives and reacts to stimuli.

Many English colloquialisms also confirm this interplay between emotion and the will. When someone has their "heart set on something" it means their desires (both will and emotion) are wrapped up in the object. When someone is "heart-broken" it means that they are saddened (emotion) that their expectations (will) did not prove correct. A "disheartened" person is depressed (emotion) because their plans (will) did not come to fruition.


Once again we refer to the explanatory note. Our "desire-decisions" are at stake here in this discussion of the Greatest Commandment. What does our heart long for? Where are the desires of our heart? Where are treasure is, there will our heart be also. Our desires will influence our actions. Scripture effectively ties our emotions in with our will. Do we find pleasure in the things that please God?

Let me know what you think with a comment!

I know I did not get too much into scripture with this post. I intended to keep it semantic and build on these definitions with biblical examples in the coming weeks. What scripture verses did you think of while reading this post? Who in scripture is a good example of heart that loves The Lord and why?
Christopher M. Jimenez. Powered by Blogger.

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