"Heart" as a Mental Category
When considering how men of the ancient world thought, one must take into account the fact that they may not have divided the world and themselves into the same categories that we do today. Take the biblical word "kind" as used in the Genesis account, and attempt to fit it into the system of modern taxonomy. The definition is in terms of behaviors that give rise to observable results: when animals of the same "kind" breed, they produce offspring of the same "kind". Early in the development of biology as a science, taxonomists classified animals in terms of their body structures, not whether they could breed together. That's because it is easier to compare and contrast body parts from a dead specimen than try to mate two dissimilar live animals and see if they produced "similar" offspring. When it came to classifying rain forest frogs, there was a profusion of species that were discovered. When it came to dog breeding, everyone "knew" that all the breeds of dogs could breed with each other because they were, well, dogs. In fact, they would if given the chance, and only human intervention maintains the differences between dog breeds. However, when it was discovered that rain forest frogs of different "species" interbred in captivity, it was later determined that the "distintives" of the species that differentiated them were maintained because each "species" had a distinct and specific "mating" season in the wild. That is, what differentiated the frogs was the time their internal biological clocks rang during the year, and body aspects like body shape and skin coloration were inbred accidents, with separation maintained by the fact that they mated at specific times and not during others, when other frogs with different shapes and coloration mated. In captivity, their biological clocks got resynchronized to mate at the same time, which they proceeded to do with much enthusiasm and little regard for the neat boxes into which scientists tried to stuff them.
While some moderns with more sense and humility may grant that the ancients used the word "heart" differently than we do, they still err when they assert that "the bible writers used the word 'heart' when we mean X", where "X" is "the emotions" or "the will" or "the spirit" in man: namely, X is a category moderns created and which has bounds and rules for determining membership that are set by moderns. At least atheist zooloigists and taxonomists agree that no current taxnomical classification exactly maps to the biblical animal classification of "kind", and agree that the classification method used by the ancients to define "kind" is much too rigorous and confining for their tastes.
A better way to determine what the Bible writers meant when they used the word "heart" is to look at relevant bible passages that describe some specific phenomena that they associated with the heart, and work from the phenomena back to relevant mental categories that we hold. While doing so, we must be aware that how they assigned certain phenomena to "the heart" may mean splitting apart or lumping together our mental categories of mental behavior.
In Matthew 5:28, we read:
But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.
The heart is where one does mental lust. Thus, Jesus says that mental pictures occur in the heart.
In Matthew 6:21, we read:
For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
Since we think about and desire to keep our treasures, Jesus implied that the heart is the seat of desires and motivations to keep what we value. We will re-visit this verse later on this same page.
In Matthew 12:33-37, Jesus said:
33 Either make the tree good, and his fruit good; or else make the tree corrupt, and his fruit corrupt: for the tree is known by his fruit. 34 O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things? for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh. 35 A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things. 36 But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. 37 For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.
The thoughts that determine how we speak come from the heart. The heart mirrors the character: good men bring good things from a good heart, but an evil man brings evil things from an evil heart. Verses 33 and 34 imply that there is an inevitable effect that flows from the cause where the cause is a good or evil heart. James says the same thing in James 3:7-12, using the tounge as the main indicator of the true internal state of a man:
7 For every kind of beasts, and of birds, and of serpents, and of things in the sea, is tamed, and hath been tamed of mankind: 8 But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. 9 Therewith bless we God, even the Father; and therewith curse we men, which are made after the similitude of God. 10 Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be. 11 Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter? 12 Can the fig tree, my brethren, bear olive berries? either a vine, figs? so can no fountain both yield salt water and fresh.
That these things are impossible is true, and yet men do bless God and curse men. This verse is an indication that opposing forces are involved: these are not the wicked, for purely wicked men do not bless God. James uses the word "we" in verse 9, implying that this is a description of Christians, within whose hearts resides the Holy Spirit, and thus are able to bless God the Father when wicked men cannot do so. Yet these Christians (and we ourselves) curse men, proving that within those same hearts resides something wicked. Paul said the same thing in Romans 7. This is important information that will be used to derive a model of the human mind in the next essay.
Let us now look at the most important parable that Jesus taught.
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