The “heart” of the matter: καρδία

As I mentioned in my last post, I’ve become preoccupied with 2 Corinthians 3:18 and the truth that we are in the process of being transformed into Christ’s likeness, a process that will culminate at death when sin is eradicated from us and we put on the imperishable. This week I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the heart change that I desire in my own life as I await my glorification. This led me to examine what exactly we mean as believers when we talk about our heart and the change that we all desire.

What follows is a very rough draft and survey of the New Testament regarding the heart and one which will be under construction for a while. I started just wanting to look at some lexical data and ended up pouring more time into this than I thought I would.

I’ve always known that in general we don’t have a really good handle on what the New Testament teaches about the heart … and for one good reason: The New Testament writers employ the term in very broad ways. There are 156 uses of the Greek term kardia (καρδία) in the New Testament. Only one use is literal, coming under the gloss of “center, heart” used when Jesus, referring to Jonah being in the belly of the fish, states that he too would be “in the heart of the earth” (Matt 12:40). The other 155 uses of the term are used in reference to the immaterial aspect of man. One would think that there shouldn’t be that many variations of this kind of usage. We would be wrong. Just look at the various shades of uses of the term kardia (καρδία) found in BDAG!!

We see under the major heading of  ① heart as seat of physical, spiritual and mental life, two subsections for the use of kardia:

ⓐ as the center and source of physical life

ⓑ as center and source of the whole inner life, w. its thinking, feeling, and volition

And under this second heading of kardia we see 8 different ways that the term is used, each being introduced with a letter of the Greek alphabet (α,β,γ,δ,ε,ζ,η,θ). Notice the entry from BDAG:

καρδία, ας, (since Hom. [καρδίη, κραδίη]. Rather rare in other wr. in the period of the Gk. Bible [s. Diod S 32, 20; Plut., Mor. p. 30a; 63a; Epict. 1, 27, 21; M. Ant. 2, 3, 3; 7, 13, 3; Ps.-Apollod. 1, 4, 1, 5; Lucian; pap, incl. PGM 5, 157; 13, 263; 833; 1066; s. below 1bη], but common LXX, pseudepigr.; Ar. 15, 3; Just., D. 39, 5; 46, 5 al.; Ath. 31, 3. On Philo and Joseph. s. ASchlatter, D. Theol. d. Judentums nach d. Bericht d. Jos. ’32, 21).

heart as seat of physical, spiritual and mental life (as freq. in Gk. lit.), fig. extension of ‘heart’ as an organ of the body (Il. 13, 282 al.), a mng. not found in our lit.

ⓐ as the center and source of physical life (Ps 101:5; 103:15) ἐμπιπλῶν τροφῆς … τὰς κ. satisfying the hearts w. food Ac 14:17. τρέφειν τὰς κ. fatten the hearts Js 5:5.

ⓑ as center and source of the whole inner life, w. its thinking, feeling, and volition (νοῦν κ. φρένας κ. διάνοιαν κ. λογισμὸν εἶπέ τις ποιητὴς [Hes., Fgm. 247 Rz.] ἐν καρδίᾳ περιέχεσθαι=some poet said that the heart embraces perception, wit, intellect, and reflection), of humans whether in their pre-Christian or Christian experience

α. in an all-inclusive sense: said of God’s or Christ’s awareness about the inner life of humans γινώσκειν τὰς καρδίας (cp. 1 Km 16:7; 1 Ch 28:9; s. also Did., Gen. 170, 24) Lk 16:15; δοκιμάζειν 1 Th 2:4; ἐρευνᾶν Ro 8:27; Rv 2:23 (νεφροὺς κ. καρδίας as Ps 7:10; Jer 17:10; 20:12); κριτικὸς ἐνθυμήσεων καὶ ἐννοιῶν καρδίας Hb 4:12; τὰ κρυπτὰ τῆς κ. 1 Cor 14:25 (cp. TestReub 1:4). Generally, of human attitudes ὁ κρυπτὸς τῆς κ. ἄνθρωπος 1 Pt 3:4. ἐκ καρδίας from (the bottom of) the heart=sincerely (Aristoph., Nub. 86) Ro 6:17. Also ἀπὸ τῶν καρδιῶν (M. Ant. 2, 3, 3 ἀπὸ καρδίας εὐχάριστος τ. θεοῖς; Lucian, Jupp. Tr. 19; Is 59:13; La 3:33) Mt 18:35. ἐκ καθαρᾶς καρδίας 1 Ti 1:5; 2 Ti 2:22; 1 Pt 1:22. ἐξ ὅλης τ. καρδίας (TestLevi 13:1) Ac 8:37 v.l. Χριστὸν ἁγιάσατε ἐν ταῖς κ. ὑμῶν 1 Pt 3:15. Opp. κοιλία Mk 7:19. Opp. πρόσωπον and καρδία externals and inner attitude of heart (cp. 1 Km 16:7 ἄνθρωπος ὄψεται εἰς πρόσωπον, ὁ δὲ θεὸς ὄψεται εἰς καρδίαν) 2 Cor 5:12. The same contrast προσώπῳ οὐ καρδίᾳ outwardly, not inwardly 1 Th 2:17. As seat of inner life in contrast to mouth or lips, which either give expression to the inner life or deny it Mt 15:8; Mk 7:6 (both Is 29:13); Mt 15:18; Ro 10:8 (Dt 30:14); vs. 9f; 2 Cor 6:11. ψάλλοντες (+ ἐν v.l.) τῇ καρδίᾳ Eph 5:19. ᾂδειν ἐν ταῖς κ. Col 3:16.

β. of inner awareness (see the ‘poet’ under 1b above; Aesop, Fab. 254P.=232H//134b H-H.//184 Ch.; 3 Km 10:2; Job 12:3; 17:4): 2 Cor 4:6; Eph 1:18; 2 Pt 1:19. τῇ κ. συνιέναι understand Mt 13:15b; Ac 28:27b (both Is 6:10). νοεῖν τῇ κ. think J 12:40b. ἐν τῇ κ. λέγειν (Dt 8:17; 9:4; Ps 13:1. Also Aesop Fab. 62 H.=283b 5 H-H.//179c Ch. βοῶν ἐν τῇ καρδίᾳ alternating w. ταῦτα καθʼ ἑαυτὸν λέγοντος) say to oneself, i.e. think, reflect, without saying anything aloud Mt 24:48; Lk 12:45; Ro 10:6; Rv 18:7; διαλογίζεσθαι Mk 2:6, 8; Lk 3:15; 5:22; Hv 1, 1, 2; 3, 4, 3. The κ. as the source of διαλογισμοί Mt 15:19; Mk 7:21; Lk 2:35; 9:47. διαλογισμοὶ ἀναβαίνουσιν ἐν τῇ καρδίᾳ Lk 24:38. ἀναβαίνει τι ἐπὶ τὴν καρδίαν τινός someth. enters someone’s mind=someone thinks of someth. (s. ἀναβαίνω 2) Ac 7:23; 1 Cor 2:9; Hv 3, 7, 2; m 12, 3, 5; Hs 5, 7, 2. Also of memory Hv 3, 7, 6; m 4, 2, 2; 6, 2, 8. θέσθαι ἐν τῇ καρδίᾳ Lk 1:66. διατηρεῖν ἐν τ. καρδίᾳ Lk 2:51 (cp. TestLevi 6:2). συμβάλλειν vs. 19. ἐνθυμεῖσθαι Mt 9:4. διακρίνειν Hv 1, 2, 2. πάντα τὰ ῥήματά μου ἐν καρδίᾳ λαμβάνων taking all my words to heart AcPl Ha 1, 6.—Likew. of a lack of understanding: ἡ ἀσύνετος κ. the senseless mind Ro 1:21; βραδὺς τῇ κ. slow of comprehension Lk 24:25 (cp. Tetr. Iamb. 2, 31a, 6 the mocking words of the fox ὦ ἀνόητε κ. βραδὺ τῇ καρδίᾳ). ἐπαχύνθη ἡ κ. τοῦ λαοῦ Mt 13:15a; Ac 28:27a (both Is 6:10). πωροῦν τὴν κ. J 12:40a; κ. πεπωρωμένη Mk 6:52; 8:17; ἡ πώρωσις τῆς κ. 3:5; Eph 4:18. ἀπατᾶν καρδίαν αὐτοῦ Js 1:26; cp. Ro 16:18. κάλυμμα ἐπὶ τὴν κ. κεῖται 2 Cor 3:15 (cp. ἐστί τι   p 509  ‘κάλλυμα’ ἀγνοίας ἐν τῇ καρδίᾳ Orig., C. Cels. 4, 50, 5).—As the seat of thought, κ. is also the seat of doubt διακρίνεσθαι ἐν τῇ κ. Mk 11:23. διστάζειν Hm 9:5.—The gospel is sown in the heart Mt 13:19 v.l.; Mk 4:15 v.l.; Lk 8:12, 15. God opens the heart Ac 16:14 or the eyes of the heart Eph 1:18; 1 Cl 59:3 to Christian knowledge.

γ. of the will and its decisions (Diod S 32, 20) ἕκαστος καθὼς προῄρηται τῇ κ. each of you must give as you have made up your mind 2 Cor 9:7 (NRSV) (cp. TestJos 17:3 ἐπὶ προαιρέσει καρδίας). θέτε ἐν ταῖς καρδίαις ὑμῶν (s. 1 Km 21:13) make up your minds Lk 21:14; cp. Ac 5:4. πρόθεσις τ. καρδίας 11:23. βάλλειν εἰς τὴν κ. ἵνα put it into someone’s heart to J 13:2. Also διδόναι εἰς τ. κ. (2 Esdr 17:5) w. inf. foll. Rv 17:17, or πληροῦν τὴν κ. w. inf. foll. Ac 5:3. Cp. 1 Cor 4:5; 7:37; 2 Cor 8:16; in citation Hb 3:8, 15; 4:7 (each Ps 94:8) al. πλανᾶσθαι τῇ κ. 3:10. God’s law written in human hearts Ro 2:15; 2 Cor 3:2f. In citation Hb 8:10; 10:16 (both Jer 38:33). Stability in the face of dissident teaching Hb 13:9.

δ. of moral decisions, the moral life, of vices and virtues: ἁγνίζειν τὰς κ. Js 4:8; καθαρίζειν τὰς κ. Ac 15:9; Hv 3, 9, 8; w. ἀπό τινος Hm 12, 6, 5; καθαρὸς τῇ κ. pure in heart (Ps 23:4) Mt 5:8; καθαρὰ κ. (Sextus 46b) Hv 4, 2, 5; 5:7; m 2:7 cj.; Hs 7:6. ῥεραντισμένοι τὰς κ. ἀπὸ συνειδήσεως πονηρᾶς with hearts sprinkled clean from a consciousness of guilt Hb 10:22. κ. ἄμεμπτος 1 Th 3:13. ἀμετανόητος Ro 2:5. κ. πονηρὰ ἀπιστίας Hb 3:12; λίθιναι κ. B 6:14 (Ezk 36:26). γεγυμνασμένη πλεονεξίας trained in greediness 2 Pt 2:14 (cp. κ. … ἐπὶ τὸ κακὸν ἔγκειται Did., Gen. 104, 14). Cp. Lk 21:34; Ac 8:21f. περιτομὴ καρδίας (cp. Jer 9:25; Ezk 44:7, 9) Ro 2:29.—B 9:1; 10:12. Cp. Ac 7:51.

ε. of the emotions, wishes, desires (Theognis 1, 366; Bacchylides 17, 18): ἐπιθυμίαι τῶν κ. desires of the heart Ro 1:24. ἐπὶ τὴν κ. σου ἀνέβη ἡ ἐπιθυμία τ. πονηρίας Hv 1, 1, 8; cp. Hs 5, 1, 5. ἐνθύμησις m 4, 1, 2; 6, 2, 7. μὴ ἀναβαινέτω σου ἐπὶ τὴν κ. περὶ γυναικός m 4, 1, 1; cp. Hv 1, 2, 4; Mt 5:28.—6:21; 12:34f; Lk 6:45; 12:34; 24:32 (s. καίω 1b); Js 3:14; 5:8. Of joy: ηὐφράνθη ἡ κ. Ac 2:26 (Ps 15:9). χαρήσεται ἡ κ. J 16:22. Of sorrow: ἡ λύπη πεπλήρωκεν τὴν κ. 16:6; λύπη ἐγκάθηται εἰς τὴν κ. grief sits in the heart Hm 10, 3, 3. ἡ κ. ταράσσεται (Job 37:1; Ps 142:4) J 14:1, 27; ὀδύνη τῇ κ. Ro 9:2. συνοχὴ καρδίας anguish of heart 2 Cor 2:4; διαπρίεσθαι ταῖς κ. Ac 7:54; κατανυγῆναι τὴν κ. 2:37; συνθρύπτειν τὴν κ. 21:13. κ. συντετριμμένη a broken heart B 2:10; 1 Cl 18:17b (Ps 50:19). συντετριμμένοι τὴν κ. Lk 4:18 v.l. παρακαλεῖν τὰς κ. Eph 6:22; Col 2:2; 4:8; 2 Th 2:17. Of hope (Ps 111:7) Hm 12, 5, 2. Of repentance ἐξ ὅλης κ. Hv 3, 13, 4; m 5, 1, 7; 12, 6, 1. Of sensitivity about doing what is right (1 Km 24:6; 2 Km 24:10) 1J 3:19, 20, 21 (s. ASkrinjar, Verb. Dom. 20, ’40, 340–50). Of a wish εὐδοκία τῆς κ. (s. εὐδοκία 3) Ro 10:1. Of a longing for God τὴν κ. ἔχειν πρὸς κύριον Hm 10, 1, 6. ἐπιστρέφεσθαι πρὸς τὸν κύριον ἐξ ὅλης τῆς κ. 12, 6, 2 (cp. 3 Km 8:48). προσέρχεσθαι μετὰ ἀληθινῆς κ. with sincere desire (cp. Is 38:3; TestDan 5:3 ἀλ. κ.) Hb 10:22. Cp. the opposite Ac 7:39.—Also of the wish or desire of God ἀνὴρ κατὰ τὴν κ. (τοῦ θεοῦ) after God’s heart i.e. as God wishes him to be Ac 13:22 (cp. 1 Km 13:14).

ζ. esp. also of love (Aristoph., Nub. 86 ἐκ τῆς κ. φιλεῖν; M. Ant. 7, 13, 3 ἀπὸ κ. φιλεῖν τ. ἀνθρώπους) ἀγαπᾶν τινα ἐξ ὅλης τ. καρδίας Mk 12:30, 33; Lk 10:27 (cp. Dt 6:5 and APF 5, 1913, 393 no. 312, 9 ἐκ ψυχῆς κ. καρδίας). ἐν ὅλῃ τ. καρδίᾳ Mt 22:37; ἐπιστρέψαι καρδίας πατέρων ἐπὶ τέκνα Lk 1:17 (Mal 3:23); εἶναι ἐν τῇ κ. have a place in the heart 2 Cor 7:3; ἔχειν τινὰ ἐν τῇ κ. Phil 1:7; Hm 12, 4, 3; Hs 5, 4, 3; cp. m 12, 4, 5; κατευθύνειν τὰς κ. εἰς τὴν ἀγάπην τοῦ θεοῦ 2 Th 3:5.—The opp. κατά τινος ἐν τῇ κ. ἔχειν have someth. against someone Hv 3, 6, 3.

η. of disposition (TestJob 48:1 ἀνέλαβεν ἄλλην κ.) διάνοια καρδίας Lk 1:51; ἁπλότης (τ.) καρδίας (TestReub 4:1, Sim 4:5 al.) Eph 6:5; Col 3:22; ἀφελότης καρδίας Ac 2:46. κ. καὶ ψυχὴ μία Ac 4:32 (cp. Iren. 1, 10, 2 [Harv. I 92, 5]; combination of ψυχή and καρδία as PGM 7, 472; IDefixWünsch 3, 15; Dt 11:18; 1 Km 2:35; 4 Km 23:3 and oft. LXX—on such combinations s. Reader, Polemo p. 260 and cp. Demosth. 18, 220 ῥώμη καὶ τόλμη). πραῢς καὶ ταπεινὸς τῇ κ. Mt 11:29 (cp. TestReub 6:10). ἡ εἰρήνη τοῦ Χριστοῦ βραβευέτω ἐν ταῖς κ. ὑμῶν let the peace of Christ control you Col 3:15; cp. Phil 4:7.

θ. The human καρδία as the dwelling-place of heavenly powers and beings (PGM 1, 21 ἔσται τι ἔνθεον ἐν τῇ σῇ κ.): of the Spirit Ro 5:5; 2 Cor 1:22; Gal 4:6; of the Lord Eph 3:17; of the angel of righteousness Hm 6, 2, 3; 5.

interior, center, heart, fig. ext. of 1 (Ezk 27:4, 25; Jon 2:4; Ps 45:3; EpJer 19) τῆς γῆς Mt 12:40.—S., in addition to works on Bibl. anthropology and psychology (πνεῦμα end): HKornfeld, Herz u. Gehirn in altjüd. Auffassung: Jahrb. für jüd. Gesch. u. Lit. 12, 1909, 81–89; ASchlatter, Herz. u. Gehirn im 1. Jahrh.: THaering Festschr. 1918, 86–94; RBultmann, Theologie des NT ’48, 216–22 (Paul), tr., Theol. of the NT, KGrobel, ’51, I, 220–27; RJewett, Paul’s Anthropological Terms, ’71, 305–33. For OT viewpoints s. RNorth, BRev 11/3, ’95, 33 (lit.)—B. 251. EDNT. DELG. M-M. TW. Sv.

In summary, and this is not an exhaustive list, we see that the heart:

  • Is the source of all kinds of wickedness (Matt 5:28; 15:18-19; Luke 6:45; Rom 1:24)
  • Is used for the mind in that it reasons (Matt 9:4; Mark 2:6; Luke 5:22; Rom 10:6)
  • Is used for the will (2 Cor 9:7; Heb 4:12)
  • Can be affected emotionally (John 14:1,27; 16:6,22; Acts 2:26; Rom 9:2; 2 Cor 2:4)
  • Is convicted of sin (Acts 2:37)
  • Is the dwelling place of Christ (Eph 3:17)
  • Is the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit (Rom 5:5; 2 Cor 1:22; Gal 4:6)
  • Can be sincere and pure (Matt 5:8; 1 Tim 1:5; Heb 4:22; James 4:8)
  • Is where we value and treasure things (Matt 6:21; Luke 2:19)
  • Can love God (Matt 22:37; Mark 12:30; Luke 10:27)
  • Is dull and slow toward the things of God (Mark 6:52; Luke 24:25)
  • Can be turned toward God (Luke 1:17; Acts 13:22; 28:27)
  • Can exist in unity (Acts 4:32)
  • Can be cleansed (Acts 15:9; Heb 10:22)
  • Can condemn us (1 John 3:20-21)
  • Can be hard and unrepentant (Rom 2:5; Heb 3:8, 10, 12, 15; 4:7)
  • Can believe (Rom 10:9-10)
  • Can worship God (Col 3:16)
  • Can be deceived (James 1:26)
  • Can be directed into the will of God (2 Thess 3:5)

While we see that the mind can be transformed in Romans 12:2 (same word as 2 Cor 3:18!), we do not see such language for the heart. This is likely because the New Testament writers understand that the term heart is simply too broad a concept encompassing so many aspects of the immaterial man that is better to see various aspects of the immaterial man (heart) being changed, such as the mind. In other words, our heart is being changed whenever our mind, will and emotions are being conformed to the holiness of God. We are being transformed, the immaterial man is being changed and this change manifests itself in various aspects of our lives.

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Categories: Greek, Heart, καρδία, Sanctification, Uncategorized

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