The Great Commandment: Heart and Mind

My favorite Frank and Ernest cartoon displays one frame. A newly hatched chick stands with egg shells at his feet and with a small piece as a cap on his head: “Wow! Paradigm shift!”

Paradigm shifts can be hard to come by, especially when it comes to the “heart” of the Bible.

“You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart…” (Deut. 6).

In our culture, we refuse to understand the “heart” of the Bible. An old television commercial, featuring a famous NBA player, focused on a hand pointing at his head and a voice saying, “You’ve got it up here but you’ve got to get it in your heart.”

What we westerners divide apart, the Semitic mind of the Bible holds together, so that the Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament states,“‘heart’ became the richest term for the totality of man’s inner or immaterial nature.”

That totality includes not only the emotions, upon which we so fondly dwell, but also the mind and the will. What we spend our time thinking about, what we dream of, what we deliberate over, what we choose to do, what we desire—these are all seated in the biblical “heart.”

Thus, when we come to the New Testament (NT), where the common Language of the Empire was koine Greek, all quotations of the Great Commandment include the word “mind” (Matt. 22:37; Mark 12:29; Luke 10: 27). It is not that something new was added, but that the word “mind” was needed so everyone could understand the all-encompassing scope of the commandment to love God. “A striking feature of the NT is the essential closeness of kardia (heart) to the concept nous, mind…

“The meaning of heart as the inner life, the centre of the personality and as the place in which God reveals himself to men is even more clearly expressed in the NT . . .

“The heart of man, however, is the place not only where God arouses and creates faith. Here faith proves its reality in obedience and patience (Rom. 6:17; 2 Thess. 3:5).”*

[That obedience shows itself in loving God with all our mind.]

*The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, s.v. “heart”

–From Love, Prayer, and Forgiveness: When Basics Become Heresies

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