[b-hebrew] "Mind" in Hebrew and Aramaic

Bryant J. Williams III bjwvmw at com-pair.net
Mon Apr 3 13:28:07 EDT 2006

Dr. Haig,

I would refer to TWOT, Vol. 1, pp. 466-467, "labab," by Andrew Bowling. He
discusses the issue of the heart first as the actual organ, heart, and then
moves to its abstract use in the OT, "man's immaterial personality functions as
well as the most inclusive term for them ince, in the Bible, virtually every
immaterial function of man is attributed to the 'heart'." (p.466)

After referencing the few accounts of lebab refering to the concrete, physical
heart in the accounts of Nabal, Joram, etc., Bowling then discusses the
immaterial uses as found in "either the to the inner or immaterial nature in
general or to one of the three traditrional personality functions of man;
emotion, thought, or will." (p. 466)

Referring "to the inner nature, leb, may be used to contrast the some of the
relatively  obscure or less visible actions of a man's nature with those of his
public side of his being."  I take this to mean the contrast between the private
versus the public actions of man. See Prov 27:19, S of S 5:2; Job 15:12 versus I
Kings 8:23; Ps. 9:1(2), which express the "totality of of a man's nature and

The realm of "emotion" is also expressed by labab and leb with Samson and
Delilah in Judges 16:15; Hannah, I Samuel 2:1; and the hearts of those who seek
the Lord, I Chronicles 16:10; Absalom stealing the hearts of the nation =
loyalty, II Samuel 15:6. It also has the idea of "comfort" in the "'idiom 'to
speak to the heart' (Gen. 34:3; Isa 40:2) for 'to comfort.'" (pp 466-67)

In fact, evil, grief, conscience, bravery, wishdown, understanding, though
functions, the seat of the will, etc., all are used of labab and leb.

NOTE: TWOT, Vol. 2, p. 1037, writes under of the Aramaic, "Lamed," speaks of
"LBB ( lebab) heart. This word is more common in BA than is leb. The reverse is
the case in Hebrew.

A Theological Word Book of the Bible, edited by Alan Richardson, "Mind, Heart",
pp. 144-146, E.C. Blackman. "In the EVV of the OT 'mind' generally is rep. one
of three Heb words: nephesh (soul), ruach (spirit), and leb (heart)." "'Man in
his totality is a nephesh, but he has aruach and leb' (Pedersen, Israel, I., p.
104)." "In this matter modern usage does not correspond, and it may easily
obscure the meaning of a scripture passage. In particular, the widely-held
distinction between mind as the seat of thing and heart as seat of feeling (esp.
tender feeling) is alien from the meaning these terms carry in the Bible.

Blackman then discusses Soul, Spirit and Heart over the next couple of pages
(with Heart making up the majority of the article) and then a discussion of the
NT terms. In fact, he makes one intriquing statement,
    "The NT reproduces the OT meaning of leb, and, like the LXX,  makes the Gk.
word kardia take on a wider range of meaning that it was accustomed to bear. It
is interesting to note that the Jewish writers Philo .... and Josephus... use
kardia in its stricter physiological sense. But in the NT as in the OT the heart
is the seat of the reason and will (cf. Mark 7.21) s well as of the emotions;
that is, NT follows OT, both in the specific senses of the term 'heart' and in
the the general meaning of "inner man' (cf. I Pet. 3.4).

Blackman then summarises the rest of the NT usage, but states with reference to
the Greek words for mind, "Both of these are good class. Gk. words, and
potentially introduce philosophical associations which are very different from
the Hebraic thought world. But thee influence of the LXX must mot be forgotten,
and by the time these words were at the disposal of NT writers they had picked
up certain Hebraic colourings through there usage in the LXX and its influence
upon NT writers,  even upon Luke, who perhaps came Christianity from a
non-Jewish background, and upon Paul, who read his OT in Heb. but in fact relied
very much on the LXX version."

In NIDNTT, Vol. 2, pp. 180-184, "Heart," by T. Sorg. Sorg refers to kardia in
most of the cases as translating "leb, more rarely by dianoia (mind) and psychh
(soul)" and is referring to the whole man in the general sense. The bodily organ
will be skipped for purposes of space.

The metaphorical usage for leb is that "of the seat of man's spiritual  and
intellectual life, the inner nature of man." "Here the close connection between
spiritual and intellectual processes and the functual reactions of the heart's
activity is clearly seen. I take this to mean the following:

    1. Used interchangeably with soul (leb // nephesh), cf.  Josh 22:5; I Sam
2:35; and Deut 6:5.
    2. Used of the heart as the seat of the emotions such as joy (Deut 28:47),
pain (Jer 4:19), tranquility (Prov 14:30),  or of excitement (Deut 19:6).
    3. Used of the heart as the seat of understanding, knowledge, rational
forces (reason) and powers (I Kings 3:12; 4:29 [MT 5:9]), fantasies and visions
(Jer             14:14), folly (Prov 14:20f) and evil thoughts. It seems that
folly and evil thoughts has the idea of lack of reasoning correctly.
    4. Used of the heart as the center of the will (I Kings 8:17). This would
include the idea of a carefully wighed decision.
    5. The heart, as used in the OT, is contrast to that found in secualr Greek,
in that the latter refers to the "only one function within the system of
spiritual             and intellectual processes."
Since the heart in Hebrew has multi-dimensional meanings it is no surprise that
the Greek equivalant will only center on one aspect of that meaning.

NITDTT, Vol 3, pp. 122-130, "Reason," by G. Harder. Harder makes it quite clear
that dianoia, nous, etc. are not used that often in the LXX, because "OT
anthropology knows nothing the Gk. division of the soul into trhree parts, so
that human understanding does not become pushed into the foreground in such a
one-sided and isolated way as is the case, at least to some extent, in the Gk.
world. In the OT the understanding belongs together with athe will, and aims
less at the theoretical comtemplation than at right conduct. The intellectual
sphere is thus anchored more firmly in the whole person, both body and soul,
than it is in Gk. thought (cf. W. Eichrodt, Theology of the Old Testament, II,
1967, 147ff.)."

Rev. Bryant J. Williams III

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