Heart, Head and Mind - Prescientific Ignorance in the Bible

“This is similar to what I wrote concerning Holdingsʼ denial of the evidence concerning pre-scientific notions in the Bible, only this response is in far greater detail.

“An e-friend I met over a decade ago, Lorance Collins wrote a companion piece to my own “Bible and the Brain,” itʼs featured below as part of my reply. I edited Loranceʼs conclusion however, in a way that I feel makes the piece more challenging to fundamentalists.

“Best, Ed

On Tuesday, June 24, 2003 “TSBDoulos” wrote: “Short point on the brain not being mentioned in the bible”
“Though you are correct the brain is not directly mentioned. But the head is and its place as the controller of the body too. Itʼs in Colossians - I am leaving the reference out on purpose to encourage you to look for yourself (Itʼs a short book). Email me if you cannot find it after looking - I can tell you where exactly.
“I really think that you should add this to your essay on the Brain not being mentioned, as some kind of footnote perhaps.
Heart, Head and Mind - Prescientific Ignorance in the Bible

My Response:

“Dear TSBDoulos,

“Pleased to meet you. Thank you very much for your email.

“I have searched Colossians as you requested at http://www.biblegateway.com ] and found the following verses that you may have been referring to in your email:

“Colossians 1:18
And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy.

“Colossians 2:10
and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority.

“Colossians 2:19
He has lost connection with the Head, from whom the whole body, supported and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows as God causes it to grow.

“The word for “head” in the above verse is of course from the Greek language.
I mentioned the various opinions of the ancients in my article, including the ancient Greeks, ancient Egyptians and ancient Hebrews. The ancient opinion was that the “heart” was the most important organ in the body — the “heart” is often referred to by the ancients as the primary organ of the soul that harbored intelligence and feeling. The Bible does not transcend ancient “appearance-based” pre-scientific views in this respect, but agrees with them. The Bible even mentions the “bowels” and “kidneys” leading a man, and being “tested” by God. The Bible even puts much stock in the “blood” and “breath” as well. But no mention of the “brain.” Odd for a book that creationists claim teaches us “science.”

“It wasnʼt until around 460-370 B.C. that the Greek philosopher Democritus contested the heart-centered views found in Homerʼs Iliad, and then the Greek physician Hippocrates backed up Democritusʼ hypothesis with his observations, and Plato [428-348 B.C.] in his dialogue entitled Timaeus argued that the intellectual part of the soul was contained in the “head.” Still, Aristotle [384-322 B.C.], Platoʼs student and successor, reverted to the earlier, more ancient, heart-centered view of the soul.

“The New Testament of course was written about 500 years after Democritus and Hippocrates and Plato began preaching their brain-centered views. So it would not be remarkable if we did find at least some reference in the New Testament to the brain-centered views of those earlier Greeks who propounded it — since the New Testament was, after all, written using Greek words (like the Greek word for “head”). Yet even writing in Greek, the New Testament authors failed to mention the “brain” even once. Though the Greek physician Hippocrates could write, about 500 years before the N.T. in The Sacred Disease, “Men ought to know that from the human brain and from the brain only arise our pleasures, joys, laughter, and jests as well as our sorrows, pains, griefs and tears…. It is the same thing which makes us mad or delirious, inspires us with dread and fear, whether by night or by day, brings us sleeplessness, inopportune mistakes, aimless anxieties, absent-mindedness and acts that are contrary to habit….” Though Paul in Colossians does use the Greek word, “head,” more or less as Plato did, hundreds of years before the New Testament was written. By Paulʼs day such a usage for “head” had become a common convention.

“All of the above information was covered in my article. For further information suited to the exact point you raised, i.e., the meaning of “head” in the New Testament as a possible reference to “modern science,” I submit the following examination by Lorence G. Collins:

Does the Bible Contradict Accepted Biological Concepts?
by Lorence G. Collins

The Heart versus the Brain
In Strongʼs Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, which is a listing of primary words contained in the King Jamesʼ version of the Bible, the brain is not mentioned once, whereas the heart is cited 826 times. Thought and emotions, however, can be said to occur in oneʼs head or mind, and, therefore, the citations of “head” (360 times) and “mind” (96 times) must be examined. An analysis shows that although the head contains the brain, in the Bible the word “head” is used only in two senses:
(1) as a reference to that part of the body that can be, or example, bowed, injured, or crowned, or
(2) to represent leadership when someone is described as being the “head” of a household, church, or a government. But the “head” is not represented as the site where all thinking and emotional feelings originate.

“This analysis also applies to the word “mind,” although in a few places “mind” is simultaneously used in the same sentence with the word “heart.” In these places, however, it still is not clear from the context that the mind is located in the brain or head. For example:

  • “…which is in mine heart, and in my mind … I Sam 2:35

  • “…perfect heart and with a willing mind… Chr 28:9

  • “…with all thy heart, with all thy soul, with all thy strength, and with all thy mind… Luke 10:27

“These examples, however, could just as well represent the writerʼs use of different words to mean the same thing in order to give emphasis, which is a literary technique commonly used in the Bible.

“In the Bible the heart is considered the seat of life or strength. Hence, it means mind, soul, spirit, or oneʼs entire emotional nature and understanding. The heart also is the primary source of such bad behavior as adultery, hatred, lust, mischief, pride, and rebellion as well as such neutral or good behavior as desire, doubt, fear, gladness, love, obedience, and sorrow. The heart is the organ that is said to have the ability to reason, question, meditate, motivate, and think. All of these mental processes in todayʼs world are normally associated with oneʼs mind or brain and not the heart (except metaphorically).

“God or the Lord is described as being able to know, search, enlighten, open, recreate, examine, strengthen, and establish oneʼs heart — not the mind. One can have a clean, contrite, perfect, pure, or wise heart, but those qualities are not biblically attributed to the mind.

  • “The following are biblical examples from the King James Bible of emotional states or mental abilities of the heart 1.

  • “…he will be glad in his heart… Ex 4:14

  • “…he will harden his heart… Ex 4:20

  • “…hate thy brother in thine heart… Lev 19:17

  • “…For as he thinketh in his heart, so is… Prov 23:7

  • “…But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a man. For out of the heart comes evil thoughts, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness… Mt 15:17-20

“Today we may ask, “How did I get this thought in my mind?” Not once does the Bible attribute having thought(s), thinking, understanding, considering, meditating, or pondering as coming from the mind.

“These mental processes generally are cited as coming from the heart. For example 2:

  • “…consider in thine heart, that the… Deut 4:39

  • “…understand with their heart, and convert… Is 6:10

  • “…thine heart shall meditate terror… Is 33:18

  • “…and pondered them in her heart… Luke 2:19

  • “…perceiving the thoughts of their hearts… Luke 9:47

  • “One example exists of thoughts coming into a personʼs mind:

  • “…thy thoughts came into thy mind…” Dan 2:29.

  • “But this “thoughts-mind” association is immediately followed in the next passage by an explanation of where the mind is:

  • “…that thou might know the thoughts of thy heart…” Dan 2:30.

  • “Reasoning (questioning), which is a mental process that is generally associated with the brain or mind, is also clearly defined as coming from the heart. For example:

  • “…and reasoning of their hearts… Mark 2:6

  • “…Why reason these things in your heart… Mark 2:8

  • “…What reason ye in your hearts… Luke 5:22

  • “Being wise, having wisdom, knowing, or having knowledge or learning are also normally considered as mental processes occurring in the mind or brain, but these qualities are associated in the Bible only with the heart. For example 3:

  • “…He is wise in heart, and mighty in… Job 9:4

  • “…ye know in all your hearts and in all… Josh 23:14

  • “…and apply thine heart unto my knowledge… Prov 22:17

  • “…I applied my heart to know wisdom… Eccl 8:16

“The process of learning and acquiring knowledge and wisdom, therefore, in the Bible is an application primarily of the heart rather than the mind.

“In one place in the Bible the word “mind” is associated with the word “wisdom,” “…and here is the mind which has wisdom…” Rev 17:9. But here again, there is no clue that the writer knows where the mind is. The other dominant citations certainly imply that the mind is considered to be in the heart.

“Because of the biblical influence on language, the word “heart” has continued in modern usages to parallel biblical patterns. For example, we speak of a “broken heart” in a jilted love relationship, and we have bumper stickers today that say “I heart (symbol) my dog,” or “I heart (symbol) Jesus.” We do not interpret the latter to say “I muscle Jesus,” even though we know that the feeling of love cannot reside in cardiac muscle tissue. Moreover, we do not translate the heart symbol into any feeling other than love, even though the Bible says that hate or lust also originates in the heart.

“As another example of biblical influence on language, a young man may woo a girl by saying: “I love you with all of my heart.” Likely, she would not react as favorably if he told her: “I love you with all of my brains.”

“The lack of a modern scientific interpretation of the function of the heart in the Bible occurs because in the time of Jesus, the people considered the heart as the center of the body. All arteries lead from the heart. It pulses with life. The brain was thought to be some kind of organ that filtered the blood, but otherwise it was relatively unimportant.

“The custom of offering blood and sacrifices to gods was common in many ancient cultures and supports the contention that ancient cultures considered the heart to be more important than the brain. The Israelites also continued this custom when they offered blood from animals that were sacrificed to Jahweh in the Temple in Jerusalem. In none of these ancient cultures was the brain sacrificed.

“This misunderstanding of the importance of the brain is also illustrated by the Egyptian culture. When their temple priests mummified their pharaohs, they carefully cut out the heart and saved it for the preserved body, but they scraped the brains out of the skull through the nostrils and threw away the scrapings.

“On the basis of the above analyses, if the Bible were an accurate guide today to medical science, then, emotional feelings, knowledge, and wisdom should be considered to reside in the heart and not the brain. Therefore, in our medical institutions, if creation scientists are correct about the scientific accuracy of the Bible, we should be teaching todayʼs psychiatrists and medical doctors to treat the heart with drugs for mental diseases, to operate on the heart for mental problems, and to ignore the brain in these situations.

“The Creation Science Response
How does a creation scientists handle these three scientific problems in the Bible? I corresponded with one to find out. (This person is identified by using “he” or “his,” but the reader can also assume a female.) He has written many articles on science and the Bible and will not be identified in this article to preserve anonymity. I assume, however, that his replies are typical.

“Heart versus the Brain Response
My correspondent chose to avoid my suggestion that the omission of the word “brain” in the Bible implies that the brain had little importance to biblical writers and/or that its function was poorly understood. Instead his reply concentrated on three relationships: (1) the significance of the word “head,”
(2) whether “thought” is said to come from the “heart,” and (3) whether “mind” and “heart” have equivalent usages in the Bible. I have paraphrased his responses.

  1. “Significance of “Head”
    My informant chose not to use the King James version of the Bible but cited the New American Standard Bible as having significant statements.

    • “…wise manʼs eyes are in his head… Eccl 2:14

    • “…Christ is the head of every man… II Cor 11:3

    • “…Him as head over all things… Eph 1:22

    • “…Christ also is the head of the church… Eph

    • “And then he pointed out that it is obvious that wisdom dwells in the head and not the heart and that Christ is the head and not the heart of man.

      “In spite of these reasonable biblical quotes and points, it is not obvious from the first quotation (Eccl 2:14) that the source of wisdom is in the head. The eyes of a wise man are obviously in the head and not the stomach or the leg, for example, but are eyes to be equated with wisdom? The source of wisdom of the wise man could just as well be in the heart or anywhere in the body. This scriptural passage does not elucidate where wisdom originates.

      “In the other thee biblical quotations concerning Christ as the head of every man, head over all things, and head of the church, “head” is used to represent a leadership role and has nothing to do with wisdom or thought. All four quotations in no way suggest that thinking, thought, or reasoning originate in the head.

  2. “Thought from the Heart?
    The response continues by pointing out that in II Cor 10:5, “bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ” certainly does not mean “heart.” But how does he know? Who can tell from the biblical quote where “thought” comes from?

  3. “Equivalent Usages of Heart and Mind in the Bible
    In regard to the equivalency of the words “mind” and “heart,” his response provided the following quotations from the New American Standard Bible, which is then followed by the creation scientistʼs arguments.

  • “…in his right mind… Mark 5:15-20

  • “…changed their minds… Acts 28-6

  • “…over to a depraved mind… Rom 1:28,p.

  • “…complete in the same mind… I Cor 1:10

  • “…being of the same mind… Phil 2:2

  • “He avers that here the word “mind” cannot be replaced with “heart” and make any sense out of them. He opines that although heart and mind are comparable in many places, they are certainly not equal and do not refer to the same entity.

    “In the aforesaid arguments he dodges the issue. The word “heart” could very well be substituted in each of these quotations on the basis of the many examples given in the first part of this article in which emotional expressions and mental thoughts are attributed to the heart.

    “If it is true that the Bible is scientifically accurate in separating the mind from the heart as being distinctly different, then somewhere that distinction might be expected to be clearly “spelled out.” For example, letʼs look again at three examples of the aforesaid quotations to emphasize points previously made.

  • “…he will be glad in heart… Ex 4:14

  • “…why do thoughts arise in your heart… Luke 24:38

  • “…nor understand with their heart… John 12:40

    “In all usages recorded in Strongʼs Concordance of the words that apply to emotions or mental capacities, which for some words is several hundred citations, there are no equivalent passages that read, for example:

  • “…he be glad in his mind (head)…

  • “…why do thoughts arise in your mind (head)…

  • “…nor understand with your mind (head)…

“And this lack of equivalency applies to all other quotations listed in the first part of this article as well. The few examples are those aforesaid quotations in which emphasis is likely being used or in which “mind” is explained to be equivalent to “heart.”

“A passage that the creation scientist did not include in his response is, “…a wise manʼs heart discerneth…: Eccl 8:5. This passage seems to be a direct indication that wisdom comes from the heart. Moreover, the following passage was also omitted in the response: “…The words of a wise manʼs mouth are…” Eccl 12:11. It might be equally logical, therefore, to argue that “it is obvious” that the source of wisdom lies in the mouth.

“In all arguments made by the creation scientist for the three items which were discussed above, he uses modern-day knowledge that the mind is in the brain, when, in fact, if he were true to a literal reading of the Bible, he would have to argue that this knowledge is false. For example: “…why do thoughts arise in your heart…” (Luke 24:38).

Conclusion

“[edited by Edward T. Babinski]

“The majority of the Bible is based on the same “heart-centered” preconceptions found in the ancient world at the time it was written, and those preconceptions contradict a major biological concept: The heart is not the source of emotions or the seat of learning, reasoning, and thinking; the brain is.

“Creation scientists” bend Biblical interpretations to suit their prior purpose of “not finding any scientific errors” in the Bible. In other words they are “liberal” in their Biblical interpretation whenever it suits their purpose, i.e., interpreting words “metaphorically” to try and make the Bible more closely approximate our present scientific understanding, while ignoring the evidence that the books of the Bible contain plenty of evidence of being subject to the same level of “scientific ignorance” that was most prominent in the days when those books were written.

Notes

  1. “Additional examples are: Jer 13:10, Acts 28:27, Is 10:7, and Mt 9:4.

  2. “Other examples are: Deut 15:9, Dan 10:22, Job 38:35, Ps 19:14, Prov 8:5, Prov 31:12, Mark 7:21, John 12:40, and Luke 24:38.

  3. “Other examples include: Ex 35:26, Jer 24:7, Ps 90:12, Prov 16:23, Eccl 2:3, and Eccl 7:25.

References

  • “Strong, J., 1990, The New Strongʼs Concordance of the Bible. Nashville, The Thomas Nelson Publishers.

  • “Whitcomb, J. C., Jr., 1973, The World That Perished. Winona, IN: Baker Book House.

  • “This article was originally published in Creation/Evolution, Issue 36, Summer, 1995, p. 15-23.

  • “Dr. Lorence G. Collins
    Department of Geological Sciences
    California State University Northridge
    18111 Nordhoff Street
    Northridge, CA 91330-8266
    FAX 818-677-2820

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