The Heart of the Bible by Donald T. Williams

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The Heart of the Bible

The “heart” symbolizes the emotions in post—Victorian English, and so biblical references to the heart are often used to justify an emotion—based faith. But in the Bible, the heart does not refer to the emotions. A biblical writer who wishes to symbolize the emotions will use the “bowels,” not the “heart.” (The King James Version translates this idiom literally and hence does not miss the point; our modern translations tend to substitute the “heart” as more communicative to modern readers and so do miss the point completely.)

In biblical culture the heart meant not the emotions but the central core of the inner personality, the place where the three faculties of intellect, emotion, and volition find their unity. To “believe in your heart” means to believe there, with the whole of your being, not just to feel the truth emotionally. It means a belief that is embraced by and affects the whole personality, including the mind as well as the emotions and the will.

Following the Bible’s actual usage here would produce a very different kind of piety indeed from the one we typically have.

Donald T. Williams is Professor Emeritus of Toccoa Falls College. He stays permanently camped out on the borders between serious scholarship and pastoral ministry, between theology and literature, and between Narnia and Middle-Earth. He is the author of fourteen books, including Answers from Aslan: The Enduring Apologetics of C. S. Lewis (DeWard, 2023). He is a contributing editor of Touchstone.

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