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Heart - A Word Study

This page contains a section and accompanying appendix from the book In the Heart of the Earth: The Secret Code that Reveals What is in the Heart of God.

The Greek word translated in this verse as "heart" is "kardia" (Strong's NT#2588), which is similar to the English terms "cardia" or "cardiac." The King James Version translates it consistently; 159 times as "heart" and once as "broken hearted." Here are the major meanings provided by the Online Bible Greek Lexicon:

  1. That organ in the animal body which is the centre of the circulation of the blood, and hence was regarded as the seat of physical life.
  2. Denotes the centre of all physical and spiritual life.
  3. Of the middle or central or inmost part of anything, even though inanimate.

In modern English, "heart" is also used to mean the center of something, but did Bible writers have that understanding, and more specifically, did they ever use the word "kardia" with that meaning?

An examination, including the context, of all 160 uses of the Greek word "kardia" in the New Testament will show that there is not another verse where it has been used in the sense of the "middle" or "center" of anything.

The only meaning listed among the Greek Lexicon definitions for kardia that might relate to being in the earth is the last one, and it specifies "the middle or central or inmost part." If the phrase "in the heart of the earth" (Matt 12:40) is understood to be referring to the heart of the physical earth - it doesn't work because Jesus, while in the grave, wasn't anywhere near "the middle, or central, or inmost part" of the earth, which was a few thousand kilometers away. Rather, He was near the surface of the earth, in a cave, probably laid on a slab of stone prepared for that purpose, wrapped in burial clothes and not even directly covered by any earth or dirt.

We understand "in the heart of the earth" to mean in the middle of, or at least somewhere in the earth, for two reasons. One is because that is one way we use the word "heart." The second reason is because of tradition that has been passed down to us. However, there is no justification for the common understanding that "in the heart of the earth" means in the grave. This is a good case of letting the Bible define its own terms through examining the context, to see how the Bible itself uses words.

We understand that "heart" can mean the physical middle of something,
but when did that meaning come into use in the English language?

There actually is another Greek word, "mesos," (Strong's NT#3319) that could have been used to refer to being "in the center of the earth" if that was the intent of the phrase. Its definitions as given by the Online Bible Greek Lexicon are:

  1. middle
  2. the midst
  3. in the midst of, amongst

Here are some examples where the Greek word "mesos" is translated as "midst" in the King James Version:

"But the ship was now in the midst of the sea, tossed with waves: for the wind was contrary." (Matt 14:24) "Where they crucified him, and two other with him, on either side one, and Jesus in the midst." (John 19:18) "Then Paul stood in the midst of Mars' hill, and said, Ye men of Athens, I perceive that in all things ye are too superstitious." (Acts 17:22)

This would have been the word to use in a phrase referring to being buried in the midst of some location. For more on the Biblical use of "kardia" see Appendix 2 - Cases of "Kardia" Translated "Heart" as Understood in this Study, p. 121.

Appendix 2. Cases of "Kardia" Translated "Heart" as Understood in this Study

To help with the correct understanding of the word "heart," as an example of letting the Bible define its own terms, the following verses are listed. They (and many others) use "heart" from the original Greek word "kardia" (Strong's NT#2588) in a way that is consistent with this study:

"O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things? for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh. A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things." (Matt 12:34-35)
"When any one heareth the word of the kingdom, and understandeth it not, then cometh the wicked one, and catcheth away that which was sown in his heart. This is he which received seed by the way side." (Matt 13:19)
"But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies:" (Matt 15:18-19)
"For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders," (Mark 7:21)
"A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil: for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh." (Luke 6:45)
"But that on the good ground are they, which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience." (Luke 8:15)
"And thus are the secrets of his heart made manifest; and so falling down on his face he will worship God, and report that God is in you of a truth." (1 Cor 14:25)

These examples all use "kardia" in the sense of the mind, the thinking part of man. We commonly use it that way also but have added other meanings. A good exercise would be to use a concordance to find, and then carefully read every verse that includes a translation from the Greek word "kardia" (Strong's NT#2588). Ask yourself if any of them have the meaning of the middle of anything. The context should be considered. If there is only one verse where it is commonly understand to mean that and every other verse has a different meaning, isn't it logical to question the suggested meaning in the one verse, and see if it can be understood with the meaning in all the other verses? This is letting the Bible define its own words.


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