The Evangelical Universalist Forum

The Heart: What is It?



I’ve been wanting to put this question up since I first joined this forum and I chose the Christian Living heading to ask this question because I think we will all agree that we live from our hearts.

But, what is the heart?

The word most translated, “heart,” in the KJV is kardia.

That’s done 159 times, with one time more added in the KJV when they went with the English idiom and chose, “heart,” to translate psychē.

Okay. Enough of that.

So, what is the heart?

Have you ever been asked this question before, or asked it of yourself?

I have, for myself, developed what I call a, “working definition,” in answer to that question. I felt it necessary to develop this definition because, “the heart,” was becoming central to my understanding. So, in my interpersonal communications, I knew I needed to know exactly what I was thinking when I employed the word, “heart.”

Of course, that doesn’t make my definition of the heart correct, or incorrect, it just means that I have one.

It took a while for me to develop this definition because it required quite a bit of contemplation as I examined my behavior; for I know that there is a link between how I behave and my heart. Do you perceive this link? I am curious.

However, before I type out my definition, I wish to know if I can inspire any of you to think on this question.

Of course, there is not a right or wrong answer - no, not at all.

Please know, then, that if anyone is curious, or inspired, I would so appreciate hearing from him or her their thoughtful answer to the question, “What is the heart?”



Hi Dennis,

Interesting subject. In bible study last night we hit on John 3:8, and here is some of what William Barclay (in his Dailey study bible) said:

Nicodemus was driven back on another defense. In effect he said: “This rebirth about which you talk may be possible; but I can’t understand how it works.” The answer of Jesus depends for its point on the fact that the Greek word for spirit, pneuma (G4151), has two meanings. It is the word for spirit, but it is also the regular word for wind. The same is true of the Hebrew word ruach (H7307); it too means both spirit and wind. So Jesus said to Nicodemus: “You can hear and see and feel the wind (pneuma, G4151); but you do not know where it comes from or where it is going to. You may not understand how and why the wind blows; but you can see what it does. You may not understand where a gale came from or where it is going to, but you can see the trail of flattened fields and uprooted trees that it leaves behind it. There are many things about the wind you may not understand; but its effect is plain for all to see.” He went on, “the Spirit (pneuma, G4151) is exactly the same. You may not know how the Spirit works; but you can see the effect of the Spirit in human lives.”

He (Barclay) also said:

Jesus said to Nicodemus: “I have tried to make things simple for you; I have used simple human pictures taken from everyday life; and you have not understood. How can you ever expect to understand the deep things, if even the simple things are beyond you?” There is a warning here for every one of us. It is easy to sit in discussion groups, to sit in a study and to read books, it is easy to discuss the intellectual truth of Christianity; but the essential thing is to experience the power of Christianity. And it is fatally easy to start at the wrong end and to think of Christianity as something to be discussed, not as something to be experienced. It is certainly important to have an intellectual grasp of the orb of Christian truth; but it is still more important to have a vital experience of the power of Jesus Christ. When a man undergoes treatment from a doctor, when he has to have an operation, when he is given some medicine to take, he does not need to know the anatomy of the human body, the scientific effect of the anaesthetic, the way in which the drug works on his body, in order to be cured. 99 men out of every 100 accept the cure without being able to say how it was brought about. There is a sense in which Christianity is like that. At its heart there is a mystery, but it is not the mystery of intellectual appreciation; it is the mystery of redemption.

I think the heart is something that is not understandable, but we know it when we see it… If that makes any sense. :smiley:


The Greek word καρδια is used to refer to the physical heart. The English word “cardiac” is derived from that Greek word.

But obviously the New Testament uses the word figuratively. In my opinion, this usage includes the heart as the seat of the emotions, and also the mind.

Evil can proceed out of the heart; thoughts can come from your heart—good or bad.
Matthew 15:19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness, slander.

You can love with your heart:
Mark 12:30 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.

Your heart can be troubled:
John 14:1 “Let not your hearts be troubled.

There are emotions in the heart:
Luke 24:32 They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?”
John 16:6 But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart.
Acts 2:26 therefore my heart was glad…

The heart can have intentions:
Acts 8:22 Repent, therefore, of this wickedness of yours, and pray to the Lord that, if possible, the intent of your heart may be forgiven you.


I concur…


Could you clarify what the ‘seat of the emotions’ is?

“I will give you a new heart” - it seems to me that new emotions are not necessarily what verses like that are talking about - that a large part of a ‘renewed heart’ has to to do will.

But I am totally open to another perspective. Thanks.


How about an answer, from the Calvinist site Got Questions?

What is the heart?

If you put into Google “what is the heart got questions”, you will find several related heart answers, from them. :smiley:


Hummm. So, what do you say the heart is?


Yes it does. And I will add, “Well said!”

I’ve often asked this question of others and several times I’ve received a reply similar to your’s.

It is good to consider the warning provided here and not go too far one way or the other: to consider Christianity as an intellectual truth apart from the experiential side, and to use only the experience of Christianity as a basis for understanding apart from using reason and logic, which I will call intellect.

As The Words say:

So, as it is with so much about being a good human being - good at being human - there is a balance between living out the precepts of heaven and the requirements of living on earth.

We were made for the earth and the earth for us. Heaven is not our final destination: a literal New Heaven and a New Earth, wherein God literally dwells with human beings, is our destiny if one trusts the final words to be a literal truth. This is my heart on the matter.

Isaiah had this to say of that time:

I asked myself when I read this: “And it shall come to pass that, before they call, I will answer, and while they are yet speaking, I will hear,” What kind of human being will I have to be that God is willing to respond to me, as quickly as I can speak the words?"

My answer, “A good one!”

Thus, I perceive a powerful link between my heart and being good.

For being human is not a sin. It is exactly what we were created to be!

The problem, as I see it, is that we are not good human beings, good at being human. WE know the difference between right and wrong, good and evil, and yet we are unable to realize, on this earth, the ideal such knowledge incorporates into us!

Why is that?

Because of our hearts!

So, shouldn’t we be able to understand what our heart is, Squire? :slight_smile:

So, may I ask again?

What is the heart?


Dennis - I was the one asking for clarification about the ‘seat of the emotions’. :smiley:
You are answering my question with a question - for that, you must sit in the corner and not have any supper tonight. :laughing:


Let me try a guess, Dave. If someone kicks you in the rear and you say ouch, is that the “seat of the emotions”:?: :laughing:

But it says this here:



Cool reply. Several of the scriptures you quoted above had a significant impact on me as I came to my understanding of what the heart is. I bolded the text that influenced me.

The only scripture from your selection that confused me, as I contemplated my question, was where two of the Gospel writers, Matthew and Luke, quoted Jesus as listing in the first of the greatest commandments heart, soul and mind together, indicating that these should not be considered as synonymous things. That was a problem.

However, when I read Mark’s quote of Jesus, the final word in the list was, “strength,” not, “mind,” which brought the list to four things that were not synonymous. Mark’s additional word parallels the original appearance of this thought in Deuteronomy 6:5 (NOTE: The second appearance of this thought in Deuteronomy 10:12 is a bit more differentiated for the writer adding serve the LORD along with love the LORD, hence the use of only the two words, heart and soul, in conjunction with the powerful desire we should have toward keeping Jehovah’s commandments).

So, I was led to investigate the difference.

Succinctly expressed, the difference I saw was simply a matter of choosing a word, or words, that indicates the idea that we should employ all the strength of both our physical ability and the strength of our intellect in loving Jehovah, our God. Thus the idea I was developing of what the heart is was upheld because, in my perception, the heart is a separate thing from our intellect, our minds, though I came to perceive that the intellect affects the heart because it gives it what it needs to exist!

At this point, I would ask that you please forgive the abstruse way I am going about this inquiry. I am not intending frustration. You see, what the heart is has become my raison d’etre, and so I wish, with all my might, to present my heart as thoughtfully and precisely as I can. To me, this means I should seek to provoke thoughtfulness in others, first, because in my experiences asking this question I discovered that very few have ever been asked this question, much less coming to a point where they ask it of themselves. Yet we use the word so readily.

So, given the scriptures you selected, may I ask if you perceive a link between what we think and what we do?



Please, sir. May I have another!


That was a good article!

So, what generates emotions in us?

And saying, “the heart,” as an answer creates self-referencing and that leads nowhere fast.


<can I have another?>

Well of course you can!!


Thank you for the bucks. I’ll be sure to spend them well!

BTW I wish you to know that Blake is my favorite masculine poet (Emily is my favorite feminine poet), and so, I had to refrain from using your tag as my own because you snagged it first!

I forgive you. :wink:



Mea culpa. Thanks for the forgiveness. Any day now I will be changing the motto to something else, leaving a spot open in cyberspace that you can alertly fill.


Thank you Dave. Your generosity is only outdone by your ability to parley. :stuck_out_tongue:

You have my appreciation.


I agree with Vine’s

I would also add intuition. It’s important also to note that when we die to self (old ego self) and come into union with agape (humility or the new self)we have a beautiful heart. God takes out the heart of stone and gives us a heart of flesh:

The true self is clothed in the beauty of Christ. As an empty vessel the love and beauty of Christ flow through.

Calvinist are always saying that they have a wicked heart. But this isn’t true if you are in union with Christ. The heart is the center.

I have forgotten all of Creation
Only the Creator remains
I have turned my attention
to that which is within me
It is there where I am in love
with the Beloved

St. John of the Cross ~~ Roman Catholic

The “Holy Grail” is being in love with love. We drink the wine of love as we come into union with Christ. This is the Beauty of holiness.

The Holy Grail

The scales of justice balance in September
As Michael crushes Satan’s head in death
Ego is cast out, the new self is in union with Christ
Flames of torment destroy the self of the old
I stand on this Holy Mountain of God crucified
Baptized into water, death, and fire, I’m made new
The cup of the Holy Grail infuses precious stones within
As I become drunk on the Beautiful cup of blood
Victory reigns at the core in the Holy land of Eden
In celebration of the marriage with the Lamb
I have fallen madly in love with love


Any other clarity on what the ‘seat’ of emotions is? Obviously a metaphor, but for what?


See one definition of seat at