Does the Bible use the heart figuratively? (responding to Bro Heavyside)

Bro Heavyside objects to our critique that he “omits to present a unified framework in which Jesus can make biologically incorrect remarks and yet be historically accurate about another aspect of God’s creation”. In response he points to an instant of clear figurative use (God having a heart)to declare ALL uses are figurative.  Claiming ‘because one therefore all’ isn’t proof.  Plus the figurative use of the heart in scripture (like God having one) is still rooted in an incorrect understanding of the heart’s function.  The claim flies in the face of the known common beliefs of the times.  Actually bro Heavyside declares such physiological misstatements as figurative because of science. His approach to statements on creation is to maintain scripture is literal despite science (how does he know they are not also figurative?!). Hence we maintain Genesis literalists lack a unified/consistent interpretive framework.

We have observe that like Genesis literalists of many stripes, bro Heavyside “omits to present a unified framework in which Jesus can make biologically incorrect remarks and yet be historically accurate about another aspect of God’s creation”.  How are these things reconciled?  On one hand statements regarding Creation are historical, methodologically and chronologically literal.  On the other hand statements about the created body don’t count.  Picking and choosing your approach is how we have elsewhere described this.

In response bro Heavyside claims the heart/kidneys are clearly used in a figurative manner in some instances and therefore we can only conclude all other uses are figurative since “Jesus wasn’t teaching physiology”.  Jesus wasn’t teaching physics, geology, or genetics either but self detection of this inconsistency seems rare.

The logic that one use (or even several) being figurative means all uses are figurative is highly suspect, but closer examination makes bro Heavyside’s argument worse still.  The example he raises is Gen 6:6 which reads

And the Lord was sorry that he had made humankind on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart

Does God have a heart? Being spirit we presume not. Bro Heavyside then concludes this is a figurative use of the heart. Sure it is.  But what is the actual figurative language here? Is it that the heart is the basis of thought? Is that the figure?  We might think so because science tells us the heart is not the place of thought.  But the figurative language here is actually that God has a heart like us humans.  So while there is a figure of speech it is NOT the function of the heart that is being played with but rather the conception of God.  In Scripture we see the heart used as the place of thought continually. Sure this ‘known fact’ (misunderstanding) can then crossover into figures of speech.  Perhaps a better example to have used might have been 2 Sam 17:10 where people could have the heart of a lion and subsequently have their heart melt.  That’s surely figurative and not literal since people’s hearts didn’t literally going from being a lion’s to melting.  But once again though this does not prove the audience (or inspired writers) knew the heart was a pump. Rather the misunderstanding of the heart’s function is being extended into figurative use.  At its core 2 Sam 17:10, Gen 6:6 and similar passages work because of the physiologically incorrect description of the heart consistently conveyed through inspiration.

The Bible was not unique in using the heart as a place of thought. The Egyptians portray the self same idea in the Book of the Dead and in their complicated burial processes the heart was treated carefully whereas the brain was perceived as worthless.  Aristotle (4th century BC) thought the brain was just a cooling device for the heart where all the real action was.  It was Galen in the second century AD who appears to have actually promoted the brain as the thinking organ.

However Bro Heavyside would have us believe the Jews knew better and Scripture was using the heart figuratively only.  He and many a Genesis literalist is forced into this position because otherwise they are in the difficult position of the Bible being factually incorrect about the function of the heart yet correct about the chronological, methodologically and historically accuracy of Genesis 1 and 2.

Scripture is emphatic about the function of the heart yet bro Heavyside declares physiological statements as figurative because of science. His approach to statements on creation is to maintain scripture is literal despite science.

Hence we maintain the charge that he lacks a unified (or perhaps better a consistent) interpretive framework.

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