Barry Newman's Blog

April 21, 2010

“The Heart” in the New Testament (part I)

Filed under: kardia,The Heart — barrynewman @ 10:51 pm

“The Heart” in the New Testament

As suggested in an earlier blog, an examination of the New Testament of the concept associated with the Hebrew lev/levav the Masoretic text of the Old Testament necessitates first looking at the Greek word kardia.  The connection between the English word “heart” and the Greek word kardia is well known and explanations as to the use of kardia in the New Testament are available in such as the work by Behm[1].  However, the aim of this blog series is not only to carry out an independent investigation of the usage of kardia in the New Testament but among other things to relate its usage to the type of taxonomy already created for the usage of lev/levav in the Old Testament and referred to in an earlier series. It does this by examining all occurrences of kardia and its cognates in the New Testament, estimated to be 161[2], and categorising them according to the taxonomy already created for lev/levav where possible.  A comparison is then made between the lexical semantic fields of lev/levav and kardia as gauged by the taxonomies and frequency of occurrences within the taxonomies.  The paper is also concerned to see what other Greek words might in some instances perform a similar role to kardia.  Sometimes, when considered not misleading, instead of referring to lev/levav or kardia, the English word “heart” is used.

Kardia in the New Testament and kardia in the Septuagint

Firstly however, given that kardia is used in the Septuagint as a substantial equivalent to lev/levav in the Masoretic text, a simple test of the relatedness of lev/levav of the Old Testament to kardia of the New Testament would be to compare quotes of the Old Testament in the New Testament with their antecedents in the Septuagint to see to what extent kardia is used in both.

There are 10 distinct quotations from the Old Testament in the New Testament involving the Greek word kardia in the New Testament and which correspond to lev/levav in the Masoretic text.   Several are referred to more than once in the New Testament there being a total of 20 instances where such a quotation occurs.  In the Greek Septuagint 8 of the 10 texts to which reference is made in the New Testament utilize kardia.  With respect to the two exceptions, In Deuteronomy 6:5, a quotation from this text occurring 3 times in the New Testament, the Septuagint uses dianoia instead of kardia and in Jeremiah 31: 33 (Jeremiah 38:33 in the Septuagint), a quotation occurring once in the New Testament, the Septuagint refers to putting laws into the dianoia instead of kardia but more on this particular text later.  In summary, kardia in the Greek Septuagint corresponding to lev/levav in the Masoretic text, in the majority of quotations corresponds to kardia in the New Testament.

[1] Behm, J., Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (ed. Kittel, G., trans. Bromiley, G.W.), Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, MI, III, 1965, pp. 605-614.

[2] This figure includes 2 usages of kardia as the word kardiognostes and 2 usages as the word sklerokardia.



  1. Thank you Barry for your work. I found this article helpful. I’m thankful to the Lord for people like you who sift through language and grammar to help enrich our understanding of God’s Word. Blessings.

    Comment by jae — January 11, 2012 @ 4:18 pm | Reply

    • Thanks for your encouragement


      Comment by barrynewman — January 13, 2012 @ 9:21 am | Reply

  2. I have noticed that the following nouns [ruach –spirit (feminine noun) nephesh-soul (feminine noun) leb-heart (masculine noun)] are gender specific. Is their gender identity indicative of their relationship with one another. Early biblical thought indicates a oneness relationship between male and female (two become one) are there any indications that the Hebrew language reflects these relational characteristics.

    For example: Is there a relationship between nephesh/ruach (soul/spirit) & leb (heart) which animates through our life’s actions? In other words does this relational dynamic bear fruit? How did the early Jewish view of man (that which was imaged after God) differ from our current view?

    I am asking because you seem to be an expert!

    Comment by Rick — March 7, 2012 @ 1:20 pm | Reply

    • Hi Rick,

      What interesting “gender” questions. I really don’t know the answer. I suspect you may be seeing too much in the “gender” of these nouns, but you could be onto something. We do need to keep in mind however that the classification of nouns into one gender or another is a “modern” way of handling an ancient language. It helps us in trying to learn a language to so categorise aspects of a language. We do it with other aspects of grammar like “tenses” and we are only just learning that with respect to “tenses” in the Hebrew language we have been making gross mistakes. Back to nouns. I doubt that the ancient Hebrew thought about his/her nouns as feminine and masculine to the extent that we have categorised them but I could be wrong.

      I wish I were an expert!

      With respect to mankind being created in the image of God, I made some comments on this issue in a previous blog series – “Science and Genesis 1: 1 – 2: 3”: the last part of part X posted 7th November 2010 and most of part XI posted 2 days later. The completed series was posted 23rd December 2010. You should be able to find the posts. If not let me know.

      I think the Genesis text says some very profound things about mankind and our relationship with God – things which most of modern man does not understand or believe – to mankind’s detriment.



      Comment by barrynewman — March 8, 2012 @ 12:50 am | Reply

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