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Thoughts on Words in the Shema

Page history last edited by pinkhamc@... 7 years, 11 months ago

This page is devoted to thoughts on the Shema, probably the first verses learned by a Jewish child and some of the most beautiful and important verses in the Bible.


The entire Shema comes from three books in the Tanakh, what we call the Old Testament.  What follows concerns part of the first part, Deuteronomy 6:4-9. 


Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.[a]Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.  (NIV)


Without ignoring the importance of vs 4 to the discussion of One God in my book, "The Trouble with the Trinity," here I want to focus on the words in verses 5-6, or more specifically, the words "heart," "soul", strength" and related words, "body," "mind, and "spirit," among others. What did the authors have in mind when they used these words?  (Notice I'm already using one in it's modern sense.)  Are they the same, different, do they overlap?  I'm not going to resolve this question.  I am going to try to make some sense of it, however.  Like all of my entries, this is a work in progress, growing and becoming clearer as I gain insights through the Holy Spirit.


What is the "heart?"

In some cases, it probably is the organ we know of as the heart today.  However, we have an important clue in 1 Chronicles, 28:9


“And you, my son Solomon, acknowledge the God of your father, and serve him with wholehearted devotion and with a willing mind, for the Lord searches every heart and understands every desire and every thought. If you seek him, he will be found by you; but if you forsake him, he will reject you forever." (NIV)


Notice that Solomon (and by extension, we) are encouraged to serve God with "wholehearted devotion" and a "willing mind."  Using both these terms in the same phrase, signifies that they are not the same.  Then notice that searching the heart gives God understanding of our every desire and thought.  I propose that the "heart" is that constant chatter that goes on in our mind as we think/talk to ourselves.  That chatter is motivated by our desire and thoughts. Certainly, this chatter would have been something the authors of the Bible would have been aware of without needing a modern knowledge of brain anatomy and physiology.  If we can bring that chatter under the rule of the Holy Spirit and thus devote it to the Lord, we truly will be serving God.


A related New Testament verse is Matthew 12:34, "34 You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of." (NIV)  Here we see the heart is an entity that is full.  Our constant chatter could not be any more full and it certainly gives rise to what we eventually say via the interactions between Wernicke's area and Broca's area in our Brain. See Broca's area and Wernicke's area for a diagram of their location.


I have more thoughts, but they will have to come later.


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