The heart has had important meaning to people for thousands of years, and the symbol we think of when we think of heart likewise goes back thousands of years. For the ancient Egyptians, the Ib was the heart, one of the parts of the soul, perhaps the most important part. You see, the heart was the key to the afterlife. The heart would carry a record of the deceased’s deeds, and wicked deeds weighed the heart down. After death, the heart would be weighed against the feather of Maat, and if the heart was lighter than the feather, the person could go into the afterlife. Otherwise, if the heart was weighed down with evil, it was immediately consumed by Ammut. There were even special heart scarab amulets, inscribed on the bottom with a chapter from the Book of the Dead, which were wrapped over the heart in the mummy bandages. The heart scarab amulet would guard against the heart confessing any of the dead person’s wrongs at the weighing of the heart. Here is a scene of the weighing of the heart.
But the Egyptians gave importance to the heart not only because it was part of the soul. They viewed the heart as the source of one’s personality, their intellect, memory, wisdom, and identity. In fact, they scrambled and removed the unimportant brain during mummification, while the heart was preserved.
While we think of the heart as the source of the emotions, the ancient Hebrews thought of the heart as the center of the mind and thought. The two Hebrew letters that form the word Lev, or heart, literally mean “the authority within.” Sometimes Lev is translated in the English Bible as “heart” and other times “mind.” But “mind” is often the better fit. The phrase “said in heart” means “thought to self” (Gen 27:41). And “heart melt” is “lose courage” (Deut 20:8), while “soft heart” is “fearful” (Job 23:16). We often talk of someone having a change of heart. The phrase “gave him another heart” means “changed his attitude” in I Sam 10:9.
In the Old Testament, the idea of a whole person included three parts. In Deut 6:4-5, we are commanded to love the Lord with all our heart, soul, and might. Then in the New Testament, in a lawyer’s statement to Jesus, we are commanded to love the Lord with all our heart, soul, strength, and mind – mind is added (Luke 10:25-29). And this is reinforced in Mark 12:29-30 when Jesus repeats that we are to love the Lord with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. Later, in Matt 22:37-38, we are commanded to love the Lord with all our heart, soul, and mind. Strength is left out. What is important to notice, after the fact that we are commanded to love the Lord with everything, is that while we can reason with our minds, it is crucial to make a decision, and ensure our intent and will, from our heart, follows our decision. This is important in all our relationships, if we are to enjoy Better Love. If you are going to “let your heart be your guide,” if you are going to “follow your heart,” be sure you have decided where you want to go as opposed to seeking after your emotions.
Modern research has shown that the ancient concept of personality, memory, and intellect being part of the heart may be closer to fact than we thought, in contrast to our concept of all those characteristics being centered in the mind. They have found that heart transplant patients sometimes exhibit new personality traits that can be traced directly to the personality of the heart donor. For instance, the person with the new heart may suddenly become a sports fan, like Mexican food, start supporting charity, cry when hearing the donor’s favorite music, etc. In one case, an 8 yr old girl, who received the heart of a 10 yr old murder victim, was able to help locate and convict the murderer through her dreams after the transplant.
The Good News is that the real Healer will give us a real heart transplant, no doctors or hospitals needed. He says in Jer 24:7 that He will give us a heart to know Him. And then in Ez 36:26, He says, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And in Psl 22:26 He says, May your hearts live forever!