The Human Heart as Brain in Christian Thinking

The Jarvik 7 Artificial Heart
(Could Jesus Live Here?)

Several years ago I debated a Christian apologist over the fact that the Biblical writers had no idea of what the human brain was.

My point was that, if the Bible was correct, than the first artificial heart recipients Barney Clark and Robert Schrader (who died on these machines) would have been "unable to have asked Jesus into their hearts" since they had no hearts “for him to live in” and thus ended up in Hell. This Christian apologist said this was "ridiculous" and was very adamant that the term "heart" in the Bible was used as a purely symbolic term and "they knew fully well that it was not the place of emotions and thought". Of course, I strongly disagreed and reaffirmed that what the Bible said about the heart / Kardia is exactly what it meant! Thus, such a statement by Jesus is typical of the entire New Testament: “For out of the heart come forth evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, sexual sins, thefts, false testimony, and blasphemies.” (Matt. 15:19)

Moreover, if this very important word is merely a symbolic term in the New Testament, then how are we to know whether other important terms such a Resurrection, Heaven, Hell, Virgin Birth and the many more important doctrinal terms themselves are not also simply symbolic terms when use in theology?

Put in a historical perspective, this concept of the heart would be expected of any ancient Near Eastern culture whose understanding of human anatomy was hardly a scientific fact. Most ancient cultures felt the heart was the seat of emotions because it reacted via its heart rate depending on the emotional state of the person...thus a person was claimed to think and feel emotions with his or her heart ( Compare Hebrew “LBB“ with Akkadian “libbu” / “seru“) .

The Biblical tradition is filled with claims of organs used as the seat of emotions drawn from her neighbors. The Hebrew Bible understands the liver, bowels and heart as emotional seats for mental states which was latter defined in the New Testament (under Hellenistic / Greek influence) as the heart being the emotional center. This concept was symbolized over a thousand years earlier by the ancient Egyptians who, in the process of mummification of their pharaoh god for eternal life, the priests would save all the major internal organs in urns (including the heart) and removed the brain through the nasal cavity and threw it away as totally useless.

For two thousand years the Church has continue this erroneous concept about the heart. Gospel tracts tell the "sinner" that his heart is corrupt and that "only Jesus can heal a sinful heart" and all people "must give their hearts to Jesus". In the last days all humanity will stand before God and be judged on the thought and intents of the heart.

Catholic icons of both the Virgin Mary and Jesus often show each with a sacred (often wounded) heart shaped much like the symbol we would see on Valentine cards or love letters. While watching new's reports from the Vatican on the death watch of Pope John Paul II, a major news reporter stated that: "This heart that loved his Church and the world so much is now starting to fail." After his death, a cardinal stated that John Paul II's body would be interned in the grotto under St. Peter's Basilica, but this Polish pope's heart would be removed (cut out) from his body and sent back to his native Poland for burial to show his love for his native country.

With respect to the above (and as my summation), as long as Christianity pushes theology (which is of itself a very flawed reasoning system drawn from a pre-scientific ancient world view) as the dogmatic bases for the truth, then any modern society is doomed to have its scientific advances hobbled to an anachronistic mythical religious past.