Heart: In v 27 of today’s Gospel reading Jesus instructs his followers not to “let your hearts be troubled …” We could say this in English, but we would be more likely to say, “Do not let your minds be troubled …” In ancient times, it was customary to ascribe emotions to inner organs of the body, a habit that continued into the 17th century. In Colossians 3:12 St Paul refers to ‘bowels of compassion’ (KJV), for pity, sympathy and similar feelings were deemed to be particularly located in the intestines. The diaphragm was regarded as the seat of thought – but it was the heart that embraced most comprehensively the inner life. It was the general seat of thought, will and emotion, although, as Leon Morris points out, it could veer to one or other of these according to context. Mediaeval Europe took over many features of ancient thought, especially in medicine, although details might differ. The spleen was regarded as the seat of anger, and we can still today refer to a short-tempered person as ‘splenetic’. In the 16th and 17th centuries the kidneys rather than the intestines were thought of as the seat of the affections, and are so referred to in the King James Version (where they are called ‘reins’).
A Word in Season