What Does the Bible Say About the Mind?

The mind in the Bible is the center of thinking and decision making. The human mind is morally defective because of sin but can be renewed by our Creator.

What Does the Bible Say About the Mind

The English word “mind” appears nearly 130 times in most modern, essentially literal English Bibles. The Bible has a lot to say about the mind, about right thinking, wrong thinking, abstract thinking, deliberate thinking, foolish thinking. Generally speaking, “the mind” is primarily related to thinking and decision making in the Bible and is at times used interchangeably with “heart” or even “soul” depending on the context.

As a result of sin, human decision making is depraved at its core: our minds are the battleground for both sinful and moral thoughts, though even our best thoughts and decisions are unable to make us morally acceptable before a holy God. Jesus’ work on the cross is holistically transformative, changing our thoughts, decisions, and our desires (Ephesians 4:23).

What Does the Bible Say About the Mind (KJV)?

“And they put him in ward, that the mind of the LORD might be shewed them.”Leviticus 24:12
“And Moses said, Hereby ye shall know that the LORD hath sent me to do all these works; for I have not done them of mine own mind.”Numbers 16:28
“And among these nations shalt thou find no ease, neither shall the sole of thy foot have rest: but the LORD shall give thee there a trembling heart, and failing of eyes, and sorrow of mind”Deuteronomy 28:65
“And I will raise me up a faithful priest, that shall do according to that which is in mine heart and in my mind: and I will build him a sure house; and he shall walk before mine anointed for ever.”1 Samuel 2:35
“Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.”Matthew 22:37
“And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient;”Romans 1:28

What Does the Bible Say About the Mind, Body, and Soul?

Although various words are used in the original languages to describe the “mind,” “body,” and “soul,” there are times when these words communicate similar ideas and times when the differences are more pronounced.

“among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.”Ephesians 2:3

Paul’s words here in Ephesians, using both “body” (or “flesh”) and “mind,” speak to internal sinful desires that are opposed to God.

“And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.”Mark 12:30

Each of the three synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke) quote a version of this verse from Deuteronomy 6:4-5 with slight differences, the Hebrew of which speaks most plainly of “heart…soul…might.” The Hebrew, Greek, and English versions all seem to be pointing to the sum total of what it means to be human, with only slight nuances between the various terms used: with everything you think, feel, desire, say, or do you are to love the Lord.

In Psalm 63:1, the psalmist uses “soul” and “flesh” (elsewhere translated as “body”) in synonymous parallelism to describe the whole of who he is desiring God: “my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you.”

What Does the Bible Say About the Mind of God?

  • The Mind of God is holy and sovereign in all his decisions (Numbers 23:19)
  • The Mind of God is fixed, unwavering, able to carry out his plans (Psalm 110:4)
  • The Mind of God is unknowable apart from divine self-revelation (Romans 11:34)
  • The Mind of the Spirit of God knows the hearts of the people of God (Romans 8:27)
  • The Mind of the Son of God for the people of God is fundamental to knowing and communing with God (1 Corinthians 2:16)

What Does the Bible Say About the Power of the Mind?

The power of the mind is much discussed in spiritual circles to the extent that misunderstanding concerning the Bible’s teaching is easily possible. Despite beliefs in the power of the mind to manifest dreams, the Bible provides strong correctives to self-willed, mind over matter thinking:

“Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the LORD that will stand.” Proverbs 19:21
“Whoever trusts in his own mind is a fool, but he who walks in wisdom will be delivered.” Proverbs 28:26

While the Bible is not opposed in these verses to the power of the mind to think and will and carry out decisions, it is nonetheless insistent that the mind is subservient to the sovereign, behind-the-scenes and on-the-scenes guiding hand of the Lord.

“For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.” 1 Corinthians 2:16

The greatest power of the mind for Christians is not to manifest our dreams, but rather to know the Lord personally and through his revelation of himself: the Bible. We can know God through the Bible not only through sense experience or feeling, but through actual knowledge to which we can comprehend with our minds.

What is the Mind According to the bible?

Although various words are used throughout the Bible to translate our English word “mind,” the decision of translators to use the word “mind” is often because the text warrants a word associated with thinking or decision making.

For example, in Paul’s letter to the Christians in Rome, he speaks of serving “the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin” (Romans 7:25). Paul has just finished speaking about desiring to follow the law (that is, making a conscious decision to do it), but being unable to do so perfectly (because even our decision making needs to be Spiritually transformed).

In other places, the word used for “mind” in English could easily be translated as “will” or “heart.”

For example, in Exodus 14:5, the ESV translates the Hebrew lēḇāḇ as “mind” while the KJV uses “heart”: “the mind of Pharaoh and his servants was changed toward the people” (ESV) and “the heart of Pharaoh and of his servants was turned against the people”. Both translations get at the same thing: Pharaoh made a different decision than he had previously made concerning the people.

What Does the Bible Say About the Mind

Biblical Difference Between Heart and Mind

In biblical Hebrew, the word lēḇāḇ can be translated as either “heart” or “mind” and is generally thought of as the center of a person’s thoughts, emotions, and decision making. As such, the word in Hebrew is used interchangeably in English as “heart” or “mind” depending on the context.

“Now set your mind and heart to seek the LORD your God.” 1 Chronicles 22:19

The two Hebrew words behind these words are different (lēḇāḇ for “mind” and nep̱eš for “heart”), though both words are elsewhere translated “heart” and “mind.”

In 1 Chronicles 28:9, lēḇāḇ is used for “heart” and nep̱eš is used for “mind” in both the ESV and KJV.

Thus, “heart” and “mind” are often used in what is termed synonymous parallelism, revealing only a nuance of difference between the two words. For example, the author of Hebrews quotes from a Greek version of Jeremiah 31:33 from the Old Testament:

“For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws into their minds, and write them on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.” Hebrews 8:10

The Hebrew text of the same verse is slightly different, containing no explicit reference to the “mind” in English translations but only to “within them” and “ their hearts:”

“For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people.” Jeremiah 31:33

Although the differences are at times difficult to perceive, other times perhaps even imperceptible, there are nevertheless times when “heart” seems most warranted and other times when “mind” would best fit the context. Generally speaking, the translators of our modern Bibles likely use “mind” when the context seems to speak to the seat of thinking and “heart” when the seat of emotions is more in view.

Therefore, in Jeremiah 23:16, when the prophet Jeremiah describes false prophets who speak lies from their “minds” (lēḇāḇ, which elsewhere could be “heart”), he is describing the action of intentionally conjuring up false visions and speaking rather than distorted feelings that are unfortunately misinterpreted or turn out to be inaccurate. As such, there is a sense of volition associated with this thinking act.

What Does the Bible Say About the Mind and heart?

“And you, Solomon my son, know the God of your father and serve him with a whole heart and with a willing mind, for the LORD searches all hearts and understands every plan and thought. If you seek him, he will be found by you, but if you forsake him, he will cast you off forever.”1 Chronicles 28:9

The Bible is clear and unapologetic about the Lord’s knowledge of the hearts and minds of all people. What a person is thinking, feeling, deciding—all of it is known by the Lord even more prominently than we know or understand concerning ourselves.

What Does the Bible Say About Losing Your Mind?

“And as he was saying these things in his defense, Festus said with a loud voice, “Paul, you are out of your mind; your great learning is driving you out of your mind.” But Paul said, “I am not out of my mind, most excellent Festus, but I am speaking true and rational words.” Acts 26:24

The Bible recognizes the possibility of an occasion when a person’s mind is not making clear or coherent decisions. However, in this text from Acts, Paul recognizes that, though his beliefs seem foolish to Festus, they are nonetheless founded in reality and can be called rational.

“And they came to Jesus and saw the demon-possessed man, the one who had had the legion, sitting there, clothed and in his right mind, and they were afraid.” Mark 5:15

Although there is a direct link between “madness” and demonic possession in this text, the Bible nowhere states this connection as a rule. The point, however, is that Jesus is as capable an exorcist as he is a healer of the mind: there is no power or ailment or human frailty that is too great for the healing power of God, whether God chooses to renew a person in this life or in the resurrection of the dead.

Stephen D

Stephen Dillard serves as a Bible Scholar with Wycliffe Associates and is a contributing writer on Revelations.org. He is a graduate of Covenant Theological Seminary, St. Louis, Missouri. He and his wife, Madison, have four children and make their home in Indiana.

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