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).
- 1 What Does the Bible Say About the Mind (KJV)?
- 2 What Does the Bible Say About the Mind, Body, and Soul?
- 3 What Does the Bible Say About the Mind of God?
- 4 What Does the Bible Say About the Power of the Mind?
- 5 What is the Mind According to the bible?
- 6 Biblical Difference Between Heart and Mind
- 7 What Does the Bible Say About the Mind and heart?
- 8 What Does the Bible Say About Losing Your Mind?
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.
Paul’s words here in Ephesians, using both “body” (or “flesh”) and “mind,” speak to internal sinful desires that are opposed to God.
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.”
- 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)
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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:”
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.
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.
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.
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.