No, this isn’t a secret blooper scene from The Matrix 4. In the Hebrew world of the Bible, you don’t have a mind. Okay, I know what you’re thinking: this guy is nuts. He’s lost it. One too many trips to the Western Wall. Actually, we’re talking about a powerful truth that has the potential to deepen your relationship with God in ways you never imagined.
First, however, I need to explain. What I said above was not exactly, well, exact. The truth is that there is no single word in the Hebrew language that means “mind”. There are many words that touch on various aspects of the mind, but the actual word is just not there. This isn’t just a missing entry in the dictionary: this reflects a whole different culture and way of thinking. We’re going to talk about this phenomenon and what it means for you in this three-part series on the mind in Hebrew.
Part 1: The Hebrew Culture: This isn’t Kansas, Toto
The ancient Hebrew culture was very different than our modern Western culture. Many of you probably know that most of the people were farmers, living in agricultural-based communities. They fought bloody battles and life was, umm different (in other words, they didn’t have modern toilets). But did you know that the ancient Hebrew culture was actually oriental?
That’s right, I said oriental. Like Chinese. Like Japanese. Like Pad Thai. Okay maybe they didn’t eat Pad Thai. But the ancient Hebrews lived in the east (that’s where the “East” in Middle East came from) and as such, they were very connected to the overall oriental style of life: deep connections to the land, high degree of honor and respect in the family, and a picture-based language. Picture-based language you say? Yes, Hebrew was originally written with pictographs, similar to ancient Chinese (see below).
For example, let’s talk about honor and respect. All of us are probably familiar with the eastern concept of “honor”: in traditional eastern cultures (China, Japan, etc.), it is considered extremely improper for children to correct their parents, even if the children are right. Now take a look at Deut. 21:18-21: God commanded the ancient Israelites to kill their rebellious children. How’s that for a culture of honor and respect? And if you’re not convinced yet, all throughout the Bible there are references to nature and the earth (i.e. Ps. 1) – another oriental concept.
Now let's talk about the Hebrew language. Hebrew was originally written with pictures (like ancient Chinese). Jeff Benner has a great book called the “Ancient Hebrew Lexicon” that explains this in-depth and provides definitions to Hebrew words according to their ancient word picture. For example: the word “father” is made up of two pictures: the picture of a house and the head of an ox. The ox’s head symbolized strength, giving the picture of “father” as “strength of the house”.
The net effect is that when you looked an ancient Hebrew word, you didn’t just understand the word, you “saw” it. You didn’t just have a mental experience, you received a revelation in your heart as you took in the word picture. We’ll be talking more about that in part 3.
In summary, the ancient oriental Hebrew culture was very different than our modern Western culture. In many ways, the ancient Hebrews understood the Bible differently than we do today. One example is the word “mind”: it doesn’t exist in Hebrew, and in the rest of this series, we’re going to ask why – and what it means for you in your walk with God.
Till next time!