Updated: Oct 16, 2019
Xhosa Anatomy Part 1 - African at heart
If you read the Scriptures in general, you will pick up on a handful of organs being mentioned again and again throughout the old books. Why is this so far removed from todays modern medicine and its fixation on brain activity, well I will try to show you. The Heart, Kidneys and Liver are the most important organs mentioned in the Bible, and all of these (we today call organs) do seem to culminate somewheres around the breath (spirit) and the Nose. Does this sound strange? Well, it kinda is, and it goes deep as you like...
Again in the old stories you hear talk of `the heart of man` or about King David being a man after `Gods own heart` (1. Sam 13,14; Acts 13,22). However, due to the westernised (the partly greek and inherited roman) mindset and perception of many things which we have learned from the medical and anatomical world, the heart is not generally looked upon as having a emotional sense of operation. Yes, heartache is real, but its all in your head, right?
No doubt most of us has felt heartache and almost everyone has been in love, feelings often centered and felt around the chest area. But is the heart the seat of all of human emotions or is it even your innermost being...? Turns out, if you browse through your Bible every now and again, you are bound to come a cross some examples which simply reveals all current and modern understandings to be grossly misunderstood and some even untrue. Following, in these (at least 4) articles, we will examine these modern anatomical terminologies (found in Scripture), and digg up some deeper meanings derived from the respective (original) Xhosa language. Here we shall explain how these physical parts of the human body (heart, kidney, liver and nose) directly relates to deeper spiritual meanings and truths, and how they relate and react to the very soul itself. I know, heavy stuff as per usual, but readers of this blog shouldn't be surprised. However, trying to get concepts such as these (old and very much hidden) will deepen your understanding in countless ways - if you but only get the outlines of what is conveyed here through some simple quotations of Scripture. It will bless you.
Human body concepts and their overall connection with So NiNi was understood, perhaps even common knowledge among the Southern African peoples thousands of years and generations ago. However due to the many horrible events, followed by translations and thereby equal sets of mistranslations of Scripture, these body-wisdom traditions and ways of navigating through the human body has been but lost. But you know, God gives wisdom to those that ask. I did ask and this is what came back.
So then, lets start with the HEART, the most prevalent and present organ in our everyday terminology. First lets get ahold of some definitions, establishing a foundation to further elaborate.
In Xhosa the most common rendering of the word `heart` is Ntliziyo. The other commonly used word (which comes from the same root), is Ntliziyweni which means `in heart` (be-lev in Hebrew, Strong`s #3820, if you're into that kind of thing). So then, in the strictest definitions of senses, this word refers to the heart in the sense of being the organ that pumps blood (ntliziyo), the word does however translate in a myriad of different ways, in english that is. The NASB directory (for instance) include words such as:
accord (1), attention (4), attention* (1), bravest* (1), brokenhearted* (3), care* (2), celebrating* (1), chests* (1), completely* (1), concern* (1), concerned* (1), conscience (1), consider* (2), considered* (2), courage (1), decided* (1), determine* (1), discouraged* (1), discouraging* (1), doing* (1), double heart (1), encouragingly* (1), heart (396), heart's (2), hearts (40), Himself (1), himself (6), imagination (1), inspiration (2), intelligence (1), kindly (5), life (1), merry-hearted* (1), middle (2), midst (1), mind (36), minds (3), myself (6), obstinate* (2), planned* (1), presume* (1), pride* (1), recalls* (1), reflected* (1), regard* (1), self-exaltation* (1), sense (10), senseless* (1), seriously (1), skill* (1), skilled* (1), skillful man* (1), skillful men* (1), skillful persons* (1), skillful* (3), spirits (1), stouthearted* (1), stubborn-minded* (1), tenderly (2), thought (3), understanding (7), undivided* (1), well (2), willingly* (1), wisdom (2), yourself (1), yourselves (1). Note that of all the above translations, do amount for most of the words appearance in the popular english Bibles. However, to further define the word ntliziyo, we need to examine its context in several different passages in the Xhosa version 1975. Here the examples vary from being a reference to the `midst` or innermost part of something, or used as a reference to a physical (central) place on earth, in heaven, in the sea or in a person.
`You came near and stood under the mountain; and the mountain burned with fire to the heart of the heavens, with darkness, cloud, and thick darkness." [Xhosa uses `midst` of the heavens]`.
`Nasondela, nema phantsi kwentaba, intaba isitsha ngumlilo wada wesa esazulwini sezulu, ibubumnyama bamafu nesithokothoko.`
(Xhosa uses `midst` of the heavens)
2. Samuel 18,14:
"Then Joab said, I'm not going to wait like this with you. He took three darts in his hand, and thrust them through the heart of Absalom, while he was yet alive in the midst of the oak.".
`Wathi uYowabhi, Andinakwenjenje, ndilibale nguwe. Wathabatha izikhali zazithathu ngesandla sakhe, wamhlaba uAbhisalom entliziyweni, esaphilile, emterebhintini apho.`
(same use of word, apparently)
"Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea.`
`Ngenxa yoko asoyiki ekuphendukeni kwehlabathi, Ekudilikeleni kweentaba esazulwini solwandle.` (Xhosa uses midst again)
Now there are many other passages, rest assured, however these suffice in illustrating the point, whereas these verses translate or play of the meaning of the original word heart (ntliziyo). Apart from the obvious physical revelation of the heart (as the organ) the word plays a larger role in the African context in general.
"So NiNi saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. So NiNi relented that He had made man on the earth, and it grieved Him in His heart.".
`Wabona uThixo ukuba ububi babantu bandile ehlabathini, konke ukuyila kweengcinga zentliziyo yabo kubububi bodwa imihla yonke. `Wazohlwaya uYehova, ngokuba emenzile umntu ehlabathini, kwaba buhlungu kuye entliziyweni.`