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Ntliziyo - The Heart

Biblical 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 dig 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 (but also similar in Zulu) 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.

Deuteronomy 4,11:

`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)

Psalm 46,2:

"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.

Genesis 6,5-6:

"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.`

This is the first time (entliziyweni, aka `in heart`), is mentioned in Scripture. And while the second use is easier to understand (it grieved Him in His heart, His innermost part, if you will), we still have to explain and even wonder about the first mention (every imagination of the thoughts of man`s heart was evil). So then, what does it mean to have thoughts of the heart, can the heart think by itself? Well, if you Believe in what its written, that apparently it can... If it is a part of you and you are connected to it, unless it is a piece of flint or hard as stone... But we will get back to that... This is far removed from todays understanding where everything happens in the fabulous brain, you know flashing neurones and synapses getting triggered... I suspect we at best have a limited understanding off all this. Forget modern medicine for a little while, and try to see, because what is the mind really?

Numbers 16,28:

"Moses said, "Hereby you shall know that So NiNi has sent me to do all these works; for I have not done them of my own mind."

`Wathi uMoses, Niya kwazi ngale nto, ukuba u So NiNi undithumele ukwenza yonke le misebenzi; ngokuba asiyantliziyo yam.` (Xhosa uses a derivation of heart, not mind)

1. Samuel 9,20:

"As for your donkeys who were lost three days ago, don't set your mind on them; for they are found. For whom is all that is desirable in Israel? Is it not for you, and for all your father's house?"

`Ke iimazi zamaesile esekuntsuku ntathu namhla zikulahlekile, musa ukuyibekela kuzo intliziyo yakho; ngokuba zifunyenwe. Kokukabani na konke okunqwenelekayo kwaSirayeli? Asikokwakho na, nokwendlu yonke kayihlo? ` (Xhosa uses heart, not mind)

Psalm 83,5:

"For they have conspired together with one mind. They form an alliance against You."

`Ngokuba bacebisana ngantliziyo-nye, Benza umnqophiso ngawe: ` (Again Xhosa uses a derivative of heart, not mind)

Let us examine these. Its obvious to see that the heart is indeed the mind, in the sense that it deals with thoughts and intentions. Just as its intended use comes forth in Genesis 6, giving detailed descriptions of the `intent of the heart of man`. This becomes a little more complex when view along with another pair of organs (kidneys), but we will get back to that. Therefore, the mind (brain) cannot be the seat of pure emotion, the heart is.

Look at Psalm 26,2:

"Test me, So NiNi, and try me, examine my heart and mind."

Now if heart and mind are the same thing in Xhosa, why does both feature in english verses such as these? So the way it is put together and translated above is not, well, lets put it this way, neither in the right order or has the right words. Xhosa says:

`Ndicikide, So NiNI, undilinge; Nyibilikisa izintso zam nentliziyo yam.`

which then becomes (in a direct translation) :

`Test me, So NiNi, and prove me, pour out my heart (kidneys) and my mind (heart).`

With the correct word in parentheses, kidneys and heart are the Xhosa equivalent of the english heart and mind. Is this but another juxtaposition or another of the countless linguistic traces that reveals the source language to be Bantu? Examples like these and many others on the blog is exactly why we have so much trouble understanding or even pronouncing ancient Hebrew, its not the original language of the Bibel and never was. It truly is just like the wisdom books (Solomon and Ben Sira), tried to convey, that language and meaning is impossible to transfer from one language to another. It goes without saying that should not try to convey something in another language, expect to transfer whole meanings and inherited understandings into a so-called carrier language. You just can't do it without hurting either yourself or the text. What do we get when tried this feat? Well, pretty much what we have today, chaos, conflicting babel... different denominations around every corner and everyones right...

What makes this blog different? First of we do not claim to know it all far from it. I have been lead this far because I ask questions and very often walk down paths people won't consider exploring. And it is all gathered (painstakingly) from the pages of the Almighty. Moving on, we will further elaborate the correct place of the so-called heart in english, kidneys in Xhosa in Part 2. Continuing, another good example is found in Numbers 24,13 where they (whoever translated) again got their letters in a twist.

Numbers 24,13;

"If Balak would give me his house full of silver and gold, I can't go beyond the word of So NiNi, to do either good or bad of my own mind. I will say what So NiNi says'?"

`Angafanelana uBhalaki endinika indlu yakhe izele yisilivere negolide, andingekhe ndiwugqithe umlomo ka So NiNi, ndenze okulungileyo nokuba kokubi okuphuma entliziyweni yam; oko akuthethayo u So NiNI, ndiya kwenza kona.` (Xhosa uses heart, which means mind)

Now, here we can see, again that the word mind is indeed the word for heart, in Xhosa. A reference to the will and human intentions. In the western world, its thoughts form in the mind, the mind being the brain (head, engqondweni). When reading and understanding Scripture in its purest essence, this is not the case. Here thoughts occur in the heart, and in Xhosa perception, the heart is the seat of the mind and not in the brain. The mind is the heart. However, as the next articles will reveal, it does not stop there. It gets way complex and interesting - we are wonderfully put tighter you see :)

Nehemiah 4,6:

"So we built the wall; and all the wall was joined together to half the height of it: for the people had a mind to work."

`Salwakha ke udonga, lwadityaniswa lonke udonga, kwesa esiqingatheni sokuphakama kwalo. Abantu babenentliziyo yokusebenza.` (Xhosa again plays on the word ntliziyo)

Now, bearing that in mind is the `heart` of So NiNi for all His people to become priests and set aside unto Him?

Exodus 19,5-6:

'Now then, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be My own possession among all the peoples, for all the earth is Mine; and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.' These are the words that you shall speak to the sons of Israel."

1. Peter 2,9:

"But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for Elohim's own possession, that you may proclaim the excellence of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light:"

Revelation 5,9-10:

"They sang a new song, saying, 'You are worthy to take the book, and to open its seals: for you were killed, and bought us for So NiNi with your blood, out of every tribe, language, people, and nation, 10 and made us kings and priests to our God, and we will reign on earth.""

One last thing, as eluded in the beginning of this article, we have just separated a part of the bigger picture (the human body), and tried to show a piece of the soul. Its all connected, from gut to heart, head to toe. If I was forced to define the soul, I would say it is both physical and non-physical, not a fan of dualities although they do seems to have a place in the world, unlike The Almighty. There is no duality there. From my early understanding, purely greek or gnostic even, I was lead to believe that the soul consisted of the mind, a will of some sorts and emotions. Never did I try to understand how a person can know it actually consists of a collection these. The bigger picture..

If that made sense or not to you, I will further try to break it down like this (heart, kidneys, liver, nose, etc), to get your understanding enticed, there is allot of treasure to be found. In the last part I will try, and probably fail, in showing the difference between soul and spirit, from a Xhosa and Scripture defined perspective. Try to tie it all together so to speak.

If we go back to the heart (ntliziyo: often thought of as being where humility and kindness resides), perhaps we now have a slightly beter understanding of what it truly means to have your heart `Circumcised`. A thing Paul desperately tries to explain in his letters. This though, can't really be explained, it can only be experienced. But believe me, it does happen and you do feel it. Circumcision is this context a symbol of submission but also of dedication.

In Scripture the old Patriarchs and men from the Bible, Isaaks and Jakobs from ancient times, bore the circumcision the way that:`everything that comes forth from my loins is dedicated to So NiNi.`.

Similarly, in this day and age, we must (SO IMPORTANT) have our hearts circumcised, cut away the flesh of our own will, our own thoughts and our own intentions. Which is the hardest thing to do. To conform more and more into His will and plan. NOW this is what is meant for the phrase of David, to be a man after So NiNis own heart. Not that David got upset about things that would have made So NiNi upset (something that also happened) HOWEVER it was Davids willingness to conform his mind, his thoughts and desires to those of So NiNi. This is why he asked for a clean heart... So must we, replace the heart of stone with a heart of flesh

Uxolo lube nani

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