mind (nous, dianoia, sunesis):
1. No Precision in the Terms Used:
We look in vain in the Old Testament and New Testament for anything like scientific precision in the employment of terms which are meant to indicate mental operations.
In the Old Testament lebh is made to stand for the various manifestations of our intellectual and emotional nature. We are often misled by the different renderings in the different versions, both early and late.
Sometimes nephesh or "soul" is rendered by "mind" (Deuteronomy 18:6 the King James Version, "desire of his soul" or "mind"); sometimes ruah or "spirit" (Genesis 26:35, "grief of mind," ruah). Here Luther renders the term Herzeleid ("grief of heart"), and the Vulgate (Jerome's Latin Bible, 390-405 A.D.) animum. Sometimes lebh is used, as in Isaiah 46:8, "bring it to mind" (literally, "heart"), or in Psalms 31:12, "I am forgotten as a dead man out of mind" (literally, "heart"), as in Septuagint, kardia, and in Vulgate, a corde, Luther, im Herzen, new Dutch translated, uit de gedachtenis (i.e. "memory").
In the Apocrypha this precision is equally lacking. Thus we read in The Wisdom of Solomon 9:15, "For the corruptible body (soma) presseth down the soul (psuche) and the earthly tabernacle weigheth down the mind (nous) that museth upon many things." But these distinctions are alien to the letter and spirit of revelation, a product of the Greek and not of the Hebrew mind.
In the New Testament the words nous and dianoia are used, but not with any precision of meaning.
Here too several terms are rendered by the same word. Thus the Hebrew ruach is rendered by nous in 1 Corinthians 2:16 ("mind of the Lord," with reference to Isaiah 40:13, where "ruach YHWH (spirit of Yahweh)" occurs). Nous evidently means here the organ of spiritual perception--a word borrowed from the Septuagint, where it is sometimes made to stand for lebh (Job 7:17; Isaiah 41:22); sometimes for ruah (Isaiah 40:13). In Luke 24:45--the solitary text, where nous occurs in the Gospels--it is rendered "understanding" in the King James Version, "mind" in the Revised Version (British and American).
2. Ethical Sense:
For a true solution we must turn to the Epistles of Paul, where the word frequently occurs in an ethical sense--sometimes in connection with (sinful) flesh as in Colossians 2:18, "puffed up by his fleshly mind," sometimes in direct contrast to it, as in Romans 7:25, `with my mind I serve the law of God; with the flesh the law of sin.' In Titus 1:15 it is brought into parallelism with conscience ("Their mind and their conscience are defiled"). Phrases like "a reprobate mind," "corrupted in mind" occur elsewhere (Romans 1:28; 1 Timothy 6:5). From this state of "reprobation" and "corruption" man must be saved. Hence, the necessity of complete transformation and renewal of the inner man (Romans 12:2), "transformed by the renewing of your mind (nous)."
3. Dianoia and Nous:
Another word, with possibly a deeper meaning, is sometimes employed, namely, dianoia, which literally means "meditation," "reflection." It is found as synonymous with nous in a good sense, as e.g. in 1John 5:20 (He "hath given us an understanding, that we know him that is true"). Evidently the sense here is the same as in Romans 12:2, a renovated mind capable of knowing Christ. It may also bear a bad sense, as in Ephesians 4:18, where the Gentiles are represented as having "a darkened understanding," or in parallelism with sarx:
"the desires of the flesh and of the mind" (Ephesians 2:3), and with nous: `walking in vanity of mind (nous) and a darkened understanding (dianoia)' in Ephesians 4:18. At times also "heart" and "mind" are joined to indicate human depravity (Luke 1:51 "He hath scattered the proud in the imagination (dianoia) of their heart"). It is interesting also to know that the Great Commandment is rendered in Matthew 22:37--"Thou shall love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul (psuche), and with all thy understanding (dianoia) (English Versions of the Bible, "mind")"--though Mark has two renderings in one of which dianoia occurs, and in the other sunesis (Mark 12:30,33), though possibly without any psychological refinement of meaning, for the term sunesis occurs elsewhere in conjunction with pneumatikos ("spiritual understanding," Colossians 1:9). It also stands alone in the sense of an "understanding enlightened from above" (2 Timothy 2:7 King James Version: "The Lord give thee understanding (sunesis) in all things"). The history of these terms is interesting, but not of great theological significance.
4. The Great Commandment:
It seems to us that Godet's interpretation of the Great Commandment in Luke 10:27 is somewhat far-fetched. He considers the heart as "the central focus from which all rays of the moral life go forth, and that in their three principal directions:
the powers of feeling, or the affections, nephesh (`soul') in the sense of feeling; the active powers, the impulsive aspirations, the might (`with all thy might'), the will; and in the intellectual powers, analytical or contemplative, dianoia (`with all thy mind'). The difference between the heart, which resembles the trunk and the three branches, feeling, will, understanding, is emphatically marked in the Alexandrian variation, by the substitution of the preposition en (`in') for ek (`with,' `from') in the three last members. Moral life proceeds from the heart and manifests itself without, in the three forms of activity. The impulse God-ward proceeds from the heart, and is realized in the life through the will, which consecrates itself actively to the accomplishment of His will; and through the mind, which pursues the track of His thought in all His works" (Godet, Commentary on the Gospel of Luke, II, 38, 39).
J. I. Marais