ASK Commentary
July 19, 2003 

Callousness of the Heart

Commentary for July 19, 2003 — Hardness of Heart and Blindness of Eyes

Two expressions in the King James Version mean virtually the same thing in Greek. This is because the same Greek words are used, one a noun and the other an adjective. The first is “hardness of heart” and the other is “blindness of eyes.”

The verses are Mark 3:5, 6:52, 8:17; John 12:40; Romans 11:7, 25; 2 Corinthians 3:14 and Ephesians 4:17. This is just 8 verses to consider. However, it is important for you to consider the context of each verse completely and how these words were used.

The Greek noun poro'o which means to be “callous” (a thick covering of skin that is hardened and insensitive to stimulation) is used in the New Testament as an idiom or a figure of speech. The other form in Greek is porosis which means “the state of callousness.” (This information can be found in any good Greek concordance. The meanings of “callous” and “callousness” are taken from the Theological Dictionary of the New Testament and the Concordant Version of the Bible and its concordance.) Let us look at these verses as they occur in the proper order of the books.

Note in each case who it is that is being callous. In the first instance Jesus heals a man with a withered hand in a synagogue on the Sabbath. Jesus is angered and grieved by the reaction of the Pharisees (see Mark 2:24 and 3:6).

“And when he had looked round about on them with anger, being grieved for the hardness [callousness] of their hearts, he said unto the man, ‘Stretch forth your hand. And he stretched it out: and his hand was restored whole as the other.’”

• Mark 3:5

In the next instance, which occurred after the first loaves and fishes incident, Jesus’ own disciples were the ones with the calloused heart,

“For they considered not the miracle of the loaves: for their heart was hardened [calloused].”

• Mark 6:52

In a near identical occurrance in Mark 8, the disciples hearts were still calloused,

“And when Jesus knew it, he said unto them, ‘Why reason you, because you have no bread? perceive you not yet, neither understand? have you your heart yet hardened [calloused]?’”

• Mark 8:17

Just after His triumphant entry into Jerusalem Jesus spoke to a throng of people, then he separated himself from them (John 12:36),

“But though he had done so many miracles before them, yet they believed not on him: That the saying of Esaias the prophet might be fulfilled, which he spake, ‘Lord, who hath believed our report? and to whom hath the arm of the Lord been revealed?’ Therefore they could not believe, because that Esaias said again, ‘He hath blinded their eyes, and hardened [calloused] their heart; that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them.’ These things said Esaias, when he saw his glory, and spake of him.”

• John 12:37–41

That was a remarkable statement in John 12. The hearts of the people were intentionally calloused by God so they would not be converted. Remarkable!

Note again in Romans why Israel was calloused in their heart, a callousness that came directly from God,

“What then? Israel hath not obtained that which he seeks for; but the election has obtained it, and the rest were blinded [calloused]. (According as it is written, God has given them the spirit of slumber, eyes that they should not see, and ears that they should not hear;) unto this day. ... You will say then, The branches were broken off, that I might be grafted in. Well; because of unbelief they were broken off, and you stand by faith. Be not highminded, but fear: ... For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness [callousness] in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in.”

• Romans 11:7–8, 19–20, 25

All of Israel was calloused, a situation that remained to Paul’s day and even remains today,

“And not as Moses, which put a vail over his face, that the children of Israel could not stedfastly look to the end of that which is abolished: But their minds were blinded [calloused]: for until this day remains the same vail untaken away in the reading of the old testament; which vail is done away in Christ. But even unto this day, when Moses is read, the vail is upon their heart. Nevertheless when it shall turn to the Lord, the vail shall be taken away.”

• 2 Corinthians 3:13–16

The vail (the KJV spelling of veil) and the callousness shall some day end. However, even the nations, the Gentiles have a callousness of the heart.

“This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind, Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness [callousness] of their heart: Who being past feeling have given themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness.”

• Ephesians 4:17–19

What is going on here? Why does God do this to the disciples of Jesus, the Pharisees, the people of Jerusalem, all of Israel and even the Gentile nations? Part of the answer is that God created mankind with a heart that was deceitful above all things, and God merely gives mankind what it wants, and then "callouses" their hearts.

“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? I the Lord search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings.

• Jeremiah 17:9–10

The other part of the answer is that God callouses the hearts of people for His own purposes to accomplish a particular goal of His choosing, like He states in the Romans 11, 2 Corinthians 3 and Ephesians 4 passages.

God was and is in charge of the universe and of your heart and my heart. Your heart was once calloused. It is calloused today, unless God has changed your heart through the operation of His Holy Spirit. Judge for yourself if that has taken place.

To sum up, God tells us quite a bit. I will leave it to you to read all the contexts and to understand the subtleties and nuances of what and why God acts in the affairs of His children with respect to callousness of the heart.

David Sielaff

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