I. Speaking of the Heart
We are all quite familiar with the famous passage in Ezekiel: “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh” (36:26); and we all know, or at least think we know, more or less what it intends to say. To have a heart of stone is to be unfeeling and cold, inattentive to others and the world around us, while to have a heart of flesh is to be alive, solicitous, open and responsive toward the other. Ultimately, to have a heart of flesh simply means to be properly disposed toward God and our neighbor. We recognize that the expression is metaphorical, specifically an example of synecdoche, in which a part of the body and its particular condition is used to express a person’s overall spiritual or emotional state. It could not be more obvious that, at the very least, the phrase “heart of stone” is a figure of speech, not a literal reality, because it indicates a state of affairs that is straightforwardly impossible. What we have in the contrast between “heart of stone” and “heart of flesh” is a rhetorical use of a material thing, whether real or only poetically imagined, to communicate an immaterial mode of being.
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