In that one chapter book of Philemon, Paul pleads with him to receive Onesimus back as a brother rather than as a slave. In his appeal to Philemon, he says in verse 12, “I am sending him back to you, sending my very heart.” The word for “heart” is not the normal one. The Greek word “kardia” from which we get our English cardiology which is the medical specialty dealing with matters of the heart. This is the word that would be expected from our use of the term “in my heart” or “from my heart.” This kind of reference deals more with our emotions rather than our internal organs. But the Greek word Paul uses is “Splanchna.” It is a word that very specifically deals with the eternal organs of the body. In our English translations (most of them) the word “heart” comes from this Greek word throughout this short book. In verse 7, Paul says “the splanchna of the saints have been refreshed through you.” In verse 12, Paul refers to Onesimus as “his very splanchna.” Then after making his specific plea that Philemon receive Onesimus back as a brother, he says in verse 20 that his “splanchna” would be refreshed if Philemon would respond to his intercession on behalf of Onesimus.

“Splanchna” is a little more informative to me than the use of the word “heart.” In some ways using the “heart” as the seat of our emotions doesn’t communicate the depth that Paul is referring to here. He “broke my heart” is a powerful phrase, but that seems to be an ache of longing and something that is slower and less intense than what Paul intends by using the word “splanchna.” I’ve often criticized the King James Version for its archaic language, but the more I study the Greek of the New Testament, the more I like it. In all three of these passages it translates “splanchna” as “bowels.”

When we lived in Hawaii, we had 60 days at the Holiday Inn waiting for Navy housing to open up. We spent our days around the pool because our car hadn’t arrived by ship yet, and there wasn’t much else to do. The boys loved it. JD was 18 months and Chuck3 was about 2 and a half. We got JD a Styrofoam turtle with a baby seat in the middle in which you could strap the toddler in. He would spin around in that toy for hours in the pool. One time I looked up from my lunge chair and noticed that it was on the other side of the pool and that it was upside down. His little feet were kicking at the sky! Something happened inside me. The word “heart” doesn’t quite touch the feeling. My stomach “wrenched” in great instant agony and I dove into the pool in my dress white uniform, fought against the waist high water until I reached him and turned him over. His gasping and coughing and shaking brought the same wrenching inside of me. But when he took a clean, clear breath and started to cry, my “splanchna” relaxed, and were refreshed.