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International Standard Bible Encyclopedia


1. Physiological Heredity:

Heredity, in modern language, is the law by which living beings tend to repeat their characteristics, physiological and psychical, in their offspring, a law familiar in some form to even the most uncultured peoples. The references to it in the Bible are of various kinds.

Curiously enough, little mention is made of physiological heredity, even in so simple a form as the resemblance of a son to his father, but there are a few references, such as, e.g., those to giants with giants for sons (2 Samuel 21:18-22 1 Chronicles 20:4-8; compare Genesis 6:4 Numbers 13:33 Deuteronomy 1:28, etc.). Moreover Deuteronomy 28:59-61 may contain a thought of hereditary diseases (compare 2 Kings 5:27). On the psychical side the data are almost equally scanty. That a son and his father may differ entirely is taken for granted and mentioned repeatedly (especially in Ezekiel 18:5-20). Even in the case of the king, the frequent changes of dynasty prevented such a phrase as "the seed royal" (2 Kings 11:1 Jeremiah 41:1) from being taken very seriously. Yet, perhaps, the inheritance of mechanical dexterity is hinted at in Genesis 4:20-22, if "father" means anything more than "teacher." But, in any case, the fact that "father" could have this metaphorical sense, together with the corresponding use of "son" in such phrases as "son of Belial" (Judges 19:22 the King James Version), "son of wickedness" (Psalm 89:22), "sons of the prophets" (Amos 7:14 margin, etc.), "son of the wise,. of ancient kings" (Isaiah 19:11; this last phrase may be meant literally), shows that the inheritance of characteristics was a very familiar fact.

See SON.

2. Hebrew Conception of Heredity:

The question, however, is considerably complicated by the intense solidarity that the Hebrews ascribed to the family. The individual was felt to be only a link in the chain, his "personality" (very vaguely conceived) somehow continuing that of his ancestors and being continued in that of his descendants. After death the happiness (or even existence; see DEATH) of this shade in the other world depended on the preservation of a posterity in this. Hence, slaying the sons of a dead man was thought to affect him directly, and it would be a great mistake to suppose that an act such as that of 2 Samuel 21:1-9, etc., was simply to prevent a blood-feud. Nor was it at all in point that the children might repeat the qualities of the father, however much this may have been realized in other connections. Consequently, it is impossible to tell in many cases just how much of a modern heredity idea is present.

The most important example is the conception of the position of the nations. These are traced back to single ancestors, and in various cases the qualities of the nation are explained by those of the ancestor (Genesis 9:22-27; 21:20, 21; 49, etc.). The influences that determine national characteristics are evidently thought to be hereditary, and yet not all of them are hereditary in our sense; e.g. in Genesis 27, the condition of the descendants of Jacob and Esau is conceived to have been fixed by the nature of the blessings (mistakenly) pronounced by Isaac. On the other hand, Ezra (9:11, 12) thinks of the danger of intermarrying with the children of a degenerate people in an entirely modern style, but in Deuteronomy 23:3-6 the case is not so clear. There a curse pronounced on the nations for their active hostility is more in point than moral degeneracy (however much this may be spoken of elsewhere, Numbers 25:1-3, etc.), and it is on account of the curse that the taint takes ten generations to work itself out, while, in the case of Edomite or Egyptian blood, purity was attained in three. Hence, it is hard to tell just how Exodus 20:5, 6 was interpreted. The modern conception of the effect of heredity was surely present in part, but there must have been also ideas of the extension of the curse-bearing individuality that we should find hard to understand.

3. Abraham's Children:

The chiefest question is that of the Israelites. Primarily they are viewed as the descendants of Abraham, blessed because he was blessed (Genesis 22:15-18, etc.). This was taken by many with the utmost literalness, and physical descent from Abraham was thought to be sufficient (especially Matthew 3:9 John 8:31-44 Romans 9:6-13), or at least necessary (especially Ezra 2:59; Ezra 9:2 Nehemiah 7:61), for salvation. Occasionally this descent is stated to give superior qualities in other regards (Esther 6:13). But a distinction between natural inheritance of Abraham's qualities and the blessing bestowed by God's unbounded favor and decree on his descendants must have been thoroughly recognized, otherwise the practice of proselytizing would have been impossible.

4. Heredity and the New Testament:

In the New Testament the doctrine of original sin, held already by a certain school among the Jews (2 Esdras 7:48), alone raises much question regarding heredity (compare 1 Corinthians 7:14). Otherwise the Old Testament concepts are simply reversed: where likeness of nature appears, there is (spiritual) descent (Romans 4:12 Galatians 3:7, etc.). None the less, that the Israel "after the flesh" has a real spiritual privilege is stated explicitly (Romans 3:1, 2; Romans 11:26 Revelation 11:13).


Burton Scott Easton


... Thus what Biography describes as parental influences, Biology would speak of as
Heredity; and all that is involved in the second factor"the action of ...
/.../drummond/natural law in the spiritual world/environment.htm

Popular Science, Like that of Mr. ...
... such subjects there is no science, but only a sort of ardent ignorance; and nobody
has ever been able to offer any theories of moral heredity which justified ...
/.../chesterton/whats wrong with the world/chapter 29 popular science like.htm

After all the Modern Clatter of Calvinism, Therefore, it is Only ...
... Or again, to adopt that rather tiresome terminology of popular science,
it is not a question of heredity but of environment. I will ...
/.../chesterton/whats wrong with the world/chapter 30 after all the.htm

Benares as a Mission Sphere.
... city where it has been enthroned for ages. In our day much is said about
heredity. Facts illustrative of its power over the features ...
/.../life and work in benares and kumaon 1839-1877/chapter viii benares as a.htm

July 9:
... 9-Jul. July 9th. What Heredity has to do for us is determined outside
ourselves. No man can select his own parents. But every man ...
// thoughts/july 9 0.htm

Unto You a Saviour
... thousand years of sin. Like every child of Adam He accepted the results of
the working of the great law of heredity. What these results ...
// desire of ages/chapter 4 unto you a.htm

'That which was Lost'
... say: 'Sin! There is no sin in following natural laws and impulses.
Circumstances shape men; heredity shapes them. The notion that ...
/.../maclaren/expositions of holy scripture e/that which was lost.htm

The Evolution of a Father
... Whatever the Mother gained would be handed on to her boys as well as to her girls,
and with the law of heredity to square accounts, it was unnecessary for each ...
/.../the lowell lectures on the ascent of man/chapter ix the evolution of.htm

The Boy Hugh
... his land. He was a "flower of knighthood" in battles not now known. He
was also by heredity of a pious mind. Hugh's mother, Anna ...
/.../ bishop of lincoln/chapter i the boy hugh.htm

The Doctrine of Jesus Christ.
... (See Luke 1:34""How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?") No laws
of heredity are sufficient to account for His generation. ...
/.../evans/the great doctrines of the bible/the doctrine of jesus christ.htm

Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary
(n.) Transmission of the physical and psychical qualities of parents to their offspring; the biological law by which living beings tend to repeat their characteristics in their descendants. See Pangenesis.
... characteristics in their descendants. See Pangenesis. Int. Standard Bible
Encyclopedia. HEREDITY. he-red'-i-ti: 1. Physiological Heredity...
/h/heredity.htm - 13k

Government (20 Occurrences)
... 3. The Monarchy: While the succession of tribal chieftains and of the "judges" depended
on personal qualifications, the principle of heredity is essential to ...
/g/government.htm - 50k

Herein (12 Occurrences)

/h/herein.htm - 10k

Sin (782 Occurrences)
... 5. The Freedom of Man 6. A Transgression against Light 7. Inwardness of the Moral
Law (1) Prophets (2) Paul (3) Jesus 8. Sin a Positive Force 9. Heredity 10. ...
/s/sin.htm - 82k

Law (670 Occurrences)
... it is conceived of as imposed by the will of God or by some controlling authority;
as, the law of gravitation; the laws of motion; the law heredity; the laws ...
/l/law.htm - 101k

... much of the alleged transmissibility through heredity of acquired traits. ...
"After their kind" suggests the principle of heredity. ...
/e/evolution.htm - 39k

... at the present time, the sense of responsibility is enfeebled in many minds through
the control over character and destroy ascribed to heredity and environment ...
/a/accountability.htm - 14k

Hereditary (1 Occurrence)

/h/hereditary.htm - 7k

... it is a disease, a thing latent in the constitution or at least an infirmity or
limitation inherent in the flesh and resulting from heredity and environment ...
/e/ethics.htm - 70k



Heredity: General Scriptures Concerning

Related Terms

Government (20 Occurrences)

Herein (12 Occurrences)

Sin (782 Occurrences)

Law (670 Occurrences)



Hereditary (1 Occurrence)


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