From BiblePortal Wikipedia

Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible [1]

Heredity , which may be defined as ‘the hereditary transmission of qualities, or even acquirements,’ so far as it is a scientific theory, is not anticipated in Holy Scripture. That men are ‘made of one’ (  Acts 17:26 RV [Note: Revised Version.] ) is a fact of experience, which, in common with all literature, the Bible assumes. The unsophisticated are content to argue from like to like, that is, by analogy. But the modern doctrine of heredity, rooted as it is in the science of biology, involves the recognition of a principle or law according to which characters are transmitted from parents to offspring. Of this there is no trace in the Bible. Theology is therefore not directly interested in the differences between Weismann and the older exponents of Evolution.

1. In the OT, which is the basis of the doctrine of the NT, there is no dogmatic purpose, and therefore no attempt to account for the fact that ‘all flesh’ has ‘corrupted his way upon the earth’ (  Genesis 6:12 ), and that ‘there is none that doeth good’ (  Psalms 14:1 ). A perfectly consistent point of view is not to be expected. Not a philosophical people, the Hebrews start from the obvious fact of the unity of the race in the possession of common flesh and blood (  Job 14:1;   Job 15:14 ), the son being begotten after the image of the father (  Genesis 5:3; cf.   Hebrews 2:14 ). This is more especially emphasized in the unity of the race of Abraham, that ‘Israel after the flesh’ (  1 Corinthians 10:18 ), whose were the fathers and the promises (  Romans 9:4-5 ). But the Bible never commits itself to a theory of the generation or procreation of the spirit, which is apparently given by God to each individual (  Genesis 2:7;   Genesis 7:22 ,   Job 33:4 ) constitutes the personality (‘life’   2 Samuel 1:9 , ‘soul’   Numbers 5:6 ), and is withdrawn at death (  Ecclesiastes 12:7 ). This is the source of Ezekiel’s emphasis on individual responsibility (  Ezekiel 18:4 ), a criticism of the proverb concerning sour grapes (v. 2), which was made to rest on an admitted principle of the Mosaic covenant, the visitation upon the children of the fathers’ sins (  Exodus 20:5 ). This principle involves corporate guilt; which, though sometimes reduced to a pardonable weakness inseparable from flesh (  Psalms 78:39;   Psalms 103:14 ,   Job 10:9 ), and therefore suggestive of heredity, yet, as involving Divine wrath and punishment, cannot be regarded as a palliation of transgression (  Exodus 34:7 ,   Psalms 7:11 ,   Romans 1:18 ). Sin in the OT is disobedience, a breach of personal relations, needing from God forgiveness (  Exodus 34:6-7 ,   Isaiah 43:25 ); and cannot therefore be explained on the principle of hereditary transmission. Moreover, the unity of Israel is as much one of external status as of physical nature, of the inheritance of the firstborn no less than of community in flesh and blood (  Exodus 4:22; cf.   Genesis 25:23;   Genesis 27:35 ). Similarly Adam is represented as degraded to a lower status by his sin, as cast out of the garden and begetting children in banishment from God’s presence.

2. Such are the materials from which NT theology works out its doctrine of original sin , not a transmitted tendency or bias towards evil, but a submission to the power of the devil which may be predicated of the whole race. [See art. Sin.]

J. G. Simpson.

Webster's Dictionary [2]

(n.) Hereditary 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.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia [3]

hē̇ - red´i - ti  :

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 Ezek 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;  Genesis 21:20 ,  Genesis 21:21; 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 Gen 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 ( Ezra 9:11 ,  Ezra 9:12 ) 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 ,  Exodus 20:6 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 ,  Romans 3:2;  Romans 11:26;  Revelation 11:13 ). See Blessing; Curse; Family; Salvation; Sin; Tradition .