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Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament


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INHERITANCE (Matthew 21:38, Mark 12:7, Luke 20:14; Luke 12:13 : κληρονομία, derived from κλῆρος, ‘lot,’ ‘portion,’ ‘possession,’ and νέμειν, ‘to own or administer’).—The ordinary Biblical idea of inheritance is ‘the enjoyment by a rightful title of that which is not the fruit of personal exertion. The heir being what he is in relation to others, enters upon a possession which corresponds with his position; but there is no necessary thought of succession to one who has passed away’ (Westcott, Epistle to the Hebrews, p. 168). In the Gospels, however, the idea of succession to a deceased person is the prominent one, as with ourselves. The chief difference between the ordinary ancient and the ordinary modern conception of inheritance is this: We have more regard to the mere change in the ownership of certain property which takes place: the ancient civilized races looked rather to the position of the heir as executor and administrator of the deceased’s property, and as the person who, being clothed, so to speak, with the personality of the deceased, took upon himself all the obligations of the testator, as well as the continuance of his race and the perpetuation of his family religion. The last considerations were the most prominent, and account for the prevalence of adoption in ancient society. An adopted son, or a relative compelled to marry the deceased’s daughter, could carry on the family and its rites as well as a real son. (See Maine’s Ancient Law, ch. vi., and artt. ‘Heir’ and ‘Inheritance’ in Hasting's Dictionary of the Bible). See also art. Heir.

Alex. [Note: Alexandrian.] Souter.

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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Inheritance'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. 1906-1918.

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