Law is the system of rules that a society or government develops to deal with crime, business agreements and social relationships. It also refers to the people who work in this system.
The term “law” comes from the Greek word lege, meaning “rule,” or “rules,” and can be used to describe the general principles of society or any particular subject of study such as criminal law.
There is some debate about what the exact definition of law should be. Some define it as the body of rules established by a sovereign authority, enforced by judicial decisions, that require all citizens to obey. Others see it as a moral force that reflects unchanging natural laws.
Despite this disagreement, most philosophers agree that the purpose of law is to provide social justice. This is achieved by ensuring that everyone has access to the resources necessary for them to live their lives with dignity, and by establishing fair and equitable standards of conduct.
The Nature of Biblical Law
In both the Old and New Testaments, the word “law” refers to commands and regulations outlined in the Mosaic covenant. The Hebrew word tora [h’r/T] more specifically means “instruction.”
Tora has a number of different uses, most commonly as a term of endorsing the adherence to specific moral precepts that are considered necessary for good and ethical behavior. The term is also applied to ceremonial instructions and admonitions that may not be amenable to state enforcement.
Other words commonly used to describe a body of rules include canon, ordinance, precept, regulation and statute. These are all roughly equivalent to the concept of law, though they are not essentially the same as it is not a principle imposed by a sovereign authority, and people may not have an obligation to abide by it.
A distinction is made in common law systems between “legislative” laws and decisions by courts, and in civil law systems between “judicial” and “administrative” laws. Legislative laws are based on a formal process of legislation by legislatures, and are generally more detailed than judicial decisions. Judicial decisions are often less detailed, and sometimes lack the underlying reasoning that governs legislative legislation, but may be binding in future cases.
One of the main characteristics of the study of law is its complex methodological features. Unlike other sciences, it is not only normative but also prescriptive. It says how people ought to behave or not, what they may or may not require from others, and what they have to or have not done if someone asks them.