What Is Law?


Law is a body of rules for human conduct imposed by a sovereign power. Its four major purposes are establishing standards, maintaining order, resolving disputes, and protecting liberties and rights. Law also serves a variety of other purposes.

The legal system is based on concepts, categories and rules derived from Roman law and canon law, supplemented or replaced by local custom and culture. These systems, often called civil law, are found on most continents and cover about 60% of the world’s population. They coexist with common law or other legal traditions such as Islamic law.

Blackstone defines law as “a rule of civil conduct prescribed by the supreme authority in a state commanding what is right and prohibiting what is wrong.” This definition is consistent with Scripture, which indicates that God’s design for man’s civil society and the specific statutes that govern it should be in harmony with His general will.

The concept of law is broad and diverse, and it encompasses many different branches of the legal system. For example, contract law focuses on obligations between individuals, property law is concerned with people’s affinity with tangible things, and tort law deals with offenses against a person such as automobile accidents or defamation of character. Law also refers to a body of rules that governs a state, such as the constitution, criminal law, and international law. See articles on each of these topics for more details. In the Bible, the term torah (commandments) is used to describe particular Mosaic laws.