What Is Law?

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Law is a system of rules created and enforced by social or governmental institutions to regulate behavior. Its precise definition is a matter of longstanding debate. Its primary purposes are establishing standards, maintaining order, resolving disputes and protecting liberties and rights.

Legal systems vary from country to country, and even within a country. However, they do share some similarities based on historically accepted justice ideals. They may include common law, civil law, religious law or customary law.

Blackstone held that there were four types of laws: natural, divine, municipal and common law. His view was supported by Thomas Aquinas and others.

The law is not a physical entity; it is a system of ideas, values and principles. It cannot be measured or objectively verified, but it is possible to determine its effectiveness by examining the results of its application.

Some laws are enacted by legislation; others are developed through judicial decisions. In general, courts try to apply the law as fairly and evenly as possible to all parties involved. In some cases, a court will reject a statute if it is too broad or vague.

In the Bible, the word “law” is usually used to refer to the Mosaic covenant and the commandments of Jesus Christ. Matthew, for example, speaks of every “iota and dot” of the law (Matthew 5:18). Other biblical texts use the term to refer to particular matters commanded by the Mosaic law. The law is also a major topic in the Talmud and Midrash, Jewish exegetical writings.