The Basics of Law


Law is a system that helps individuals resolve their disputes with one another by establishing a set of rules and procedures. The laws can be enforced by a centralized authority, such as a government or a court. The laws can also be applied by groups, such as a business or a trade association. There are many different types of law, including criminal, civil, constitutional, administrative, and international. Each type of law is governed by a specific set of rules.

The law is also used to govern the conduct of individuals, including the rights and duties of citizens. The concept of the law is a fundamental component of the political process, which includes elections to determine who has the power to make and enforce the laws. The law provides the means for settling disputes and resolving conflicts between individuals or between businesses, such as when an employee steals property from his employer.

The Nature of Biblical Law

Throughout the Bible, there are many passages that refer to law. The Hebrew word tora (h’r/T), which is translated as law in the Old Testament, is more often used to describe moral admonitions than strict governmental directives. Our modern notion of law tends to envision strict state-enforced standards of behavior, but the biblical admonitions are often hardly amenable to such enforcement; in fact, they call for obedience to God rather than to human authorities (e.g., Exod 20:17 ; 23:4-5 ).

Classical Jurisprudence

The classical legal tradition is often characterized by idealistic definitions of law. A common example is Justinian’s definition of law as the “body of principles recognized and applied by the state in the administration of justice.” These idealistic definitions of law are sometimes contrasted with the narrower sense of law as being an expression of a consistent reality. For example, the law of gravity states that if something is thrown up in space unsuspended, it will fall down. This consistency of result or reality is the essence of a law.

Other important aspects of law include the following:

Rules of Procedure

There are a number of rules that govern the conduct of litigation, such as the rules of evidence, trial procedure, and appellate procedures. These rules are not always binding, but they help to shape the decisions that courts will make.


The jurisdiction of a court is the geographic area over which it has legal authority to decide cases. Disputes about the law may arise in multiple jurisdictions, and each court has its own rules for how to decide cases that are within its jurisdiction. There are also rules about concurrent jurisdiction, which are situations where the same dispute is heard in more than one court. The judicial branch of the federal government, for example, has multiple courts with jurisdiction over certain issues. There are also rules about en banc, which is when a full panel of judges sits to hear a case instead of the usual quorum.