Law is a set of rules that are created and enforced by social or governmental institutions to regulate behavior. It has been variously described as a science and as the art of justice. There are two general types of laws: positive and natural. Positive laws are those that are enacted by human beings, based on the principles of right reason and views of man’s nature and constitution. Natural laws are those that have been derived from divine revelation and the principles of morality. The term “law” is also used to refer to the legal system, a body of rules and processes for settling disputes and administering justice, which may be applied equally to all members of a community or society.
Law is more than the sum of legal rules and regulations governing human conduct; it also reflects the values and principles of a culture. It is a tool for promoting cooperation and harmony among individuals, communities, and nations. Its role in society is crucial, and there are many different approaches to the study of law.
Legal rights, privileges, powers, and immunities may manifest as either rights in personam or in rem. Rights in personam are those whose content designates a definite and enforceable right-object, such as property or debts (e.g., contract rights and some tort claims). Rights in rem are those that are legally recognized as correlating to a particular person or persons (e.g., rights against a promisor or trustee).
It is important to understand the definition of law before attempting to analyze its purpose and structure. For instance, in the United States, we distinguish between civil and criminal law, the former dealing with disputes between private parties and the latter dealing with crimes against a federal or state government. In addition, there are a variety of other legal fields including administrative law, international law, family law, and labor law.
In the New Testament, the word law is most often used to refer to commands derived from Mosaic scripture. For example, the apostle Matthew speaks of every iota and dot of the law (Matt. 5:18).
The discipline of Law encompasses a broad range of subjects, but most notably it is concerned with the system of laws and institutions that govern the actions of individual citizens and groups of people. It is an increasingly multi-disciplinary field that has a deep historical and philosophical roots. Oxford Reference offers comprehensive coverage of this thriving and influential area of knowledge, with concise definitions and in-depth, specialist encyclopedic entries written by trusted experts for researchers at every level. With an emphasis on clarity and accessibility, this collection provides the perfect companion to the classroom or research library.