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Divine law

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Divine law is any body of law that is perceived as deriving from a transcendent source, such as the will of God or gods – in contrast to man-made law or to secular law. According to Angelos Chaniotis and Rudolph F. Peters, divine laws are typically perceived as superior to man-made laws,[1][2] sometimes due to an assumption that their source has resources beyond human knowledge and human reason.[3] Believers in divine laws might accord them greater authority than other laws,[4][5][2] for example by assuming that divine law cannot be changed by human authorities.[2]

According to Chaniotis, divine laws are noted for their apparent inflexibility.[6] The introduction of interpretation into divine law is a controversial issue, since believers place high significance on adhering to the law precisely.[7] Opponents to the application of divine law typically deny that it is purely divine and point out human influences in the law. These opponents characterize such laws as belonging to a particular cultural tradition. Conversely, adherents of divine law are sometimes reluctant to adapt inflexible divine laws to cultural contexts.[8]

Medieval Christianity assumed the existence of three kinds of laws: divine law, natural law, and man-made law.[4] Theologians have substantially debated the scope of natural law, with the Enlightenment encouraging greater use of reason and expanding the scope of natural law and marginalizing divine law in a process of secularization.[9] Since the authority of divine law is rooted in its source, the origins and transmission-history of divine law are important.[10][a]

Conflicts frequently arise between secular understandings of justice or morality and divine law.[11][12]

Religious law, such as canon law, includes both divine law and additional interpretations, logical extensions, and traditions.[5]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ See, for example, in Judaism Biblical Mount Sinai, Shavuot#Giving of the Torah, Yitro (parsha), and the Letter of Aristeas. And note disputes over Biblical canonicity.


  1. ^ Chaniotis 1996, p. 85.
  2. ^ a b c Peters 1988, p. 244.
  3. ^ Chaniotis 1996, p. 86.
  4. ^ a b Anghie 1996, p. 323.
  5. ^ a b Molano 2009, p. 212.
  6. ^ Chaniotis 1996, p. 67.
  7. ^ Chaniotis 1996, p. 75.
  8. ^ Peters 1988, p. 244f.
  9. ^ Anghie 1996, p. 323f.
  10. ^ Weiss 2010, Part II. The Indicators of God's Law.
  11. ^ Chaniotis 1996, pp. 65–66: In Euripides' Ion [...] [t]he distinction between the secular nomos which condemns the assailant and the divine themis which protects the suppliant, regardless of the crime he has committed, is clear; equally clear is Ion's condamnation [sic] of this indifference of the divine law towards the suppliants, righteous and unrighteous alike.
  12. ^ Chaniotis 1996, p. 69.


  • Anghie, Antony (1996). "Francisco de Vitoria and the colonial origins of international law". Social & Legal Studies. 5 (3). SAGE: 321–336. doi:10.1177/096466399600500303. ISSN 0964-6639. S2CID 143123584.
  • Peters, Rudolph F. (1988). "Divine Law or Man-Made Law-Egypt and the Application of the Shari'a". Arab Law Quarterly. 3 (3): 231–253. doi:10.1163/157302588X00281.
  • Chaniotis, Angelos (1996). "Conflicting authorities: Greek asylia between secular and divine law in the Classical and Hellenistic poleis" (PDF). Kernos. 9: 65–86.
  • Molano, E. (2009). "Divine Law and Constitutional Canonical Law". Ius Canonicum. 49: 195–212. doi:10.15581/016.49.14159. hdl:10171/34562.
  • Weiss, Bernard (2010). The search for God's law : Islamic jurisprudence in the writings of Sayf al-Dīn al-Āmidi. Salt Lake City Herndon, Va: University Of Utah Press International Institute of Islamic Thought. ISBN 978-0-87480-938-1. OCLC 758391490.

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