Divine law

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][lower-alpha 1]

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


  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. Peters 1988, p. 244.
  3. Chaniotis 1996, p. 86.
  4. Anghie 1996, p. 323.
  5. 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. SAGE. 5 (3): 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.
  • 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.

Further reading

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