What Does the Bible Mean by the Law?

Adobe Stock

When learning about Judaism or Christianity you’ll come across the phrase “the law.” But what does this mean? What law is “the law?” The answer is that the “law” has different meanings in the Bible. Let’s explore them.

The “Law” Is More Than the Torah

In the Old Testament, the word for the law is Torah. And even that has multiple meanings. The first meaning is of the written Torah, which refers specifically to the first five books of the Hebrew Bible (or Old Testament), which is also called the Pentateuch or Five Books of Moses.

At the same time, Torah refers to teaching, doctrine or instruction.

Because Torah has multiple meanings, many say the term “the law” gives a wrong impression, bringing to mind a rule or rules.

How the Phrase Torah Came to Be Called the Law

The reason Torah became associated with “the law” as a matter of translation. The Septuagint is the Greek translation of the Old Testament. And the Alexandrian Jews who translated the Torah for the Septuagint, use the Greek word Nomos, which means norm, standard, doctrine and later meant “law.” Latin and Greek Bibles began the custom of referring to the Pentateuch as The Law. Consequently, this term has created confusion.

The Seven Meanings of “the Law”

There are at least 7 terms for “the law” between the Old Testament and New Testament that have different meanings, according to neverthirsty.org.

1. Entire Bible

Recalling from above that Torah refers to teaching, doctrine or instruction, therefore, “the law” can refer to the entirety of the Bible.

2. Mosaic Law

The Law of Moses found in the first five books of the Hebrew Bible (Pentateuch) or Old Testament. Found primarily in Exodus and Numbers.

3. The Law of Liberty

Found in all Scripture, but perhaps most concisely stated here:

“But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it–not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it–they will be blessed in what they do.”

– James 1:25

Simply put, that by submitting to the law, that is, the will of God, one is not in bondage, but most liberated, free in a new life and birth.

4. The Law of Faith

The law as it refers to salvation by faith, as described in the New Testament in Romans Chapter 3.

5. The Law of Sin

The law as it refers to sin, as described in the New Testament in Romans Chapter 7.

6. The Law of the Mind

The law as described as a desire to obey God, which is found in the New Testament in Romans Chapter 7.

7. The Law of the Spirit of Life

Also found throughout the gospel, the law of living life through the spirit rather than through the flesh, as found in the New Testament in Romans Chapter 8.