Law - Vine's Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words


[ A-1,Noun,G3551, nomos ]
akin to nemo, to divide out, distribute," primarily meant "that which is assigned;" hence, "usage, custom," and then, "law, law as prescribed by custom, or by statute;" the word ethos, "custom," was retained for unwritten "law," while nomos became the established name for "law" as decreed by a state and set up as the standard for the administration of justice.

In the NT it is used
(a) of "law" in general, e.g., Romans 2:12-Romans 2:13, "a law" (RV), expressing a general principle relating to "law;" Romans 2:14, last part; Romans 3:27, "By what manner of law?" i.e., "by what sort of principle (has the glorying been excluded)?;" Romans 4:15 (last part); Romans 5:13, referring to the period between Adam's trespass and the giving of the Law; Romans 7:1 (1st part, RV marg., "law"); against those graces which constitute the fruit of the Spirit "there is no law," Galatians 5:23; "the ostensible aim of the law is to restrain the evil tendencies natural to man in his fallen estate; yet in experience law finds itself not merely ineffective, it actually provokes those tendencies to greater activity. The intention of the gift of the Spirit is to constrain the believer to a life in which the natural tendencies shall have no place, and to produce in him their direct contraries. Law, therefore, has nothing to say against the fruit of the Spirit; hence the believer is not only not under law, Galatians 5:18, the law finds no scope in his life, inasmuch as, and in so far as, he is led by the Spirit;" * [* From Notes on Galatians, by Hogg and Vine, p. 298.]

(b) of a force or influence impelling to action, Romans 7:21, Romans 7:23 (1st part), "a different law," RV;
(c) of the Mosaic Law, the "law" of Sinai,

(1) with the definite article, e.g., Matthew 5:18; John 1:17; Romans 2:15, Romans 2:18, Romans 2:20, Romans 2:26-Romans 2:27; Romans 3:19; Romans 4:15; Romans 7:4, Romans 7:7, Romans 7:14, Romans 7:16, Romans 7:22; Romans 8:3-Romans 8:4, Romans 8:7; Galatians 3:10, Galatians 3:12, Galatians 3:19, Galatians 3:21, Galatians 3:24; Galatians 5:3; Ephesians 2:15; Philippians 3:6; 1 Timothy 1:8; Hebrews 7:19; James 2:9;

(2) without the article, thus stressing the Mosaic Law in its quality as "law," e.g., Romans 2:14 (1st part); Romans 5:20; Romans 7:9, where the stress in the quality lies in this, that "the commandment which was unto (i.e., which he though would be a means of) life," he found to be "unto (i.e., to have the effect of revealing his actual state of) death;" Romans 10:4; 1 Corinthians 9:20; Galatians 2:16, Galatians 2:19, Galatians 2:21; Galatians 3:2, Galatians 3:5, Galatians 3:10 (1st part), Galatians 3:11, Galatians 3:18, Galatians 3:23; Galatians 4:4-Galatians 4:5, Galatians 4:21 (1st part); Galatians 5:4, Galatians 5:18; Galatians 6:13; Philippians 3:5, Philippians 3:9; Hebrews 7:16; Hebrews 9:19; James 2:11; James 4:11; (in regard to the statement in Galatians 2:16, that "a man is not justified by the works of the Law," the absence of the article before nomos indicates the assertion of a principle, "by obedience to law," but evidently the Mosaic Law is in view. Here the Apostle is maintaining that submission to circumcision entails the obligation to do the whole "Law." Circumcision belongs to the ceremonial part of the "Law," but, while the Mosaic Law is actually divisible into the ceremonial and the moral, no such distinction is made or even assumed in Scripture. The statement maintains the freedom of the believer from the "law" of Moses in its totality as a means of justification);

(d) by metonymy, of the books which contain the "law,"

(1) of the Pentateuch, e.g., Matthew 5:17; Matthew 12:5; Luke 16:16; Luke 24:44; John 1:45; Romans 3:21; Galatians 3:10;

(2) of the Psalms, John 10:34; John 15:25; of the Psalms, Isaiah, Ezekiel and Daniel, John 12:34; the Psalms and Isaiah, Romans 3:19 (with Romans 3:10-Romans 3:18); Isaiah, 1 Corinthians 14:21; from all this it may be inferred that "the law" in the most comprehensive sense was an alternative title to "The Scriptures."

The following phrases specify "laws" of various kinds;
(a) "the law of Christ," Galatians 6:2, i.e., either given by Him (as in the Sermon on the Mount and in John 13:14-John 13:15; John 15:4), or the "law" or principle by which Christ Himself lived (Matthew 20:28; John 13:1); these are not actual alternatives, for the "law" imposed by Christ was always that by which He Himself lived in the "days of His flesh." He confirmed the "Law" as being of Divine authority (cp. Matthew 5:18): yet He presented a higher standard of life than perfunctory obedience to the current legal rendering of the "Law," a standard which, without annulling the "Law," He embodied in His own character and life (See, e.g., Mat. 5:21-48; this breach with legalism is especially seen in regard to the ritual or ceremonial part of the "Law" in its wide scope); He showed Himself superior to all human interpretations of it;
(b) "a law of faith," Romans 3:27, i.e., a principle which demands only faith on man's part;
(c) "the law of my mind," Romans 7:23, that principle which governs the new nature in virtue of the new birth;
(d) "the law of sin," Romans 7:23, the principle by which sin exerts its influence and power despite the desire to do what is right; "of sin and death," Romans 8:2, death being the effect;
(e) "the law of liberty," James 1:25; James 2:12, a term comprehensive of all the Scriptures, not a "law" of compulsion enforced from without, but meeting with ready obedience through the desire and delight of the renewed being who is subject to it; into it he looks, and in its teaching he delights; he is "under law (ennomos, "in law," implying union and subjection) to Christ," 1 Corinthians 9:21; cp., e.g., Psalms 119:32, Psalms 119:45, Psalms 119:97; 2 Corinthians 3:17;
(f) "the royal law," James 2:8, i.e., the "law" of love, royal in the majesty of its power, the "law" upon which all others hang, Matthew 22:34-Matthew 22:40; Romans 13:8; Galatians 5:14;
(g) "the law of the Spirit of life," Romans 8:2, i.e., the animating principle by which the Holy Spirit acts as the imparter of life (cp. John 6:63);
(h) "a law of righteousness," Romans 9:31, i.e., a general principle presenting righteousness as the object and outcome of keeping a "law," particularly the "Law" of Moses (cp. Galatians 3:21);
(i) "the law of a carnal commandment," Hebrews 7:16, i.e., the "law" respecting the Aaronic priesthood, which appointed men conditioned by the circumstances and limitations of the flesh. In the Epistle to the Hebrews the "Law" is treated of especially in regard to the contrast between the Priesthood of Christ and that established under the "law" of Moses, and in regard to access to God and to worship. In these respects the "Law" "made nothing perfect," Hebrews 7:19. There was "a disannulling of a foregoing commandment ... and a bringing in of a better hope." This is established under the "new Covenant," a covenant instituted on the basis of "better promises," Hebrews 8:6.


(1) In Galatians 5:3, the statement that to receive circumcision constitutes a man a debtor to do "the whole Law," views the "Law" as made up of separate commands, each essential to the whole, and predicates the unity of the "Law;" in Galatians 5:14, the statement that "the whole law" is fulfilled in the one commandment concerning love, views the separate commandments as combined to make a complete "law."

(2) In Romans 8:3, "what the law could not do," is lit., "the inability (adunaton, the neuter of the adjective adunatos, 'unable,' used as a noun) of the Law;" this may mean either "the weakness of the Law" or "that which was impossible for the Law;" the latter is preferable; the significance is the same in effect; the "Law" could neither give freedom from condemnation nor impart life.

(3) For the difference between the teaching of Paul and that of James in regard to the "Law," See under JUSTIFICATION.

(4) For Acts 19:38, AV, "the law is open" (RV, "courts," etc.) See COURT, No. 1.

(5) For nomodidaskaloi, "doctors of the law," Luke 5:17, singular in Acts 5:34, "teachers of the law," 1 Timothy 1:7, See DOCTOR.

[ A-2,Noun,G3548, nomothesia ]
denotes "legislation, lawgiving" (No. 1, and tithemi, "to place, to put"), Romans 9:4, "(the) giving of the law." Cp. B, No. 1.

[ B-1,Verb,G3549, nomotheteo ]

(a) used intransitively, signifies "to make laws" (cp. A, No. 2, above); in the Passive Voice, "to be furnished with laws," Hebrews 7:11, "received the law," lit., "was furnished with (the) law;"
(b) used transitively, it signifies "to ordain by law, to enact;" in the Passive Voice, Hebrews 8:6. See ENACT.

[ B-2,Verb,G2919, krino ]
"to esteem, judge," etc., signifies "to go to law," and is so used in the Middle Voice in Matthew 5:40, RV, "go to law" (AV, "sue ... at the law"); 1 Corinthians 6:1, 1 Corinthians 6:6. See ESTEEM.

Note: In 1 Corinthians 6:7, the AV, "go to law," is a rendering of the phrase echo krimata, "to have lawsuits," as in the RV.

[ B-3,Verb,G3891, paranomeo ]
"to transgress law" (para, "contrary to," and nomos), is used in the present participle in Acts 23:3, and translated "contrary to the law," lit., "transgressing the law."

[ C-1,Adjective,G3544, nomikos ]
denotes "relating to law;" in Titus 3:9 it is translated "about the law," describing "fightings" (AV, "strivings"); See LAWYER.

[ C-2,Adjective,G1772, ennomos ]

(a) "lawful, legal," lit., "in law" (en, "in," and nomos), or, strictly, "what is within the range of law," is translated "lawful" in Acts 19:39, AV (RV, "regular"), of the legal tribunals in Ephesus;
(b) "under law" (RV), in relation to Christ, 1 Corinthians 9:21, where it is contrasted with anomos (See No. 3 below); the word as used by the Apostle suggests not merely the condition of being under "law," but the intimacy of a relation established in the loyalty of a will devoted to his Master. See LAWFUL.

[ C-3,Adjective,G459, anomos ]
signifies "without law" (a, negative) and has this meaning in 1 Corinthians 9:21 (four times). See LAWLESS, TRANSGRESSOR, UNLAWFUL, WICKED.

[ D-1,Adverb,G460, anomos ]
"without law" (the adverbial form of C, No. 3), is used in Romans 2:12 (twice), where "(have sinned) without law" means in the absence of some specifically revealed "law," like the "law" of Sinai; "(shall perish) without law" predicates that the absence of such a "law" will not prevent their doom; the "law" of conscience is not in view here. The succeeding phrase "under law" is lit., "in law," not the same as the adjective ennomos (C, No. 2), but two distinct words.

Vine's Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words