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What's Divine about Divine Law?Early Perspectives$
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Christine Hayes

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780691165196

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: October 2017

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691165196.001.0001

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Greco-Roman Discourses of Law

Greco-Roman Discourses of Law

(p.54) Chapter 2 Greco-Roman Discourses of Law
What's Divine about Divine Law?

Christine Hayes

Princeton University Press

This chapter lays out ten different discourses and practices of law in ancient Greek and Roman sources (referred to as G-R 1, 2, etc. throughout the book). A critical feature of all of these discourses and practices is their presumption of a dichotomy between the unwritten natural or divine law on the one hand and positive human law on the other. Thus, all Greco-Roman constructions of divine law begin with a common premise: divine law and human law possess different and usually diametrically opposed traits. The divine or natural law—in addition to being unwritten—is generally portrayed as rational and universal, corresponding to truth, conducive to virtue, and static or unchanging. By contrast, human positive law takes the form of concrete rules and prohibitions that can be set in writing. It does not of necessity possess any of the characteristics that are inherent in the very concept of divine law: it will contain arbitrary elements that do not correspond with truth, and it must be enforced coercively; it is particular and subject to variation, and its ability to produce virtue is a matter of considerable debate.

Keywords:   divine law, natural law, Greeks, Roman, human law

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