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3.8 KiB

lawful, unlawful, not lawful, lawless, lawlessness


The term “lawful” refers to something that is permitted to be done according to a law or other requirement. The opposite of this is “unlawful,” which simply means “not lawful.”

  • In the Bible, something was “lawful” if it was permitted by God’s moral law, or by the Law of Moses and other Jewish laws. Something that was “unlawful” was “not permitted” by those laws.
  • To do something “lawfully” means to do it “properly” or “in the right way.”
  • Many of the things that the Jewish laws considered lawful or not lawful were not in agreement with God’s laws about loving others.
  • Depending on the context, ways to translate “lawful” could include “permitted” or “according to God’s law” or “following our laws” or “proper” or “fitting.”
  • The phrase “Is it lawful?” could also be translated as “Do our laws allow?” or “Is that something our laws permit?”

The terms “unlawful” and “not lawful” are used to describe actions that break a law.

  • In the New Testament, the term “unlawful” is not only used to refer to breaking God’s laws, but also often refers to breaking Jewish man-made laws.
  • Over the years, the Jews added to the laws that God gave to them. The Jewish leaders would call something “unlawful” if it did not conform to their man-made laws.
  • When Jesus and his disciples were picking grain on a Sabbath day, the Pharisees accused them of doing something “unlawful” because it was breaking the Jewish laws about not working on that day.
  • When Peter stated that eating unclean foods was “unlawful” for him, he meant that if he ate those foods he would be breaking the laws God had given the Israelites about not eating certain foods.

The term “lawless” describes a person who does not obey laws or rules. When a country or group of people are in a state of “lawlessness,” there is widespread disobedience, rebellion, or immorality.

  • A lawless person is rebellious and does not obey God’s laws.
  • The apostle Paul wrote that in the last days there will be a “man of lawlessness,” or a “lawless one,” who will be influenced by Satan to do evil things.

Translation Suggestions:

  • This term “unlawful” should be translated using a word or expression that means “not lawful” or “lawbreaking.”

  • Other ways to translate “unlawful” could be “not permitted” or “not according to God’s law” or “not conforming to our laws.”

  • The expression “against the law” has the same meaning as “unlawful.”

  • The term “lawless” could also be translated as “rebellious” or “disobedient” or “law-defying”.

  • The term “lawlessness” could be translated as “not obeying any laws” or “rebellion (against God’s laws).”

  • The phrase “man of lawlessness” could be translated as “man who does not obey any laws” or “man who rebels against God’s laws.”

  • It is important to keep the concept of “law” in this term, if possible.

  • Note that the term “unlawful” has a different meaning from this term.

(See also: law, law, Moses, Sabbath)

Bible References:

  • Matthew 7:21-23
  • Matthew 12:2
  • Matthew 12:4
  • Matthew 12:10
  • Mark 3:4
  • Luke 6:2
  • Acts 2:23
  • Acts 10:28
  • Acts 22:25
  • 2 Thessalonians 2:3
  • Titus 2:14
  • 1 John 3:4-6

Word Data:

  • Strong’s: H6530, G01110, G01130, G02660, G04580, G04590, G18320, G35450