Legal rights are everywhere taking the place of unwritten customs. Land, which was before merely a source of livelihood to the cultivator and of revenue to the state, has now become the subject of commercial speculation.
Elaborate legal enactments codified in Babylonia by the 10th century B.C. find striking parallels in Hebrew, late Jewish (Talmudic), Syrian and Mahommedan law, or in the unwritten usages of all ages; for even where there were neither written laws nor duly instituted lawgivers, there was no lawlessness, since custom and belief were, and still are, almost inflexible.
But the sanctions of this law were vaguely and, for the most part, feebly imagined; its principles were essentially unwritten, and thus referred not to the external will of an Almighty Being who claimed unquestioning submission, but rather to the reason that gods and men shared, by the exercise of which alone they could be adequately known and defined.
Of course, we might seek to infer an unwritten tradition of Christ's words; but without pedantic ultra-Protestant devotion to written scripture, one may distrust on scientific grounds the attempt to reconstruct tradition by a process of inference.
There is a further distinction between the written law, jus scriptum, laws made by the councils or popes, which are to be found in the collections, and the unwritten law, jus non scriptum, a body of practical rules arising rather from natural equity and from custom than from formal laws; with this is connected the customary law.