Faculty Profiles

John  Witte Jr.

John Witte Jr.

Jonas Robitscher Professor of Law, Alonzo L. McDonald Distinguished Professor, and Director of the Center for the Study of Law and Religion

Areas of Expertise

American Legal History, Human Rights, Law and Religion, Legal History, Marriage and Family Law, Religious Liberty

Curriculum Vitae

Assistant: Amy Wheeler

John Witte, Jr. is Jonas Robitscher Professor of Law, Alonzo L. McDonald Distinguished Professor, and Director of the Center for the Study of Law and Religion at Emory University. A specialist in legal history, marriage law, and religious liberty, he has published 220 articles, 15 journal symposia, and 27 books.

Recent book titles include: Sex, Marriage and Family Life in John Calvin’s Geneva, 2 vols. (2005, 2014); Modern Christian Teachings on Law, Politics, and Human Nature, 3 vols. (2006); God’s Joust, God’s Justice: Law and Religion in the Western Tradition (2006); The Reformation of Rights: Law, Religion, and Human Rights in Early Modern Calvinism (2007); Christianity and Law: An Introduction (2008); The Sins of the Fathers: The Law and Theology of Illegitimacy Reconsidered (2009); Christianity and Human Rights: An Introduction (2010); Religion and the American Constitutional Experiment (3d ed. 2011); No Establishment of Religion: America’s Original Contribution to Religious Liberty (2012); Religion and Human Rights: An Introduction (2012); From Sacrament to Contract: Marriage, Religion, and Law in the Western Tradition (2d ed., 2012). 

Professor Witte’s writings have appeared in fifteen languages, and he has delivered more than 350 major public lectures throughout North America, Europe, Japan, Israel, Hong Kong, Australia, and South Africa. With major funding from the Pew, Ford, Lilly, Luce, and McDonald foundations, he has directed 12 major international research projects on democracy, human rights, and religious liberty and on marriage, family, and children. He edits two major book series, “Studies in Law and Religion,” and “Religion, Marriage and Family” and coedits The Journal of Law and Religion. He has been selected twelve times by the Emory law students as the Most Outstanding Professor and has won scores of other awards and prizes for his teaching and research.  

Professor Witte is married to Eliza Ellison, a theologian and mediator. They have two daughters and three grandchildren.

Education: JD, Harvard University, 1985; BA, Calvin College, 1982

Books

Law and Language: Effective Symbols of Community (Harold J. Berman, ed., Cambridge University Press, 2013) 

No Establishment of Religion: America’s Original Contribution to Religious Liberty (Oxford University Press, 2012) (editor, with T. Jeremy Gunn)

The Sins of the Fathers: The Law and Theology of Illegitimacy Reconsidered (Cambridge University Press, 2009) (Chinese translation by Ruihua Zhong, 2011; German translation forthcoming).

The Reformation of Rights: Law, Religion, and Human Rights in Early Modern Calvinism (Cambridge/New York: Cambridge University Press, 2007) (Chinese translation by Yuan Yucheng and Miao Qilong, 2011) (Korean, Japanese, German, Italian, and Polish translations forthcoming).

God’s Joust, God’s Justice: Law and Religion in the Western Tradition (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2006) (Chinese translation by Yuan Yucheng and Miao Qilong, 2014).

Journal Articles

"Faith-Based Family Laws in Western Democracies?," Fides et LIbertas: The Journal of the INternational Religious LIberty Association 119 (2010).

"More than a Mere Contract: Marriage as Contract and Covenant in Law and Theology," 5 University of St. Thomas Law Journal595 (2008).

"Facts and Fictions about the History of Separation of Church and State," 48 Journal of Church and State 15 (2006).

Book Chapters

"Rights in the Western Tradition," in 4 The Encyclopedia of Christianity (Grand Rapids/Leiden: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company/E. J. Brill, 2005).

Select Professional Appointments

  • Coeditor, Journal of Law and Religion (2013- ).
  • Editor, Emory University Studies in Law and Religion, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. (1989- ).
  • Editor, Religion, Marriage and Family Series, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. (2002- ).
  • Director, McDonald Foundation Project on The Foundations of Religious Liberty and Rule of Law (2007- ).
  • Co-Director, McDonald Foundation Project on Christian Jurisprudence in the 21st Century (2004- ).
  • Director, Lilly Endowment Project on Law, Religion, and the Protestant Tradition (1999- ).