John Witte Jr.
Robert W. Woodruff Professor of Law; McDonald Distinguished Professor; and Director, 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
Assistant: Amy Wheeler
John Witte, Jr., JD (Harvard), is Robert W. Woodruff Professor of Law, 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. (Eerdmans, 2005, 2014); Modern Christian Teachings on Law, Politics, and Human Nature, 3 vols. (Columbia University Press, 2006); God’s Joust, God’s Justice: Law and Religion in the Western Tradition (Eerdmans, 2006); The Reformation of Rights: Law, Religion, and Human Rights in Early Modern Calvinism (Cambridge University Press, 2007); Christianity and Law: An Introduction (Cambridge University Press, 2008); The Sins of the Fathers: The Law and Theology of Illegitimacy Reconsidered (Cambridge University Press, 2009); Christianity and Human Rights: An Introduction (Cambridge University Press, 2010); Religion and the American Constitutional Experiment (Westview, 3d ed. 2011); Religion and Human Rights: An Introduction (Oxford University Press, 2012); From Sacrament to Contract: Marriage, Religion, and Law in the Western Tradition (Westminster John Knox Press, 2d ed., 2012); and No Establishment of Religion: America’s Original Contribution to Religious Liberty (Oxford University Press, 2012). Forthcoming titles include: The Western Case for Monogamy over Polygamy (Cambridge University Press, 2015).
Professor Witte’s writings have appeared in 15 languages, and he has delivered more than 350 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 projects on democracy, human rights, and religious liberty, and on marriage, family, and children. These projects have collectively yielded more than 160 new volumes and 250 public forums around the world. He edits two major book series “Studies in Law and Religion” (Eerdmans) and “Law and Christianity” (Cambridge University Press). He has been selected twelve times by the Emory law students as the Most Outstanding Professor and has won dozens 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
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).
"The Nature of Family, The Family of Nature: The Surprising Liberal Defense of the Traditional Family in the Enlightenment," 64 Emory Law Journal 591 (2015).
"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).
"Law and Religion in the Western Legal Tradition," in Routledge Handbook of Law and Religion (Silvio Ferrari ed., 2015).
"The Law Written on the Heart:" Natural Law and Equity in Early Lutheran Thought, in The Legal Teachings of the Protestant and Catholic Reformations (Wim Decock, Jordan J. Ballor, Michael Germann & Laurent Waelkens eds., 2014).
"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- ).