Faculty Profiles

John  Witte, Jr.

John Witte, Jr.

Robert W. Woodruff Professor of Law, McDonald Distinguished Professor, and CSLR Director

Areas of Expertise

Legal History, Human Rights, Religious Freedom, Marriage and Family Law, Law and Religion

Curriculum Vitae

Assistant: Amy Wheeler

John Witte, Jr., JD (Harvard); Dr. Theol. h.c. (Heidelberg), is Robert W. Woodruff Professor of Law, McDonald Distinguished Professor of Religion, and director of the Center for the Study of Law and Religion at Emory University. A specialist in Legal History, Human Rights, Religious Freedom, Marriage and Family Law, Law and Religion, he has published 260 articles, 17 journal symposia, and 32 books.

Recent book titles include: 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 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); No Establishment of Religion: America’s Original Contribution to Religious Liberty (Oxford University Press, 2012); The Western Case for Monogamy over Polygamy (Cambridge University Press, 2015); Religion and the American Constitutional Experiment (Oxford University Press, 4th ed., 2016); Christianity and Family Law: An Introduction (Cambridge University Press, 2017); Church, State, and Family: Reconciling Traditional Teachings and Modern Liberties (Cambridge University Press, 2019).

Professor Witte’s writings have appeared in fifteen languages, and he has delivered more than 350 public lectures throughout the world, including, recently, the Franke Lectures at Yale, the Pennington Lectures at Heidelberg and Yale, the Jefferson Lectures at Berkeley, and the Cunningham Lectures at Edinburgh.  He will serve as the Gifford Lecturer in Aberdeen in 2020.

With major funding from the Pew, Ford, Lilly, Luce, and McDonald foundations, he has directed fifteen major international projects on democracy, human rights, and religious liberty; on marriage, family, and children; and on law and Christianity.  He is Series Editor of both “Emory Studies in Law and Religion” (Eerdmans) and “Cambridge Studies in Law and Christianity” (Cambridge University Press), and he 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 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 four grandchildren.

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

Recent Books

Church, State, and Family: Reconciling Traditional Teachings and Modern Liberties (Cambridge University Press, 2019)

The Reformation of the Church and the World (Westminster John Knox Press, 2018) (with Amy S. Wheeler)

Christianity and Family Law: An Introduction (Cambridge University Press, 2017) (with Gary S. Hauk)

Religion and the American Constitutional Experiment, 4th ed. (Oxford University Press, 2016) (with Joel A. Nichols)

The Western Case for Monogamy Over Polygamy (Cambridge University Press 2015)

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

Religion and Human Rights: An Introduction (Oxford University Press, 2012) (with M. Christian Green)

From Sacrament to Contract: Marriage, Religion, and Law in the Western Tradition, 2d. ed. (Westminster John Knox Press, 2012)

Christianity and Human Rights: An Introduction (Cambridge University Press, 2010) (with Frank S. Alexander)

The Sins of the Fathers: The Law and Theology of Illegitimacy Reconsidered (Cambridge University Press, 2009)

The Reformation of Rights: Law, Religion, and Human Rights in Early Modern Calvinism (Cambridge University Press, 2007)

Recent Journal Articles

The Marital Covenant in John Calvin’s Geneva,” Political Theology 19 (2018): 282

“The Nature of Family in Seventeenth-Century Liberal Protestant Thought: Hugo Grotius and John Selden,” Illinois Law Review (2017): 1947

“Teología y política de la libertad religiosa en Norteamérica: cuatro modelos procedentes de la época fundacional,” Revista Persona y Derecho 77 (2017): 371

“The Marital Covenant in John Calvin’s Geneva,” Political Theology 19 (2018): 282

“Luther the Lawyer: The Lutheran Reformation of Law, Politics, and Society,” Law and Justice: A Christian Law Review 178 (2017): 6

“’Come Now Let Us Reason Together’: Restoring Religious Freedom in America and Abroad,” Notre Dame Law Review 92 (2016): 427 (with Joel A. Nichols)

Why Two in One Flesh: The Western Case for Monogamy Over Polygamy,” Emory Law Journal 64 (2015): 1675

"The Nature of Family, The Family of Nature: The Surprising Liberal Defense of the Traditional Family in the Enlightenment," Emory Law Journal 64 (2015): 591.

“A New Magna Carta for the Early Modern Common Law: An 800th Anniversary Essay,” Journal of Law and Religion 30 (2015): 428

"Christianity and Human Rights: Past Contributions and Future Challenges," Journal of Law and Religion 30 (2015): 353 (with Justin Latterell)

Recent Book Chapters

“Law and the Protestant Reformation,” in Heikki Pihlajamäki, Markus Dubber & Mark Godfrey, eds., The Oxford Handbook of European Legal History (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018), 583

“Law and Religion in American Education,” in Michael D. Waggoner and Nathan C. Walker, eds., The Oxford Handbook on Religion and Education (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018), 229 (with Brian Kaufman)

“The Little Commonwealth: The Family as Matrix of Markets and Morality in Early Protestantism,” in Ted A. Smith and Robert P. Jones, eds., Markets and Morality: Spirit and Capital in an Age of Inequality (New York, Routledge, 2018), 3 (with Justin Latterell)

“Law and Religion in American Education,” in Michael D. Waggoner and Nathan C. Walker, eds., The Oxford Handbook on Religion and Education (Oxford University Press, 2018), 229 (with Brian Kaufman)

“Law, Religion, and Metaphor,” in Günter Thomas and Heike Springhart, eds., Risiko und Vertrauen / Risk and Trust: Festschrift für Michael Welker zum 70. Geburtstag (Leipzig: Evangeliche Verlagsanhalt, 2017), 177

“The Integrative Christian Jurisprudence of John Selden,” in Mark Hill and R.H. Helmholz, eds., Great Christian Jurists in English History (Cambridge University Press, 2017), 187

“From Gospel to Law: The Lutheran Reformation and its Impact on Legal Culture,” in Thomas Albert Howard and Mark A. Noll, eds., Protestantism After 500 Years (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016), 52

“The Interdisciplinary Growth of Law and Religion,” in Frank Cranmer, et al, eds., The Confluence of Law and Religion: Interdisciplinary Reflections on the Work of Norman Doe (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2016), 247

Select Professional Appointments

  • Series Editor, Emory University Studies in Law and Religion, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. (1989- )
  • Coeditor, Journal of Law and Religion (2013- )
  • Series Editor, Cambridge Studies in Law and Christianity (2014- ).
  • Co-Director, McDonald Agape Foundation Project on Christian Jurisprudence in the 21st Century (2004- ).

List of Articles by Professor Witte »

List of Lectures by Professor Witte »