Faculty Profiles

John  Witte, Jr.

John Witte, Jr.

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

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., JD (Harvard); Dr. Theol. h.c. (Heidelberg), 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 over 250 articles, 16 journal symposia, and 30 books. 

Recent book titles include: Sex, Marriage and Family Life in John Calvin’s Geneva (Eerdmans, 2005); 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 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); and Christianity and Family Law: An Introduction (Cambridge University Press, 2017).

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, South Korea, Australia, and South Africa.  With major funding from the Pew, Ford, Lilly, Luce, and McDonald foundations, he has directed 14 major international projects on democracy, human rights, and religious liberty; on marriage, family, and children; and on law and Christianity.  He edits “Emory University Studies in Law and Religion” (Eerdmans) and “Cambridge Law and Christianity Series” (Cambridge University Press), 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 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

Books

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)

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)

God’s Joust, God’s Justice: Law and Religion in the Western Tradition (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2006) 

Journal Articles

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

“The Long History of Human Rights: Review of Samuel Moyn, Christian Human Rights,Books and Culture 22(2) (March/April, 2016): 22

Why Two in One Flesh: The Western Case for Monogamy Over Polygamy,” Emory Law Journal 62 (2015): 1675-1746

"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).

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

Law, Religion, and Reason in a Constitutional Democracy: A Response to Lenn Goodman,” Political Theology 16 (2015): 543 (with Justin Latterell)

"Christianity and Human Rights: Past Contributions and Future Challenges," Journal of Law and Religion 30 (2015): 353-385 (with Justin Latterell)

Book Chapters

“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

Hugo Grotius and the Natural Law of Marriage: A Case Study of Harmonizing Confessional Differences in Early Modern Europe,” in Troy L. Harris, ed., Studies in Canon Law and Common Law in Honor of R.H. Helmholz (Berkeley, CA: The Robbins Collection, 2015), 231

To Serve Right and to Fight Wrong: Why Religion, Human Rights, and Human Dignity Need Each Other,” in Marta Cartabia and Andrea Simoncini, eds., Pope Benedict XVI’s Legal Speeches in Comparative Perspective (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015), 106

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- ).

List of Articles by Professor Witte »

List of Lectures by Professor Witte  »