John Witte, Jr.

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John Witte, Jr.
  • Role: Senior Fellow, Administration
  • Education: JD, Harvard University BA, Calvin College

Robert W. Woodruff Professor of Law, McDonald Distinguished Professor, Director of the Center for the Study of Law and Religion, Emory University

John Witte, Jr. is a world-renowned scholar of legal history.

September, 2014


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

Research Projects

Publications & Lectures





Lecture Tours

  • "The Covenant of Marriage: Biblical Roots, Historical Influences, Modern Uses"
    Fuller Seminary
    February 2010
  • Freedom of a Christian
    "Market Capitalism: Can Godly Values Make a Difference?"
    J. Dennis Hastert Center for Economics, Government, and Public Policy at Wheaton College
    Wheaton, IL
    September 2009
  • Keynote Lecture
    "Transformation of Reformation Theology"
    August 2009
  • Stead Lecture
    "Separation of Church & State in American History and Today: Facts, Fictions, and Future Challenges"
    Northwestern University, Garrett Evangelical Theological Seminary
    Evanston, IL
    April 2009
  • Private Lecture
    "Separation of Church and State in American History and Today"
    Philip Pro Lectureship in Legal History
    University of Las Vegas
    Las Vegas, NV
    March 2009
  • Lecture
    "Conference on Concepts of Law"
    University of Heidelberg
    Heidelberg, Germany
    March 2009
  • Private Lecture
    "Separation of Church and State - Calvin Style: A 500th Anniversary Celebration"
    Calvin's 500th Birthday Celebration
    Calvin College
    Grand Rapids, MI
    January 2009

News Articles

Why this Author Matters

John Witte, Jr. is one of the world's foremost scholars on legal history.