From Sacrament to Contract, Second Edition New

Print Page

  • Format: Book
  • Published: 2012, Westminster John Knox Press
  • ISBN: 0664234321
  • 408 pages
  • Publication Website
Order book

This newly revised and enlarged edition of John Witte’s magisterial historical study explores the interplay of law, theology, and marriage in the Western tradition. Witte uncovers the core beliefs that formed the theological genetic code of Western marriage and family law.  He explores the systematic models of marriage developed by Catholics, Lutherans, Calvinists, Anglicans, and Enlightenment thinkers and the transformative influence of each model on Western marriage law.  And he traces the millennium-long reduction of marriage from a complex spiritual, social, contractual, and natural institution into a simple private contract with freedom of entrance, exercise, and exit for husband and wife alike.  This second edition updates and expands each chapter and the bibliography and includes three new chapters on classical, biblical, and patristic sources.


"The Enduring Institution: The Law of Marriage in the West," by Helen Alvare, Library of Law and Liberty

Why this author matters

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

About the Author: John Witte, Jr.

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 200 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);  Religion and Human Rights: An Introduction (2012); From Sacrament to Contract: Marriage, Religion, and Law in the Western Tradition (2d ed. 2012); and No Establishment of Religion: America’s Original Contribution to Religious Liberty (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.

Selected Publications by This Author

More By This Author

Christianity and Democracy in Global Context

In the past, Christianity has had both positive and negative influences on democracy. Christian churches have served as benevolent agents of welfare and... more

Christianity and Human Rights: An Introduction

Watch video about the book In this volume, 20 leading Christian scholars explore the contributions of Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox Christianity to the... more

Christianity and Law: An Introduction

What impact has Christianity had on the law from its beginnings to the present day? This introduction explores the main legal teachings of Western... more