From Sacrament to Contract: Marriage, Religion, and Law in the Western Tradition


In this new installment of Liberty Law Talk, I discuss with renowned legal historian John Witte the recent reissuing of his classic work, From Sacrament to Contract: Marriage, Religion, and Law in the Western Tradition. I discuss with Professor Witte the evolution of marriage law since the late Roman Empire and the pivotal aspects of the religious, public, and legal duties that were attendant upon marriage in the Roman law and Canon law traditions. The conversation then turns to the increasing role for the state in regulating marriage that emerged with the Protestant Reformation and its own dismissal of marriage as being legitimated and governed only by the church. Witte also explores the various aspects of Enlightenment thought on marriage and contemporary autonomistic thinking about marriage  and considers the consequences these have had for political and social order in the modern West.

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 Center at Emory University. Recent book titles include: Sex, Marriage and Family Life in John Calvin’s Geneva, 2 vols. (2005, 2012); 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); Sins of the Fathers: The Law and Theology of Illegitimacy Reconsidered (2009); Christianity and Human Rights: An Introduction (2010); and Religion and the American Constitutional Experiment (3d ed. 2011). He has been selected ten 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.

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