From Sacrament to Contract: Marriage, Religion and Law in the Western Tradition
From Sacrament to Contract: Marriage, Religion and Law in the Western Tradition, 2d ed. (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2012) (Chinese translation by Ruihua Zhong, 2015)
In From Sacrament to Contract, John Witte Jr. offers a study of five conflicting models of marriage--Catholic, Lutheran, Calvinist, Anglican, and Enlightenment--and their social and political impact over the last thousand years. In so doing, Witte shows how we arrived at the notion of marriage as contract.
This newly revised and enlarged edition of John Witte's authoritative 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. In addition, 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. It also includes three new chapters on classical, biblical, and patristic sources.
Table of Contents
1. Classical Foundations of Western Marriage
For the Library of Law and Liberty:
The Enduring Institution: The Law of Marriage in the West
-- Helen M. Alvaré - Associate Professor of Law, George Mason University School of Law
"From Sacrament to Contract is a penetrating study of five conflicting models of marriage – Catholic, Lutheran, Calvinist, Anglican, and Enlightenment – and the impact on domestic legislation and organization over the last millennium. Rarely has the interaction of religious belief, law, and marriage been so incisively illuminated. This book is a touchstone for a new intellectual history of religion."
-- Steven Ozment, McLean Professor of Ancient and Modern History, Harvard University
"A tour de force, Witte’s book will be discussed for years to come. He masterfully surveys the many complex traditions of marriage in the West – as sacrament, as social estate, as covenant, as commonwealth – helping us to understand how we arrived at an ever more narrow notion of marriage as contract…Witte has placed us in a complex conversation with our collective and nearly lost heritage and for that we are all in his debt."
-- Jean Bethke Elshtain, Laura Spelman Rockefeller Professor of Social and Political ethics, The University of Chicago
"A fascinating tour through the legal, philosophical, and religious ideas that have shaped and reshaped Western thinking about the relations between men and women."
-- Mary Ann Glendon, Learned Hand Professor of Law, Harvard University
For the First Edition:
"To my admiring amateur eye this volume represents two exceptional accomplishments. The first and greatest is its masterful elaboration of the original role of the Reformation in sculpting the marriage law that so recently has been disassembled by our courts and legislatures. I know of nothing approaching the level of analytical clarity achieved here in tracing the transition from the traditional Catholic model to the three principal Protestant forms that in their turn were to be delivered to the mercies of the Enlightenment …The other great service is its clarification of the interface between these sources and contemporary marriage law …"
-- John E. Coons, American Journal of Jurisprudence, Volume 43, (1998) pp 233-237
"Professor Witte’s wonderful book responds to what he argues is a crisis – the disintegration and marginalization of the West‘s store of wisdom about marriage and family, indeed the virtual cessation, except at the margins, of a genuine dialogue about marriage’s and family’s goods and goals and the means of their realization… Professor Witte lays out in splendid detail the range of values that were forward in the institution of marriage until Anglo-American law reduced marriage to a virtually bare instance of contract, no longer in service of community and a shared sense of human goods. Witte’s work is a summons to lawyers and theologians alike to begin again the painstaking work of devising doctrines and institutions that order human lives toward genuine human goods."
-- Patrick McKinley Brennan, Emory Law Journal, volume 48, (1999) pp 691-692
"This is a superb history of Christianity and the family from the first century to the twentieth century…He has mastered an enormous amount of literature, and the bibliography is testimony to his range of research. To write such an interdisciplinary work and to do so with grace and clarity is an extraordinary achievement."
-- John M. Mulder, Family Ministry Journal, Vol. 12 No. 3 (Fall 1998) pp 68
"This is the rarest of books these days, one that delivers what the cover blurb promises. It is an informed, penetrating, and critical study of five Western models of marriage –Catholic, Lutheran, Calvinist, Anglican, and Enlightenment –and of the impact they have had on domestic law and organization in the past millennium. It is filled with eminently readable scholarship. Anyone wishing in years to come to speak intelligently of marriage in the West will have to consult Witte’s book… This brilliant book… This is, however, not a book to be read only by historians and antiquarians. It illuminates our collective heritage of religion, law, and marital structure. It should be obligatory reading for students, theorists, and politicians who would improve the present situation of marriage and family, and for those who would make their marriages productive in both society and church."
-- Michael G. Lawler, Theological Studies, Vol. 60.1 (March 1999) pp 180-181
"In From Sacrament to Contract Witte provides what is unquestionably the finest history of western marriage in the Christian epoch. He focuses on the theological and ethical models of marriage in the Catholic, Lutheran, Calvinist, Anglican, and Enlightenment contexts. Informed by a wealth of primary sources –many of which Witte has highlighted for the first time –the author shows how these models have directly affected domestic law and organization. There is simply no other treatise that conveys the history and cultural impact of Christian social thought in such a thorough and penetrating fashion."
-- Stephen Post, The Journal of Law & Religion, Vol. 16.2 (2001) pp 506
"His book should long be the standard reference for anyone interested in knowing how Europeans have sought to connect the personal and the public in the family life…Witte’s magisterial work of historical scholarship will be required reading for anyone who wants to understand the legal and theological “genetic code that has defined the contemporary family for what it is –and what it can be,” as Witte says at the end of his introduction."
-- Donald W. Shriver, Christian Century, (December 1998) pp 1191-1192
"John Witte’s book is a highly commendable and recommendable work, but not for the faint-hearted among us."
-- Cheryll Puckel, Intams Review, 4 (1998) pp 218-219
"It is impossible, in a brief review, to do justice to the subtlety and depth of Witte’s book. In arguing for the dominance of these models in certain places and within certain traditions, Witte never tries to claim too much. Constructing models is a dangerous business, and leaves the author vulnerable to accusations of oversimplifying and ignoring inconvenient evidence. Witte is guilty of neither of these. For those who like their histories of marriage populated with actual wives and husbands, this will not be a satisfying book. Although Witte does include an occasional case study, his book is really about ideas. Those who believe that ideas do matter will find the book stimulating and helpful. With so many specialist studies of marriage in particular places and times now available, it is especially valuable to have such a book to guide us towards a coherent vision of this aspect of our past."
-- Eric Josef Carlson, Journal of Ecclesiastical History, pp 784-786
"From Sacrament to Contract…will remain standard for some years to come… one of those rare works that combines ease of comprehension with extraordinary scholarly breadth. It is clearly the result of years of meticulous and original scholarship combined with careful and clear writing. It is a book that should be found in the libraries of all practicing clergy. It will help them in innumerable ways to convey the nature of the institution they are so frequently called upon to witness and bless and it will help them grasp the deep reasons for what is not so frequently called a crisis in the institution of marriage…Witte has written a superb book—one that makes an invaluable contribution to our understanding of the most basic of all social institutions."
-- Philip Turner, Anglican Theological Review, (Winter 2000) pp 201-203
"It is a scholarly exercise in the history of ideas, demonstrating the interdependence of Western theological and legal traditions and how they have understood the institution of marriage. Witte’s source material includes hundreds of documents and court records; endnotes and references account for nearly a third of the book’s pages. He has done family scholars the enormous favor of organizing these archival sources into a highly readable and coherent narrative."
-- Cameron Lee, Christian Reflections, (2006) pp 88-93
"This is a book of thorough scholarship, truly written…in a style which never interferes with understanding, even by the lay reader in either of his areas of learning…Into the white hot emotions of the current political issues about marriage and family comes Witte’s careful, reasoned historical review…undertakes to identify how legal formulations and prevailing theological ideas have interfaced and affected one another."
-- Jean Dalby Clift, American Journal of Pastoral Counseling, Vol. 2 No. 1 (1999) pp 88-89
"An intelligent and comprehensive analysis of how four influential Christian traditions have shaped in the West the concept of and the laws that have governed marriage."
-- Hilmar M. Pabel, Studia Canonica, Vol. 32 (1998) pp 566-568
"I would recommend this book solely on the basis of Witte’s treatment of Henry VIII’s marital troubles. It is simply the clearest, most engaging explanation of the subject I have ever read."
-- Corrie E. Norman, Sewanee Theological Review, (1999) pp 377-378