Between Sacrament and Contract: Marriage as a Covenant in John Calvin's Geneva

Calvin Theological Journal, Vol. 32, pp. 9-75, 1998

Emory Legal Studies Research Paper

67 Pages Posted: 11 Feb 2011

See all articles by John Witte

John Witte

Emory University School of Law

Date Written: 1998

Abstract

This article focuses only on John Calvin’s reformation of marriage in sixteenth-century Geneva. Calvin’s early efforts in the 1530s and 1540s were focused on the law of marital formation, maintenance, and dissolution. Particularly his 1545 Marriage Ordinance was famous for requiring parental consent, church consecration, and publicly attested marital contracts for valid marital formation, and for allowing both husbands and wives to divorce on grounds of adultery and desertion. When Calvin’s legal views were challenged, he both defended and refined them with a new theology of marriage as a covenant, modeled on the covenant between God and his elect. This theology emphasized both the spiritual and contractual qualities of marriage, its dependence on the moral law of God, and the participation of God through parents, peers, pastors, and political officials who each hold divine authority.

Keywords: John, Calvin, Marriage, Geneva, Divorce, Theology, Religion, Sacrament, Contract, Covenant

Suggested Citation

Witte, John, Between Sacrament and Contract: Marriage as a Covenant in John Calvin's Geneva (1998). Calvin Theological Journal, Vol. 32, pp. 9-75, 1998; Emory Legal Studies Research Paper . Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1669614

John Witte (Contact Author)

Emory University School of Law ( email )

1301 Clifton Road
Atlanta, GA 30322
United States
404-727-6980 (Phone)
404-712-8605 (Fax)

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