Christianity and Law: An Introduction
“Introduction,” to John Witte, Jr. And Frank S. Alexander, Eds., Christianity and Law: An Introduction (Cambridge/New York: Cambridge University Press, 2008), 1-32
46 Pages Posted: 24 Dec 2015
Date Written: January 1, 2008
This chapter offers a moving picture of the Western legal tradition -- rooted in the ancient civilizations of Israel, Greece, and Rome, and nourished for nearly two millennia by Christianity and for more than two centuries by the Enlightenment. This Western legal tradition has developed enduring postulates about justice and mercy, rule and equity, nature and custom, canon and commandment. It has featured evolving ideas about authority and power, rights and liberties, individuals and associations, public and private. It has developed distinctive methods of legislation and adjudication, of negotiation and litigation, of legal rhetoric and textual interpretation, of legal science and legal philosophy. The precise shape and balance of the Western legal tradition at any period has been determined, in part, by the Western religious tradition. And when the prevailing ideas, officials, symbols, and methods of the Western religious tradition have changed, the shape and balance of the Western legal tradition have changed as well. Four major shifts in the Western religious tradition have triggered the most massive transformations of the Western legal tradition: (1) the Christian conversion of the Roman Empire in the fourth through sixth centuries; (2) the Papal Revolution of the late eleventh to thirteenth centuries; (3) the Protestant Reformation of the sixteenth century; and (4) the Enlightenment movements of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
Keywords: Law and Religion; Law and Christianity; Interdisciplinary Legal Study; Church-State Relations; Roman Law; Christianization of Rome; Caesaropapism; Papal Revolution; Medieval Canon Law; Equity; Common Law; Two Cities Theory; Two Swords Theory; Two Kingdoms Theory; Lutheranism; Calvinism; Anglicanism
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation