The Metaphorical Bridge between Law and Religion

33 Pages Posted: 28 Jul 2020

See all articles by John Witte

John Witte

Emory University School of Law

Date Written: 2020


This Article explores the role of metaphors in shaping our thought and language in general, and in the fields of law and religion in particular. Drawing on modern cognitive theorists like George Lakoff and Mark Johnson, the Article distinguishes and illustrates the roles of “orientation,” “structural,” and “ontological” metaphors in everyday life and language. Drawing on jurists like Robert Cover and Steven Winter, it shows how metaphors work both in describing the law in terms like “the body,” and in prescribing the foundational beliefs and values on which the legal system depends. Finally, the Article explores the ample use of the number three in the law and speculates tentatively whether this legal appetite for “triads” might provide traction for the development of a Trinitarian jurisprudence. This Article is dedicated to Robert Cochran, one of the pioneers of law and religion and Christian legal thought in the United States, whose own writings make ample use of metaphors.

Keywords: Law, Religion, Law and Religion, Robert F. Cochran, Metaphors, legal theory, Robert Cover, Steven Winter, ontological metaphors, triads, Trinity, orientation metaphors, Thomas Shaffer, George Lakoff

Suggested Citation

Witte, John, The Metaphorical Bridge between Law and Religion (2020). Pepperdine Law Review, Vol. 47, No. 2, 2020, Available at SSRN:

John Witte (Contact Author)

Emory University School of Law ( email )

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