You wouldn't expect it from his dour reputation, but John Calvin transformed the Western concept of sex, marriage, and family life. This fascinating, occasionally sensational volume comprehensively treats the new theology and law that he established in sixteenth-century Geneva. Calvin made marriage and divorce, children's welfare, and sexual sin matters of both church and state, and the reforms that he initiated--new right and duties for wives in the bedroom, fault-based divorce on grounds of adultery and desertion, protection for impoverished widows, and more--have made their way into civil and common law traditions on both sides of the Atlantic. Bringing to light hundreds of newly discovered cases and laws, as well as scores of theological texts, Witte and Kingdom trace the subtle historical patterns of sex, marriage, and family life that have continued to shape new generations.
You would not expect this from his dour reputation, but John Calvin transformed the Western understanding of sex, marriage, and family life. In this fascinating, even sensational, volume John Witte and Robert Kingdon treat comprehensively the new theology and law of domestic life that Calvin and his fellow reformers established in sixteenth-century Geneva. Bringing to light and life hundreds of newly discovered cases and theological texts, Witte and Kingdon trace the subtle historical forms and norms of sex, marriage, and family life that still shape us today.
"There is so much good to be said about this book: the teamwork that such a project entailed, the thoroughness and clarity of the text, the indices contained in each volume rather than being reserved for the end. Scholars will appreciate the transcriptions of primary source documents in this book, many from original manuscript sources, painstaking to read from the handwritten original."
Catholic Historical Review
"The documents from Calvin's Geneva that are reproduced here are very well chosen, eloquently translated, and deftly analyzed . . . should be of great interest to anyone interested in the history of marriage and the reformation."
Journal of Ecclesiastical History
"A fascinating and extremely useful volume. Its thirteen chapters are a mix of comprehensive, yet succinct, introduction and commentary combined with excellent primary documents."
R. H. Helmholz
University of Chicago Law School
"A splendid accomplishment. John Witte and Robert Kingdon move gracefully from theological tracts and legal treatises to court records and correspondence, stopping to take note of revealing incidents from John Calvin's own life. The result sheds new light on the history of married life."
Harvard University, author of A Mighty Fortress
"Give a new generation a monograph on Calvinist views of sex, marriage, and family and you may catch their minds for a day. But give them a multivolume edition of the same subjects in superb translations and you start up new schools of scholarship. With this first volume on courtship, engagement, and marriage John Witte and Robert Kingdon are teaching a new generation how to fish in Geneva."
Princeton Theological Seminary
"Witte and Kingdon provide a wonderful range of diverse primary source documents that will make fascinating reading for students and scholars alike."
"Highly recommended. The primary sources in this volume show the importance of matters of the heart to Geneva's theologians and civil authorities during the 16th century."
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