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Reviewed by:
  • Law and the Christian Tradition in Italy: The Legacy of the Great Jurists ed. by Orazio Condorelli and Rafael Domingo, and: Great Christian Jurists in German History ed. by Mathias Schmoeckel and John Witte Jr.
  • Stephan Dusil
Condorelli, Orazio, and Rafael Domingo, edd. Law and the Christian Tradition in Italy: The Legacy of the Great Jurists. London: Routledge 2021. Pp. xiii, 468. $178.00. ISBN: 978-0-36750-871-5.
Schmoeckel, Mathias, and John Witte Jr., edd. Great Christian Jurists in German History, Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck 2020. Pp. xiv, 410. €74.00. ISBN: 978-3-16-158346-9.

To report critically on both anthologies on 'Great Christian Jurists' poses a challenge to the reviewer, as he may choose different perspectives to present these volumes. First, one could present the biographical sketches including remarks on most important works, or second, one could assess the overall structure of these two volumes including its general approach. The second perspective is taken here.

The starting point of both volumes—and possibly of the whole series—is a deep lament of the editors: The question of religion is—according to Schmoeckel and Witte—'often deliberately ignored' (ix), 'the existence of a specified Christian tradition in Germany' even denied (ix). The editors seek to avoid such a 'misrepresentation of history' in which religion does not play any role, although it played an important role in history. They intend to demonstrate in their volume on 'Great Christian Jurists' the other story, namely the Christian one. A similar approach characterizes the volume on the 'Great Italian Jurists'. Condorelli and Domingo 'share the conviction that the Western world cannot but be said to be Christian' (1); that's why they unearth the (hidden or not so hidden) Christian influences on law in Italian history by presenting a 'gallery of greats jurists' (1). In this respect, both volumes share the same approach and fit quite well into the 'Great Christian Jurist' series edited by John Witte, Jr., Director of the Center for the Study of Law and Religion at the Emory University.

One may or may not share their viewpoint that the importance of Christianity in the past is today denied—this reviewer remains [End Page 225] more relaxed than the four editors, as he does not share the conviction that the remembrances of Christianity and its importance in the past is already lost or will be lost. This is, however, a question of convictions and not of methodology. The main methodological question is whether their approach to demonstrate the pivotal role of Christianity was well-chosen. In order to demonstrate the legacy of Christianity in European legal culture, the reviewer would not have presented biographies but chosen a different, more dogmatic approach to point to the (undoubtedly huge) footprints of Christian ideas in current legal systems in Europe. Legal principles such as pacta sunt servanda in contract law, the concept of a will-based marriage in family law, possession d'état, company law, theory of law, etc., are all—some more, some less—based on ideas of the Christian past.1 Why not elaborate on this question? Why not shed light on the hidden (or not so hidden) Christian influences on our current legal system? Quoi qu'il en soit, the approach of the editors was different. The editors opted for 26 biographical sketches each. The sketches reach from jurists in the High Middle Ages to those of the twentieth century; authors of the first millennium—even if 'German' or 'Italian'—are covered elsewhere.2

The German volume starts with a medieval jurist of the Ius commune, namely Johannes Teutonicus (Kenneth Pennington), the early thirteenth-century compiler of the Glossa Ordinaria to the Decretum of Gratian. It also deals with Germanic law-experts such as Eike von Repgow (Tilman Repgen) and Johann von Buch (Mathias Schmoeckel). The former authored the Saxon Mirror, the latter a commentary on the Saxon Mirror in which he combined the learned tradition of the Ius commune and the Germanic law. It is surprising to find a contribution on Albertus Magnus (Sven Lichtmann and Hannes Möhle), the important German theologian, included in this anthology. No doubt, his theology and philosophy [End...