H. Charles Grawemeyer, Louisville industrialist and philanthropist, distinguished the Grawemeyer awards from others by honoring ideas rather than life-long or publicized personal achievement. The purpose of the religion award is to honor and publicize insights into the relationship between human beings and the divine and the ways this relationship may empower human beings to attain wholeness, integrity, or meaning.
Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary and the University of Louisville invite you to meet renowned New Testament scholar Luke Timothy Johnson, winner of the 2011 Grawemeyer Award in Religion. Dr. Johnson is receiving the $100,000 prize for his analysis of early Christianity in its religious, social, and historical contexts, laid out in his 2009 book, Among the Gentiles: Greco-Roman Religion and Christianity (Yale University Press).
Johnson will present a public lecture, entitled “Christianity and the Ways of Being Religious,” April 12, 2011, at 7 p.m. in Louisville Seminary's Frank H. and Fannie W. Caldwell Chapel (1044 Alta Vista Road). The event is offered to the public, free of charge, and a reception and booksigning will follow.
In his book, Johnson says the ancient Christians had more in common with their Jewish and pagan neighbors than most people realize. Christians, Jews, and pagans of ancient Rome and Greece shared certain ways of being religious, regardless of their differences in doctrine.
Johnson’s approach is “powerfully illuminating, not only for historical study but also for interfaith relations today,” said Susan R. Garrett, Professor of New Testament Studies at Louisville Seminary and Director of the Grawemeyer Award in Religion.
“He shows that if we want to see how early Christians differed from other religious people of their day, we first have to see how they were similar,” she added. “This process offers wonderful insight into examining the diverse religions of our contemporary world, helping us to see common ground where we thought there were only radical differences.”
Luke Timothy Johnson is the Robert W. Woodruff Professor of New Testament and Christian Origins at the Candler School of Theology at Emory University and senior fellow at Emory’s Center for the Study of Law and Religion.
His research focuses on the literary, moral, and religious dimensions of the New Testament, including the Jewish and Greco-Roman contexts of early Christianity, Luke-Acts, the Pastoral Letters, and the Letter of James.
A prolific author, he has written 27 books and more than 300 articles, lectures, and reviews. He belongs to several editorial and advisory boards, lectures at universities and seminaries worldwide, and has received many fellowships and awards, especially for his teaching. His courses on early Christianity and the New Testament are offered on DVD through The Teaching Company.
Johnson sparked widespread discussion in 1996 with his book, The Real Jesus: The Misguided Quest for the Historical Jesus and the Truth of the Traditional Gospels. He is a noted critic of the Jesus Seminar, having challenged their examination of Jesus as a purely historical figure. Johnson claims that Seminar members base their efforts on biased data, and that they misinterpret the relationship between Jesus as reconstructed by historians and the Jesus of faith.
A native of Park Falls, Wisconsin, Johnson was educated in public and parochial schools. He was a Benedictine monk and priest at St. Joseph Abbey, Saint Benedict, Louisiana, from 1963 to 1972. He holds a Doctor of Philosophy degree in New Testament from Yale University, a Master of Arts degree in religious studies from Indiana University, a Master of Divinity degree in theology from Saint Meinrad School of Theology, and a Bachelor’s degree from Notre Dame Seminary.
Before joining Emory in 1992, Johnson taught at Yale Divinity School and Indiana University.
H. Charles Grawemeyer, industrialist, entrepreneur, astute investor, and philanthropist, created the Grawemeyer Awards at the University of Louisville, in 1984. An initial endowment of $9 million from the Grawemeyer Foundation funded the awards, which have drawn winners from around the world.
Although the University of Louisville graduate was a chemical engineer by schooling, Grawemeyer cherished the liberal arts and chose to honor powerful ideas in the performing arts, humanities, and social sciences.
Charles Grawemeyer was an active Presbyterian and a trustee of Louisville Seminary. He was very serious about the study of religious ideas and even took university religion courses during his retirement, making his inclusion of an award for religion an obvious choice, among the other awards for Music Composition, Ideas for Improving World Order, Education, and Psychology.
Each Grawemeyer Award winner receives a $100,000 prize, making the Grawemeyer Awards among the most lucrative in their respective fields.
Grawemeyer distinguished the awards from others by honoring ideas rather than life-long or publicized personal achievement. He also insisted that the selection process for each of the five awards include participation by people who are not experts in that field. As Grawemeyer saw it, great ideas should be understandable to someone with general knowledge and not be the private treasure of academics.
The purpose of the religion award is to honor and publicize insights into the relationship between human beings and the divine and the ways this relationship may empower human beings to attain wholeness, integrity, or meaning. And, since awarding the first religion award in 1991, recipients have included John Harwood Hick (1991); Elizabeth A. Johnson (1993); Diana L. Eck (1995); Larry L. Rasmussen (1997); Jürgen Moltmann (2000); Marilynne Robinson (2006); Timothy B. Tyson (2007); and Eboo Patel (2010).
For a complete list of winners and their award-winning works, visit www.grawemeyer.org.