News Release: People, Religion and Ethics, Research

Dec. 3,  2010

Luke Johnson Wins Grawemeyer Award in Religion

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Emory University biblical scholar Luke Timothy Johnson has won the 2011 Louisville Grawemeyer Award in Religion for his book, “Among the Gentiles: Greco-Roman Religion and Christianity.” Announcement of the award, which carries a $100,000 prize, was made today.

Johnson, who serves as Robert W. Woodruff Professor of New Testament and Christian Origins at Emory’s Candler School of Theology, said he is “honored and deeply gratified by the award.”

In “Among the Gentiles,” Johnson proposes a new framework for analyzing early Christianity in its religious, social and historical contexts. He shows that 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,” says award director Susan Garrett, professor of New Testament at Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary.

“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,” Garrett says. “And he shines fresh light on the diverse religions of our contemporary world—a light that shows common ground where we thought there were only radical differences.”

Johnson, who also is a senior fellow at Emory’s Center for the Study of Law and Religion, 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.” His 1986 book, “The Writings of the New Testament: An Interpretation,” is now in its third edition and widely used by religious scholars worldwide.

Five Grawemeyer Awards are presented annually for outstanding works in music composition, world order, psychology, education and religion. The University of Louisville and Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary jointly award the religion prize.

Johnson will present a public lecture on his award-winning book April 12, 2011, at Louisville Seminary.

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