The Grawemeyer Award in Religion is made possible by the creative generosity of the late H. Charles Grawemeyer. Louisville Seminary, jointly with the University of Louisville, awards the $100,000 prize to honor and publicize creative and significant insights into the relationship between human beings and the divine. The award also recognizes ways in which this relationship may inspire or empower human beings to attain wholeness, integrity, or meaning, either individually or in community.
2021 Winner: Stephen J. Patterson
Early Christianity’s first creed, which was quoted in Paul’s letter to the Galatians (3:26-28), claims that we are all God’s children. The original baptismal creed, which Paul did not write, but quoted and adapted, is:
For you are all children of God in the Spirit. There is no Jew or Greek; There is no slave or free; There is no male or female. For you are all one in the Spirit.
In The Forgotten Creed: Christianity’s Original Struggle Against Bigotry, Slavery, and Sexism (Oxford University Press, 2018), Stephen J. Patterson unpacks this creed in the context of the Greco-Roman world when Jesus was still fresh in the memory of those who knew him. Patterson, the George H. Atkinson Professor of Religious and Ethical Studies at Willamette University, claims that the first followers of Jesus were taking on race, class, and gender in the midst of conflicts between Greeks and Jews, the slave economy, and the gender dynamics of the time.
“History reminds us again and again that it has always been easier to believe in miracles, in virgin births and atoning deaths, in resurrected bodies and heavenly journeys home, than something so simple and basic as human solidarity,” said Patterson.
The Forgotten Creed earned Patterson the 2020 Grawemeyer Award in Religion. Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary, jointly with the University of Louisville, awards the $100,000 prize to honor and publicize creative and significant insights into the relationship between human beings and the divine. The award also recognizes ways in which this relationship may inspire or empower human beings to attain wholeness, integrity, or meaning, either individually or in community.
“Patterson’s well-written book proposes a fascinating way to think about those earliest followers of Jesus and their radical notions of human solidarity,” said Tyler Mayfield, Faculty Director of the Grawemeyer Award in Religion and the A.B. Rhodes Professor of Old Testament at Louisville Seminary.
In nine books and more than seventy-five articles, essays and reviews, Patterson has explored the origins of Christianity, especially through texts often overlooked because they are not in the Bible. He writes and lectures widely on the hidden histories of earliest Christianity, and he has appeared on many documentaries in connection with his work on the Gospel of Thomas, Q, and the quest for the historical Jesus.
Grawemeyer Religion Award Nominations are invited from religious organizations, appropriate academic associations, religious leaders and scholars, presidents of universities or schools of religion, publishers and editors of scholarly journals. Self-nominations are be accepted or considered. There is no discrimination based on religious affiliation or belief or lack thereof. Previous winners are not eligible for subsequent awards.