Humans of UD: Dr. Mark Goodwin

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Hometown: Worcester, Massachusetts

Dr. Mark Goodwin did not always know that he would be able to make a living doing what he loves most, but he pursued Theology in spite of these doubts.

Goodwin was born and raised in central Massachusetts, where he attended the all-boys St. John’s  High School. Like several others at the time, Goodwin hitchhiked to school every day, but perhaps unlike many other teenagers, he relished his school’s rich academic atmosphere.

“I was really focused on academics, and I loved the higher academic levels there,” said Goodwin.“I loved reading books; I loved taking tests.”

Goodwin especially enjoyed studying languages and Biblical exegesis or interpretation. He grew up listening to his mother read Scripture during Lent and as a result developed a deep fascination with the Bible.

When asked what particularly fascinated him, Goodwin responded, “All the stories, the figure of Jesus, the apocalyptic stuff. And so from that point on I was hooked at a really young age.”

Goodwin’s love for academics extends far beyond his Biblical inspiration. When asked how many languages he knows, he responded, “I forget, eight or nine.”

These languages include French and Latin which Goodwin started in high school,  Greek, German, Aramaic, and Hebrew, which he learned at the collegiate level.

This love for languages and Biblical literature drove him to choose St. John’s High School, as well as to continue his higher education in unusual fields.  In 1978, Goodwin earned a Bachelor of Arts in Near Eastern Studies from John Hopkins University, where he studied ancient Israel and was engulfed in the Old Testament alongside archeologists and Hebraic scholars. Two years later, Goodwin went on to receive aMasters in Theological Studies at Harvard, where he specialized in Scripture. Goodwin then did doctoral work at Yale University on the New Testament and Early Christianity.

“My uncles back in Massachusetts kept on asking me, ‘What are you gonna do with this? How are you gonna pay your rent?’ I said, ‘I don’t know. I don’t know. I’m just doing something I love…’ and I was bound and determined that I was gonna not do a job just for a paycheck,” Goodwin recalled.  “I’m gonna give it a shot; I’m gonna try and do something for which I have a passion—something that I love. And if it doesn’t work out, then I can always get a job for a paycheck, like everyone else.” 

Goodwin returned to teach at his beloved high school for four years in the 1980s. During this time he met his now wife, Jean. They now have one daughter, Sarah. Before becoming a preschool teacher, Jean was a Christian music artist, which Goodwin loved since he has always appreciated modern Christian music.

Goodwin treasured playing guitar and leading worship at his local parish when he was younger, and he loves to see young people doing the same today. As long as worship is aligned with the liturgy and reverently focuses on God, Goodwin sees no problem with having modern music in Mass.

In 1993, Goodwin began teaching at the University of Dallas, where he plans to retire. 

“The thing I really love about teaching here is the students,” Goodwin said. “I’ve been to other places, I’ve taught at other places…there is a seriousness here about studying, about learning, about self-discovery that you don’t find in other places.”

He taught theology with the UD Rome program from 1995-1996, and was the Theology Department Chair for six years. Goodwin created the UD Jewish studies program and is currently co-director.

Dr. Goodwin’s particular passion for Jewish studies stems from the Second Vatican Council’s “Nostra Aetate” as well as Pope St. John Paul II’s work in Catholic-Jewish relations. Goodwin says that once one begins a study of the Gospels, there is a realization that Jesus has a Jewish identity. The Christian faith thus originates from this identity along with the Jewish identity of the first disciples. 

The Bible is also the story of Israel, which Goodwin says is vital to Christianity.

“Those are roots, those are Jewish roots of Catholic identity just as much as Jesus is,” Goodwin said. “Jesus as the fulfillment of Israel is in a sense, in a very profound way, the quintessential example of the Jewish roots of Catholic faith.”

In his passion for the academic side of Catholicism, Goodwin holds that it has everything to do with his love of God. He says one must reflect the intellectual love of God in other aspects of their life. Goodwin quoted Matthew 22 in which Jesus says you should love the Lord with all of your heart, soul, and mind. Goodwin pointed out that Jesus actually used the word mind, rather than the Shema’s “might” (Deuteronomy 6:5).

“Our faith is always seeking understanding,” Goodwin said. “The academic pursuit of Theology…is one way in which you love God with the mind.”

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