Brown Bag Report

On 13 November John F. Hall, professor of classical languages and ancient history at Brigham Young University, spoke about his new book, New Testament Witnesses of Christ: Peter, John, James, and Paul. The book draws on early Christian writings to show that the “four pillars” of early Christianity – Peter, John, James (the brother of Jesus), and Paul – consistently testified of the life and mission of Jesus Christ. The book is important, Hall believes, because many professing Christians, even many ministers, do not accept Christ as the literal Son of God even though the scriptures and the writings of the early church fathers are clear on the matter. In his book Hall also deals with issues of scholarly debate, such as whether the Gospel of John was the last biblical book written and whether tradition has judged Peter too harshly as a man of little faith and learning, that are illuminated by the Greek text and by an understanding of Greek culture. Hall’s book is divided into sections that review the backgrounds of the four pillars, apostolic authority, the Jewish world, and the Greek and Roman world.

On 15 January James E. Faulconer, professor of philosophy at Brigham Young University, spoke about his research on the structure of Paul’s Epistle to the Romans. He began by describing the two major outlines of Romans used in the Christian world. The first, used mainly by Protestants, begins with an introduction (Romans 1), followed by a discussion of faith (chaps. 2-4), a description of a life of faith (chaps. 5-8), and examples of people who lived lives of faith (chaps. 9-15). The second outline, used mainly by Catholics, begins with a discussion of justice and mercy (chaps. 1-8), followed by an explanation of the covenant (chaps. 9-15). Faulconer presented his own outline of the book of Romans, entitled “Faith, Life, and Covenant.” His outline begins with a discussion of faith in its relation to justice and mercy (chaps. 1- 8). In this first section, Faulconer said Paul teaches that all men are condemned because of sin, but that the gospel has the power to save all those who exercise faith (chaps. 1-4). In chapters 5-8, Paul teaches that through the power of Christ’s atonement, men can be freed from the bonds of sin to live by the Holy Ghost and to become part of God’s covenant people. Faulconer said that the second half of Romans (chaps. 9-15) is an explanation of the covenant and that the covenant is the enactment of God’s justice and mercy. God is faithful to his part of the covenant, he concluded, and the covenant people are obligated to be obedient, through the power of faith, to God.