Joel Brown ('09) | Bible, Missions & Ministry

joel brown

Not many undergraduate students have the chance to publish their research in a scholarly journal or see their names cited in an academic article. Joel Brown is one of the few.

In his third-year Greek class at ACU, taught by Dr. Curt Niccum, Joel and four other students had the opportunity to review another academic's conclusions and refute them in print. In the Greek grammar they used as a textbook, the author claimed that the verb "to worship" had two different forms, each with a different meaning.

An exhaustive search

Joel and fellow students - Ben Covington, Jake Lollar, Joshua White and Eric Gentry - pored through the Greek Old Testament, apocryphal literature, the New Testament and early Christian writings to seek out every instance of this verb, sorting through a large amount of material.

I have been challenged on many levels, and in many disciplines. [ACU] has achieved a healthy balance between focusing on the students' spiritual formation while at the same time providing them with a critical and rigorous education.

"To me, it was pretty impressive," said Dr. Niccum, associate professor of Bible at ACU.

The students discovered that the form of the verb didn't affect its meaning; actually, many biblical authors spoke Aramaic as their native language and had learned Greek as a second language, which made it easy for them to commit small grammatical errors. The difference in verb forms was a linguistic rather than a theological difference, they concluded.

Although this discovery may sound small, it has important repercussions on how to view biblical texts.

"This ends up being a reminder," Dr. Niccum said. "We really have to be careful to not read more out of the text than is actually there." 

Journal publication

Niccum also helped author the article, which is published in the current issue of Restoration Quarterly, an academic journal devoted to advancing knowledge and understanding of New Testament Christianity, its backgrounds, its history and its implications for the present age.

This wasn't Joel's only reseach opportunity as an undergraduate at ACU. He was also involved in a class assignment for third-year Greek participating in the International Greek New Testament Project, a multi-national effort to examine all the evidence for the Greek New Testament. The class took an unexamined Greek text and read it with an eye for detail and deeper meaning.

Participation in these projects has given Joel the academic confidence to pursue both a Master of Divinity and a Master of Arts in Theology. In the course of his studies, he has found that the Christian focus of his education has enhanced rather than detracted from its academic validity.

"I have been challenged on many levels, and in many disciplines," he said. "[ACU] has achieved a healthy balance between focusing on the students' spiritual formation while at the same time providing them with a critical and rigorous education." 

Q&A with Joel Brown

Why did you decide to come to ACU? 

My decision to come to ACU was based primarily on the excellent biblical studies program and faculty here.  There are not many schools in the nation that compare with the level of scholarship and quality of program that ACU's College of Biblical Studies has.  In my time as an undergraduate, I had the opportunity to learn from, and work with, both undergraduate and graduate professors who are at the top of their fields. 

The Bible department's two-fold focus on ministry and academic excellence has prepared me to be an effective minister and continue my academic studies at the graduate level.  In fact, having been admitted to graduate programs at Duke University and Emory University, I have chosen to continue my graduate studies in ACU's Graduate School of Theology because I am convinced that its program is just as, if not more, academically rigorous and ministerially focused than any other school. 

How has ACU prepared you academically for your future?

Academically, I do not think that I could have been more prepared than I have been here.  I have heard some people comment that educations suffer at the cost of what it takes to be a private Christian university. However, I am convinced that the Christian commitment and mission of ACU have contributed to, rather than detracted from, my education. If anything, an ACU education has put me ahead of peers graduating from other universities in the country.  In my time here, I have received instruction from renowned scholars in various disciplines.  I have been trained to be an effective minister and have been given the tools to excel in further academic studies.  

Has your experience at ACU affected your faith walk? 

One of the greatest blessings from my time at ACU was the opportunity to be in a spiritual mentoring group with one of my professors.  We spent time every week in prayer and dialogue as we ventured through our college experiences together, discussing our spiritual lives and wrestling with tough and relevant theological questions.  While every student is not involved in a mentoring group, the thing that sets ACU apart from other universities is that every professor is concerned with the spiritual formation of each student.  It is such a blessing to be educated within a community that is, first, committed to living out the Christian faith. 

You might also like to know:   The ACU community is a rare find.  The university's commitment to training Christian leaders permeates every aspect of the university. Being a part of the ACU community has taught me valuable lessons about Christian life in community that I will carry with me throughout my life.

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