Derek Cooper

The Reformation Commentary, Dead White Men, and Make-Up

The newest addition to IVP’s Reformation Commentary on Scripture (vol. 5) just came out, on the books of 1-2 Samuel, 1-2 Kings, 1-2 Chronicles, edited by my BTS colleague Derek Cooper, and his colleague, Martin J. Lohrmann.

This is an impressive work (740 pages) which has been in the works for almost 8 years.  Many of the commentators included in this volume have never been translated into English (from Latin).  There is a lot of wisdom contained here, which was previously inaccessible to most modern readers.

Obviously, since this book focuses on the OT, and particularly the historical books, I may be more excited about it than many of you all, but for pastors, teachers, and scholars it contains many gems of Scriptural insight.

The commentators include the usual suspects (Jacobus Arminius, John Calvin, and Martin Luther), as well as some lesser known names (Johannes Bugenhagen, John Mayer, and Konrad Pellikan), each of whom are important Reformation figures and who commented extensively on the historical books of the Bible.

In addition to literally thousands of quotations from commentators, and three indices (Author, Subject, and Scripture), there’s an extremely helpful, forty page appendix giving paragraph sketches of Reformation era figures and works (686-725). If one wanted a quick introduction to the Reformation’s major figures, this appendix would be a great first stop.

For those of you who are thinking, but hasn’t the Western church read enough of these “dead white men“?  Yes, great point.  We desperately need to be reading more scholars from other parts of the world, who can open our eyes to new perspectives, many of which are closer to the thought and mindset of the ancient Near Eastern world than our own.  But these Reformation scholars still offer us profound insight on our own story, particularly for those of us who come from a Protestant tradition.

I’m looking forward to using this resource as I work on my 1, 2 Kings commentary for the Story of God commentary series for Zondervan.  (If you like this section of Scripture my co-authored textbook on the Historical Books comes out in July.)

While it will take me a long time to fully appreciate all the wisdom here, I smiled as I read these comments on the face-painting on Jezebel before her brutal death (2 Kgs. 9:30-8–thrown from a tower, trampled on by horses, consumed by dogs, who defecate her remains in a field), which is part of the Jehu narrative, on which I wrote my dissertation. When these guys talk about “face-painting” it’s not painting butterflies on the cheeks of little girls at a fair, but the general practice of using make-up.  John Mayer observes that Peter Martyr Vermigli condemns the practice of face-painting, along with Cyprian, Chrysostom, and Augustine, “It is practiced to allure men, and it changes their natural face into something artificial. But rather than bettering the face, it actually mars it” (p. 444).

Do you agree with these reformers about the use of make-up? 

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Unfollowers by Cooper and Cyzewski

 In 1985, when I was a grad student in Industrial Engineering at Stanford, I took a course on Organizational Death. Why do companies fail, and what lessons can we learn from them? We love success in business and in ministry, so we focus on companies and churches that succeed, trying to learn from their example. I don’t remember much from my courses from almost 30 years ago, but this one had a deep impact on me: profound lessons often come from unexpected places.

Derek Cooper  and Ed Cyzewski know this to be true, and wrote a book that just came out (2014) entitled Unfollowers: Unlikely Lessons on Faith from Those Who Doubted Jesus, which looks at some of the ignored people from the gospels: Judas, the rich, young ruler, Herod, Pilate, Caiaphas and others.  What can we learn from this lot?  A lot, check out the book.

Here’s my endorsement:
Who wants to focus on the dropouts and doubters? Scripture does. And Cooper and Cyzewski follow the Bible’s example, apparently believing the radical notion that all Scripture is inspired and profitable for teaching.  They take readers into unexplored areas of the Gospels that are typically ignored, in doing so they enlighten, encourage and exhort their followers into a deeper relationship with their lord and master.  I have no doubt that readers will profit from their wisdom.

If you are intrigued, check out this excerpt from Christianity Today (March 2013), on Judas: “You’re Probably More Like Judas Than You Think“.

Derek Cooper is a colleague of mine here at Biblical Seminary. He teaches World Christian History, and Ed Cyzewski is a graduate of Biblical.  They also co-wrote Hazardous: Committed to the Cost of Following Jesus

The Pursuit of God

“Tonight’s speaker is the sister-in-law of the author of that great book we were reading through as a fellowship this summer.”  This was how my wife Shannon was introduced yesterday before speaking at the InterVarsity chapter at Lehigh University.  The group had been reading The Pursuit of God in the Company of Friends by my brother Rich Lamb (IVP, 2003).  (My entire life I’ve been known as the younger brother of Rich Lamb the celebrity and author.)

Have you ever noticed that Jesus almost never spent time with his disciples individually.  Jesus also didn’t focus on speaking and preaching to the crowds, but he focused on being with the twelve.  Not huge crowds, not one-on-one.  Rich argues that in the Bible discipleship happens in the context of community.  Unfortunately, we don’t really know how to do that in the church.

Here is what David Neff (Christianity Today editor) says, “Everybody complains about American individualism, but nobody does anything about it.  Rich Lamb is the rare writer who actually sketches a practical map of the path from solitary Christianity to the place where we meet God in the company of others.”  Other endorsers include Kelly Monroe, George Verwer, Brian McLaren, Gordon MacDonald, Os Guinness, Ron Sider, Tom Sine, Don Everts, Paul Tokunaga, Steve Hayner, Mary Ellen Ashcroft, Leighton Ford, David Gill, Richard Peace.  An impressed group.

Derek Cooper, one of my colleagues here a Biblical Seminary, told me a few weeks ago that he just met a student named Dan that was going start to take classes here soon.  Dan so excited about a book that he was reading and discussing with a group of Christian friends that he had to tell Derek about it.  (As Derek told me this story, I assumed the book was going to be God Behaving Badly.)  Dan shows Derek the book, and Derek then tells Dan, “If you like Rich Lamb’s book, you should come to Biblical and meet his brother Dave.”  Some things never change.

How do you pursue God in the company of friends?