Observing the Passing of a Scholar at the Top of the Textual Critical Food Chain

I just noticed on another blog that Bruce Metzger recently died. I’ve seen his face on a few of D. James Kennedy’s videos defending the historicity of the Bible, but have yet to read his works for myself. I have posted the Wikipedia article on him which has been updated with the date of his death five days ago. As you read, you will see, not surprisingly perhaps, that Metzger may not have toed the line of the conscientious evangelical on things like inerrancy and perhaps a few other theological matters not mentioned in the article below, but his contribution to the modern text of Scripture demands respect, even from evangelicals. So, in honor of the passing of a true “Captain Headknowledge,” I give you Wikipedia’s summary of Bruce Metzger’s life work. Those of you familiar with his work, please share you observations, impressions and what impact his work may have had on your views of the history or text of the Holy Scripture.

Bruce Metzger
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Bruce Metzger pictured on the cover of his autobiography Reminiscences of an Octogenarian

Bruce Manning Metzger (9 February 1914, Middletown, Pennsylvania13 February 2007, Princeton, New Jersey) was a professor emeritus at Princeton Theological Seminary and Bible editor who served on the board of the American Bible Society. He was a scholar of Greek, New Testament and Old Testament Bible, and wrote prolifically on these subjects.
Metzger earned his BA at Lebanon Valley College in 1935, and then entered Princeton Theological Seminary to gain his ThB in 1938. He stayed at Princeton as Teaching Fellow in New Testament Greek. The following year, he was ordained in the United Presbyterian Church. In 1940, he earned his MA and changed post to be Instructor in New Testament. Two years later, Metzger produced his PhD. In 1944, Metzger married Isobel Elizabeth Mackay, daughter of the third president of the Seminary, Alexander Mackay. That same year, he was promoted to Assistant Professor. In 1948, he became Associate Professor, and full Professor in 1954. In 1964, Metzger’s chair was named George L. Collord Professor of New Testament Language and Literature. In 1971, he was elected president of both the Studiorum Novi Testimenti Societas and the International Society of Biblical Literature. The following year, he became the first president of the North American Patristic Society. Metzger was visiting fellow at Clare Hall, Cambridge in 1974 and Wolfson College, Oxford in 1979. He retired at the age of seventy in 1984 as Professor Emeritus. In 1994, Bruce Metzger was honoured with the Burkitt Medal for Biblical Studies by the British Academy. He was awarded honorary doctorates from Lebanon Valley College, Findlay College, University of St Andrews, the University of Münster and Potchefstroom University.

Metzger edited and provided commentary for many Bible translations and wrote dozens of books. He was a contributor to the Apocrypha of the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, editor of the Reader’s Digest Bible (a condensed version of the RSV) and general editor of the New Revised Standard Version. He was also one of the editors of the United Bible Societies‘ standard Greek New Testament, the starting point for nearly all translations of the New Testament in recent decades.

Metzger’s commentaries often utilize historical criticism and higher criticism, which attempt to explain the literary and historical origins of the Bible and the biblical canon. For instance, Metzger argues that the early church which assembled the New Testament did not consider divine inspiration to be a sufficient criterion for a book to be canonized. Metzger says that for the early church, it was very important that a work describing Jesus‘ life be written by a follower of or an eyewitness to Jesus, and in fact considered other works such as The Shepherd of Hermas and the Epistles of Clement to be inspired but not canonical. Because of such views, he was criticized by some Christian fundamentalists (but not most evangelicals) who believed Metzger’s views contradict the idea that the Bible is inerrant in its original manuscripts.[1]
Metzger was survived by his wife Isobel and their two sons John Mackay Metzger and James Bruce Metzger.

Books and commentaries
The Text Of The New Testament: Its Transmission, Corruption, And Restoration (2005, with Bart D. Ehrman)
New Testament: Its Background, Growth and Content (2003)
The Oxford Essential Guide to Ideas and Issues of the Bible (2002 with Michael D. Coogan)
The Oxford Guide to People & Places of the Bible (2001 with Michael D. Coogan)
Greek New Testament (2000 with by B. Aland)
Breaking the Code: Understanding the Book of Revelation : Leader’s Guide (1999)
Revelation 6-16 (Word Biblical Commentary 52b) (1998, with David E. Aune)
Reminiscences of an Octogenarian (1997) ISBN 1-56563-264-8
The Canon of the New Testament: Its Origin, Development, and Significance (1997)
Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament (1994)
The Oxford Companion to the Bible (1993)
The Reader’s Bible (1983)
Lexical Aids for Students of New Testament Greek (1969)
List of Words Occuring Frequently in the Coptic New Testament (Sahidic Dialect) (1961) – note: “occuring” is misspelled in the published title
Introduction to the Apocrypha (1957)
The Oxford Concise Concordance to the Revised Standard Version of the Holy Bible (with Isobel M. Metzger)

The NRSV Bible with the Apocrypha, Compact Edition (2003)
New Revised Standard Version (1989)
Oxford Annotated Apocrypha: Revised Standard Version (1977)
The New Oxford Annotated Bible with the Apocrypha, Revised Standard Version, Expanded Edition (1977 with Herbert G. May)
Oxford Annotated Apocrypha: The Apocrypha of the Old Testament (1977)

One rather vitriolic example is Editors of the UBS Greek New Testament, by David W. Cloud, Way of Life Literature 2001, in which Metzger is labelled “an unbeliever”, “a false teacher”, “apostate” and “a heretic”.
Retrieved from “http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bruce_Metzger


3 responses

  1. I know Metzger and the NRSV (not to mention the RSV) are not very popular in conservative circles, but for many years, his New Oxford Annotated Bible is the only study Bible I had. I came from an unbelieving, skeptical background, so liberal Bible scholarship was actually a route into faith for me—although in all honesty, I eventually had to dwell in the desert for several years after first coming close to God, because there wasn’t much living dynamism in the churches I attended, and non-evangelical Bible scholarship didn’t light the spark I needed to come to Christ.

    Now I’ve been reborn in Christ and participate in a more evangelical stream of Christianity—along with a decent NIV study Bible—but I still have Metzger’s big red NOAB and his UBS Greek New Testament sitting on my bookshelf.

  2. John D. Chitty | Reply

    Thanks for the testimony. Liberal scholarship waters seeds . . .

  3. […] traditional, orthodox view of Scripture. A Princeton grad, Ehrman studied under the leading light Bruce Metzger, with whom I’m familiar because he so often appears in programs produced by Evangelicals in […]

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