Bruce Metzger

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Bruce Metzger in 2003
Bruce Metzger in 2003

Bruce Manning Metzger (9 February 1914, Middletown, Pennsylvania – 13 February 2007, Princeton, New Jersey) was a critic of the King James Bible and spent years attempting to discredit it, whilest promoting new versions based on Westcott and Hort type Greek texts.



Metzger earned his BA at Lebanon Valley College in 1935, then entered Princeton Theological Seminary to gain his ThB in 1938. He stayed at Princeton as a Teaching Fellow in New Testament Greek. The following year, he was ordained in the United Presbyterian Church. In 1940, he earned his MA from Princeton University and became an Instructor in New Testament. Two years later, he earned his PhD, also from Princeton.

In 1944, Metzger married Isobel Elizabeth Mackay, daughter of the third president of the Seminary, John A. Mackay. That same year, he was promoted to Assistant Professor. In 1948, he became Associate Professor, and full Professor in 1954. In 1964, Metzger was named the 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 president of the North American Patristic Society. Metzger was visiting fellow at Clare Hall, Cambridge in 1974 and Wolfson College, Oxford in 1979. At the age of seventy, he retired 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.

Shortly after his 93rd birthday, Metzger died. He was survived by his wife Isobel and their two sons, John Mackay Metzger and James Bruce Metzger.

Compromise and Apostasy

Metzger continuously sought after an ecumenical bible, accepted by the Eastern Orthodox Churches, Roman Catholics, and Protestants.

"In May 1973 a specially bound copy of the Collins RSV "Common" Bible was presented to Pope Paul VI. In a private audience granted to a small group, comprising the Greek Orthodox Archbishop Athenagoras of London, Lady Priscilla Collins, Sir William Collins, Herbert G. May, and the present writer, the Pope accepted the copy as a significant step in furthering ecumenical relations among the churches.
Thus the story of the making of the Revised Standard Version of the Bible with the expanded Apocrypha is an account of the triumph of ecumenical concern over more limited sectarian interests. At last (and for the first time since the Reformation) one edition of the Bible had received the blessing of leaders of Protestant, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox churches alike." Bruce M. Metzger, English Translations of the Bible, Today and Tomorrow, Bibliotheca Sacra, Vol. 150 #600-Oct - Dec 1993

Books and commentaries

Metzger edited and provided commentary for many Bible translations and wrote dozens of books. He was an editor of the United Bible Societies' standard Greek New Testament, the starting point for nearly all recent New Testament translations. In 1952, he became a contributor to the Revised Standard Version (RSV) of the Bible, and was general editor of the Reader's Digest Bible (a condensed version of the RSV) in 1982. From 1977 to 1990, he chaired the Committee on Translators for the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) of the Bible and was "largely responsible for ... seeing [the NRSV] through the press."[] He considered it a privilege to present the NRSV — which includes the books referred to as Apocrypha by Protestants, though Roman Catholics and Greek Orthodox consider deuterocanonical — to Pope John Paul II and Patriarch Demetrius I of Constantinople.[]

Central to his scholarly contribution to New Testament studies is his trilogy: The Text of the New Testament: Its Transmission, Corruption, and Restoration (1964; 2nd ed., 1968; 3d enlarged ed., 1992); The Early Versions of the New Testament: Their Origin, Transmission, and Limitations (1977); The Canon of the New Testament: Its Origin, Development, and Significance (1987).[]

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 placed in the canon. Metzger says that the early church, saw it as very important that a work describing Jesus' life be written by a follower of or an eyewitness to Jesus, and 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).[]

In the critically revised text of the Greek NT, Metzger said:

"Every seventh word is a definite article, every fifteenth word an 'and,' and every twenty-fifth word an autos. The ten most frequently used words comprise about 45,000 of the total 137,328 words, and the approximately 170 words that occur more than 100 times each comprise about 100,000 words of the total text (that is, about five-sevenths of the New Testament)." (Bruce Metzger, using statistics compiled by Morgenthaler, in Lexical Aids for Students of NT Greek, page 1.)

List of Books and Publications

  • "Apostolic Letters of Faith, Hope, and Love: Galatians, 1 Peter, and 1 John" (2006)
  • The Text of the New Testament: Its Transmission, Corruption, And Restoration (1964). 2005 4th edition with Bart D. Ehrman, ISBN 0-19-516122-X
  • The New Testament: Its Background, Growth and Content (2003, James Clarke & Co., Cambridge; ISBN 9780227170250)
  • 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)
  • The Bible in Translation, Ancient and English Versions (2001)
  • Greek New Testament (2000 with B. Aland)
  • Breaking the Code: Understanding the Book of Revelation: Leader's Guide (1999)
  • Reminiscences of an Octogenarian (1997)
  • 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 with Michael D. Coogan)
  • 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)

List of Translations

  • 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)

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