Bruce Metzger, an expert on Greek biblical manuscripts, died Tuesday at the age of 93. The professor emeritus at Princeton Theological Seminary died of natural causes.
Born in 1914 in Middletown, Pennsylvania, Metzger was educated at Lebanon Valley College, Princeton Theological Seminary, and Princeton University, where he earned his Ph.D. in Greek and Latin classics in 1942. In 1939, he was ordained in the Presbyterian Church.
At the time of his death, he was the George L. Collord professor emeritus of New Testament language and literature at Princeton Theological Seminary. Metzger taught in the New Testament department at Princeton for 46 years, beginning in 1938.
Metzger was well known for his work in New Testament textual criticism. He served on the committee that produced the United Bible Societies' Greek New Testament and wrote several books on textual criticism, including The Text of the New Testament: Its Transmission, Corruption, and Restoration (1964, 1968, 1991) and Manuscripts of the Greek Bible: An Introduction to Palaeography (1981). The British Academy made him a corresponding fellow in 1978, an honor that few American scholars receive.
Metzger did extensive work in Bible translation, serving on the committees of both the Revised Standard Version and the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible. He took over as chair of the NRSV committee in 1975, serving in that position for the fourteen years it took to complete the revision process.
Many scholars respected Metzger for his definitive writings on the text of the New Testament, the apocryphal literature of the Old Testament, and Jewish and Christian apocalyptic literature. In 1986, he was elected to the American Philosophical Society, and in 1994, the British Academy awarded him the F.C. Burkitt Medal for his work in biblical studies.
Some evangelicals criticized him for saying that many biblical books, like the book of Genesis, were "composites of several sources" rather than the work of individual authors. Metzger's contention that certain extra-biblical books were inspired but not canonical was also critiqued by some evangelicals, who said such beliefs undermined Scripture's inerrancy.
Nevertheless, Metzger's legacy will not soon be forgotten. Darrell Bock, research professor of New Testament studies at Dallas Theological Seminary, called Metzger "one of the great Christian statesmen and New Testament scholars of the last century." Bock praised Metzger's "balanced, irenic approach to debated questions" and noted that Metzger stayed connected to the church during his teaching years at Princeton Theological Seminary.
Metzger is survived by his wife of 62 years, Isobel Mackay Metzger, two sons, and a sister. A memorial service will be held on Tuesday, February 20, in Princeton.
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See also today's tribute to Metzger from Ben Witherington III.
Other obituaries have appeared in Newsday and The Trentonian.
Brandon Watson's Novum Testamentum Blog is linking to other blogs discussing Metzger's passing. The Evangelical Textual Criticism blog is soliciting memories.
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