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Revisiting a Non-Standard Scholar

Bruce Metzger devoted his life to helping us know early Christianity and its manuscripts better.

We were studying Eusebius at Princeton in the summer of 1976 when suddenly a man ran into the class, interrupting Professor Metzger's lecture. As was his way, Metzger quietly stopped what he was doing and asked how he could help the breathless man.

The man said, "Dr. Metzger, I have here the earliest copy of the Gospel of Mark in Syriac!" Metzger smiled and asked politely: "Do you mind if I have a look?"

The man handed over the manuscript, beaming—the great expert on ancient Christian manuscripts was about to validate his discovery, or so he thought.

After less than a minute, Bruce Metzger handed the manuscript back and said, "Well, it's very interesting, but a Syriac copy of Mark, it is not. It's a 6th-century manuscript in Boharic of no particular notoriety." As the Bible says, the man's countenance fell, and he left the room quietly.

The anecdote encapsulates a couple of Professor Metzger's enduring and endearing qualities. First, he was unfailingly polite and kind as part of his Christian ...

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