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Bruce M. Metzger

Bruce Manning Metzger
Born (1914-02-09)February 9, 1914
Middletown, Pennsylvania
Died February 13, 2007(2007-02-13) (aged 93)
Princeton, New Jersey
Nationality American
Occupation Biblical scholar, textual critic, instructor, author
Notable work Lexical Aids for Students of New Testament Greek, The Canon of the New Testament: Its Origin, Development, and significance
Spouse(s) Isobel Mackay
Children John, James
Theological work
Era 20th Century
Main interests New Testament Text Criticism, New Testament Canon

Bruce Manning Metzger (February 9, 1914 – February 13, 2007) was an American biblical scholar and textual critic who was a longtime professor at Princeton Theological Seminary and Bible editor who served on the board of the American Bible Society and United Bible Societies. He was a scholar of Greek, New Testament, and New Testament textual criticism, and wrote prolifically on these subjects. Metzger is widely considered one of the most influential New Testament scholars of the 20th century.[1][2]


  • Biography 1
  • Books and commentaries 2
    • List of books and publications 2.1
    • List of Translations 2.2
    • Festschriften 2.3
    • 2.4 Selected Articles
    • Selected Interview and Writings about Bruce M. Metzger 2.5
  • References 3
  • External links 4


Metzger was born in Middletown, Pennsylvania, and earned his BA (1935) at Lebanon Valley College.[3] Metzger had strong academic training in Greek before enrolling in Princeton Seminary, and in the summer prior to entering the Seminary, he completed reading through the entire Bible consecutively for the twelfth time.[4] He received his ThB in 1938 at Princeton Theological Seminary, and in the autumn of 1938 began teaching at Princeton as a Teaching Fellow in New Testament Greek. On April 11, 1939, he was ordained in the Presbyterian Church in the United States,[5] which has since merged and is now known as the Presbyterian Church (USA). In 1940, he earned his MA from Princeton University and became an instructor in New Testament. Two years later, he earned his PhD ("Studies in a Greek Gospel Lectionary (Greg. 303)"), also from Princeton University.

In 1944, Metzger married Isobel Elizabeth Mackay, daughter of the third president of the Seminary, Studiorum Novi Testamenti Societas and the 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. In 1978 he was elected corresponding fellow of the British Academy, the Academy's highest distinction for persons who are not residents in the United Kingdom. At the age of seventy, after teaching at Princeton Theological Seminary for a period of forty-six years, 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, the Findlay College, the University of St Andrews, the University of Münster and Potchefstroom University. "Metzger's unrivaled knowledge of the relevant languages, ancient and modern; his balanced judgment; and his painstaking attention to detail won him respect across the theological and academic spectrum."[7]

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

Books and commentaries

Metzger, Aland, Wikgren, Black

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."[8] He considered it a privilege to present the NRSV—which includes the books referred to as Apocrypha by Protestants, though Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox consider them deuterocanonical—to Pope John Paul II and Patriarch Demetrius I of Constantinople.[8]

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).[9] The first volume of a series that he founded and edited, New Testament Tools and Studies, appeared in 1960.

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.[10]

In discussing the canon, Metzger identifies three criteria “for acceptance of particular writings as sacred, authoritative, and worthy of being read in services of worship…”, criteria which were “generally adopted during the course of the second century, and were never modified thereafter”, namely, orthodoxy (conformity to the rule of faith), apostolicity, and consensus among the churches.[11] He concludes that, “In the most basic sense neither individuals nor councils created the canon; instead they came to recognize and acknowledge the self-authenticating quality of these writings, which imposed themselves as canonical upon the church.”[12]

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 978-0-227-17025-0)
  • 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)
  • Manuscripts of the Greek Bible: An Introduction to Palaeography (1981).
  • New Testament Studies: Philological, Versional, and Patristic (1980)
  • The Early Versions of the New Testament: Their Origin, Transmission, and Limitations (1977)
  • Lexical Aids for Students of New Testament Greek (1969)
  • Historical and Literary Studies: Pagan, Jewish, and Christian (1968)
  • Chapters in the History of New Testament Textual Criticism (1963)
  • 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 (1962 with Isobel M. Metzger)
  • The Making of the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible (1991 with Robert C. Denton and Walter Harrelson)

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)


  • New Testament Textual Criticism: Its Significance for Exegesis: Essays in Honour of Bruce M. Metzger, ed. Eldon Jay Epp and Gordon D. Fee (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1981)
  • A South African Perspective on the New Testament, Essays by South African New Testament Scholars Presented to Bruce Manning Metzger during His Visit to South Africa in 1985, ed. J.H. Petzer and P.J. Hartin (Leiden: Brill, 1986)
  • The Text of the New Testament in Contemporary Research: Essays on the Status Quaestionis, ed. Bart D. Ehrman and Michael W. Holmes, (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1989)

Selected Articles

  • “The Meaning of Christ’s Ascension,” Christianity Today, vol. 10, no. 17 (May 27, 1966): 3–4.
  • “Names for the Nameless in the New Testament: A Study in the Growth of Christian Tradition,” in Patrick Granfield & Josef A. Jungmann (eds.), Kyriakon: Festschrift Johannes Quasten, 2 vols. (Münster, Verlag Aschendorff, 1970) vol. 1: 79–99.
  • “Patristic Evidence and Textual Criticism of the New Testament,” New Testament Studies, vol. 18, pp. 379–400. Presidential Address, Studiorum Novi Testamenti Societas, delivered August 24, 1971, at Noordwijkerhout, The Netherlands.
  • “Literary Forgeries and Canonical Pseudepigrapha,” Journal of Biblical Literature, vol. 91, pp. 3–24. (1972). Presidential address, Society of Biblical Literature, delivered October 29, 1971, in Atlanta, Georgia.
  • “How Well Do You Know the Apocrypha?” Guideposts (November 1984): 28–31.

Selected Interview and Writings about Bruce M. Metzger

  • "Bruce M. Metzger, PH.D." in The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel, 57-71. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1998.
  • Paul S. Minear, "A Scholar's Scholar," Theology Today, vol. 39 (January 1983), 418-20.


  1. ^ New Testament Scholar and Bible Translator Bruce Metzger Dies
  2. ^
  3. ^ A Centennial Tribute to Bruce Metzger: Remembering His Achievements, Influence, and Legacy, Princeton Seminary, 24 January 2014, retrieved 12 February 2014 
  4. ^ Bruce Manning Metzger, Reminiscences of an Octogenarian (1997), 12.
  5. ^ Bruce Manning Metzger, Reminiscences of an Octogenarian (1997), 42.
  6. ^ Bruce Manning Metzger, Reminiscences of an Octogenarian (1997), 32.
  7. ^ James H. Moorhead, Princeton Seminary in American Religion and Culture (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2012): 434.
  8. ^ a b Obituary from Society of Biblical Literature
  9. ^ James A. Brooks, "Bruce Metzger as Textual Critic," Princeton Seminary Bulletin, vol. 15, no. 2, new series (1994), 157.
  10. ^ "The Fathers … did not consider inspiration to be a unique characteristic of canonical writings." Bruce M. Metzger, The Canon of the New Testament (Oxford: Clarendon, 1997), 256, and see 211, n. 6.
  11. ^ Bruce M. Metzger, The New Testament: Its Background, Growth, and Content, 3rd ed., rev. and enlarged (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2003), 317–8. And see the detailed discussion in Metzger, The Canon of the New Testament (Oxford: Clarendon, 1997), 251–4.
  12. ^ Bruce M. Metzger, The New Testament: Its Background, Growth, and Content, 3rd ed., rev. and enlarged (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2003), 318. Also see Metzger, The Canon of the New Testament (Oxford: Clarendon, 1997), 287–8.

External links

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