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Bruce M. Metzger
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Bruce Manning Metzger

(1914-02-09)February 9, 1914
Died February 13, 2007(2007-02-13) (aged 93)
Alma mater
Era 20th century
Notable work
  • Lexical Aids for Students of New Testament Greek (1955)
  • The Canon of the New Testament (1987)
Isobel Metzger
(m. 1944)
Scientific career
Institutions Princeton Theological Seminary
Thesis Studies in a Greek Gospel Lectionary (Greg. 303) (1942)
Notable students Greg Boyd, Bart D. Ehrman, Michael J. Gorman,

Bruce Manning Metzger (February 9, 1914 – February 13, 2007) was an American biblical scholar, Bible translator 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 was one of the most influential New Testament scholars of the 20th century. He was elected to the American Philosophical Society in 1986.


Metzger was born on February 9, 1914, in Middletown, Pennsylvania, and earned his BA (1935) at Lebanon Valley College. 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. 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 United Presbyterian Church of North America, which has since merged with the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America (PCUSA) 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, the Scot, John A. Mackay. That 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 1969, he was elected to membership in the Catholic Biblical Association. In 1971, he was elected president of both the 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. In 1986, Metzger became a member of the American Philosophical Society. 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, 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." Conservative evangelical scholar Daniel B. Wallace described Metzger as "a fine, godly, conservative scholar, although his view of biblical authority is not quite the same as many other evangelicals."

Shortly after his 93rd birthday, Metzger died in Princeton, New Jersey, on February 13, 2007. He was survived by his wife Isobel, who would die at the age of 98 on July 27, 2016 in Princeton, New Jersey, as well as their two sons, John Mackay Metzger and Dr. James Bruce Metzger.

Books and commentaries

Kurt Aland - Amrican Bibl Society
Left to right: unidentified, Bruce Metzger, Kurt Aland (center), Allen Wikgren, Matthew 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." 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.

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). 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.

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. 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.”


List of books

  • Studies in a Greek Gospel Lectionary (Greg. 303) (Ph.D.). Princeton, NJ: Princeton University. 1942.
  • Lexical Aids for Students of New Testament Greek. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. 1946. OCLC 2132643.
  • Introduction to the Apocrypha. New York: Oxford University Press. 1957. OCLC 361082.
  • List of Words Occuring Frequently in the Coptic New Testament (Sahidic Dialect). Leiden: Brill. 1961. – note: "occuring" is misspelled in the published title
  • The Oxford Concise Concordance to the Revised Standard Version of the Holy Bible (1st ed.). London: Oxford University Press. 1962.
  • Chapters in the History of New Testament Textual Criticism. New Testament Tools and Studies. 4. Leiden: Brill. 1963.
  • The Text of the New Testament: Its Transmission, Corruption, And Restoration (1st ed.). Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1964.
  • The New Testament: Its Background, Growth and Content (1st ed.). New York: Abingdon Press. 1965. ISBN 978-0-6872-7913-5. OCLC 341779.
  • Historical and Literary Studies: Pagan, Jewish, and Christian. Leiden: Brill. 1968.
  • The Early Versions of the New Testament: Their Origin, Transmission, and Limitations. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1977. ISBN 978-0-1982-6170-4. OCLC 3155516.
  • New Testament Studies: Philological, Versional, and Patristic. Leiden: Brill. 1980. ISBN 978-9-004-06163-7.
  • Manuscripts of the Greek Bible: An Introduction to Palaeography. New York: Oxford University Press. 1981. ISBN 978-0-195-02924-6. OCLC 6943206.
  • The Reader's Bible: condensed from the Revised Standard Version Old and New Testaments. Pleasantville, NY: Reader's Digest Association. 1983. ISBN 978-0-895-77106-3. OCLC 8817548.
  • The Canon of the New Testament: Its Origin, Development, and Significance. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1987. ISBN 978-0-198-26180-3. OCLC 14188714.
  • The Making of the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans. 1991. ISBN 978-0-802-80620-8.
  • Metzger, Bruce M.; Coogan, Michael D., eds. (1993). The Oxford Companion to the Bible. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-195-04645-8. OCLC 27895183.
  • Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament: a companion volume to the United Bible Societies' Greek New Testament (third ed.). London ; New York: United Bible Societies. 1994. ISBN 978-3-438-06010-5. OCLC 683422.
  • Reminiscences of an Octogenarian. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers. 1997. ISBN 978-1-5656-3264-6.
  • Breaking the Code: Understanding the Book of Revelation (Leader's ed.). Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press. 1999. ISBN 978-0-6874-9779-9.
  • Greek New Testament. Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft. 2000. ISBN 978-3-438-05110-3.
  • Metzger, Bruce M.; Coogan, Michael D., eds. (2001). The Oxford Guide to People & Places of the Bible. Oxford ; New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780195146417. OCLC 45439956.
  • The Bible in Translation, Ancient and English Versions. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic. 2001. ISBN 978-0-801-02282-1. OCLC 47100891.
  • Metzger, Bruce M.; Coogan, Michael D., eds. (2002). The Oxford Essential Guide to Ideas and Issues of the Bible. Oxford ; New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-195-14917-3. OCLC 47074788.
  • The New Testament: Its Background, Growth and Content (Reprint ed.). Cambridge: James Clarke & Co. 2002. ISBN 978-0-227-17025-0. OCLC 227928641.
  • The Text of the New Testament: Its Transmission, Corruption, And Restoration (4th ed.). Oxford: Clarendon Press. 2005. ISBN 0-19-516122-X.
  • Apostolic Letters of Faith, Hope, and Love: Galatians, 1 Peter, and 1 John. Eugene, OR: Cascade Books. 2006. ISBN 978-1-5975-2501-5.

List of translations

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

Selected articles and chapters

  • "The Meaning of Christ's Ascension". Christianity Today 10 (17): 3–4. May 27, 1966.
  • Granfield, Patrick; Jungmann, Josef A., eds. (1970). "Names for the Nameless in the New Testament: A Study in the Growth of Christian Tradition". Kyriakon: Festschrift Johannes Quasten. 1. Münster: Verlag Aschendorff. pp. 79–99.
  • "Patristic Evidence and Textual Criticism of the New Testament". New Testament Studies 18 (4): 379–400. 1972. doi:10.1017/S0028688500023705. - Presidential Address, Studiorum Novi Testamenti Societas, delivered August 24, 1971, at Noordwijkerhout, The Netherlands.
  • "Literary forgeries and canonical pseudepigrapha". Journal of Biblical Literature 91 (1): 3–24. 1972. doi:10.2307/3262916. - Presidential address, Society of Biblical Literature, delivered October 29, 1971, in Atlanta, Georgia.
  • "How Well Do You Know the Apocrypha?". Guideposts: 28–31. November 1984.

Selected interviews and writings about Bruce M. Metzger

  • "A Scholar's Scholar". Theology Today 39 (4): 418–20. January 1983. doi:10.1177/004057368303900411.
  • "the Second Interview: Bruce M. Metzger, PH.D.". The Case for Christ (2008 ed.). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan. 1998. pp. 57–71. ISBN 978-0-310-29604-1.


  • Epp, Eldon Jay; Fee, Gordon D., eds. (1981). New Testament Textual Criticism: Its Significance for Exegesis: Essays in Honour of Bruce M. Metzger. Oxford: Clarendon Press. ISBN 978-0-198-26175-9.
  • Petzer, Jacobus H.; Hartin, Patrick J., eds. (1986). 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. Leiden: Brill. ISBN 978-9-004-07720-1.
  • Ehrman, Bart D.; Holmes, Michael W., eds. (1989). The Text of the New Testament in Contemporary Research: Essays on the Status Quaestionis. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans. ISBN 978-0-802-84824-6.

See also

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