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Bruce Metzger in 2003
Bruce Manning Metzger (9 February, 1914 – 13 February, 2007) was a professor at Princeton Theological Seminarymarker and Bible editor who served on the board of the American Bible Society. He was a scholar of Greek, New Testament and Old Testament, and wrote prolifically on these subjects.


Metzger was born in Middletown, Pennsylvaniamarker, and earned his B.A. (1935) at Lebanon Valley Collegemarker, and his Th.B. (1938) at Princeton Theological Seminarymarker. 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 M.A. from Princeton Universitymarker and became an Instructor in New Testament. Two years later, he earned his Ph.D., 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, Cambridgemarker in 1974 and Wolfson College, Oxfordmarker 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 Collegemarker, Findlay College, University of St Andrewsmarker, the University of Münstermarker and Potchefstroom University.

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

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 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).

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).

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)


  1. Obituary from Society of Biblical Literature
  2. James A. Brooks, "Bruce Metzger as Textual Critic," Princeton Seminary Bulletin, vol. 15, no. 2, new series (1994), 157.
  3. One rather vitriolic example is Editors of the UBS Greek New Testament, by David W. Cloud, Way of Life Literature 2001, in which Metzger is labelled "an unbeliever", "a false teacher", "apostate" and "a heretic".

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