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Chapter 5

Metzger's Contribution


   In his latest publication Reminiscences of an Octogenarian, America's great Greek scholar, Dr. Bruce M. Metzger, tells about his own life and work. He was born on February 9, 1914, at Middletown, in Dauphin County, Pensylvania into a family of Mennonite heritage.

   He went to Lebanon Valley College where he studied Greek and Latin. with his interest in the Greek language, and desiring some kind of Christian vocation, he began to make plans to study at Louisville under A.T. Robertson, one of the leading New Testament scholars of the time. But after learning of Robertson's death, he decided to go to Princeton Theological Seminary instead.

   At Princeton, he studied Greek, Hebrew, and Syriac. In the spring of 1938, some weeks prior to graduation, he was invited by the president of the seminary, John Mackay, to serve as teaching fellow in Greek for the next academic year. This was the beginning of a 46-year teaching career at Princeton Theological Seminary. He retired in 1984.

   In 1948, the International Greek New Testament Project began. It was an effort to update and make available information that had come to light since previous materials had been published. In December of 1949, Metzger was chosen as one of six members on the executive committee of the International Greek New Testament Project, a collaborative effort with scholars from England. He also served as chairman of the subcommittee on the early versions of the New Testament.

   By 1955, the American Bible Society, National Bible Society of Scotland, Wurttemberg Bible Society of Germany, Netherlands Bible Society and British and Foreign Bible Society joined hands in a publication effort. They committed their support to the work of a committee on which Metzger served for ten years. The end result was an edition of the Greek New Testament with an apparatus suited to the needs of translators and students. The first copies of the completed book were published in 1966, issued under the auspices of the United Bible Society.

   Around this time in England, G.D. Kilpatrick, Erwin Nestle and several other scholars issued a revised edition of Eberhard Nestle's 1904 text (prepared by consulting the principal textual works of the late 19th century) and published the 21st edition of Eberhard Nestle's Greek New Testament in 1958.

   A second edition of the United Bible Societies' The Greek New Testament appeared in 1968. A third edition was published in 1975. Correlated to the text of the third edition is a companion volume entitled A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, edited by Dr. Metzger. A fourth edition project started in 1981, and was then published in 1993.

   Over the years, the United Bible Societies' edition of the Greek New Testament has been widely adopted as the basis for translations and revisions of earlier vernacular renderings in many countries and cultures.

   In 1961 Dr. Metzger was elected a member of the advisory committee of the Institute for New Testament Textual Research at Munster in West Germany.

   Later the University of Cambridge Faculty of Divinity and the master and fellows of Emmanuel College invited Dr.Metzger to speak on the occasion of the centenary celebration of the 1881 publication of the Westcott-Hort Greek New Testament. In response to this invitation, on May 5,1981, he delivered a lecture entitled "The Westcott and Hort Greek New Testament--Yesterday and Today," in the old library of Emmanuel College. He spoke of the work of F.J.A. Hort as textual critic of the New Testament. This lecture was published by The Cambridge Review (20 Nov 1981, pp. 71-76).

   In his speech, he compared the amount of materials available to Westcott and Hort and the amount available at the present time. He quoted Kurt Aland as having estimated that today we have access to 60 times as many papyrus manuscripts as Westcott and Hort knew of.

   This quick introduction to Dr. Metzger only suggests the important work he did in textual criticism. We heartily recommend the following Dr. Metzger books for further reading:

1. Reminiscences of an Octogenarian

   This book gives you the most complete picture of Dr. Metzger's background and personality. It also gives a chronological perspective of his various Biblical criticism contributions.

2. The Text of the New Testament: Its Transmission, Corruption, and Restoration Third, Enlarged Edition

   I strongly recommend reading this book. This book gives you a thorough understanding of how the text was transmitted through the decades.

3. The Early Versions of the New Testament: Their Origin, Transmission and Limitations

    This book gives very detailed information on the details on manuscripts made before about AD 1000, how the Syriac versions, the Coptic versions, the Latin version and many other versions came about. It also explains which versions were translated word-to-word, and explains other translation techniques.

4. The Canon of the New Testament: Its Origin, Development, and Significance

5. The Greek New Testament by the United Bible Society.

   The fourth edition (UBS4) is the newest Greek text. This is the same text as the Nestle-Aland 26th Greek text.

6. A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament

   The first edition was written to be used with the third edition of the United Bible Societies' Greek New Testament, published in 1975.

   The second edition was written to be used with the fourth edition of the United Bible Societies' Greek New Testament (UBS4), published in 1993.

   These books give you more than 2,000 variant readings by verses, and explain what the differences are, and explain what documments support the variations.

7. Bible New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

  This English version of Bible was translated from the latest Greek text, UBS4, in 1989. Dr. Metzger was one of the main editors.  The New Oxford Annotated Bible, New Revised Standard Version was published by Oxford University Press, and the Holy Bible NRSV was published by Thomas Nelson Publishers. Also, The NRSV Concordance by John R. Kohlenberger III is availabe.

   Dr. Metzger also wrote many other books. We suggest you work with a good reference librarian who can help you find other books that will meet your needs.  Also, many books are still available from book stores.