Friday, October 24, 2014

Word Magazine # 28: The Life and Legacy of Bruce Manning Metzger

Image:  The fourth edition (co-edited with Bart Ehrman) of Metzger's best known and perhaps most influential book, "The Text of the New Testament."

Image: Bruce Manning Metzger (1914-2007)

Note:  I recorded and posted a new Word Magazine today (# 28).  This episode sketches the life an legacy of longtime Princeton Seminary professor, Bruce Manning Metzger.  Below is the introduction to the podcast.  Listen for the rest.

I was having a discussion recently with two friends and one asked the other two of us this question:  “What are the books which have been the most influential against the traditional text?”

My friend answered:

1.       Bruce Metzger’s Text of the New Testament
2.       Kurt and Barbara Aland’s Text of the New Testament
3.       James White’s The King James Only Controversy           
4.       D. A. Carson’s King James Version Debate:  A Plea for Realism

My response:

I think in the modern context it has been B. N. Metzger's The Text of the New Testament (now in its 4th edition and co-edited by no less than Bart Ehrman).  The subtitle says it all:  "Its Transmission, Corruption, and Restoration."

For the 19th century, it would likely be Westcott and Hort's Introduction to the NT in the Original Greek.

So, we both put Bruce Manning Metzger's Text of the New Testament at the top of the list.  In some of my recent podcasts reviewing James Whites’ comments on the text of the NT, I noted that White, like most other contemporary pastors and scholars, has been deeply influenced by Metzger in adopting “reasoned eclecticism” and embracing the modern critical text.  White, in particular, and other have also been prone to pass along anecdotes from Metzger without bothering to examine the primary sources (e. g., Erasmian legends).

Who was Bruce Manning Metzger?  In this article I want:

1.  To offer a sketch of Metzger’s life and his considerable academic achievements.

2.  To reflect on Metzger’s ongoing legacy.

I am relying on two primary sources for this study:

First,  Metzger’s autobiography, Reminiscences of an Octogenarian (Hendrickson, 1997).

Second, J. Harold Ellens, “Bruce Manning Metzger (1914-2007),” in  Dictionary of Major Biblical Interpreters, Ed. Donald K. McKim (IVP Academic, 2007):  pp. 728-732.

In addition I also read several online obituaries and tributes from pastors and scholars that were published at Metzger’s death..... 

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