Bruce Metzger, Emeritus Professor of New Testament Language and Literature at the Princeton Theological Seminary, was a Bible translator and New Testament textual critic. His Text of the New Testament: its transmission, corruption and restoration (1964) has been the standard primer for students for over 40 years; in 2005 it went into a fourth revised edition.
Among his many publications that also remain in print are other fundamental studies: The Early Versions of the New Testament: their origin, transmission and limitations (1977), dealing with the translations from Greek into other early languages of Christianity, and The Canon of the New Testament: its origin, development and significance (1987).
For those whose biblical studies are concerned with verifiable scholarship, Metzger has always been a wise guide; his publications are filled with the results of wide reading, encyclopaedic knowledge and meticulous research. His enviably fluid English style brings these topics to life, and his incessant curiosity into the byways of the disciplines throws up some entertaining obiter dicta in footnotes.
On a more popular level, his Manuscripts of the Greek Bible (1981) is an album of photographs of manuscripts with his explanatory notes that introduced the disciplines of palaeography, codicology and papyrology to a public who previously may have thought such subjects belonged to hospital wards. Metzger was at the centre of major international research work. As a member of the Greek New Testament Project committee he was involved in the preparation of a thesaurus of variant readings in the Greek manuscripts of Luke's gospel, which was eventually published by the Clarendon Press under the editorship of J.K. Elliott in two volumes in 1984 and 1987. He was a member of the Board of Trustees of the Vetus Latina Institute in Beuron in Germany, whose work involves the recovery of the pre-Jerome Latin Bible. He was also an adviser to the Institute for New Testament Textual Research in Monster, from which much pioneering work emerges.
It was his membership of the small committee that was set up by the international bible societies that made Metzger's name well known among New Testament scholars. The United Bible Societies' Greek New Testament which they produced has gone through several editions since it was first published in 1966. Metzger wrote its companion volume, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament (1971) which explained the textual variants printed in the New Testament and the reasons why the committee decided on what to print as its text. That vade-mecum has been a useful first port of call to generations of students.
The text this committee produced was adopted for the 26th edition of the Nestle Novum Testamentum Graece and this ensured that the principal Greek New Testament used today for academic study and as the basis for translations is the one co-edited by Metzger. In addition, for decades Metzger also edited the scholarly monograph series "New Testament Tools and Studies" published by Brill of Leiden.
Amazingly, given his many scholarly commitments, Metzger was also very active for several years as the Chairman of the Bible Translation Committee for the New Revised Standard Version. …