THIS POST CONTINUES MY RECOLLECTIONS OF MY MENTOR BRUCE METZGER.
Several times in these posts on Bruce Metzger I have mentioned the fact that many of his colleagues at Princeton Theological Seminar considered him “old school,” and theologically a bit, well, naïve. It is common in theological circles to brand someone who has an older view of things that is not cutting edge as naïve. And Metzger certainly was not cutting edge when it came to theology.
Metzger had been raised in a pious home in Pennsylvania and the piety and simple beliefs of his youth stayed with him through old age. As I’ve indicated, he knew billions of facts about the Bible – its teachings, its historical context, the formation of the canon, the transmission of its text, the translation of its text into ancient languages (Latin, Coptic, Syriac, Armenian, Georgian, Slavonic — and so on!), the history of its interpretation, etc. etc. But his own personal beliefs could well have been the same had he not known these billions of facts. His was a traditional, fairly conservative belief in God through Christ, and he had a traditional understanding of the Bible as the inspired word of God.
Metzger was no fundamentalist. And he did not self-identify even as an evangelical. He did not think the Bible was inerrant or even infallible. He believed that parts of Genesis contained ancient myths (Adam and Eve) and legends (in his words: “Who ever said that God could not inspire myths?”). I don’t know if he believed in evolution, exactly, but if he did, it was in some kind of God-driven evolution. He certainly knew that there were some discrepancies in the Bible, but he thought most of them could be reconciled with due diligence. He thought most of the books of the Bible were likely written by the authors who claimed to be writing them, or who were claimed for them (Matthew was probably written by Matthew; 1 Timothy was probablyt written by Paul; etc.), although he did make an exception with 2 Peter. He thought there was no way the author of 1 Peter could have written 2 Peter (and he’s right!): the styles are too radically different. But, then again, who ever said that God could not inspire a pseudepigraphon?
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Bruce Metzger is the author of several books including The Early Versions of the New Testament and The Text of the New Testament: Its Transmission, Corruption, And Restoration.