In my previous post I talked about the locally famous story about (my teacher) Bruce Metzger and the dead (dying?) squirrel. Here I continue the story to show why in fact is has some relevance to the New Testament!
As I indicated, for years friends of mine were eager for me to find out whether the story about Metzger and the squirrel really happened. They wanted me just to ask Metzger. But there were problems with that. Among other things, if it had happened, he almost certainly wouldn’t remember, since it would have simply been something that happened with no significance to him – only to the one who thought it was very odd that Metzger would happen to know the Greek word for squirrel and that he would volunteer it at that rather inauspicious moment.
Moreover, there were aspects of the story that did not “ring true.” Metzger was not heartless toward other living beings and he was not one to boast about his knowledge about Greek — or about anything else. Years later something happened to me that made me realize that the narrative itself could not be true. I was riding my bike to my office in Chapel Hill one day, and was passing by a yard with large trees in it. (This is a true story!) High overhead a squirrel jumped from one branch to the next, missed, and fell to the ground. I saw it happen with my own eyes! And guess what? It did not go “Splat!” and then die. It scurried off to the next tree. Squirrels don’t die when they fall out of trees.
When I saw this I immediately realized the narrative had been made up. I got to a phone and called one of my best friends from graduate school and told her what had just happened – without mentioning Metzger – and we both laughed and laughed. The squirrel story itself almost certainly hadn’t happened. But what did? What led to the story?
I think I finally figured it out, and it was by pure serendipity.
Years later, after I had finished my PhD with Metzger, and I was teaching part time at Rutgers University, Metzger hired me
As it turns out, my analysis of the story is related to how we can understand the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ teachings. Wanna see how? Join the blog and you can keep reading!Click here for membership options
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.