THIS POST RESUMES MY RECOLLECTIONS OF MY INTERACTIONS WITH BRUCE METZGER, MY MENTOR. Remember: when I say “textual criticism” in this post, I am NOT referring simply to the “study of texts.” Textual criticism is the technical term used by scholars (in all fields) to refer to how we establish what an author wrote if we don’t have his/her original writing itself. For the New Testament that involves studying ancient Greek manuscripts and other sources; since all the surviving sources word the NT in different ways — usually completely insignificant ways, but sometimes important — we need to figure out what the “originals” said and how scribes changed them. That’s “textual criticism.”
When I entered my PhD program at Princeton Theological Seminary, I knew already that I wanted to specialize in the study of the Greek manuscript tradition of the New Testament. As I indicated in my earlier posts, that’s why I went there, because Metzger was the country’s leading expert in this field, and one could argue the leading expert in the world (some Germans would contest the point!).
While doing my Master’s thesis for Metzger I read widely in the secondary literature on textual criticism, and came to be highly influenced by a scholar named Gordon Fee. Fee is an interesting and important figure. As it turns out, he is a very committed Pentecostal Christian, who preaches and evangelizes. But when he’s not doing that, he’s doing scholarship, and he’s an amazing scholar. He is also the author of How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth and Discovering Biblical Equality, among other works. At the time of my master’s work, he was one of the top textual critics in the country, right behind Metzger (the generation, or so, behind him).
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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.