Bruce M. Metzger was not only a world-class New Testament scholar but a devoted and serious Christian who truly believed that the New Testament was a faithful record of historical events. He died last week at 93 years of age in Princeton, New Jersey, where he had lived for many years after his retirement from teaching at Princeton. Metzger oversaw the translation of the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible, a text used primarily by mainline churches. (The NRSV is, generally speaking, an acceptable and readable translation, which I have used with great profit in many contexts.) Metzger was a brilliant linguist and perhaps the foremost authority in the world on translating the New Testament. His name was simply the gold standard among scholars, liberal or conservative. He was respected for his work because he did it well and always to the glory of God.
His goal, whether or not you agreed with his conclusions in all cases, was an accessible, accurate and modern reading of the Bible. Among his guiding principles was the much-controversial gender-neutral language used in the NRSV as well as the more evangelical projects such the NLT and TNIV. He did not promote gender-neutral language with reference to God but to males and females when the Greek text allowed it and it was a proper translation for a modern reader. He also promoted various syntactical shifts in order to avoid common confusions in reading the English Bible. His precision and commitment to accuracy show in all his work.
Who can forget the magnificent interview that Lee Strobel conducted with Bruce Metzger that appeared in Strobel’s first popular book on the evidence for a historically accurate biblical record? (Strobel, trained as a newspaper reporter, knows how to conduct a first-rate interview, which is a great strength in his several apologetically aimed books.) This interview, which was the best in the book for me personally, was scintillating in way that is rarely accomplished by talking to a world-class biblical scholar. Metzger demonstrated genuine scholarship with deep humility.
Bruce Metzger not only shaped New Testament translation for decades but he gave his life to the faith that he loved through his academic discipline. I, for one at least, thank God for the great work of this wonderfully devout man who served the church so well by using scholarship in service of faith. Millions of people profited from his life of devotional scholarship.