Metzger Memorial for Papyrology Congress at Geneva, 2010

Bruce Manning Metzger passed away at Princeton NJ, where he had spent his entire academic life, on 13 Feb 2007, just 4 days after his 93rd birthday. While professor Metzger did not claim to be a papyrologist, as a graduate student he did course work in the subject with A.C.Johnson resulting in Metzger editing two of the Princeton University papyri in the 3rd volume of that corpus (1942). But his first love was the associated area of textual criticism, where he became the leading American scholar in the field of New Testament Greek textual studies.

Metzger did his MA and PhD at Princeton University while also studying at the Princeton Theological Seminary, where he then taught for 46 years until retirement in 1984. It is said that he taught more students than any other teacher at that institution, and his scholarly output was prodigious, including several articles on NT papyri. He also traveled widely and was honored as president of several major academic societies (SBL and SNTS in 1971; NAPS 1972, and the Society for Textual Scholarship 1995, as well as being elected to the American Philosophical Society and as a corresponding member of the British Academy which also honored him with its Burkitt Medal for Biblical Studies in 1994. He also received three Festschriften (1981, 1985, 1994) and several honorary degrees.

Metzger is probably best known for his work as an editor of the Greek NT, and as a central member of the RSV and NRSV Bible translation teams. He had a fantastic footnote-type memory for bibliographic and similar details, and several of his publications gathered such information into extremely useful compilations. One of his hobbies was collecting pithy comments that he came across in his own reading. He included an appendix of such materials in his 1997 autobiographical Reminiscences of an Octogenarian one of which is the paradoxically somewhat verbose observation by Thomas Jefferson,  “the most valuable of all talents is that of never using two words when one will do” – which I take to mean “keep it focused.” Thus the details of Metzger’s fruitful life are spread throughout the available obituaries, many of which are online. To them I add this belated personal observation: he was a gentle person and an unpretentious friend and colleague who has left many with many warm memories.

Robert A. Kraft