We invited alumni/ae to share memories of Dr. Bruce Metzger, and to comment about how he and his work affected their lives and ministries, and we received more than 160 responses. We published as many as we could in the print version of inSpire, and you can read them below under “Printed in inSpire.” The rest are on the web pages that follow, organized by class.
I met Dr. Metzger while serving as the senior Protestant chaplain at McGuire Air Force Base in New Jersey. Annually I would take the Protestant chaplains and parish council on a retreat. In 1986 we held our retreat at PTS, and on entering Adams House that Friday I noticed a room with conference tables containing books and manuscripts. When we had our coffee break a white-haired man exited the conference room, walked up to me, and said, “I’m Bruce Metzger.” What a thrill for me. I asked him what they were doing in that room. He replied, “We’re translating the Bible.” They were translating the NRSV. I asked him if I could go in and he said yes but not to touch anything. That meeting began a twenty-one-year friendship between us. I invited him to each of the U.S. Air Force bases where I was assigned. He signed all copies of my RSV/NRSV Bibles, which I will cherish, along with our relationship.
Raymond C. Hart (Th.M., 1989)
Dr. Metzger and his wife, Isobel, had a wonderful ministry among students even decades after his teaching career ended. When my wife and I were dining at their home one evening, Dr. Metzger’s demeanor visibly changed when he learned that my wife had not yet taken Greek. But he didn’t miss a beat and moved to a topic I’m sure he knew could not go wrong. He asked Renee if she liked chocolate, and then went on to describe which chocolates he most liked. But his true love returned before the evening ended when he shared that reading the New Testament in English is like kissing your bride with her veil on.
Justin Sundberg (M.Div., 1996)
Bruce Metzger’s course in New Testament in the fall of 1967 commenced a forty-year friendship that exerted a formative influence on my life and calling. In all his writings, his clarity, precision, and frequent wit are worthy of emulation. His trilogy on the text of the New Testament, the formation of the New Testament canon, and the early versions of the New Testament is a lasting legacy. He was a supremely Christian scholar—humble, gentle, gracious. The intellectual rigor and warm evangelical faith that he exhibited were primary influences on my becoming a Presbyterian.
James R. Edwards (M.Div., 1970)
I was a student of strong evangelical persuasion, and Dr. Metzger was a great inspiration to me during my years at PTS. His faith in the Scriptures was as profound and meticulous as his scholarship. In a more humorous vein, I remember an occasion in class that went something like this: Dr. Metzger made a statement that a particular Greek word was used thirty-three or thirty-four times in the New Testament. Then with a whimsical smile he said: “It’s not that I don’t know whether it is thirty-three or thirty-four, it is that one citing is disputed!”
I was glad to shake his hand when I attended my fiftieth anniversary in 2001. I thank God for his service to Christ and the church.
R. Hunter Keen (M.Div., 1951; Th.M., 1968)
This is a story I heard about Dr. Metzger during the translation of the NRSV. Dr. Metzger was two years ahead of me, so I did not have him in Greek grammar, although I’m sure when I was a senior and he was a Ph.D. candidate, he probably could and would have been a great instructor. According to the story, he and the committee were hard at work in Speer Library and so involved that they lost track of time and discovered that the library, when they came to, was locked. And they were locked in. According to the account I heard, Dr. Metzger climbed out of a first-floor library window and got someone to open the door for the rest of the committee. It’s a good story—one can envision him in all his professorial dignity emerging from a window of Speer one leg at a time! It makes the work on the NRSV more human.
Sam Warr (M.Div., 1940)
The contribution of Dr. Metzger is beyond description. As a person, he was a saint, yet very ordinary in his way of relating. As a student of theology in the 1970s in Bangalore, India, I used the RSV as my text/study Bible. I had the great privilege of greeting Dr. Metzger in Princeton in 2004. I consider his scholarship his greatest offering, enabling us to understand the Bible from a variety of perspectives, including from my South Asian contexts of life and ministry.
T.S. Premarajah (Prem) (Th.M., 1983)
Dr. Metzger was still a regular in Speer Library during my time at Princeton. He had the unusual habit of sticking his hearing aids out from his ears at right angles as he sat in the reading room. I don’t know if that made the devices function better or if it was just an eccentricity that helped ward off interruptions from star-struck seminarians. One of my favorite PTS memories was routinely coming across octogenarian professors Bruce Metzger and Sam Moffett shooting the breeze or looking over a reference book together in the library.
John W. Potter (M.Div., 2002)
By the time I entered seminary in 1997, Dr. Metzger was no longer teaching, but his influence was still very much felt and his reputation legendary. Perhaps the best indicator of the esteem in which we students held him came during Theologiggle 2000. Some creative people assigned Dr. Metzger to represent the unassailable authority of the center square in a take-off on Hollywood Squares, a spoof on theological gamesmanship. Of course the contestants always agreed with whatever the center square answered, and I believe that the real Dr. Metzger enjoyed the playfulness.
Beth Goss (M.Div., 2000)
I never took a class with Dr. Metzger, as he was eighty-seven years old when I arrived on campus, but I always looked forward to my encounters with him and was amazed that he had time to talk with everyone who crossed his path. I once sent him an article I had written, and another time a video I had made, and both times he was gracious enough to call me to thank me and to offer feedback. Even long into his emeritus years, he had a passion for helping young scholars.
Darren Pollock (M.Div., 2004)
La Crescenta, California
I had a wonderful conversation with my grandfather about what he appreciated about Dr. Metzger. Here are his thoughts. [Karen Behm (M.Div., 2006)]
I remember Dr. Metzger as one of the best professors I had. He lived a Christ-like life. My congregations have used the RSV and the NRSV and their faith has grown because of the new English words he used in his translation.
William R. Dupree (M.Div.,1946)
Some people are saints, and Bruce Metzger was one of them. He was also a real human being with a great sense of humor. Because he seemed so saintly, many did not catch his enjoyable humanity.
Once at an alumni/ae reunion in Florida, we introduced him at a luncheon. As I recall, these were his words of response:
“Thank you for that kind introduction. I have to admit that although I remember many of your faces, I can’t remember all of your names...which reminds me of the two fellows who played golf together weekly for twenty years in retirement. One day, one of the fellows turned to the other and said, ‘I’m somewhat embarrassed to ask, but what’s your name?’ After a short pause, the other fellow turned to him and said, ‘Ah...how soon do you have to know?’”
The large gathering exploded with laughter, in part because we hadn’t expected a joke from the always proper and gentlemanly professor.
Dick Gronhovd (M.Div., 1961)
Port Ludlow, Washington
I came to Princeton because of Bruce Metzger’s scholarship. He wasn’t teaching that year, but I attended a retreat-lecture he gave one afternoon. During the lecture, I asked him, “How long did it take you to do Lexical Aids for Students of New Testament Greek?” He smiled, looked over at his wife, Isobel, and said, “Many, many long winter nights in Pennsylvania. There were no computers then, so I did all the work by hand, adding word by word until I finished each final tally.” I looked at his wife and said, “And you, Mrs. Metzger, during those long winter nights, I bet you made the longest afghan in American history.” They both laughed, and I watched as they exchanged “eyes of reciprocated love,” as Shakespeare says of Miranda and Ferdinand in The Tempest. Later I felt that one of the reasons that God had guided me to Princeton was to meet this international scholar and to learn that he was also a loving husband.
Father Daniel J. Mulkern (Th.M., 2006)
I knew Bruce Metzger’s name even before my life at PTS, as I studied his Lexical Aids for Students of New Testament Greek translated into Korean. My first encounter with him was when I first saw a very old man diligently reviewing some journals and finally matched his actual face with the painting on the wall in Speer Library. “So glad to meet you, Dr. Metzger. What are you doing?” I said. His answer: “I am reviewing some recent periodicals.” To me he was an industrious scholar, indeed, at the age of ninety! It was a blessing to be rekindled in my personal Bible study through this remarkable person.
Hyung Jin Park (Th.M., 2000)
Princeton, New Jersey
As I think of Bruce Metzger, I recall a truly world-class scholar who also possessed humility and kindness. Though he was given more years than most, I still lament his passing. My wife, Laura, and I were typists for him when I was finishing my M.Div. I think we may have even typed a draft of his introduction to the NRSV. Dr. Metzger always appeared at our door in his customary three-piece suit and bow tie. He carried himself with an almost Victorian decorum that nonetheless evoked immense humanity toward us, who were just lowly typists. Even at his age, he had a fiery passion that kept him energized and engaged in his vocation. Often he could be found in Speer Library poring over the texts he loved and to which he devoted his life. Just under a decade later, I contracted Dr. Metzger to teach a class on the Book of Revelation for our adult education program, at Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church in New York City. I experienced something akin to hearing the voice of God interpret this puzzling book.
Greg Cootsona (M.Div., 1991)
I grew up on the King James Version. English literature reinforced its cadences. Since the RSV first appeared, there has been a flutter of other translations, each claiming the virtue of dynamic translation, yet metaphors have given way to paraphrases. My mother gave me a copy of the New Testament, RSV when it was first published; the adult Bible class in Cranbury presented me with a full Bible, leather-bound and embossed with my name when we returned to South Africa in 1953. This was a constant companion in study and pulpit. In 1962, I picked up in Edinburgh the Oxford Study Bible version, with Bruce’s notes on the New Testament, which became a constant companion in two teaching appointments. Its cover is worn and its spine re-bound. How can one ever be grateful enough for such a constant, well-informed, balanced, and modest companion? Like the man himself: unobtrusive, precise, and with a depth beyond my sounding. He led this sheep beside still waters.
Calvin Wight Cook (Ph.D., 1953)
Professor Metzger was my senior thesis advisor and what I learned from him influenced my thinking throughout my ministry. Although his encouragement enabled me to pursue postgraduate study at the University of St. Andrews, his influence was more than academic. As I happened to look at his portrait in the library just before he died, I remembered his deep faith in Jesus Christ, his sincere humility, his tremendous learning, and his continuing interest in what his former students were doing. By example, he demonstrated that a pastor could still be a scholar and a theologian as well as a counselor, a teacher, and a spiritual friend.
Earl S. Johnson Jr. (B.D., 1967)
Johnstown, New York
I arrived at Princeton from deep in the Piney Woods of East Texas in the fall of 1969, neither knowing about nor being appreciative of the incredible faculty I would learn from for the next three years. On my first day of Introduction to New Testament I carried my childhood KJV with me into class. Dr. Metzger asked us to buy the Oxford Annotated RSV for our next class. I dutifully did so, soon discovered his name on the cover page, and have delighted over the nearly thirty-five years of my ministry in telling everyone that I took New Testament from the man who “wrote the Bible.”
David M. Evans (M.Div., 1972)
With Bruce Metzger’s passing, a major era of biblical translation and understanding has ended. I remember sitting in his home office one sunny afternoon to get his take on some then-current biblical issue in preparation for something I was writing. He leaned back in his chair and said, “That’s an interesting issue.” He then proceeded to turn his chair around and open the large Bible in a stand on his desk. He read the passage in question and said, “I doubt that it’s going to make much of a difference.” As I got up to leave, I looked over at his Bible—the Coptic Bible. I’m sure that Dr. Metzger is now getting many of his questions answered in a very modest and intense way.
Alex Wales (M.Div., 1973)
One recollection particularly stands out. One year I was a preceptor for Chris Beker’s course on the pastoral epistles. My job was to read through the Greek with the students, commenting on grammar, syntax, and vocabulary, and then they would do exegesis with him on the next day. One day the students noticed that 2 Timothy 2:25 had the 3rd p sg aorist active subjunctive of didomi in the red UBS Greek NT, but the blue Nestle-Aland text had the 3rd p sg aorist active optative. This was after the point when the two versions had decided to agree on the same text. So I asked Metzger about it. He was surprised to learn that there was a difference between the two texts, and said he would look into it.
Two years later he saw me on the sidewalk and said, “Loren, I looked into that matter,” as if we had talked just the day before, “and I got Nestle-Aland to change their text.”
Loren Johns (Ph.D., 1998)
What I remember most fondly about Dr. Metzger was his gentle spirit, gracious courtesy, quiet-spoken demeanor, and kindness. He defined the word “gentleman” in his interactions with students, be it in the lecture hall or chatting one on one in the quadrangle. I don’t think one could ever “out-thank” Bruce Metzger. Anytime I thanked him for something, he always thanked me for thanking him. During my years at PTS, he seemed like someone who would stay on this earth forever. I will miss him.
Ian C. MacDonald (M.Div., 1985)
What a privilege to have had Bruce Metzger first as a professor and later as a faculty colleague. His wisdom, warmth, and Christian witness have affected my life in many ways. He was always open and receptive to questions, always perceptive, constructive, and encouraging in his comments. I am especially grateful for his having read and endorsed one of my unfinished manuscripts, and I was pleased to incorporate some of his suggestions. Among my lasting impressions of him as a scholar and a man will be the way his amazing brilliance was matched by his gentleness and humility.
Richard S. Armstrong (M.Div., 1958)
Princeton, New Jersey
Dr. Metzger was already a professor emeritus when I began seminary. He was a kind, humble, gracious man who was always happy to talk with and encourage M.Div. students. One of my favorite memories is from the 1999 Hunger Run—he ran, and he did well (he beat quite a few students, including me!). When I congratulated him, he said that it was easy to win in his age group, since sometimes he was the only one IN his age group! That was Dr. Metzger, funny and self-effacing!
Cathy Gumpert (M.Div., 2000)
Whitehouse Station, New Jersey
I remember Dr. Metzger from Introduction to the New Testament in my junior year (1955–56). Two things struck me: his ability to present the heart of issues from a wide range of sources, and how his conclusion was always “somewhere in the middle.” He motivated me to read scholars like Rudolf Bultmann. My quest eventually led me to Bultmann’s sermons preached during the Nazi regime, which showed me how a “liberal” scholar was dynamically evangelical in the pulpit.
William E. Chapman (M.Div., 1958)
Hillsdale, New Jersey
Dr. Metzger was a gentleman (gentle-man) in the fullest sense. He was keenly aware of his students, even when we were not aware of it. For example, I had taken classes from Dr. Metzger and had conversations with him, but I would not have thought of myself as someone who stood out to him. Two or three years after graduation, when I was an associate in a church in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, I received a call from the front office that there was a man looking for me. It was Dr. Metzger, who was in the area lecturing at Pittsburgh Seminary. He went out of his way to come down the street from the seminary to “look me up and see how I was doing.” That fifteen-minute conversation was one I have remembered to this day and one I will always appreciate.
Ewen Holmes (M.Div., 1981)
Fountain Hills, Arizona
I sat under Dr. Metzger on only one occasion. It marked my life and my ministry. It was a lunchtime seminar sponsored by the Theological Students’ Fellowship. He spoke to us on “How I read the Bible.” He spoke about reading the Bible in a scholarly way, and then in a way that would instruct the church. Finally, he shared how he continued to read the Bible in his personal devotions. Dr. Metzger was such a legend on campus that those of us who checked out a Bible from time to time from Speer Library used to write “Bruce Metzger” on the line for author on the checkout card. That such a man would continue to open his Bible daily to read it for divine guidance, as a child might, set an example for me that I have striven to follow throughout my ministry.
David Huegel (M.Div., 1998)
What I remember most about Bruce, and what I have passed on to my children, is his consistency in life. For example, he taught me to review flash cards every day. As a student I recall how every Saturday, in his suit, he would go to the library to read. He shared how he reviewed language cards during breakfast every morning. His passion for Christ was undeniable.
Rolando Galvez (M.Div., 1996)
Not long after the RSV was published, my grandfather gave me a leather-bound edition with my name engraved on the cover. I treasured that Bible and still have it. Little did I know that some years later I would meet the man responsible for helping that Bible happen. I remember Dr. Metzger telling stories about getting hate mail from people who were adamantly against anything but the King James Version. It seemed so impossible that such a humble, gracious man could ever get hate mail!
Jim Wheeler (M.Div., 1991)
When I was a student I asked Dr. Metzger to sign a new leather-bound copy of the NRSV Bible my wife had given me. As he handed it back to me with his signature on the title page just above his name he said, “I’m not the author, you know.”
Stephen L. White (attended in 2001)
Princeton, New Jersey
I recall Dr. Metzger as an extraordinarily bright intellectual who also had a deep and abiding faith. When I was at PTS in the late 1960s during the “Woodstock era,” there were many bright professors and many people of great faith, but one did not always find faith and intellect together. Among other things, Dr. Metzger taught me that a valid faith could withstand and even be nurtured by rigorous scholarship and intellectual questioning.
Tom Baker (M.Div., 1969; D.Min., 1993)
Pennington, New Jersey
I remember feeling daunted by the thought of taking New Testament Greek. I had never been good at languages and the task loomed large. After my first class with Dr. A.K. Adam, I took my Greek New Testament, my alphabet list, my notebook, and my course text and headed for Speer Library. I headed straight for the one man who could help me—Dr. Metzger. Throughout that year I sat under his image and waited for discernment to settle upon my head. I figured that since he wrote the Bible he was obviously close friends with God and that was THE precept group in which I needed to be. As I stared at his portrait above my desk he always seemed to say, “It’s all right here in the book; right here.” He was a man of God, a scholar, and one who inspires us to reach beyond ourselves.
Jonelle S.G. Kazarian (M.Div., 1997)
Dr. Metzger was the professor I most admired in my years at PTS. I was struck by his considerable scholarship that was masked by his humble spirit. This made him very approachable. In my first church, I was puzzled about a passage of Scripture from 1 Peter on which I wanted to preach. I wrote him concerning my puzzle. Within the week I received a detailed response. I was surprised, and impressed that a man with many responsibilities took the time to address my puzzlements. That was over forty years ago, and I have never forgotten his kindness.
John C. Vaughn (B.D., 1960)
Pompano Beach, Florida
Of all who write, I may be the one who knew Dr. Metzger the least. I had him for only one brief class. I don’t recall the name of the course, but I can never forget the kindness, gentleness, and wisdom with which he spoke and responded to all questions—even the inane ones. That touch of genuine humility has been a faith-force in my life as a parish pastor these last thirty-six years.
Jim McCormack (M.Div.,1970)
One afternoon, Dr. Metzger and I met each other outside the library. Our conversation went something like this:
“Good afternoon, Dr. Metzger! How are you?”
“Oh, not so well,” he replied. I was terrified where this conversation might be going.
“Really?” I replied. “I’m sorry to hear that.”
“Well, you should be. This past weekend, I was walking by Templeton Hall (which at the time was under construction) and noticed a gap in the fence, wide enough for a child to climb through. To make matters worse, a pallet of bricks was suspended from the side of the building, held up by a rope that was tied to an anchor in the ground. The scene had disaster written all over it. So I climbed through the hole and untied the rope. I hadn’t considered, however, that the weight of the bricks would bring the pallet down so quickly. Thus the rope jerked me into the air, and when the bricks hit the ground I landed in the middle of them.”
“Good heavens! Are you okay?” I asked, searching his head for evidence of the fall.
“Well, that’s not the end of it. About the time I thought it was over, the pulley came loose that had been holding the bricks aloft and landed smack on the back of my head.”
By now I was well beyond the non-anxious presence I’d been practicing in pastoral care courses. “This sounds just terrible! Are you sure you’re okay?!?”
“Actually, I’m fine. I read that story in Reader’s Digest and thought it would be far more effective in the first person.” His shoulders bounced as he chuckled.
When I finally found my voice again, I shouted after him, “Hey, Dr. Metzger! Have you done anything like this with the Bible?”
He laughed. “Keep studying your Greek, young man. Keep studying your Greek.”
Trace Haythorn (M.Div., 1992)
On one occasion I was working on a paper about the NRSV for a class on cultural hermeneutics. Hoping to interview him, I emailed Dr. Metzger, then eighty-nine years old, wondering if he even used email. The following day I received a note of reply in my student box, printed by a typewriter, complete with White Out. Unfortunately, he was too busy to meet—even at eighty-nine he was working hard! I am presenting a paper at the 2007 SBL/AAR meeting titled “The Cultural Hermeneutics of the NRSV Translating Committee,” dedicated to the memory of Dr. Metzger.
Colin H. Yuckman (M.Div., 2005)
New Kensington, Pennsylvania
The morning we heard of Dr. Metzger’s engagement to Isobel Mackay, several of us got to our class early and proceeded to write “I love you” in every language we could think of until the blackboard was filled. We could not wait until he arrived. We watched his face as he stood there looking at the blackboard with a growing smile…even a grin! On another note, for years before beginning a Bible study class I would have the class read the preface to the Bible being used. Usually it was Bruce’s introduction to the translation, and it was always informative and meat for conversation on how translations are done.
Robert Stuart Vogt (M.Div., 1946)
I was in college and considering seminary when Dr. Metzger met my parents at a wedding. I just about fainted when my mom said, “Oh this nice professor said he’d love to talk with you.” A living legend wanted to talk with me?! With trepidation I phoned and Dr. Metzger’s gently curious voice invited me into a stimulating conversation about the importance of “concretizing” our readings of the Bible in the complex realities of our world. It was the first time I had heard the word “concretizing.” But this imperative has stayed with me as both a promise and a prod.
Noelle Damico (M.Div., 1991; Th.M., 1993)
Setauket, New York
A few years ago Dr. Metzger was a guest preacher at a congregation I served as associate pastor. As we prepared to enter the sanctuary before worship, I watched him look over a small stack of note cards, the outline to his sermon. I asked him if he was still nervous before preaching, assuming that he had “mastered” it years ago. He looked at me very kindly and said, “The day that you’re not nervous when speaking the Word of God, go home, you’re no good to anyone.” Even with his mastery, he never lost the awe.
Timothy J. Luoma (M.Div., 1998)
I attended Princeton too late to benefit from Dr. Metzger’s teaching, but I did get one small glimpse of his greatness. One morning my wife and I went early to the Princeton borough hall to cast our votes in school board elections. It was about seven o’clock in the morning, but we were not quite the first ones to arrive. Ahead of us was an elderly gentleman, impeccably dressed with three-piece suit and bow tie, and as he turned, I recognized him as Dr. Metzger from the portrait I had seen on campus. He was moving slowly, but still up at dawn to vote!
Jeremy Sanderson (M.Div., 2006)
Haddonfield, New Jersey
Bruce Metzger’s death touched me more deeply than I anticipated it would. I applied to PTS specifically to do a Ph.D. under a top scholar in New Testament textual criticism. Although I did not become the widely published scholar several of Metzger’s students became, I have been proud for almost thirty years to call myself one of “Metzger’s boys,” that cadre of students who have continued to foster interest in the text and canon of the New Testament. His courteous, almost courtly, bearing belied a deep interest in his students. He always had time for a greeting and a chat during a professional meeting. His methods and habits have deeply influenced my research and teaching. I’ll miss him much.
Robert F. Hull Jr. (Ph.D., 1977)
Johnson City, Tennessee
Humility is the word I learned from Dr. Metzger. He was one of the major reasons I chose Princeton. I was thrilled to meet him at a gathering for the incoming juniors, where we had the opportunity to sit informally with the professors and ask them questions. A classmate asked Dr. Metzger, “How many languages do you understand?” His answer, “I’m not really sure I understand the English language.” In every situation he exhibited his incredible intellect, always tempered by his Christian humility.
Stephen W. Starzer (M.Div., 1981)
Conklin, New York
Dr. Metzger was the consummate scholar and Christian gentleman. His course Life and Literature of the Early Church taught me that patristic literature, too, was integral to my Protestant heritage. As well, I learned from him that stewardship of the mind was a spiritual discipline and a sacred trust. Now, after forty-five years of teaching, I can only pray that I have influenced my students in some such positive direction as I myself have been enriched. Thank you, Dr. Metzger, for modeling the professor—for ennobling the profession.
Don Bowdle (Th.M., 1962)
I attended Nassau Presbyterian Church and did my field education there. Dr. Metzger heard that I was leading a Passover Seder with the youth during Sunday school. He was so curious. He stood (and sat) just outside the room before and after the event. He humbly asked me about what exactly I was doing. He was genuinely interested and showed great support. I was amazed that this learned man would still be eager to inquire and grow from an experience about which he knew far more than I. He was as kind as a loving grandfather.
Mary Resner ( M.Div., 2001)
Los Angeles, California
I valued Dr. Metzger as a first-rate scholar with a brilliant mind and a great memory. Once when I was visiting campus after having been gone for a number of years, I saw him in Speer Library, and with no prompting, he addressed me by my first name!
Being of a more liberal persuasion, I would sometimes disagree with him, and I found him to be receptive, and a perennial gentleman. So many generations benefited from him at Princeton and around the world!
Cliff Cain (M.Div., 1975)
Forty-five years ago biblical studies made do quite well without computers. We had Bruce Metzger. In 1963 he gave me three shoeboxes full of three-by-five cards, many in his own handwriting. It remained to add more entries, some emerging daily from his suit pockets, and organize these under his direction into the Index to Periodical Literature on Christ and the Gospels. All the while he maintained attention to his students’ needs, mine included, with such detail as to make credible the Father’s care of birds, grass, lilies….
John G. Gibbs (Ph.D., 1966)
Park Rapids, Minnesota
Bruce Metzger worshipped at Nassau Presbyterian Church where I served as an associate pastor for youth ministry. What amazed me about his involvement in the congregation was his commitment to youth. Every Sunday morning, he and Isobel picked up a young junior high neighbor of theirs from South Africa whose parents were not churchgoers. The Metzgers’ commitment amidst all their other responsibilities to bring this young man to Sunday school and worship affects my reading of Scripture. I read the NRSV not only knowing the influence that Bruce Metzger’s scholarship had on this translation, but also knowing the influence Bruce Metzger had on countless relationships to bring Scripture to life.
Lisa Nichols Hickman (M.Div., 1997)
New Wilmington, Pennsylvania
I only took one course from Dr. Metzger. I think it was The Sermon on the Mount. I remember so clearly his gentle ways of handling questions from so many beginning students; I was among the least skilled in Greek and New Testament. With all his technical background, he never crushed anyone for any elementary query or opinion. I used many notes and bits of knowledge from that course in my preaching and teaching. Both RSV and the NRSV bailed me out of many KJV situations over fifty years of ministry.
W. Ward Murray (B.D., 1951)
One of the great gifts of attending PTS is the accessibility of the faculty, and Dr. Metzger was no exception. When I was a middler, I invited him to lunch to talk about the Bible and life in general. I couldn’t believe how accessible, encouraging, and insightful he was. I still have the three-by-five note cards of wisdom he offered as I quickly took notes over lunch that day. He told me to carry note cards in my pocket because “you never know when you’ll want to write a thought down.” He didn’t know me from Adam (although he may very well have known Adam), and he was willing to offer an hour of his day to an inquisitive student.
Rhyan Smith (M.Div., 2004)
When I was a student, I had the privilege of preaching in chapel on one occasion. Dr. Metzger regularly attended chapel and was a great encouragement to us by his presence. At the conclusion of the service, Dr. Metzger said to me. “Thank you for that sermon, Mr. Farmer. I receive it to my own heart.” I will long remember this world-class scholar suggesting that I’d said something that ministered to him.
Richard Allen Farmer (M.Div., 1980)
Grand Prairie, Texas
In the classroom at Princeton, and in lecture halls throughout the world, Dr. Metzger never failed to answer questions with the utmost courtesy and respect. Even when the question was so outrageous or stupid that the audience would gasp at the naivete of the one posing the question, Dr. Metzger would smile graciously and say, sincerely, “Yes, that is possible,” and perhaps even go on to name several well-known scholars who had posed similar suggestions. But then he would continue, without changing his tone, “...however, we might consider it another way.” His gracious manner assumed that no one felt like he was ‘fighting back’; you just sat there amazed at the erudition and precision coming from this very gentle man.
Dr. Metzger often surprised me in the middle of my labors in a far-flung missionary setting in Africa with hand-written letters expressing interest and support for our otherwise rather obscure service. It never failed to astonish me that someone of his stature would take the time to write to someone in a post as anonymous as ours!
Gene R. Smillie (M.Div., 1982)
Bruce Metzger exemplified the gracious simplicity that lies on the far side of complexity. Although he had a reputation as a world-class biblical scholar, the first time I met him was when he and his wife were teaching the adult class at St. Andrews Presbyterian Church on Nassau Street. I was a confused college student, but they accepted me as an equal. Later that year, they invited me to Thanksgiving dinner in their home. I can truly say that Bruce and Isobel Metzger brought me back into the church by incarnating God’s extravagant welcome.
Daniel Erdman (M.Div., 1981)
Albuquerque, New Mexico
I took two classes from Dr. Metzger, Sermon on the Mount, and The Book of Revelation. They were marked by the presence of a man who exhibited both unusual knowledge of the texts and a deep reverence for what he was handling. He combined scholarship without apology with a quiet piety, a mix that I am satisfied has left its mark on countless lives that passed through his classroom and that are engaged in various expressions of the ministry of the Word today.“
Robert Bayley (M.Div., 1973)
Londonderry, New Hampshire
As a Baylor freshman taking Introduction to the New Testament and reading Dr. Metzger’s text on the subject, my understanding was opened to the truth of the divinity and resurrection of Jesus and I was converted to Christ through his labors.
Brett Becker (M.Div., 1995)
Words sometimes are inadequate to express the profound affect that one has on another person’s life. Dr. Bruce Metzger’s biblical scholarship changed my life and the life of my congregation. My congregation is the beneficiary of his accurate editing of the NRSV. It continues to affect the lives of those I teach. His careful treatment of the Scriptures inspired some of my staff to apply to PTS for theological training.
Michael O. Thomas (M.Div., 1989)
In the late 1950s, I was an instructor in pastoral theology and working on a dissertation on Johann Christoph Blumhardt. One morning I checked my mail and found a note from Dr. Metzger telling me of an article about Blumhardt in an obscure journal that I am sure I would have missed. The article proved helpful and the incident illustrates two things that colleagues of Dr. Metzger know well: he had an incredible amount of bibliographic knowledge and his source knowledge was microscopic. He also had a tremendous sense of collegiality: he knew the dissertation of a very young colleague in a field different from his and he wrote a note to help that young colleague.
William G. Bodamer (B.D., 1957; Ph.D., 1966)
I came to Seminary from a biblicist tradition because I sensed that Presbyterians read their Bibles with their minds. Nevertheless I had been warned about “modernist” professors who would undermine my faith if I did not watch out. I took the prescribed course in New Testament theology with Dr. Metzger my first semester. I was wary, but I was soon disarmed and then deeply inspired by a man who loved the world, message, and experience of the Scriptures with a fierce and challenging devotion. He encouraged me to write the senior prize paper, to spend a master’s year in biblical studies at PTS, and to be member of the Society of Biblical Literature after graduation.
In my first pastorate we replaced our copies of the King James Version with the Revised Standard Version. As a result it became possible for teens as well as adults to read the sacred words “in their own language.”
Jim Memmott (M.Div., 1955; Th.M., 1957)
West Long Branch, New Jersey
I took New Testament Studies with Dr. Metzger in 1973, and I got an A- on a paper I wrote about the women in the New Testament. He said that I forgot the allegorical woman in Revelation, so that was why the minus. In spite of the minus, I still bounced all over campus to tell everyone that Dr. Metzger had given me an A-. I felt I had been knighted by the Queen of England.
He drove all the way to Washington DC to help to install me as a director of Christian education for the United Methodist Church.
Pam Adams Madorin (M.A., 1973)
La Vergne, Tennessee
I remember taking the class The Person and Work of Jesus Christ when I was a first-year student at PTS. I had not yet taken Greek, and many of my peers were writing final papers that used their newfound language skills. I told Dr. Metzger that I was going to take Greek the following summer, and hoped that a paper on the suffering servant passage from Isaiah, using my novice’s Hebrew, would be acceptable to him. He was encouraging, warm, gave me some leads for research, and gave me an A! I am forever proud of receiving validation from a scholar who could take time out for a young man who was new to the world of biblical research.
R. Alex Chamberlain (M.Div., 1981)
Of the many gifts Dr. Metzger possessed, one was his remarkable accessibility to students, even long after graduation. I remember being a Hartford City, Indiana, pastor working on a sermon and having difficulty translating a difficult Greek passage. This was in 1967; I had graduated in 1959. Working up the courage, I telephoned Dr. Metzger’s residence. He was gardening, but came to the phone. I identified myself and he said, “I remember you, Mr. Crilley.” I told him of my translation difficulty. He talked at length about the particular passage, its difficulties and variant meanings. He was ever gracious and very helpful.
Robert H. Crilley (M.Div., 1959)
I will never forget when I ran into Dr. Metzger on campus with a group of fellow junior M.Div. students. He was long-since retired and only made occasional appearances, which had the effect of putting him in the realm of myth and legend. He was gracious as he entertained our questions. After a few minutes, one student asked, “Dr. Metzger, is it true that you have the Greek New Testament memorized?” He paused, smiled, and replied, “Well, not all the different variants.”
Corey Widmer (M.Div., 2005)
One of the primary attractions of study at Princeton was the chance to sit under the tutelage of Dr. Metzger. His understanding of the New Testament text was unparalleled. Whether sitting in his course on the Literature of the Early Church or painstakingly working through the Greek text of the Book of Hebrews, we were enthralled by his incredible learning—but even more so by his Christian humility. I would guess that there are many of his former students, like myself, who find scholarship something of a wondrous affair, the classroom a sacred space, and the journey of faith more exciting because of his life and example.
Brian T. Hartley (M.Div., 1983)
Only recently I told one of our granddaughters that the Bruce Metzger who wrote the forward to the NRSV was probably the last surviving teacher I had in seminary. When I was a young man of thirty-three, Dr. Metzger welcomed me to campus in 1947. He called me “PW” that day and forever more. Another era has passed, but his contribution to New Testament lower criticism will go on for generations to come.
Paul White (M.Div., 1950)
West Chester, Pennsylvania
Dr. Metzger was a gentleman, softly spoken, humble, but an excellent lecturer, clear and concise. Someone else will probably mention the apocryphal tale, but it is too good not to share: Dr. Metzger was in the habit of doing his devotionals in Greek. One day he opened the class with prayer in Greek, perhaps forgetting where he was. He soon realized his mistake, and said, “which means, as you know, O Lord,” and proceeded to translate.
Nelson O. Horne (B.D., 1952; D.Min., 1984)
Chautauqua, New York
I first met Dr. Bruce Metzger when he sat down at a table with eight or ten students and spoke with us in a class on the apocrypha and pseudepigrapha. He never used notes, but talked with us as new friends. One day he pulled what looked like some small change out of his pocket. He held in his hand a first-century denarius. This got us to talking about Jesus’ words on taxes and an employer’s freedom to pay all employees a day’s wage no matter how long they worked that day. He gently led us into deeper waters of biblical reflection. One day more than forty years later the phone rang in my study at Point Loma Community Presbyterian Church in San Diego California. “Hello Art, this is Bruce Metzger.” I hadn’t seen or talked with Dr. Metzger in all that time. He was in San Diego at a gathering of biblical academics and wondered if he could arrange a time to teach in my church. No one could turn down such an offer. We had just completed a project to install the NRSV as our pew and lectern Bible. So that Sunday I announced that we would have “the man who wrote the Bible” in our family life center the next week. He came. And so did a standing-room-only crowd of more than 500. For me it was like introducing an old and treasured friend. Dr. Metzger received a standing ovation at the close of his presentation and stayed around to field questions for another half hour.
Art Sueltz (M.Div., 1953)
San Diego, California
I began my Th.M. in New Testament in 1973 and finished in 1978. During that time my wife and I and family were serving in Mexico. I had graduated from Eastern Mennonite Seminary in 1967. At Princeton I was exposed to the critical methods of Bible study in a way I had not been previously, and felt very much out-of-the-loop and confused. Dr. Metzger was my advisor and guided me through the theological maze. One enduring counsel he gave me has been a guiding force in my study of Scripture, and I always pass it on to others. This is how I remember it:
When seeking to discover best interpretation of the text of Scripture, be careful not to build on theories or hypotheses, for later, with new information, they may crumble. One should be knowledgeable about them and come back to them as new insights come to the fore. But one should always remember that the Scriptures are a testimony to Jesus Christ, and it is to Jesus Christ one needs to be faithful. Dr. Metzger then shared with me John 5:39: “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that testify on my behalf.” (NRSV)
J. Mark Frederick Jr. (Th.M., 1978)
It was the Wednesday night before Thanksgiving, 1957, and I was studying in 405 Alexander Hall, almost the only seminarian left on campus for the holiday. Someone knocked on my door about eight o’clock and I was stunned to open it and find Dr. Metzger standing there. He introduced himself, and said: “I saw your light on and guessed that you had no place to go for Thanksgiving. Would you please join Isobel and me for dinner tomorrow at two o’clock?”
Dr. Metzger didn’t just teach us the faith, he showed us how to live it.
Forty years later our paths crossed again when my wife and I became involved with St. Andrew’s Biblical Theological Institute in Moscow, Russia, and found Dr. Metzger was already vitally connected as one of their patrons. Each year he faithfully gave personal financial assistance to this institute that translates and publishes scholarly biblical textbooks, including several of Dr. Metzger’s, into Russian in an effort to fill the void created during the Soviet years.
Richard H. Leon (M.Div., 1962)
I have particularly appreciated the NRSV’s measured use of inclusive language and its explanation of this in its “To the Reader” section. It alerts the reader to the “danger of linguistic sexism.” This is particularly important in the worship classes I have taught as director of studies in ministry and mission at Trinity Theological College, Brisbane, a college of the Uniting Church in Australia.
Neil Sims (Th.M., 1972)
Bruce Metzger is one of those teachers whose work and lessons have guided my entire ministry. I was one of his students early in his years of teaching. He gave us all a foundation in biblical Greek that became the basis for lives of study, teaching, and preaching. His prayers before class taught us spirituality in the best of Princeton piety. At a time when I questioned my own faith, his patience and counsel allowed me to work through the doubts of student days. When I read the NRSV, the work seemed an echo of what he was teaching in the 1940s. Many of us feel his death as a personal loss and his life as a gift of God's graciousness.
James G. Emerson (M.Div., 1949)
San Francisco, California
Alongside his remarkable scholasticism, it was Dr. Metzger’s intimate relationship with the people in Scripture that affected me. Jesus, Peter, John, Mary, Paul, and others were not merely characters in the New Testament narrative. When he spoke of them in class it was as if he were introducing us to his good friends. They were spiritual companions whose voices he listened to as if when reading Scripture he was having coffee and conversation, even a good argument, with them, yet was honored by their presence. Approaching Scripture through deep relationship alongside deep knowledge shaped my own understanding of how to interact with and teach the Bible, academically and spiritually.
Cynthia Ray (M.Div., 1983)
One day, when I was eating with other seminarians in PTS’s dining room, Dr. Metzger came and sat next to me. On his tray he had a green salad and a bowl of alphabet soup. We were all awed to have this great scholar at our table, and were searching for things to say, wondering how to make small talk, like “How’s the NRSV going today, Dr. Metzger?” But we didn’t have to worry. He stirred his soup and then said, to no one in particular, maybe to all of us, “I wish this soup had its letters in Greek!” I give thanks to God for what the life of Dr. Bruce Metzger, in all his erudite and humble ways, has meant to the global church.
Ann Palmerton (M.Div., 1986)
During my years at PTS I had the honor of meeting Dr. Metzger for lunch several times. While I wanted to ask him theological questions, he often steered our conversations to the field I had left—law. He explained that his father had wanted him to become an attorney. He mused over what direction his life would have taken had he chosen law. He spoke like a glowing father about his son, who had entered the legal profession. He also shared his great love for his wife. Each morning prior to eating breakfast, they would sit at their table and read the Bible, sharing a devotion. Rarely have I met such a polite, kind, humble human being.
Stan Irvin (M.Div., 2003; M.R.E., 2005)