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  • Pastor Paul Davis

“A TRULY ECUMENICAL EDITION OF THE HOLY BIBLE”

The late Bruce Metzger, a long time luminary at Princeton, was a darling of New Evangelicalism and greatly admired by the secular world. Many revered him as a “biblical scholar, Bible translator and textual critic … a Bible editor who served on the board of the American Bible Society and United Bible Societies. He was a scholar of Greek, New Testament, and New Testament textual criticism, and wrote prolifically on these subjects. Metzger was one of the most influential New Testament scholars of the 20th century. He was elected to the American Philosophical Society in 1986.”

The New York Times, reporting his death in 2014, described him as “an eminent scholar and translator of the Bible … a world-renowned authority on translating the New Testament from the original Greek.” Michael Holmes of Bethel University said “Metzger was arguably the greatest textual specialist and biblical translator America has produced … Yet for all his academic achievements and international renown, he is warmly remembered by many as much for his character, his courtesy and grace …” Writing in memory of him, John Piper said “I think it would be fair to say that in his prime there was no greater authority on New Testament textual criticism than Dr. Metzger—at least not in the English-speaking world … I was so helped by his teaching and so impressed with him as a man, I applied to Princeton to do my graduate work with him.” Daniel Wallace of Dallas Seminary said “Metzger was unquestionably one of the greatest New Testament scholars of the 20th century … a scholar’s scholar, a gentleman’s gentleman, and a humble servant of Jesus Christ.” Biblical Archaeology Review said Metzger, “the quintessential Presbyterian elder, scholar and gentleman, was one of the foremost New Testament textual critics of the 20th century. He was a major contributor to our understanding of the history of formation of the New Testament canon, an influential translator of the Biblical text and an insightful interpreter of the New Testament for modern times.”

What makes this all so interesting is that Metzger was a rank heretic of the first order. He denied the infallible inspiration and divine preservation of Scripture. He rejected the Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch and Paul’s authorship of I & II Timothy and Titus. He did not believe Isaiah, Daniel, John or James wrote the books bearing their names nor Peter’s writing of II Peter. Of the flood in Genesis 7, Metzger believed “there is no geological evidence of a global flood of the sort described here.” Moreover, he thought Job was a “naïve narrative of the folktale world” and that “Jonah is not a historical book in the sense of recalling events that actually occurred.” (Many were his heresies - only a few are mentioned here).

Metzger was also a zealous ecumenist. Not passively complicit, he was a champion of the ecumenical movement. For him, Bible translation was a means to that end. Princeton Seminary heartily boasted, “The impact of Metzger’s work was incalculable. He understood the importance of biblical translation for ecumenical dialogue, and believed that having recourse to a common biblical text was an instrument of Christian unity.” Metzger “was an editor of the United Bible Societies' standard Greek New Testament, the starting point for nearly all recent New Testament translations. In 1952, he became a contributor to the Revised Standard Version (RSV) Bible and was general editor of the Reader's Digest Bible (a condensed version of the RSV). From 1977 to 1990, he chaired the Committee on Translators for the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) Bible and was ‘largely responsible for ... seeing [the NRSV] through the press.’

The RSV and NRSV were produced by the Bible translation committee of the National Council of Churches [NCC] which holds the copyright to both versions. Bob Edgar, General Secretary for the National Council of Churches stated, “I don't think it is an exaggeration to say the RSV would not have happened had it not been for Bruce Metzger.” The NRSV translation committee, chaired by Metzger, was made up of “an ecumenical group of 35 Christian denominations. The organization [NCC] was in need of a translation that would be acceptable to a wide range of Christian denominations.”

Metzger considered it a privilege to present the RSV – Ecumenical Edition, which includes the Apocryphal books (accepted by Catholics and Eastern Orthodox as Scripture) to Pope John Paul II and Patriarch Demetrius I of Constantinople. Of doing that, Metzger wrote in 1977: “Strange as it may seem, the churches of the English-speaking world have had to wait until 1977 to see the publication of the first truly ecumenical edition of the Bible. Now, at long last, Eastern Orthodox readers, as well as Roman Catholics and Protestants, for the first time have available in one volume an English rendering of all the books regarded as authoritative by each of the three main branches of the Christian church. This is the expanded edition of the Revised Standard Version of the Bible with the Apocrypha. The story of the making of this version is an account of the slow but steady triumph of ecumenical concern over more limited sectarian interests ...

“The RSV committee, a continuing body, is charged with the responsibility of making from time to time such improvements in the RSV Bible as appear to be necessary. The composition of the committee, now comprising twenty-four members, has been extended beyond the main Protestant denominations. Since 1945, a Jewish scholar has served as a member of the section on the Old Testament. In 1969, six Roman Catholics (two of them from Great Britain) became members of the committee, and in 1972 a representative of the Greek Orthodox Church was added as well.

“In the course of the preparation of the second edition of the RSV New Testament, published in 1971, steps were taken to produce an edition of RSV Bible with the traditional Apocrypha/Deuterocanonical books set forth in a manner that would find approval by Roman Catholics, Protestants, and Eastern Orthodox alike. In 1973, such a ‘common’ Bible was issued by Collins of Great Britain and America. Arrangements were made to present a special bound copy to Pope Paul. In a private audience granted to a small group, comprising the Greek Orthodox Archbishop Athenagoras, Lady Priscilla and Sir William Collins, Herbert G. May, and the present writer, Pope Paul accepted the RSV ‘Common’ Bible as a significant step in furthering ecumenical relations among the churches ... on that occasion Archbishop Athenagoras expressed to the present writer the hope that steps might be taken to produce a truly ecumenical edition of the Holy Bible ...

“At the close of 1976, the writer presented to His All Holiness Demetrios I, the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople and titular head of the several Orthodox Churches, a pre-publication of The New Oxford Annotated Bible with the Apocrypha, expanded edition. In accepting the gift, the Ecumenical Patriarch expressed satisfaction at the availability of an edition of the Sacred Scriptures which English readers in all branches of the Christian church could use.

“The year 1977 marks the twenty-fifth anniversary of the completion of the work of the original RSV Bible committee. Now, a quarter of a century later, the RSV Bible with an expanded edition of the Apocrypha, embracing all the Deuterocanonical books, marks a significant step forward in promoting ecumenical relations. For the first time, members of Protestant, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox Churches alike will be able to use the same edition of the English Bible containing the complete range of Canonical and Deuterocanonical books.”


All of the aforementioned “Bibles” were not holy – they were not Bibles at all, only counterfeits. Unregenerate men who deny the truths of Scripture translated them from the Critical Text, a corrupt line of manuscripts. Moreover, the candid Bible student sees the ecumenical movement for what it is: Satan’s effort to unify the religious world under the authority of the Antichrist. Metzger did his utmost to bring this unity to pass.

___________________

2 Bruce Metzger, Scholar and Bible Translator, Dies at 93, by Margalit Fox, The New York Times, Feb. 16, 2007.

3 A Centennial Tribute to Bruce Metzger: Remembering His Achievements, Influence, and Legacy, Princeton Seminary, Jan. 24, 2014.

4 A Personal Tribute to Bruce Manning Metzger, John Piper, Feb 14, 2007, desiringgod.org

5 In Memoriam: Bruce Metzger (1914-2007), Daniel B. Wallace, bible.org/article/memoriam-bruce-m-metzger.

7 The New Oxford Annotated Bible with the Apocrypha, notes on Genesis 7, p. 20, 21.

8 The New Oxford Annotated Bible with the Apocrypha, notes on Job, p. 770.

9 The New Oxford Annotated Bible with the Apocrypha, notes on Jonah, p. 1302

10 A Centennial Tribute to Bruce Metzger: Remembering His Achievements, Influence, and Legacy, Princeton Seminary, Jan. 24, 2014.

13Bruce Metzger, 93; New Testament Scholar helped edit, update Bible translations, Mary Rourke, Feb 16. 2007, latimes.com.

14The RSV – Ecumenical Edition, Bruce Metzger, Theology Today, 1977-10: Vol 34, Iss 3, pp. 315-317.


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