TRIBUTE HONORING BRUCE MANNING METZER
Key Architect of the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible
Presented with the
Bible Translation and Utilization Award
National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A.
November 16, 2000
Bruce's talents and education fitted him for the work of biblical translation. In his early days as a New Testament scholar he became one of the world leaders in textual study of the New Testament and the Apocryphal literature. More and more, he was drawn to the study of the Bible as preserved in the Eastern churches: the Greek, the Slavonic, the Georgian, the Ethiopic, the Syrian, and the Armenian. Few persons of his generation have or have had his breadth of linguistic knowledge.
Bruce joined the Standard Bible Committee of the NCC in 1952, just as the RSV was being completed, and took over as Chair of the committee in 1975, just as the revision that led to the publication of the NRSV was getting started. For fifteen years he guided the work of the committee until the translation was complete, and then he saw it through the press almost single-handedly.
Bruce is known worldwide for his definitive writings on three major subjects: the text of the New Testament, the apocryphal literature of the Old Testament, and Jewish and Christian apocalyptic literature, especially the books of Revelation and Second Esdras.
He is also a specialist in biblical translation and in the history of the translation of the Bible. In addition to his scholarly lectures all over the globe, Bruce has lectured repeatedly in the task of translation of the Bible, and he has the happy gift of being able to demonstrate at one and the same time the high merits of older Bible translations and the need for and qualities of newer translations.
Bruce worked tirelessly to make the RSV acceptable as the standard or as a recommended Bible for Roman Catholic and Orthodox Christians, and he has done the same for the NRSV. The Apocrypha of the NRSV is arranged as it is precisely because it shows the place in the canon of these works in the various Christian communities. He also has been willing to make minor changes in the translation at a few critical points for some of these Christian bodies.
The NRSV translators sought to make the translation gender-inclusive with regard to human beings and to remove many of the masculine pronouns referring to deity. This effort, which has brought much criticism from many groups, for various reasons, Bruce has defended eloquently. He also has been a regular and faithful participant in the work of the Bible Translation and Utilization Committee of the NCCC as plans have been discussed for a possible revision, in time, that may carry forward that approach and improve upon it.
Rare is the evangelical Christian scholar who is equally at home in the most conservative and the most liberal circles, who has strong theological convictions and an irenic spirit in attending to equally strong convictions of others. He has been the model of a responsible, fair, energetic, and efficient leader of a band of specialists in biblical studies, all of whom have their firm judgments as to how certain portions of the Bible simply MUST be translated. What an accomplishment!
Isobel Metzger also has contributed markedly to the work of translation that Bruce has led so well. She provided a warm and supportive setting for the translators as they arrived, summer after summer, for the beginning of their year's labors. Almost always the gathering at the Metzger home ended with an excellent meal and fresh strawberries. Isobel also opened her home for small groups of translators who came to complete particular jobs, especially toward the end of the process. One of the translators reported that he had spent in one year 73 days in Princeton doing work on the translation--while also posing as a full-time faculty member at his university. Isobel could hardly call her home her own during those months.
The NCCC honors itself as it seeks to honor Bruce Manning Metzger. When he reached the age of his renowned predecessor, Luther A. Weigle, he insisted upon giving up the responsibility as Chair of the committee. It is great to know that he continues on the Committee. He will surely be greatly needed when the day comes for the next revision.
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