Friday, November 23, 2007

SBL in Dan Diego IV: The Metzger Tribute


Lifted from the comments to a previous post to enable other comments on this session:

The Metzger tribute may have managed to have a balance of Metzger perspectives. It featured two of his students (Holmes and Ehrman) who obviously adored him and his work.

Ehrman's stories were worthy of Comedy Central....For those who weren't there, he took a story from the Metzger "tradition"--an anecdotal story of his life which was supposed to say something of Metzger's character. Ehrman applied some form critical technique to sort out whether the story were apocryphal, or what could have been the sitz im leben Metger or sitz im leben Princeton. The punchline, actually, punchlines, were priceless. Thanks Prof. Ehrman.

The third contributor certainly gave an alternative perspective of Metzger. Princeton Seminary OT Prof. J. Roberts gave us the impression that he respected Metzger, but didn't especially like him or adore him. Roberts expressed his beef against Metzger for allowing a three-person committee to unilaterally revise final readings of the respective NRSV committee, and such like. His contribution also gave us some personal insight into the making of the NRSV. In the end, I doubt that his presentation allowed us to appreciate Metzger much more.

The fourth contributor was Harry Scanlin who had a personal and working relationship with Metzger, through Scanlin's capacity as president (I think) of United Bible Societies. Scanlin gave some interesting insights of a personal nature, as well as some insights in the workings of the UBS GNT.

Of great regret, however, was that Gordon Fee, who was originally slated to give his part in the "Memorial Session in Honor of Bruze Metzger," was ill and unable to attend. I don't have any special insight into what Fee might have said, and we can only hope that perhaps he will give us his thoughts in a future publication. Fee already gave a short, but insightful comment to this blog shortly after Metzger's death. No doubt, however, Fee's presence would have brought us an even deeper and more nuanced appreciation of Metzger than we already have.

James Leonard


  1. I would just like to add something that was very humorous that Ehrman told us. When he had his very technical dissertation on the NT citations of Didymus the Blind for examination, the supervisor Metzger was apparently supposed to ask him two questions. Ehrman expected some really detailed and difficult questions.

    First question: Do you know of som else who had the name Didymus in Antiquity?

    Second question: Do you know of some else who was blind in Antiquity?

    Ehrman couldn't believe his ears (and neither could I). Incredible!

    The night before the examination on lower graduate level, Metzger had phoned Bart to give him an advice: "If you don't know the answer to a question, simply reply, 'I don't know'." However, the night before his dissertation examination, Metzger phoned him again, and gave him a different advice: "If you don't know the answer to a qustion, reply, 'I forgot'." Bart wondered, why shouldn't I say "I don't know"? Metzger replied: "On this level you are supposed to know, so then you must have forgot."

  2. During the class that I took with Fee last summer he announced that he had taught his last class. No doubt he had still hoped to participate at this SBL.

  3. I had a class with Prof. Roberts recently, and just after the time Prof. Metzger died, in seminar one day Prof. Roberts told the story about being on the NRSV committee and after many hours of discussion on how to translate "sheker" (usually rendered "strong drink" in English versions, the committee finally agreed to translate it "beer" based on the Akkadian cognate Shikaru (which Robert's said means 'beer' while 'strong drink' while implies distilled liquor), he went on to mention that after all that discussion and work, at the editorial level, Metzger changed it back to "strong drink," presumably to avoid having the NRSV go down in history as "the beer Bible." I wasn't at SBL, but I'm assuming based on the comments here that Roberts retold that same story. The editorial veto seems to have made an impact on him. It seems strange to me to mention in a memorial session though, and surprises me since my experiences with Roberts have been completely positive. -Jq

  4. Anonymous said: "I wasn't at SBL, but I'm assuming based on the comments here that Roberts retold that same story."

    Yes, he did.