Thursday, June 01, 2006

Misquoting Metzger

Muslim apologetes have opportunistically glommed onto Bart Ehrman’s radical views with respect to NT textual criticism and early church history to attack the Bible.

I also notice that some Muslims cite the collaboration between Bruce Metzger and Bart Ehrman as evidence that Metzger agrees with Ehrman’s conspiratorial theory of church history and its dire effect on the canon.

But this overdraws the evidence. We don’t know how much of Ehrman Metzger has actually read—especially Ehrman’s sensational potboilers. Metzger spends his time reviewing scholarly works.

To my knowledge, Metzger has never written a glowing dust-cover blurb plugging one of Ehrman’s more provocative titles.

Ehrman’s Misquoting Jesus came out the same year as the fourth edition of Metzger’s classic monograph on The Text of the New Testament.

In connection with Misquoting Jesus, Ehrman has given a number of revealing interviews to promote his book.

As Metzger explains in his autobiography, his professional collaboration with Ehrman began back in 1993, the year that Ehrman published his monograph on The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture. Cf. Reminiscences of an Octogenarian (Hendricksen 1997), 150.

So their formal collaboration predates the more sensational stuff.

At that time, Metzger did, in fact, review Ehrman’s 1993 title. As Metzger summarized the thesis, “the volume traces how the early struggles between ‘heresy’ and ‘orthodoxy’ occasionally affected the wording of certain passages in the scriptures,” Princeton Seminary Bulletin, 15/2 (1994), 211.

Notice the carefully caveated statement: “occasionally” affected the wording of “certain” passages of Scripture.

So Metzger took his younger colleague to be asserting a very modest claim. Nothing revolutionary.

More recently, Metzger has also collaborated with Lee Strobel and Dr. D. James Kennedy in defense of the faith.

In his interview with Strobel, Metzger defends the integrity of the NT text as well as the traditional canon, to the exclusion of apocryphal gospels like the Gospel of Thomas.

All-in-all, it’s quite clear that Metzger’s professional collaboration with Ehrman, which antedates the public apostasy of Ehrman, does not amount to a blanket endorsement of Ehrman’s more radical positions. To the contrary, Metzger has clearly staked out a fairly conservative position in direct contrast to Ehrman’s emerging iconoclasm.


  1. Metzger has a supportive blurb on the cover of Raymond Brown's last book, An Introduction to the New Testament (1997). While Brown wasn't particularly conservative, he wasn't a radical either.

  2. The latest edition of Metzger's _Text of the New Testament_ is co-authored with Mr. Ehrman. Anybody know what if any difference that has made?

  3. steve said: "Muslim apologetes have opportunistically glommed onto Bart Ehrman’s radical views with respect to NT textual criticism and early church history to attack the Bible."

    Can you link us to an example of your statement?

    Also its no secret that German scholars are working with "Early versions" of the Koran either.


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