Bruce (Princeton University MA, 1940, Ph.D., 1942) and Isobel (Mackay) Metzger had a profound effect on my development, beginning when I was a student in the Class of 1973.
Throughout my undergraduate years at Princeton University, I had been through many rough times because of a Christian fundamentalist group that, in their zeal to convert me to their brand of condemnatory and eschatologically-focused religion, had succeeded in driving me out of the church altogether.
In my senior year, my father, unaware of my struggles, suggested that I visit St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church at 26 Nassau St. (The interim pastor had been a classmate of his.) I decided to give it one chance. That day I met Bruce and Isobel Metzger. They invited me to attend the adult class that they were co-teaching at St. Andrew’s.
I did so and found a reception that was the polar opposite of the dogmatic fundamentalism that had alienated me from the faith. As our relationship grew, they invited me to their home for Thanksgiving my senior year. (In a similar vein to the hospitality she offered me, Isobel Metzger volunteered for many years at Princeton University, helping international graduate students with English conversation while also making them feel welcomed.)
In 1979 I enrolled at Princeton Theological Seminary, where Dr. Metzger was Professor of New Testament. I studied with him in courses that were pivotal to my education and my life. Some of my fellow-students in seminary used to complain that Dr. Metzger’s lectures were too simple and straightforward. Given that, as an eminent scholar and translator, he chaired the committee that produced the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible, I liked to respond that his teaching was “simplicity on the other side of complexity” (to quote Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. ).
Some of these critics likened his lecture style to teaching Sunday School class. To me it’s ironic that an actual Sunday School class was the setting in which Bruce and Isobel Metzger loved me back into the faith.