Bruce Metzger and Me
"Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light to guide my path" (Psa. 119:105). As Christians, we have a guidance system -- a best-selling collection of 66 books that guides our feet and illuminates our path forward. These books are collectively called the Bible, but the Bible is actually one book in two volumes, and the first volume is especially replete with testaments from men and women who trusted God completely as well as people who completely disregarded Him. The Old Testament tells it like it is, warts and all. But the overriding message is a simple one: God desires us to experience a full and rich life, and He will guide us out of whatever dark space we happen to find ourselves in, whether it's our fears of what the future holds or our tears over a broken relationship. The Bible, however, is not the only guidance system out there. As we've often said on this blog, Christian biographies can come alongside the Bible and give us example after example of how God indeed has a magnificent plan for our lives that exceeds our wildest imaginings. Bruce Metzger's memoir Reminiscences of an Octogenarian is a good example of this.
It takes the reader from his childhood in Amish Country to the hallowed halls of Princeton University. I was drawn to this book because in some ways the career of Bruce Metzger and my own have coincided with each other. As I began the book, I wondered to myself, "How did Metzger end up becoming a Greek teacher?" The answer is found on p. 22. It was the 1938-39 academic year. One day Metzger just "happened" to be sitting next to John MacKay, the president of Princeton Theological Seminary, during a train ride. At some point in the conversation the president asked Metzger if he would be willing assume the post of teaching fellow at the seminary while he was pursuing his doctorate at the university. He would be employed by the seminary to teach entering students the grammar of the New Testament. "Of course I gladly accepted the invitation," wrote Metzger. "In the autumn of 1938, therefore, I began the first of my forty-six years of teaching at Princeton Theological Seminary." Metzger was only 24 years old at the time.
Fast forward 38 years. It was the fall of 1976. A need arose in the Greek Department at Biola for an adjunct instructor in Classical and Koine Greek. The head of the Greek Department at the time was Dr. Harry Sturz, whose impact on my life was incalculable. (I've recounted that impact here.) For some reason that mantle fell upon my shoulders. That fall I began what, thus far, has turned out to be a 44-year career of teaching. The odd thing is that neither of us sought out that opportunity. It was simply God directing our paths.
Incidentally, I was 24 at the time.
Where are you today, my friend, on the path of discovering God's plan for your life? When we become a Christian, the thought of being used by God to make a difference in other people's live can be paralyzing. But what we feel incapable of doing, God is able to do. He knows what school we will attend and who we will marry and how many children we will have and where we will work and when we will retire. He is with us now, and He will be with us through eternity.
One of the most important lessons we can learn is that life is never stagnant. Things will constantly be changing. With that said, I think the life of Bruce Metzger embodies a lot of what this blog is all about -- challenging yourself to keep moving forward no matter what and being open to whatever the Lord has in store for you. The Christian life is demanding and often frustrating, but it offers the rewards of great joy and fulfillment to those who throw themselves into it with prayer, abandonment, and love.
January 3, 2020
David Alan Black is the editor of www.daveblackonline.com.