Reverend Bruce Manning Metzger
Does Your Dog Bite Moment

Guy walks into a bar and sits down next to Bruce Manning Metzger and a dog.
"Does your dog bite?" asks the guy.
"No," says Reverend Metzger
So the guy bends over to pet the dog—which bites a big chunk out of his hand.
"You said your dog didn't bite!" says the guy.
"That's not my dog," says Reverend Metzger.

Does your dog bite? No. Technically true but misleading, is exactly how Reverend B. M. Metzger defended the faith. Reverend Metzger was a way smart, way educated, way articulate, way famous ordained Christian minister who wrote a lot of cunningly constructed sentences that were technically true but that leave you believing things that are not true.

Reverend Metzger's technique was to:


Say words that are true, while leaving out key facts—"My dog doesn't bite," but leaving out "That's not my dog,"


Use adjectives and adverbs that suggest, but don't quite technically say, something that all the evidence and reasons have just pretty much shot down.

Keep your eyes peeled.

Why did Reverend Metzger write like this? He never told me. But I think he was a deeply committed Christian who believed what he believed; the scholarship was there to explain how his faith was true, not whether it was true. So I don't think he was misleading deliberately. Look, this Christian origins thing is a tough question about which people of good will can disagree and still be friends.

Still, B. M. Metzger is a bit too oily for me to admire, and I've got to admit from time to time his conveniently stretchy logic seems a little less than forthright, making me wonder if he didn't know he was being sneaky. This is a failing of mine.

Misleading how?
The green box below quotes Reverend Metzger, in one of his books, in the middle of a long section describing who it was that wrote the Gospel of Matthew. He's just admitted the Gospel of Matthew was written anonymously, and here he's admitting the church legend that the disciple Matthew wrote the gospel is impossible—because the Gospel of Matthew gets much of its material from the the Gospel of Mark, and the traditional Christian legend says Matthew did know Jesus, but Mark did not. A guy (Matthew) who did know Jesus wouldn't get his Jesus stories from a guy who didn't (Mark). So, whoever wrote the Gospel of Matthew cannot have been the disciple Matthew. Is your head spinning?

This is all standard academic stuff. Reverend Metzger can't have his bible book taken seriously if he leaves it out. Anyway, in this passage I'm about to quote from, Reverend Metzger has just admitted the Gospel of Matthew was written anonymously. And, he says, the church's legend about the disciple Matthew being the author is impossible.

And yet ...>>

"Matthew can scarcely be the final author"?! If you're like me, you read that sentence and the scarcely makes you think, "Well, scarcely isn't for-sure, so Matthew might have been the author," and the final makes you think, "Matthew might have been the author right before the final author."

And you'd be wrong. In the middle of several pages of hard facts demonstrating that the disciple Matthew did not write the Gospel of Matthew, Revered Metzger has just left you thinking he probably did. Why, Bruce? Why would you do that?

In the case of the first Gospel, the apostle Matthew can scarcely be the final author; for why should one who presumably had been an eyewitness of much that he records depend so slavishly upon the account given by Mark, who had not been an eyewitness?
Metzger, Bruce M. The Canon of the New Testament: Its Origin, Development, and Significance (1997), pg. 96

POCM quotes modern scholars