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Don Stewart :: Can Anything Be Added to the Bible Today?

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Don Stewart

The canon was closed in the first century, and since then God has not revealed anything on the level with Holy Scripture. The question naturally arises, "Can anything be added to the Bible today?"

The Statement Of The Westminster Confession Of Faith

The Westminster Confession, a seventeenth-century statement of faith, says concerning the Bible.

The whole counsel of God, concerning all things necessary for His own glory, man's salvation, faith and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture: unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelations of the Spirit, or traditions of men (Westminster Confession 1:10).

According to this statement, which sums up the Protestant view of Scripture, nothing is to be added or subtracted from the Bible. The revelation from God to humanity has been forever completed.

All Necessary Truth Has Been Revealed

All the truth that God is going to reveal to humanity has already been revealed. God will not add more truth about Himself or His plan beyond what He has revealed in Scripture. God in the Bible has, already revealed everything that a person needs to know about Himself, His plan, humanity, sin, salvation, etc. Nothing more is needed. This, of course, refers to everything human beings need to know, not what they want to know. This is why Jude could say.

I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which has one for all delivered to the saints (Jude 3).

This verse teaches that a body of truth from God has been delivered to humanity and that this faith has been wholly delivered. This seems to indicate that no further revelation from God is necessary. God has told us in Scripture everything that we need to know about who He is, who we are, and what will happen to the earth in the future. We know the nature of God does not change.

For I am the Lord, I do not change (Malachi 3:6).

The Bible says clearly that the faith has been completely revealed. Therefore, if any new revelation were to come from God, it would be consistent with past revelations.

The Apostles And Prophets Were The Foundation Of The Church

Paul says that the foundation of the church was built upon the foundation of the apostles and the prophets.

Built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone (Ephesians 2:20).

Among other things, this indicates that certain of the people who held these two offices were the ones who received God's revelation. They, in turn, recorded it for others.

What If A Lost Writing Was Found?

But what if we rediscovered a lost document from one of Jesus' inner circle? What if Paul's letter to Laodicea was found? Would this letter have to be placed into Holy Scripture?

There Are Two Competing Issues

If some writing was found, there seems to be two competing issue with respect to adding it to Scripture.

On the one hand everything written by the apostles to churches would have been authoritative Scripture. They were given the unique authority to preach the words of Jesus as well as interpret them for the church. Consequently any writing that came from them, and addressed to a group of believers, should be part of Scripture.

On the other hand, there were certain things taught by Jesus and His apostles that have not been made part of Scripture. The Bible itself testifies that it only selectively records Jesus words and deeds.

Many other signs therefore Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these have been written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in his name (John 20:30,31).

John also wrote

Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written (John 21:25).

Two Views Among Christians About What Would Happen

There are two views as to what would occur if an authentic work coming from one of Jesus' apostles was actually discovered. One group would feel it necessary to accept the writing as part of Scripture while the other group would reject it out of hand.

The Case For Possibly Adding To The New Testament

One group would argue that any newly discovered writing from an Apostle would have to be placed into the canon. If it can be clearly demonstrated that the work was authentic, and that the Apostle was writing to a church or an individual in his capacity as one of the specially chosen ones of Christ, then, by definition, his writing would have to be placed in Scripture. While it is true that the New Testament writers were selective in what they wrote and spoke about Jesus, anything that they did write in their capacity as apostles was for the express purpose of teaching others the truth about Jesus. Therefore it would be as binding upon believers today as it was upon those who originally read it.

Others Believe The Canon Is Closed For Good

There are others who do not think the New Testament canon could ever be added to. Seemingly, any newly discovered document would still not qualify. Evidently God did not intend all divinely inspired utterances to be included in the canon.

There were things that God revealed to His people that, for some reason were not revealed. This includes Paul's experience in the "third heaven" and John being forbidden to write about the seven thunders.

Paul testified what occurred when he was caught up in the presence of the Lord.

And I know that such a person - whether in the body or out of the body I do not know; God knows- was caught up into Paradise and heard things that are not to be told, that no mortal is permitted to repeat (2 Corinthians 12:3,4).

John wrote.

And when the seven thunders spoke, I was about to write; but I heard a voice from heaven say, "Seal up what the seven thunders have said and do not write it down" (Revelation 10:4).

Not All Authoritative Writings From The Old Testament Period Were Included In Scripture

We find the same thing occurring in the Old Testament. Not everything that was written by a prophet, or an Old Testament author, became part of Old Testament Scripture. For example, Solomon spoke many proverbs and wrote many songs.

He spoke three thousand proverbs and his songs numbered a thousand and five (1 Kings 4:32,33).

Yet many of them did not find their way into Scripture.

There Are Other Writings From The Prophet Isaiah

We are told that the prophet Isaiah recorded the acts of Uzziah.

Now the rest of the acts of Uzziah, first to last, the prophet Isaiah, the son of Amoz, has written (2 Chronicles 26:22).

Yet this did not become part of Holy Scripture. Therefore not everything that was composed by an Old Testament author made its way into Scripture.

Why Would God Keep These Writings Hidden?

If a genuine apostolic writing were rediscovered in our day, the principle of apostolic authority would demand the writing's immediate acceptance in the canon. However, it would seem strange that God would permit the church to function for some two thousand years without a book that would have been divinely inspired, written in the first century, and could greatly add to our knowledge of Jesus.

Unanimous Approval Is Unlikely

The fact that there was near unanimous acceptance of all the present New Testament books is another factor that should be considered in this question. It is highly unlikely that there would be a near unanimous acceptance of some additional writing to Holy Scripture. For all practical purposes this rules out some addition to Scripture. The likelihood of an almost unanimous acceptance of some additional book to Scripture is basically non-existent.

No Further Word From God Is Necessary

Even if a work met all of the above criteria, it would not necessarily be the Word of God. While theoretically it is possible that God could add something to what He has previously revealed, it is highly unlikely that this would be the case. The faith has already been delivered to humankind. Any further word from God to humanity is not necessary. The canon of Scripture, for all intents and purposes, is complete.

Remember That The Behavior Of The Apostles Was Not Always Infallible

The fact that Paul withstood Peter shows that their behavior of the apostles was not infallible.

But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood self-condemned (Galatians 2:11).

Jesus Rebuked Peter For His Lack Of Understanding

We find that Jesus rebuked Peter in the strongest of terms.

Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. "Never, Lord!" he said. "This shall never happen to you!" Jesus turned and said to Peter, "Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men" (Matthew 16:22,23).

Consequently it would have not been just any writing that came from the hand of an Apostle that would have divine authority. Care must be taken to find out the purpose of the writing and the capacity in which the author wrote. All of these things further complicate the issue.

Summary

Although there is no direct word in the New Testament about the limit of God's revelation to humanity for all practical purposes it seems that no more books could be added to Scripture.

First, the faith has been once-and-for-all delivered to the believers. The truth has been given already to the church.

Second, God has spoken to humankind through his Son - He is the ultimate revelation of God to humanity.

In addition, all necessary truth that God could reveal about Himself has been revealed. The Bible tells us about our origins as human beings as well as our ultimate destiny. Everything that humankind needs to know about God and His plan has been revealed.

Finally, anyone attempting to offer some other book as Holy Scripture would face enormous problems. A number of questions would have to be satisfactorily answered. They would include: Why should this work be added to Scripture? What is the authority behind it? What does it teach us that has not been already been revealed?

Having said that, there is still the question about the possible discovery of a lost work from one of Jesus' Apostles. If this ever should happen it would bring up some interesting issues. Since the apostles were given unique authority to speak and write for Jesus any work from them in their capacity of an apostle would carry Jesus' authority. A good case could be made for adding the work to the canon if it could be proved that it was actually written by an Apostle and if the work was orthodox in its content. However the likelihood of this happening is quite remote.

Consequently it is fair to say that the canon of Scripture is complete.

CONTENT DISCLAIMER:

The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.

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