Bible Question:

Can we add new books to the Bible? - Is the canon of Scripture closed?

Bible Answer:

The question we are concerned with is, “Are there new inspired writings that should be added to the Bible?” In theology the question is asked, “Is the canon of Scripture closed?” The word “canon” as used in this question refers to a list of authoritative or approved inspired books. This is an important question because if the canon of Scripture  or the list of approved books is not closed, then new books or writings could be added to the Bible. In fact, some Christians believe that God is giving new revelation today through modern day prophets since 1 Corinthians refers to the spiritual gift of prophecy and prophets. Let us examine the question, “Is the canon of Scripture or the Bible closed?”

Canon of Scripture Is Closed

God Warns Us To Not Add To The Bible

In the Q&A titled, “What books belong in the Bible? – Canon of Scripture”  you will discover which books belong in the Bible. You will learn that Jesus and the apostles endorsed or approved of sixty-six books. A careful reading of Deuteronomy 4:1-2 reveals that we have been warned to not add or take away any words from the laws and commandments that God gave to Moses.

Now, O Israel, listen to the statutes and the judgments which I am teaching you to perform, so that you may live and go in and take possession of the land which the LORD, the God of your fathers, is giving you. You shall not add to the word which I am commanding you, nor take away from it, that you may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you. Deuteronomy 4:1-2 (NASB)

Moses was very clear that God did not want anyone to change what God had communicated to Moses. God warned them to “not add to the word which I am commanding you, nor take away from it” (Deuteronomy 4:2).

In Deuteronomy 12:32; Proverbs 30:5-6 and Jeremiah 26:2 we discover other commands to not add or take away from what God has said in Deuteronomy, Proverbs and Jeremiah. God does not want us to change what He wrote! Therefore, we must not add anything to the Bible that is not inspired and approved by God. For an explanation about how God wrote the Bible, we encourage the reader to study “What does it mean that the Bible is inspired? – Inspiration of Scripture.”

One more verse in the Bible reveals the same point. It is Revelation 22:18-19 which clearly warns us to not add to the book of Revelation.

 I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues which are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his part from the tree of life and from the holy city, which are written in this book.  Revelation 22:18-19 (NASB)

Clearly we are warned to not modify the book of Revelation. But since the book of Revelation is the last book in the New Testament, does this mean also that new books cannot be added to the Bible?

Why The Canon Of Scripture Is Closed

There are five reasons why the canon of Scripture is closed, that is, we cannot add new books or writings to Scripture. The first reason is that God has already given us the principle that we must not add or remove anything from what He has written. We do not have the freedom to make that decision.

The second reason the canon is closed is that God has written the books of Genesis and Revelation and placed Genesis at the beginning and Revelation at the end of the Bible. Genesis teaches us about the beginning and describes the origin of this universe (Genesis 1:1). Revelation describes the Second Coming of Christ and the end of this universe or its destruction (Revelation 20:11). Then Revelation 20:12-22:21 describes judgment of unbelievers and eternal life. Therefore, nothing more needs to be added. The Scriptures already teach us about life in our universe from the beginning unto the end.

The third and most significant reason the canon of Scripture is closed is that no person is authorized to write new Scripture today and add it to the Bible. For example, the Old Testament prophesied the coming of the Messiah as early as Genesis 3:15. The Messiah was promised repeatedly in Genesis 49:10; Numbers 24:17; Isaiah 7:14; 9:6 and Micah 5:2.

Isaiah 40:3 and Malachi 3:1 prophesied that a forerunner of the Messiah would appear and point us to the Messiah or the Christ. Mark 1:1-8 quotes these two prophesies and tells us that John the Baptist was the forerunner. Then Mark 1 reveals that John the Baptist pointed us to Christ, the Messiah. Hebrews 1:1-2 also helps us understand that Christ was the One for whom we waited and that He was authorized to speak for God.

God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world. Hebrews 1:1-2 (NASB)

While Jesus walked among us He authenticated the entire Old Testament, which included all of the prophets. That is, the promised Messiah, who would speak for God, authenticated the books of the Old Testament and their authors, the prophets. For more information about the Old Testament books you are encouraged to read, “What books belong in the Bible? – Canon of Scripture.”

So far we have discovered that the Old Testament prophesied the Messiah would come. He was expected and He would speak for God. Then Christ authenticated the New Testament apostles and prophets as the ones who would speak for Him (John 14:26; Ephesians 3:5).

In summary, Scripture told us that Christ would come and He would speak for God. Christ authenticated the apostles and both the Old and New Testament prophets. But neither Christ nor the apostles authenticated anyone to speak for God after the apostles since Jude 3 states,

. . . the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints. Jude 3 (NASB)

That is, no one else is needed to give us new information since the faith has already been given to us already – “once for all”. Nothing more is needed.

The fourth and last reason the canon is closed is that Revelation was the last book written. It is a prophetic book looking to the future and the closing verses of the book are unique. They do not occur in any other book of the Bible.

I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues which are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his part from the tree of life and from the holy city, which are written in this book. Revelation 22:18-19 (NASB)

Conclusion:

God the Father has told us who was authorized to speak for Him. He had moved prophets and apostles to write for Him (2 Peter 1:21). Christ endorsed His apostles to write, speak and establish the church. Now we are waiting for the Second Coming of Christ. There is no need for any other spokesmen from God. No one else can speak new revelation. No one else is authorized to write Scripture.

Suggested Links:

What books belong in the Bible? – Canon of Scripture
What does it mean that the Bible is inspired? – Inspiration of Scripture
What books belong in the Bible? – Canon of Scripture
How did we get the Bible?
How can the Bible be the Word of God?