Why Can’t Books Still Be Added to the Bible?

Why Cant Books Still Be Added to the Bible Article

Some have wondered if it is possible for later books to be added to the Bible. Several “lost books” of the Bible have been suggested over the years. Yet the Bible and history reveal important reasons this should not and cannot take place.

History on why books can’t be added to the Bible

First, the Bible was written during a historical period that has already passed. The Old Testament was composed during the lives of early Jewish leaders through the time of Ezra who are no longer living. The events end approximately 400 years before the birth of Jesus.

The Hebrew Bible is listed in a slightly different order; it is divided into a different number of books (combining the Minor Prophets as well as other sections like 1 and 2 Samuel); but it includes the same 39 books in our Old Testament.

The New Testament writings were recorded in the first century A.D. The 27 books were all written during this century, either by an apostle or one of their associates. Only one book’s author is unknown (Hebrews) and was clearly written during the first century (since it mentioned Timothy alive during the time it was written). The early church did not decide which writings should be listed as New Testament books; it simply affirmed them.

Teaching

Second, the Bible speaks directly against adding to the Bible. In the Old Testament, Deuteronomy 4:2 says, “You shall not add to the word which I command you, nor take from it.” Proverbs 30:5-6 adds, “Every word of God is pure; He is a shield to those who put their trust in Him. Do not add to His words, lest He rebuke you, and you be found a liar.”

In Revelation, the final book of the New Testament, we also find this warning against adding to or taking away from Scripture:

“For I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds to these things, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the Book of Life, from the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book” (Revelation 22:18-19).

Unity

In addition to history and Scripture, the Bible’s unity helps reveal its completeness. God’s Word begins in Genesis with the creation of the heavens and earth (Genesis 1-2). The Bible ends in Revelation with the creation of the new heavens and earth (Revelation 21-22).

Jesus said in Matthew 5:18, “For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled.” The reference to “one jot or one tittle” referred to the smallest markings in the Hebrew alphabet.

What About the Apocrypha?

The Apocrypha, also called the Deuterocanonical Books, include 1 Esdras, 2 Esdras, Tobit, Judith, Wisdom of Solomon, Ecclesiasticus, Baruch, the Letter of Jeremiah, Prayer of Manasseh, 1 Maccabees, and 2 Maccabees, as well as additions to the books of Esther and Daniel. Not all books are included in Catholic and Orthodox Bibles.

These writings were largely composed during time between the Old and New Testaments. Though the Jewish people held them in high regard, they were not included in the writings of the Hebrew Bible.

Of great importance is that some books in the Apocrypha include known historical errors. If these books were included as part of the Bible, it would include errors in Scripture, yet the Bible is “God breathed” and perfect (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

 Nothing needs to be added to it, nor taken from it. The Word of God is complete, perfect, and continues to change lives still today.

Go Deeper

1 Comment

  1. Nick on May 16, 2023 at 8:48 pm

    A careful reading of the words makes it clear that the warning against adding to or taking away does not refer to the whole Bible or even to the New Testament, but to use John’s words, only to the words of “the book of this prophecy.” That is, the prophecy contained in the book of Revelation. This is substantiated by the fact that some of the books of the New Testament had not yet been written when John wrote the book of Revelation, and even those that had been written and were in existence at that time had not yet been gathered into one compilation.

    The collection of writings consisting of the sixty-six books we know as the Bible were brought together and compiled into one volume long after John wrote the prophetic book that has been placed at the end of the collection. It is clear, therefore, that the terrible judgments pronounced upon those who add to the book could not possibly apply to the whole of the Bible or even to the New Testament, but only to the book of Revelation.

    Secondly, the warning uses the words “the prophecy of this book” and also “the words of the book of this prophecy.” The word book in both instances is singular and could only refer to the book of prophecy written by John which is titled, in the King James Version, “The Revelation of St. John the Divine” and is often referred to as the Apocalypse—a Greek word which means revealed. Of necessity the word book would have been in the singular because when written it was not associated with any other book or books, and it was after many years and many ecclesiastical debates that it was added to the collection that became known as the new canon of scripture or the New Testament.

    It is also interesting to note that John himself added to scripture after writing the book of Revelation, which is generally conceded to have been written while he was on the Isle of Patmos. It was long after John left Patmos that he wrote his first epistle. This fact standing alone would be sufficient to defeat the claim that revelation was closed and that man was enjoined from adding to scripture. This adds cumulative evidence that John had reference to the book of Revelation only.

    In the Old Testament also are found similar vigorous denunciations and commands that there shall not be taken away or added to the words that were written. The first is found in Deuteronomy, written at the time Moses was exhorting Israel to live the law of the Lord. The Torah was oral law and had not been reduced to writing prior to the time of the codification of the law in Deuteronomy. Now that it had been reduced to writing by Moses prior to his death and assumed to be complete, Moses wrote:

    “Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you.” (Deut. 4:2.)

    Later in this same book of the law, Moses repeated the admonition in similar words. He said,

    “What thing soever I command you, observe to do it: thou shalt not add thereto, nor diminish from it.” (Deut. 12:32.)

    In the minds of some, these admonitions in the Old Testament raise the same question as to any other books being an attempted addition to scripture as does the injunction and warning at the end of the book of Revelation. In effect, these passages contain the same injunction as the one at the close of the Apocalypse; and if the same interpretation and argument was applied to them as is applied to the closing verses of the book of Revelation, there would be no scripture after the writings of Moses. Such an absurdity would result in discarding the greater part of the Old Testament and all of the books of the New Testament.

    A careful reading of each of these admonitions makes it clear that man is not to make changes in the revelations of the Lord: man is not to add to or take from the words of God. There is no indication or intimation that God could not, or would not, add to or take from; nor would any reasonable person with a belief in the divine powers of God consciously believe that God would be so restricted. Without question he would have the right and power to give additional revelation for the guidance of his children in any age and to add additional scripture.

    A study of the revelations of the Lord in holy writ confirms the fact that it is continuous revelation that guides prophets and the Church in any age. Were it not for continuous revelation, Noah would not have been prepared for the deluge that encompassed the earth. Abraham would not have been guided from Haran to Hebron, the Land of Promise. Continuous revelation led the children of Israel from bondage back to their promised land. Revelation through prophets guided missionary efforts, directed the rebuilding of Solomon’s temple, and denounced the infiltration of pagan practices among the Israelites.

    Before the ascension of Christ, he promised the remaining eleven apostles, “lo, I am with you alway, Even unto the end of the world.” (Matt. 28:20.) Following his ascension, he guided the Church by revelation until the death of the Apostles and subsequent apostasy of the Church of Jesus Christ.

    A distinctive sign of the last days that will precede the eventual second coming of the Lord was seen in vision by that same Apostle who recorded the book of Revelation. He said:

    “I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people.” (Rev. 14:6.)

    The fact that John saw a messenger from God reveal anew a lost gospel negates the argument that further revelation could not be added to the Bible.

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