If you believe that the Bible is complete and that there is no more cannon, that is ok with me. But the bible does not require it to be so. The following verses from the bible are the ones most often shown to me to prove that the bible is completed.
Can the bible be added to?
Revelation 22:19 And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.
The argument is that the caution in this verse is referring to the bible as we have it today and that John was anticipating the current state of affairs. This is, however, an argument from silence because nowhere in the bible does it tell us that John had this in mind. We would have to assume this was his intention. The reality is, the bible as we have it did not exist at that time and was not even being considered, so if this was his intention, no one in his audience would have understood it that way. They would only have known that he was referring to the Book of Revelation itself and not some book of books that would be put together generations in the future. Further, similar wording is found in Deuteronomy 4:2 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.
Of course, many books were added after Deuteronomy so we are left to interpret this as referring to this specific book. Besides, the warning is towards people, nothing here says that God cannot add to it. It should also be noted that there are many references to books that are no longer in existence, such as the epistle of Laodicea which Paul admonishes us to read in Colossians 4:17, and the Book of Nathan the Prophet mentioned in 2 Chronicles 9:29.
Is the bible inerrant?
Another verse that is offered is 2 Timothy 3:16-17 “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.”
I find this verse is actually quite a weak endorsement of the bible, holding scriptures in rather low esteem. Even if we insist on translating inspiration of God as ‘god breathed’, the fact is, the expression means to be inspired. The movie Saving Private Ryan was inspired by events of the Second World War, but this does not make the movie true or even remotely historically accurate. Many people are inspired by God, but being inspired by God does not guarantee that you will succeed or even be any good. So it was not written by God, but rather inspired by him. The scriptures are of great value, but according to 2 Timothy they do not represent the inerrant word of God.
2 Timothy also advises that scripture is profitable for doctrine. Profitable does not mean necessary. Apples are profitable for your health but you can live your entire life without eating a single apple and still be quite healthy. In fact, just because something is profitable does not make it good.Marijuana grow-ops come to mind. In the end, this verse tells us that scriptures is inspired but not necessarily accurate or even true, and is profitable but not at all necessary.
But can a book contain errors and still be of value? Of course it can. The argument is that how can we accept anything the bible says if we feel it may be translated incorrectly or have parts missing. This is a flawed argument. Clearly the bible contains a lot of wonderful teachings; the problem is we cannot make a clear determination of many of the doctrines. This false dichotomy that a bible cannot be scripture if it may have errors is a logical fallacy, making truth mutually exclusive to error. If something has an error it cannot be true. You cannot trust the drugs at a pharmacy that sells chocolate bars. So no, I am not advocating that we dismiss the bible as a pathetic jumble of nonsense; rather, I think we have to reconsider what it means to be scripture. One of the best definitions is found in 2 Peter 1:21 “for the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy ghost.” Scripture, which is inspired and profitable, is anything written when a holy person is moved upon by the Holy Ghost.
And why, if the bible may contain errors, can we still have confidence in God’s word?
Because God’s Word is not written down. This brings us to the next verse that is used to argue that the bible is inerrant:
Doesn’t the bible teach that Gods word will not pass way?
Matt 24:35 Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.
What is God’s word? Is God’s word the bible? The bible certainly contains writings of inspired people who did their best to record their understanding of Gods teachings, but every time we learn of God’s word in the bible, it is always spoken, never written. For that matter, the New Testament has only a very few passages that are the words of Jesus, all the rest are the teachings of Paul, John or some other disciple. It is their interpretation of God’s word. If I was to make a statement and declare that it shall not pass away, this has no bearing on how well someone else records my statement or how long this written version lasts. If the local government were to make a public announcement that a certain park is closed, the fact that no notices are sent out does not negate the park closure. Even if someone came and removed all the signs from around the park does not mean the governments statement has passed away, only that the notices advising people of their statement has gone missing. The same is true with God’s word. Clearly there have been places on the earth where the bible has not gone. Much of Asia was without the bible until very recently. This lack of access did not negate Gods word.
Scripture versus Canon
A final point is the notion of canon, which being interpreted is the official documents of a religion that are revered as official and authoritative sources of doctrine. All canon is scripture, but not all scripture is canon. My journal, at least part of it, is scripture for me and my family; but it is not canon in the sense that my family can look to it as a source of doctrine. As we read in 2 Peter, that which is written by a holy person under inspiration from the Holy Ghost is scripture. Were the epistles of Paul intended to be canon? The bible does not say, but I wonder if we treat it as such simply because of tradition since Christians have called it canon for hundreds of years.
The bible can be accepted as scripture, but the bible does not require itself to be complete, nor inerrant. In the past, although prophets quoted scripture that came before them, they always had a new message that was pertinent to the times in which they taught. The Christians of the New Testament times did not have the New Testament, rather they relied on the teachings of the living 12 apostles; and at no point did the church leadership of the time declare their teachings complete. The New Testament books we have today were written decades after the church was organized. And what of the other sheep Jesus referred to in John 10:16 that he had to go teach? I suspect they also had holy men of God who spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost. Perhaps someday they will be found and added to the bible.
At least, that is the way I see it.