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Why did the biblical canon close when it did?

By Michael Runyan ~

Which books constituted the Christian biblical canons of both the Old and New Testament was generally established by the 5th century, despite some scholarly disagreements. Following this time, there were a few alterations made by various groups of Christians, but, universally, it was agreed that no contemporary writings could ever be added and further that nothing written after about CE150 was eligible. The question is why was this artificial cut-off time enforced? Why couldn’t God or the Holy Spirit inspire a more modern person to write, or dictate, an update from God that could then be placed in the Bible?

Some Christians point to to the following verse to argue this point:

I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this scroll: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to that person the plagues described in this scroll. And if anyone takes words away from this scroll of prophecy, God will take away from that person any share in the tree of life and in the Holy City, which are described in this scroll. Revelation 22:18-19

However, this was written long before there was a Bible with 65 other books, so it is obvious that the prohibition cited refers solely to this author’s book and not to anything else.

There is no logical reason to conclude that God inspired writers up to a certain time and then stopped doing that. Why would he stop? To illustrate the arbitrariness of this situation, suppose that a council was called in CE75 to determine which books and letters should be placed in the Bible. At that time all that was available were the Gospel of Mark and Paul’s letters, along with a few other currently non-canonical documents. Had this happened, the canon would have been closed at that time and everything else in the current New Testament that came later, including the Gospels of Luke, Matthew, and John, would have been excluded.

Apologists will counter that there would be no way to determine if a text written by a modern-day prophet was truly inspired by God, which is precisely the problem with the legitimacy of the books currently contained in the Bible. If we can’t make that determination today, how could the people of the 5th Century have done it then, other than making an arbitrary and obviously politically-fueled guess?

So here is the road you have to go down to accept all of this- God inspired some people, and only a few people, to write super-human texts that were essentially dictated by himself, though he gave no clues as to who these people were. Then around CE150, for reasons unknown, he stopped inspiring anybody. Then in the 5th Century, he inspired the Christian leaders of that time to make the correct final guess as to which books he had inspired. And this was the process God engineered to create his ‘perfect message’ to mankind. Of course, no real god would be this incompetent. If such a god existed and was intent on providing a book for humankind, he would do it miraculously on gold plates (sorry Mormons, which would not disappear!) in multiple languages that would be available for any necessary translations by future generations. The way the Bible came together is an ironclad clue that it is the sole product of human minds.

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