2

The Catholic Church recognizes 73 books in the Bible (46 in the Old Testament and 27 in the New Testament). Does the Church allow the possibility of new books being added to the Bible, perhaps in a "Newer Testament", thus giving them equal weight to other scriptures? By "new books", I mean books that were written after the writings of the currently recognized books of the Bible.

To give a concrete example, let's say that St. Joe Schmoe wrote a short book in 1900. Would it be possible for the Catholic Church to decide that the book of Joe was divinely inspired, like the currently recognized Bible books, and should be added to future copies of the Bible, thus allowing it to also be read during mass and such? I realize such an event is unlikely, but I'm wondering if it is theoretically possible to do it.

  • 2
    What beyond "no" are you looking for in an answer? Do you understand how the canon was arrived at? – KorvinStarmast Dec 7 '17 at 5:08
  • 1
    Mainstream denominations regard scripture (the Bible) as being complete. Interpretations can be refined, but nothing new can be added (and nothing can be taken away). I'm pretty sure that Catholicism follows this doctrine. – Mick Dec 7 '17 at 5:13
  • 1
    You might want to ask how newly discovered source texts can affect scripture (i.e. a version of a canonical book that differs from from currently accepted texts). I'm not even sure how my own denomination would handle this – Mick Dec 7 '17 at 6:12
  • @Mick - At this point it is pretty well known that the works of Dionysius the Areopagite was a 5th or 6th century creation. How would your denomination react if we somehow found the real letters of the Areopagite? – David P Dec 7 '17 at 15:25
  • @DavidP You seem to be asking "What if attested letters from someone mentioned in the NT and is currently considered to be a 5th/6th invention (not sure by whom) were found?" I'm sure they would be read with great interest by some people, and treated with complete indifference by others. I don't see how it would affect the canon of scripture, though. – Mick Dec 7 '17 at 15:36
4

The very short answer to this question is no.

Public revelation, or divine revelation, is God revealing himself to humanity. The Church teaches that public revelation, as revealed in salvation history, was perfected and completed in Jesus Christ.

“The Christian economy … since it is the new and definitive Covenant, will never pass away; and no new public revelation is to be expected before the glorious manifestation of our Lord Jesus Christ” [see Dei Verbum 4; see also 1 Timothy 6:14; Titus 2:13]. Yet even if Revelation is already complete, it has not been made completely explicit; it remains for Christian faith gradually to grasp its full significance over the course of the centuries (CCC, 66).

The Church has long taught that public revelation ended with the death of the last apostle, as the Apostles faithfully taught Jesus’ message. The Church carefully guards its deposit of faith, awaiting its fulfillment in the final coming of Christ. - Public versus private revelation

Any saints' writings after the death of the Apostle St. John in ca. 100 AD are to be considered "private revelation" and are not binding to be followed or believed in by any member of the Catholic Church.

In this respect, let us listen once again to the Catechism of the Catholic Church: "Throughout the ages, there have been so-called 'private' revelations, some of which have been recognized by the authority of the Church... It is not their role to complete Christ's definitive Revelation, but to help live more fully by it in a certain period of history" (No. 67). - Public Revelation and private revelations

Let us carefully remember that the Apostles were eyewitnesses to the events surrounding Our Lord Jesus Christ and future writers can not make this claim. St. John concludes his Gospel with the following words:

This is the disciple who is bearing witness to these things, and who has written these things; and we know that his testimony is true. 25 But there are also many other things which Jesus did; were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written. - Gospel of St. John Chapter 21: 24

Catholic Bibles usually end with The Apocalypse of St. John the Apostle and although he gives to us a warning not to change anything written in the Apocalypse, it could also be used as a word of caution not to add to public revelation.

For I testify to every one that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book: If any man shall add to these things, God shall add unto him the plagues written in this book. 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 these things that are written in this book. - The Apocalypse of St. John the Apostle, 22: 18-19

  • The OP's wordings are as thus: "By "new books", I mean books that were written after the writings of the currently recognized books of the Bible." – Ken Graham Dec 8 '17 at 14:36
2

The short answer to the OP is no; new books may not be added to the canon of Scripture. The Catechism states that the list is "complete".

120 It was by the apostolic Tradition that the Church discerned which writings are to be included in the list of the sacred books. This complete list is called the canon of Scripture. It includes 46 books for the Old Testament (45 if we count Jeremiah and Lamentations as one) and 27 for the New. http://www.scborromeo.org/ccc/p1s1c2a3.htm#120

On the other hand, the Catholic Church also recognizes Sacred Tradition as equal to its Scripture. As such, Tradition may be added to or subtracted from.

78 This living transmission , accomplished in the Holy Spirit, is called Tradition, since it is distinct from Sacred Scripture, though closely connected to it. Through Tradition, "the Church, in her doctrine, life and worship, perpetuates and transmits to every generation all that she herself is, all that she believes." "The sayings of the holy Fathers are a witness to the life-giving presence of this Tradition, showing how its riches are poured out in the practice and life of the Church, in her belief and her prayer." http://www.scborromeo.org/ccc/p1s1c2a2.htm#78

The point in making this distinction between Scripture and Tradition is to affirm that the Catholic Church cannot change its Scripture, but it can change (modify, add, subtract, clarify) its Tradition ("all that she believes").

  • Do you really believe that's true? Let's say archaeologists unearthed a copy of Paul's Epistle to the Laodiceans, and that it was verified to be a true copy, and not some Marcion or other type of forgery. My bet is that the Pope would call an ecumenical council, and after much debate, that epistle would be added to the canon. – David P Dec 7 '17 at 15:41
  • Well, it doesn't particularly matter whether a true apostolic writing is newly verified as such or not. What matters is whether one thinks God somehow, at one time (say 2,000 years ago), failed to include or failed to guide His people to leave a full and complete written witness completed as necessary for all things salvific. That's the real issue between Scripture and Tradition. So, it may be true that a True Saying of Tradition could be incorporated into a belief structure (and it happens all the time; RC, LDS, JW, etc), but it won't ever make it into the canon of Scripture. – SLM Dec 7 '17 at 15:49
  • 1
    @DavidP I don't think so. The lady provided by the Council of Trent seems to be considered infallibly correct. – Matt Gutting Dec 7 '17 at 17:34
  • 2
    The Church set the canon originally at the 7th Ecumenical Council in 787. The Roman Catholic Church slightly modified the canon set by the 7th Ecumenical Council at the Council of Trent in the 16th century. What would prevent the Pope from convening a new Ecumenical Council (by Roman Catholic standards) and affirming a new Scriptural canon? I don't think there is anything that could prevent this. – guest37 Dec 7 '17 at 19:01
  • 1
    Don't believe 7th EC established a canon for anyone, though Trent did for RC. Anathemas at the latter time were for those who disagreed with its canon. So, no way can RC change it. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canon_of_Trent – SLM Dec 7 '17 at 20:06
2

No new writings would be accepted as part of the canon today. However, it would be interesting if the Church found an old writing penned by an Apostle, in which its authenticity could be verified. St. Irenaeus was one of the first to develop a NT canon, and one of the criteria he used is whether the document was either written by an Apostle, or accurately recorded what an Apostle said. So the Gospel of Mark is considered canonical because it was well believed to be an accurate recording of what St. Peter had witnessed.

For a through explanation of St. Irenaeus's positions on the matter, check out Book III of his "Against Heresies"

(http://www.prudencetrue.com/images/Irenaeus_Against_Heresies_Book_III.pdf)

  • "No new writings would be accepted as part of the canon today." The OP asked for a Roman Catholic perspective. Is there some particular canon accepted by the Roman Catholic Church that you are aware of that supports this, or is this your own personal opinion based on what you state. What is the source for what you say about Irenaeus? – guest37 Dec 7 '17 at 18:59
  • 2
    @guest37 - Check out Book III of "On Heresies" by St. Irenaeus: prudencetrue.com/images/Irenaeus_Against_Heresies_Book_III.pdf He definitely gives one of the first rationales for what should be scripture and what should not. – David P Dec 7 '17 at 20:53
  • You could strengthen your answer by adding the information in your comment. – TRiG Dec 8 '17 at 20:15
  • @TRiG - Good idea. Added the link. – David P Dec 9 '17 at 18:16
0

No, the canon of Holy Scripture was fixed in the (unchangeable) dogmatic definition of the 4th Session of the Council of Trent on the Canonical Scriptures:

But if any one receive not, as sacred and canonical, the said books entire with all their parts, as they have been preserved to be read in the Catholic Church (prout in ecclesia catholica legi consueverunt), and as they are contained in the old Latin vulgate edition; and knowingly and deliberately contemn the traditions aforesaid; let him be anathema.
The phrase I emboldened shows that no new books can be introduced int the canon of Holy Scripture.

(adapted from my answer here)

  • I don't think your interpretation is sound. The pull quote says that you can't take away any of the books. (The council of course was a response to the Protestants, who removed several books from their canon of scripture.) In theory, you could "receive the said books as sacred and canonical" and additionally receive other books the same way. Maybe there's something else in Trent that counters that, though? – workerjoe Dec 10 '17 at 20:10
  • @Joe What other writings "have been preserved to be read in the Catholic Church" besides those already in the canon of scriptures? – Geremia Dec 11 '17 at 17:07
  • None , yet. So what? – workerjoe Dec 14 '17 at 16:39

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.