• Does belief in Sola Scriptura entail belief in a closed canon?

  • Does belief in a closed canon entail belief in Sola Scriptura?

  • What is the difference between these two concepts?

  • Is it possible to accept one and reject the other? Are there examples of denominations that do this?


  • 1
    Good question. Up-voted +1. I assume that David (for example, and from his writings) believed in Sola Scriptura but did not believe in a closed canon. Or, at least, until Messiah came. Which, I think, is the crux of the question : the Messenger of the Covenant, Malachi 3:1-3, whose is the last word.
    – Nigel J
    Feb 1, 2022 at 15:57
  • 1
    It is certainly possible to believe in a closed canon and reject Sola Scriptura. The Catholic Church does this. See: christianity.stackexchange.com/questions/44339/…
    – jaredad7
    Feb 1, 2022 at 16:28

2 Answers 2


About terminologies

The term "closed canon" can be a descriptive terminology or can be a doctrine. A group that has a closed canon doctrine will choose a set of books and teaches that no books can be added / removed from the set. For this answer I'll use "closed canon" as a doctrinal position.

Does belief in Sola scriptura entail belief in a closed canon?

Yes. To understand why, let's remember that Sola scriptura is about the scripture being the highest authority to produce interpretations and applications of scriptures. That means all other sources of authority, such as personal revelation, church magisterium, or even church council are subordinate to scripture. Of course for this to work you will need 2 things:

  • Clarity / perspicuity of scripture so that ordinary Christian can understand.
  • Closed canon, otherwise how do you know which are the books to be the source of authority?

In other words, to use the Sola scriptura principle you need a canon first, although it is not the Sola scriptura principle that formed or closed the canon (it's another process).

Does belief in a closed canon entail belief in Sola scriptura?

No. Most obvious example is the Catholic Church whose canon is closed, but believes in Spirit-led Roman magisterium to interpret scriptures authoritatively.

What is the difference between these two concepts?

  • Closed canon is doctrine teaches that there will be no new Biblically inspired books to be added and that none of the existing books in the canon should be removed. It's about freezing the set of books that can be called 'Scriptures'. All mainstream Christian denominations adopt a Closed canon doctrine after choosing their own set of books as the canon. The precedent was the resolution after the 2nd century Montanist controversy. But Protestants decided to adopt a lesser canon for their closed canon, instead of continuing the Catholic closed canon, calling the Protestant canon the true canon.

  • Sola Scriptura is a Protestant doctrine to interpret the teachings in the books of the canon. So far only certain Protestant groups adopt them, most notably Lutherans, Reformed, and Evangelicals. The canon used is the Protestant 66 book canon.

Is it possible to accept one and reject the other? Are there examples of denominations that do this?

As mentioned above, you can accept a closed canon doctrine but reject the Sola scriptura doctrine. In the wikipedia article there is a section describing the Prima scriptura doctrine which can be applied to the same closed canon, but has a different structure of authority. Some examples of denominations using a Prima scriptura doctrine to interpret scriptures: Anglican, Wesleyan.

But since the Reformation (when Sola scriptura was born) denominations which accepted the Sola scriptura doctrine (Lutherans, Reformed, evangelicals) also adopted the closed canon doctrine, after creating the Protestant canon (66 books). While other groups can use Sola scriptura with another canon (or even open canon), it simply doesn't make sense to use the same terminology since it can only confuse people (it's about branding). In other words, by the very logic of why the Sola scriptura slogan was invented (which was to counter the authority of the Catholic magisterium and to disagree with the Catholic canon) made it inseparable from the Protestant closed canon.

  • Closed canon is saying "no more special revelation to be expected" - but I thought you said that 'special revelation' does not necessarily entail extending the canon (see your answer here), so how does a closed canon entail no more special revelations that do not extend the canon? Did you mean no more "biblical inspiration" instead?
    – user50422
    Feb 1, 2022 at 17:01
  • Also, what about Nigel's example of David (or anyone who lived before New Testament times for that matter)? Could they have believed in Sola Scriptura?
    – user50422
    Feb 1, 2022 at 17:04
  • I think Nigel was just illustrating the possibility of an open/evolving canon, with progressive revelation, in which you apply the same principles of Sola Scriptura to the revealed canon "so far". Obviously, future extensions of the canon would require lots of divine authentication, like the miracles, signs and wonders that authenticated the 1st century church.
    – user50422
    Feb 1, 2022 at 17:14
  • 1
    Among certain people 'Closed Canon' would be viewed as a doctrine, not just 'terminology'. But one could argue about the two terminologies ('terminology' and 'doctrine') for hours and hours and . . . . .
    – Nigel J
    Feb 1, 2022 at 19:14
  • 1
    @NigelJ Thank you for your feedback. I clarified my answer accordingly so it refers to "closed canon" as a doctrine. Feb 2, 2022 at 18:34

Progressive Revelation was necessary and an open canon ensued while it proceeded.

Now that, in these last days, 'God has spoken in Son' (Hebrews 1:2) that canon is closed and Sola Scriptura operates within a known and finite scope.

Thus I suggest it was possible (and very necessary) to hold both open canon and Sola Scriptura until Messiah came.

Thereafter, the one marked out by John the Baptist (the Messenger of Preparation, Malachi 1:1-3 who was 'Elias that was to come') as 'Son of God' and also marked out by a voice from heaven 'This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased' is also seen (by Mark) as the 'Messenger of the Covenant' (again, Malachi 3:1-3).

Once he is come and once he has expressed all, by his own lips and by his specially chosen apostles, there is no more to be said, the canon is closed and a curse issued to any who would think to add to it :

For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: Revelation 22:18 KJV.

This curse is seen (by many) as extending to all within the 'book' of scripture as such.

For now, Christ is come and Christ has spoken and there is no more to be added.

God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, Hath in these last days spoken unto us in Son (literal) whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds; Hebrews 1:1-2 KJV.

It is my own experience that much of Protestantism (though not all) would agree with both closed canon and Sola Scriptura.

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