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Adding to the Bible - Revelation 22:18

W. John Walsh
Robert L. Millet
Scott Drennan

by W. John Walsh

How do you respond to the Bible and the fact that it states that no one is to add or take away from it?

I assume you are referring to Revelation 22:18-9 which states:

"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: 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."

A brief review of some historical facts should clear up this issue. The Bible is a collection of sacred writings that were compiled into book format centuries after the death of the original writers. When the Apostle John wrote these verses, the Bible as we know it today had not been compiled yet. Therefore, his words could not possibly be applied to the entire collection of writings today known as the Bible. John was referring specifically to the Book of Revelation.

Additionally, even though Revelation is traditionally placed last in the Bible, most Biblical scholars do not believe that it was the last book to be written among the compiled records contained in the Bible. If your reasoning is true, then those Books would also have to be removed from the Bible and discarded as false.

Also, please note the very similar wording by Moses 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."

If your interpretation of the Revelation verses were correct, then they would have to be applied here as well. In which case, the Old Testament after Deuteronomy and the entire New Testament would have to be discarded as false.

Finally, I should say that the words of both Moses and John are true. Man should not take it upon himself to add to or diminish the word of God.

"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." (2 Peter 1:21)

God has a plan for us and chooses men called Prophets to teach us his plan. Prophets teach the word of God as they are moved by the Holy Ghost. It is the same today as it was 2000 years ago, for God is the same yesterday, and today, and forever. (Hebrews 13:8)

"For he is the same yesterday, today, and forever; and the way is prepared for all men from the foundation of the world, if it so be that they repent and come unto him". (Book of Mormon, 1 Nephi 10:18)

by Robert L. Millet

First of all, it appears that the passages in the Old Testament that warn against such things (Deuteronomy 4:2; 12:32) are actually warning against adding to the books of Moses, the Pentateuch. This certainly could not have reference to adding to the Old Testament in general, or else we could not in good conscience accept the thirty-four books that follow the Pentateuch. Furthermore, the warning attached to the end of the Revelation of John is a warning against adding to or taking away from "the words of the prophecy of this book" (Revelation 22:18), namely, the Apocalypse. Most important, Latter-day Saints believe that these warnings have to do with the condemnation associated with a man, an uninspired man, a man not called of God, taking upon himself the responsibility to add to or take from the canon of scripture. But it is God's right to speak beyond what he has spoken already (as he certainly did in the person and messages and works of Jesus himself), and Latter-day Saints feel that God should be allowed to direct and empower his children as need arises. It is not for us to set up bounds and stakes for the Almighty. Nowhere in the Bible itself do we learn that God will no longer speak directly to his children or add to past scripture.

The Mormon Faith: A New Look at Christianity
Copyright by Deseret Book

by Scott Drennan


(Send comments & complaints, suggestions & questions to

Perhaps the most common reservation and initial roadblock people have about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the common belief that there cannot be any more "direction" revelation and/or new scripture. ("Direction" revelation defined as important divine instruction of use to the church or world at large.) And the core scripture so frequently quoted to support this belief and to condemn the Book of Mormon is the famous end-of-the-Bible passage of Revelation 22:18-19:

"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: 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."

I believe no other scripture comes close in its frequency of "use against" the LDS church. Furthermore, a very significant share of the arguments against LDS doctrine fall back to the "you can't find that in the Bible." So if this is the core scripture behind the core reservation about LDS doctrine, it deserves a particularly rigorous review. (So this and otherwise being bored in a London hotel room is my apology for the length of what follows.) But before doing so, I desire to quickly add that I find this belief very highly understandable given that most people have never experienced revelation and given that obviously there is little to no direction revelation when there are hundreds of Christian sects and within each sect there is disagreement on core tenets. While people realize there can be many churches full of good truths and good people, they also realize there can only be either one or none that is God's directly run by Him through revelation. Plus the great bulk of Christian churches today make no claim to have live prophets with additional scriptures. Hence the skepticism about any continued revelation and scripture is most understandable.

Before reviewing this passage, it is probably helpful to review what scripture is. Sometimes the term is used to refer to what writings are generally accepted by people as divine – but obviously this usage isn’t relevant in a debate about what is truly divine. The more meaningful definition is that scripture is important writing of divine origin that is useful to the church or world at large. Divine origin could mean the words are either: 1.) spoken by God himself; 2.) directly chosen word-for-word by God though the writing is in the form of the prophet/apostle's own narrative; 3.) or are of the prophet's own selection (though potentially having received various levels of inspiration on phrasing, how to present, etc.), but the message is still divine as the prophet is an authority on the issue due to having received revelation on the subject. And in this last category one might assume the doctrine is always right, even if the communication approach, the precise choice of words, the spelling and/or grammar, and possibly even irrelevant details might not be as desired by some people. The various writing styles of the different apostles and prophets might lead some to conclude that much scripture is of this third type. The other qualification is whether the instruction is of use to the church or world at large. If someone received inspiration where his lost car keys were, this would not be of general usage. On the other hand, although most New Testament books were epistles written only to a specific audience, they are included as scripture because of their instructional benefit to the larger church. After sufficient clarifications on what scripture is, the bottomline is that scripture is just the recording of revelation, and that to deny additional scripture is to deny additional prophets and additional direction revelation.

Enough introduction! Revelation 22:18-19 can either mean that: 1.) self-initiated editors are warned about adding or taking away from the Book of Revelation (or perhaps one might think John meant all scripture); 2.) or as is much more commonly interpreted, that God will never give more direction revelation and scripture other than the Bible, such that any claims like the Book of Mormon must be the addition of man and therefore false! It is my contention that the evidence against the latter interpretation is so immense that one cannot logically defend that view of this scripture, independent of what one's religious beliefs are and of whether one believes there will be additional revelation and scripture. The arguments against this common interpretation can be classified into three broad categories: 1.) this view is overwhelmingly inconsistent with the Bible; 2.) John was speaking only about the Book of Revelation (though the correct meaning could logically be extended to all scripture); and 3.) by understanding Bible history, it becomes obvious the passage could not have been referring to the Bible.


While the common interpretation of Revelation 22:18-19 is that there will never be more scriptures other than the Bible, there are a wide variety of reasons that show this view is dramatically inconsistent with the Bible.

Says What It Means, Means What It Says

A good starting point is that the passage says what it means, and means what it says. It warns man about adding or taking away. It simply doesn't say that God will never again speak, and that therefore all new scriptural claims must be false, and that therefore any claim of new scripture must only be man's addition or deletion. This common interpretation is simply dramatically inconsistent with the passage itself. God also said not to bear false witness. By the same convoluted logic one could say that what this really means is that God will never again speak, that any such claims are false witness, and that therefore all scriptures after Exodus 20 are false!

Intent is to Warn Would-Be Editors, Not Readers

The plagues and other grave warnings are to those who handle scripture and may be tempted to add or take away content If the passage purpose is to warn readers that no new scripture will ever come, then what is the relevance of listing punishments for would-be editors? The relevance is obvious however, if the intent is warn would-be editors.

Where's the Focus?

Where is the focus of the passage? First, the most words are on the punishments themselves which is again consistent with scaring off would-be editors. Secondly, there are three warnings against taking away to only one against adding. If the prime objective were to let people know any claim of added scripture must be false, one might expect more focus on potential adds.

God Makes Mistakes?

The statement about taking away scripture doesn't make a lot of sense in the context of the common interpretation. To believe that God is warning the general public about a take-away isn't logical. Either the public would never learn of it due to not seeing the original text, or if they do learn of it, they would never believe it. (Believe that God had made a mistake and now – OOPS! – is taking it away?) People know God won't take away his own words, so they do not need to be told that any such take-away must be of man. So the whole discussion of scripture take-away is not highly consistent with the common interpretation.

Reject Most of the Bible?

Deuteronomy 4:2 reads: "Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it…" Do we now reject all of the Bible after this chapter? Similar passages are also in Deuteronomy 12:32 and Proverbs 30:5-6.

Bible Names Other Scriptures

How can we say there are no other scriptures when the Bible names them? An apologist can create an alternative explanation for a few of these, but not all let alone most. Particularly when so many of them call the author a prophet. (A seer is also a prophet.) The following are generally considered the more clear references to other scriptures:

"The book of Nathan the prophet" (1 Chr. 29:29, 2 Chr. 9:29)

"Is this not written in the book of Jasher?" (Josh. 10:13, 2 Sam. 1:18)

Manasseh's dealings with God "are written among the sayings of the seers" (2 Chr. 33:19)

"Written in… the prophesy of Ahijah" (2 Chr. 9:29)

An earlier Pauline epistle to Corinth (1 Cor. 5:9)

"The book of Gad the seer" (1 Chr. 29:29)

"The book of the wars of the Lord" (Num. 21:14)

"Written in… the visions of Iddo the seer" (2 Chr. 9:29, 13:22)

"Read the epistle from Laodicea" (Col. 4:16)

"The book of Samuel the seer" (1 Chr. 29:29)

"The book of the acts of Solomon" (I Kings 11:41)

"The book of Shemaiah the prophet" (2 Chr. 12:15)

A previous epistle from Jude (Jude 1:3)

"The book of Jehu" (2 Chr. 20:34)

Who is right – the Bible or those who say there are no other scriptures?

Prophesies Quoted But Not Found

Matthew 2:23 reads: "And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, He shall be called a Nazarene." Jude 1:14 reads: "And Enoch… prophesied of these…" Where are these prophesies from these prophets? Apparently lost. Apparently there are other books of scripture.

It Breaks God's Pattern

Throughout all of history, when God has found a people that would work with him, it has been through revelation to his prophets (apostles are prophets who have the extra calling to be witnesses of Christ and his resurrection.) The record of these revelations is scripture. Amos 3:7 reads: "Surely the Lord God will do NOTHING (my emphasis) except he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets." So why would God change his pattern now? Indeed, how could God work with his people except through revelation?

Some argue that there was no need for revelation following the apostles' demise. Where's the logic for this? If everything necessary for heaven is so obvious, then why does Christianity have such wide chasms just on the core principles of salvation alone? (For instance, the Bible says baptism is necessary – is that true? And if so, is immersion necessary? Must it be by priesthood authority? As long as the baptism is in Christ's name, can it be into any church, including the Mormons? What happens to those who never heard of Christ and had no chance to be baptized? What sins annul salvation through baptism? And must infants be baptized?)

And aside from revelation for salvation, what about revelation for earthly needs? Would Noah have built the ark on a hunch? Would the Israelites have left Egypt without a Moses? Would Peter have taken the gospel to the Gentiles on his own predisposition?

Also how could the world need revelation after Christ, but not after the apostles? And though the church is "built upon the foundation of apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone" (Eph. 2:20, also see Eph. 3:5), we no longer need direction from Christ through his prophets and apostles? Foundations and cornerstones are no longer relevant to modern buildings? Also read 1 Cor. 12, then focus on verses 28-29.

It Breaks Man's Pattern

Even among the "people of God", man's pattern has been to drift away from the truth. Noah's world was decadent. The history of the "chosen Israelites" is a constant repetition of sin and apostasy. Most of the New Testament books are epistles full of corrections to the already-varying members who had previously been converted. The New Testament talks about continued apostasy (2 The. 2, 1 Cor. 11:18-19, Mat 24:5,24, Acts 20:29 among many others). Do Protestants believe there was no apostasy in the Catholic/Orthodox churches? The unfortunate pattern and history of God's people is that they veer from the pure and complete teaching of God, thus they need continued revelation and scripture from prophets. Can one honestly deny the benefit revelation would have today?

What about Scriptures Prophesying Future Scripture?

Ezekiel 37:15-20 prophesies about the stick of Judah – the Bible. (Almost all the Old and New Testament books were written by ethnic Jews, Paul a Benjamite is appropriately called a Jew as Benjamin was the other tribe in the Kingdom of Judah, and though Moses was a Levite his and all other books were maintained by the Jews through the centuries.) Clearly the stick of Judah is the Bible. But this passage also prophesies of the writing of the stick of Joseph and how that one day it would join with the Bible. This prophesy was fulfilled with the Book of Mormon. Even if one doesn't accept the Book of Mormon, one must still try to explain this prophesy of future Joseph scripture. And after that, then Isaiah 29 must be the next to be explained away.

What about Scriptures Prophesying Future Revelation?

Related topic, what about the scriptures about future revelations? I like Acts 3:21 where it talks about how Christ will be in heaven "until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began" – the restoration of Christ's original gospel prior to his second coming. How about Rev. 11:3: "they shall prophecy"? Or Rev. 14:6, Eph. 1:10, or Daniel 2? The Bible is so full of events that will occur prior to Christ's second coming that a complete list would be inappropriate. But since the passage under debate is at the end of the New Testament, I will refer the reader to the end of the Old Testament – Mal. 4:5-6. So now Elijah can't come after all because additional revelation is not possible? Which testament-closer does one now choose?

No Other Scriptural Support

If there was such a dramatic departure in God's practice that he would never again give revelation, prophets would never again occur, and there never would be new scripture, why wouldn't God have said so? Or his apostles or prophets? Where are scriptures to support this beside the convoluted reading of the Revelation passage being debated? Such a radical new dogma based solely on a highly illogical reading of a single scripture – is this sound? Sadly, there are several scriptures sometimes referenced to "support" this view of no more revelation or scripture, but they also rely on the same "logic" of making interpretations that clearly aren't supported by what the scripture says. However, one of the strongest arguments for something is to review the weakness of the arguments used against a proposition. Some of the scriptures illogically quoted for "never any more prophets, revelation, or scripture" are John 15:15, Heb. 1:1-2, John 16:12-13, II Tim. 3:14-17, I Cor. 13:8, II Cor. 11:13-15, Mat. 11:13, Acts 20:20&27, II Pet. 1:3, Deut. 12:32, Prov. 30:5-6, Isa. 8:20, Acts 17:11, Gal. 1:6-9, I The. 5:21, and I John 4:1 among others.

Doctrinal Insufficiency

So many doctrines are insufficiently discussed in the Bible for there to be a unity of faith within the Christian world. Consequently perhaps the Bible isn't all the direction a Christian could possibly need. If it was, why were so many Catholic councils (and Protestant conferences in more recent times) held through the centuries to decide not only policies but also (disturbingly so) doctrine!?


When one takes a scripture at face value and then finds it overwhelmingly inconsistent with the entire Bible, one should wonder whether they have the correct interpretation. But this isn't the case for Revelation 22:18-19. While the common interpretation is inconsistent with the entire Bible, it is also entirely inconsistent with what the face value of what the scripture itself says. When it says that if man changes the book, man will be punished, that is exactly what it means! It simply doesn't forbid God from further revelation, prophets, or scripture.


A careful analysis of the passage will clearly indicate that it only referred to the Book of Revelation.

Says What It Means, Means What It Says

John said "this book" three times. There was no compiled Bible with a blank page at the end that John was writing on. This book was the book he was writing – the book of Revelation.

"The Prophecy of This Book… The Book of This Prophecy"

The above phrases from the passage again indicate John was just referring to the Book of Revelation. Within the New Testament the first five books are primarily historical, the next 21 are instructional letters, the last is Revelation, the sole book that is almost entirely prophecy. Rev. 1:1-3 states that this will be a book of prophecy. In Rev. 1:11 Christ tells John "What thou seest, write in a book" and then ten more times in the book John is told to write of the prophecies, with one time being told not to write something. Then in the final chapter there are the phrases "the sayings of the prophecy of this book" and "keep the sayings of this book." Keep in mind "prophecy" and "revelation" are very similar words. The book of this prophecy is clearly the Book of Revelation, not the Bible.

Also revealing is what the Lord said in verse 10 of the final chapter: "And he saith unto me, Seal not the sayings of the prophecy of this book: for the time is at hand." John is being told to release this remarkable book of Revelation to the general public. There is no Bible at this time, so it couldn't be telling John to release the Bible. This book of prophecy is clearly the book of Revelation, not the Bible.

"The Plagues That are Written in This Book"

What plagues are these? Other than Revelation, the word plague is only mentioned four times in the New Testament, all in the context of a disease needing to be healed. Yet in Revelation the word "plagues" is mentioned 12 times, and more meaningfully, countless verses describe the horrors of future gruesome plagues. (Particularly chapters 9 and 16.) When John writes: "If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book", John is referring to Revelation, not the Bible.

"Take Away His Part Out of the Book of Life"

The phrase "book of life" is used eight times in the Bible, seven of which are in Revelation. We learn the book of life has the list of people that will go to heaven. Again, the whole context of John's warnings is that of someone who has just read the Book of Revelation.

"…and Out of the Holy City and from the Things Written in This Book"

In the Bible the phrase "holy city" is usually referring to Jerusalem. But the entire chapter of Revelation 21 describes in splendorous detail a wonderful future holy city (heaven) that the righteous will enter – this is the holy city referred to in Revelation 22:19. Plus "from the things written in this book" means just that – the phenomenal things promised the righteous in this and the previous chapter. Again, the whole context of John's warnings is that of someone who has just read the Book of Revelation.

"For I Testify Unto Every Man That Heareth the Words of the Prophecy of This Book…"

This warning is addressed to the readers of "the prophecy of this book", the Book of Revelation, not the Bible, because it was intended for the Book of Revelation, not the Bible.


A careful reading of both Rev. 22:18-19 as well as the entire Book of Revelation will lead the reader to conclude that this passage's warning are in the context of the Book of Revelation, not the Bible. "This/these" five times of which three are "this book", three references to topics in Revelation, plus "prophesy" two times -- it is hard to imagine contriving a passage with more blatant obvious reference to the Book of Revelation itself.


A review of Bible history will clearly indicate John could not have possibly been referring to the Bible. Even if a reader thinks that perhaps John was referring to all scripture as opposed to just the Book of Revelation, a review of Bible history will lead one to realize that John still could not have been referring specifically to the Bible.

Scripture Written after Book of Revelation

It is believed that John wrote the Book of Revelation within a year of 95 A.D. while on the Isle of Patmos. John was banished to Patmos by Domitian. After Domitian's death in 96 A.D., John returns to Ephesus, and writes his gospel. And John's three epistles are all believed to also have been written after he left the Isle of Patmos. Thus how could John be saying there would be no more scripture when he wrote the Revelation passage? Did John instigate a plague on himself?

End of Bible Placement

Some have mistakenly assumed that the passage about not adding or taking away was placed in Revelation because it was the last book of the Bible, thereby indicating the passage referred to the whole Bible. However, as discussed before, the New Testament books were placed according to category, not chronology – what timing history we have has almost no correlation to the order written. And the Pauline epistles were placed in descending length (except Hebrews because its authorship was disputed). The sole book on future prophecy would naturally be placed later at the end of the Bible. Another factor on placement may have been confidence in divine authenticity, the latter books of the New Testament were the most disputed, Revelation being one of the very most disputed. Had the order of books in the Bible been done on chronology or authorship, putting Revelation any place other than dead last, the Revelation 22:18-19 passage would have been as obscurely known as the passage in Deuteronomy 4:2.

What Bible?

The Bible we have today, a compilation of several ancient books, is a relatively modern concept. Traditionally the scriptures have been individual books or sometimes small sets of books. With 362 biblical manuscripts known to have been written before the tenth century A.D., only one has a complete New Testament, and none contains the whole Bible, although it is believed that several New Testaments copies were actually written that we no longer have. Of the 5,366 known Greek biblical manuscripts, only 34 have the whole Bible, all of which were written after the year 1000. Wycliffe produced the first entire English Bible – all handwritten copies in the late 1300's. Gutenberg printed the first Bible in 1455 – 200 copies in Latin. Tyndale printed the first English New Testament in 1525. It really wasn't until after the King James Bible in 1611 that an actual Bible started becoming much more common. The concept of a Bible just didn't exist during John's time – it didn't occur until many centuries later -- John was just referring to his Book of Revelation.

More Fundamentally, Which Canon?

Completely destructive to the concept that John was referring to the Bible is that there never has been, including today, a single Bible. What books should be part of the correct canon has been in dispute for centuries and continues today. And the dispute today is not just coming from a few minor sects. While most groups who quote Revelation 22:18-19 are typically Protestant, the typical Protestant canon is actually in the minority, as Catholics, with several more books, outnumber Protestants worldwide. So do plagues now come to all Catholics? Or are Protestants all barred from heaven?

From a 1913 Catholic Encyclopedia: "The idea of a complete and clear-cut canon of the New Testament existing from the beginning, that is from Apostolic times, has no foundation in history. The Canon of the New Testament, like that of the Old, is the result of a development, of a process at once stimulated by disputes with doubters, both within and without the Church, and retarded by certain obscurities and natural hesitations, and which did not reach its final term until the dogmatic definition of the Tridentine Council." And what was this "dogmatic" council? Due to the "Protestant problem", the Pope convened the Council of Trent in 1546. For the first time the Catholic church officially adopted a certain canon (the same canon already prevalent) and made it a matter of membership – the canon decree was voted in 24 to 15 with 16 abstentions. (Hard to tell what inspires more "confidence" – canon being decided by a vote, that the "yes" vote couldn't get a majority, or that what made this stick was the declaration that anyone not supporting this would be excommunicated and cursed.)

To review early canon, it is helpful to understand early Christian history. There were a variety of Christian sects and schisms, but eventually with the adoption of Christianity as the state religion of the Roman Empire, the Roman Catholic church became particularly dominant. Scripturally, in very broad terms, Christians appeared originally to treat the Old Testament as scripture, then started accepting the gospels as scripture, then the Pauline epistles, and then finally in various degrees the rest of today's New Testament. But there was great difference of opinion, primarily on the last set of books and on a variety of books not accepted in the KJV (King James Version). A review of some of the more famous developments would be useful:

The oldest New Testament documents (no originals exist) date to the second century – they contain portions of John in Greek

Marcion, a "heretic", may have provided the first list still recorded – he excluded the entire Old Testament and much of the New Testament.

The earliest "more mainstream" list that we're aware of is the Muratorian Canon, written in the later second century. It was the list of canon used at Rome – it excluded some of the KJV books, yet included other books. (Do we now consider as heretics the forerunner of Roman Catholic church?)

Famous "Father of Church History" Eusebius, writing about 300 A.D., rejected several of the current books and considered the excluded books heresy.

One of the more remarkable documents as it contained a New Testament (not just a list), Codex Sinaiticus, estimated from the 4th Century, included the Shepherd of Hermas and Epistle of Barnabas.

The first listing that ties to today's KJV New Testament that we have recorded was a letter from Athanasius (bishop of Alexandria) in 367. His Old Testament listing was close to today's KJV. This same New Testament list was also council approved at Hippo in 393 and Carthage in 397 and 419, although these councils endorsed a different Old Testament -- the "Catholic" Old Testament. However, these were local African synods, not general councils, just as Athanasius' letter was also only local.

In 405 Jerome produced the Latin Vulgate, to be used by the Catholic church for many years. Ironically, Jerome did not want to include the extra "Catholic" Old Testament books but did so because he was requested to, thus in the Bible he gave them a disparaging preface. Plus Jerome favored two other New Testament books that were excluded. The Vulgate would become the canon blessed by the Council of Trent in 1546.

A Laodicean epistle, the Shepherd of Hermas, and Barnabas are among the books most frequently added to the various New Testament lists over the centuries. The last several New Testament books were the ones most frequently in dispute.

To list the various canons accepted in history would go on forever. In general, the churches in the West reached a certain level of settlement on its canon more quickly, the various Eastern orthodox churches had more variety and for longer, continuing even today.

Martin Luther and many other prominent Protestant Reformers challenged a few of the New Testament books that are now widely accepted. (The Lutherans had their own Bible for many years.) It was this challenge that prompted the Catholic church to finalize their canon in 1546.

Obscenities in Church?

Undermining the concept that any existing particular Bible canon is somehow "completely right" is the Song of Solomon. The book is 0.00% doctrinal, historical, or religious. It is 100.00% love song, and then frequently obscene. While one could reference Jewish tradition for inclusion, I don't believe that something that can't be read in church could be taken seriously as divine scripture for the religious instruction (there is zero religious instruction in it) of the church. Thus, the Song of Solomon makes it even harder for someone to argue that somehow one of today's canon is at last a perfect Bible. (For the record, I believe the rest of the KJV can be confidently called inspired, allowing of course for the occasional translation issue.)

Exclusion the Issue

However the biggest issue with the Bible is not the inclusion of inappropriate material like the Song of Solomon or on occasional hyperactive editor – rather it is the exclusion of scripture. Exclusion already discussed includes the editor in error, the 14 lost books of scripture named in the Bible, the additional but less clear Biblical references to other scriptures, and prophecies quoted in the Bible but not found. Lightly discussed were the plethora of "apocryphal" books. Not yet discussed is the canon decision process -- two factors were at play that would make exclusion easier than inclusion. First, to avoid controversy and to generate consensus, the tendency was to only include books where there was a good degree of confidence. Second, one of the criteria was whether the book was already widely recognized as scripture. Both of these factors make exclusion in error more likely than inclusion in error.

A final area of exclusion is the probably large number of books that we simply have no knowledge or record of, and even larger area of divine words spoken by ancient prophets and apostles that were never recorded by anyone, or at least not by the prophet/apostle himself. For instance, Moses wrote the first five books of the Bible – we have no first hand account today of anything between Adam and Moses – an interlude that includes Enoch, Noah, Melchizedek, and Abraham among many others. And how about all the prophets between Moses and Christ? Do we Christians really think that somehow the Pharisees, Sadducees, and scribes were divinely led to have all scripture in the history of mankind? Similarly, let's remember that Christ didn’t call the "Five Apostles" – certainly the other original seven must have had something to say.


Had Revelation been placed chronologically before John's other books, the add/take away passage would be as obscure as the similar passages in Deuteronomy. When we realize that a Bible wouldn't exist for centuries, and wouldn't become common for over 1500 years, we realize John couldn't have been referring to a Bible. And with so many different lists of books accepted, particularly anciently but still today, how could one ever interpret that John was referring to the specific Bible the reader was using? Understanding Bible history makes it even more clear that John could not have been referring to the Bible in his passage.


The passage means what it says – it specifies punishments for anyone who might decide to edit the Book of Revelation. We can safely assume the principle is sound advice for anyone contemplating using their own "wisdom" to edit any scripture. I think it is also safe to assume the condemnation is not to the honest but mistaken translator or scribe, but rather to those who purposely change meaning. With the wealth of ancient documents now available, we have learned that today's translations are remarkably consistent which can give the modern reader confidence. But we have also learned that there are several passages with variations which reflect the need for such a Revelation passage warning. Furthermore, with some of the "modern" bibles, we can see that some feel free to take liberties with the Bible.


The ironies associated with this whole issue are rich, but warning, if you're irony-enjoyment impaired, and consequently when reading them are tempted to add or take away from them, proceed no further!


A common Biblical pattern is that often people might accept ancient dead prophets, but not accept live ones. Christ Himself said this (Mat. 23:29-37). The New Testament harshly condemns the Pharisees and Sadducees and scribes who couldn't accept the revelation in their day, and some segments of Christianity have despised Jews for 2,000 years. Ironically, generic Christianity's arguments against the LDS Church reflect remarkably well many of the same attitudes of the Jews against Christianity 2,000 years ago.

Book of Revelation Often Excluded from Canon

A very rich irony is that this "proclaimed-canon-closer" Revelation passage was often itself considered not to be scripture. Ranging from expressing skepticism to calling Revelation a fraud, its early cynics included Origen, Eusebius (the father of church history), Saint Gregory of Nazianzus, Saint John Chrysostom, Saint Cyril of Jerusalem, and the Synod of Laodicea. Doubt about the book was greater in the Eastern churches than the Western, for instance the Peshitta (Syrian Vulgate) excluded it. Prominent Protestants reformers cynical of or hostile to the Book of Revelation included Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, Karlstadt, Oecolampadius, and Erasmus. (Should Protestants now regard their founding fathers as heretics that will receive the curses of the Revelation passage?) The Book of Revelation has clearly been one of the most disputed books in the Bible.

What Scripture Indicates What Books are Scripture?

If you don't believe in later revelation, then you can't believe there was revelation in selecting the books of the Bible. The books in the Bible never list a canon or even use the words "canon" or "Bible". So how could you believe that a Bible put together many centuries later from man's wisdom is somehow the total canon, particularly given the high level of disputation on the subject. It's ironic that in one sense the common interpretation of the Revelation passage is inherently self-contradictory – proclaiming a future divine canon, then denying the revelation necessary to select and proclaim that divine canon.

Book of Mormon Prophesy

An entire chapter, II Nephi 29, in the Book of Mormon prophesied today's attitudes – about how people would just assume that there can't be any more scripture other than the Bible. It's ironic that the core argument against the book is actually a fulfillment of prophesy within the book.

Nicene Creed

It's also ironic that many people who believe in no more revelation or scripture after John often treat the Nicene Creed (that came 3 centuries later) as being above the scriptures. Particularly ironic because the creed's incomprehensible dogma (3=1, 1=3) goes directly against how the Bible treats the Godhead as three unique individuals – the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.

Church Teaching Above Bible

In a similar vein, some people today sometimes put their church teachings above that of the scriptures. Yet if they deny additional revelation exists, how can do justify extra-Biblical teaching? While many proclaim the Bible to be the sole source of authority, yet in reality they follow their leaders, perhaps because they believe that surely their leaders must know what they are talking about.

Non-Prophet Churches

It's ironic that Christian sects today simultaneously proclaim that there will be no more prophets/revelation/scripture, while proclaiming they are God's church with all the keys and knowledge for salvation. Now I want to hasten to add I have a great deal of respect for the various Christian churches – both because they teach many true principles and because they are full of outstanding sincere people. But feel-good fuzziness is not an acceptable approach for seeking salvation, and while delicacy is good for diplomacy, it's disastrous for eternal determination. Either a church is headed by God, or it isn't. Either a church has divine guidance that can be considered as scripture (whether or not it is officially canonized), or it only has human wisdom. Either a prophet speaks, or a council votes. There is either prophetic counsel or political compromise. Direction is from holy inspiration or human intelligence. Doctrinal clarity or debate constantly. If a church denies prophets, revelation, and additional scripture -- it logically denies being God's church that He runs.

By Their Fruits

While Rev. 22:18-19 is misquoted to say that there that will never be any more prophets, revelation, and scripture, we should instead follow what the Lord said about discerning false prophets. In Matthew 7:15-20 the Lord said to beware of false prophets and that by their fruits ye shall know them. It's ironic that even anti-LDS writings frequently extol the highly exemplary lives led by members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.


Upon a thorough review of the issues, the common rendering of Revelations 22:18-19, that there will never be more scripture after the Bible, is simply an untenable passage interpretation. Untenable independent of what one's religious beliefs are, including whether one believes there ever will be additional revelation and scripture.

Saving perhaps the best evidence for last, a topic that deserves volumes, the Book of Mormon is in my opinion the most persuasive evidence of further scripture about Christ. My invitation to you is to simply read it yourself!

It is the humble but bold testimony of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that God has restored His church, given additional scriptures, and continued to guide His church once again through modern revelation to a modern prophet and a modern twelve apostles. Just as the first coming of Christ was not an unprophesied event, so this greatly prophesied preparatory era prior to Christ's second coming should also not surprise the serious student of scripture. An unparalleled unique prophetically promised clarion call of such splendorous stupendous significance decidedly deserves real review, not canon-closing cliches sourced from superficial scholarship of Revelations readings!

(See The Canonical or Biblical Exclusion; How can the Latter-day Saints justify having additional books of scripture and adding to the Christian canon?; Response to Criticism home page; Accusatory Questions home page)

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