According to the Reformation principle of “Sola Scriptura”, the Scriptures alone are the rule of faith and life. But Scripture is not just one book. Scripture is a small library of books! So how do we determine which books are in the canon of Scripture? Do we need a church or a man to tell us what should be included? It is my position, and the historical position of the church, that the Holy Spirit reveals what is God-breathed, not any man or organization. In this way, one can say the canon of Scripture is self-authenticating. Do assume otherwise is to place a man or an organization above the Scriptures in authority. 

The best way to put it is the way the Second London Baptist Confession put it in 1689 (my apologies to those who are confession averse).  Section 1, Paragraph 4. “The authority of the Holy Scripture, for which it ought to be believed, depends not upon the testimony of any man or church, but wholly upon God (who is truth itself), the author thereof; therefore it is to be received because it is the Word of God.” (See 2 Pet. 1:19-21; 2 Tim. 3:16; 2 Thess. 2:13; 1 John 5:9)

There are two components to the “Canon of Scripture”, which can be referred to as the “Macro-canon” and the “Micro-canon”. The Macro-canon is the list of exactly which writings were to be regarded as Scripture. Basically, your bible’s table of contents. The Micro-canon is the actual verses that are part of the writings in the Macro-canon. The early church fathers of the first few centuries quoted extensively from the canon, and in fact there are quotes from every book in the New Testament within their writings. This is pretty impressive since they didn’t set out to make sure and quote everything so we would know they approved of it!

While most would agree with the Macro-canon, there are issues with the Micro-canon. Apart from minor textual variations, there are those men and women who advocate for the “Critical Text” that regard parts of the Micro-canon that was accepted as authentic by centuries of Christians as spurious. Not only are there several individual verses, there are entire passages such as the longer ending of Mark and the account of the woman caught in adultery in John 8. The traditional Greek text has these passages included, but they date later than the Alexandrian manuscripts and papyri that omit them. The issue with these Alexandrian texts is that they have survived solely through an accident of climate, as drying air is more conducive so document preservation. Unfortunately, this area was also a hotbed of heretical activity among people like Arius and the Gnostics. And since these portions and were found in trash piles, I find them to be untrustworthy.

But of greater importance is the attack, whether intentional or not, on the self-authentication of the canon. If we accept the critical text over the traditional text, we are de facto admitting that 1.) there are men that have veto power of the Holy Spirit when it comes to authenticating Scripture, or 2.) we really do need an ecclesiastical authority to determine the Macro and Micro canons for us. In either instance, they place either a man or an organization in judgment over Scripture. This is not acceptable.

So does that mean we go “King James Only”? Not necessarily.  What it does mean is that we should use translations of the traditional text over those of the critical text. To their credit, many critical text translations include traditional text readings, albeit in brackets or footnotes. But there are also good translations that use the traditional text that the Holy Spirit has authenticated to believers over the centuries. These would include the King James, 21st Century King James, King James-Easy to Read, the New King James, and the Modern English Version.

Bible software has also made access to multiple versions much more convenient, so you can read different translations side by side. 

But my personal conclusion is this:  If the Scriptures are self-authenticating (and they are), then I should study from translations that use the text that the Holy Spirit has witnessed to over the last 20 centuries over a critical text that depends on human wisdom and academic argument. To do otherwise is to subjugate the determination of the Micro-canon to the academic “experts” instead of the Spirit. No Thanks!