closed cannon

The Power of Sacred Canon: Examining its Boundaries

By: Alexander Ciurana


(originally delivered at the Mokarow Bible Conference, The Woodlands, Texas)

Since the dawn of the scribal arts, humankind has expressed an innate desire to record encounters with the divine. Writings manifesting themselves in sacred lore, fanciful tales, mythical-nationalistic histories, wisdom proverbs, apocalyptic imagery, poetry and various other genres have found a special place in the hearts of millions. In time, most religious traditions compiled certain texts, preferring some to others, and ascribed authority to these texts for official and/or devotional use. Today, most major religions have writings considered more or less authoritative. Some religions, however, maintain or have maintained a perpetual stream of holy writ, whereby writings of more recent times are considered worthy of special status. This dynamic is typically known as open canon. In contrast, other world religions have adopted the concept of closed canon, whereby writings of modern times are never viewed as “scripture” because it is believed the divine action of inspired literature has come to completion. Simply put, an open canon provides borders that expand; a closed canon has fixed borders.