• 1 John 1:1-4 reads:
That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life—the life was made manifest, and we saw it, and testify to it, and proclaim to you the eternal life which was with the Father and was made manifest to us—that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you may have fellowship with us; and our fellowship is with the Father and with the Son Jesus Christ. And we are writing this that our joy may be complete.
Though you deny it, St. John was Catholic; so even if this verse, in any way, could provide an argument for a self-authenticating canon, it is impossible for the passage to provide support for a canon that is not dependent on the Catholic Church. And one can read the passage as many times as she would like, but she would not find any support whatsoever for a self-authenticating canon. Professional Protestant Church of Christ anti-Catholic blogger and preacher Scott J. Shifferd indicatively explained how your group uses the passage.4 On his website, Shifferd chose a Bible version that translates the last sentence of the passage as These things we write to you (which is fine). He explained that St. John’s use of the words These things we write to you are understood by your group as an indication that all the apostolic writings are Scripture. Shifferd’s problem, of course, is that the passage communicates nothing of the sort. But the passage is not what is important to Shifferd or others who must argue against the Catholic Church’s construction of the Christian canon and for their theory of a self-authenticating canon. In other words, Shifferd and your apologists want the world to ignore the circular logic that your group promotes: that “the Bible says what the Bible is,” or, “St. John’s writings are inspired because St. John’s writings say they are inspired.” Should we not all, then, become Mormon? After all, the Book of Mormon actually claims inspiration for itself! But the Restorationist Mormons actually have a better argument than your Restorationist community, because 1 John 1:1-4 does not, in any way, claim that it is inspired or that any apostolic writing is inspired.
And of course, just as with the previous passage (2 Peter 3:15-16), your apologists cannot account for the inspiration of the primary passage at hand. Therefore, any resulting interpretation of the primary passage that results in a declaration of another book’s inspirational status cannot be fully trusted as inspired. This passage is not evidence for the inspiration of any book—even of itself or any other letter by the Apostle John. But your group ignores these facts because it must, by extension, insist that all of the Apostle John’s letters are inspired; because there would be no way your theory of a self-authenticating canon could support the inclusion of St. John’s Gospel, 2nd John, 3rd John, and Revelation unless it convinces itself that the passage means what it does not mean. Not one Johannine book claims inspiration for itself (save Revelation, perhaps), and not one other biblical book assigns inspiration to the Johannine collection; so you must rely on your unfounded insistence for the inclusion of any book that the Apostle John allegedly wrote.
Could a true “Bible-only” Christian have any reason to believe John’s Revelation is inspired? Perhaps, but why do you believe the Apostle John wrote it? There were many “Johns” that could have written Revelation, but you assume it was the Apostle, and therefore, conclude that Revelation deserves inclusion within the Christian canon. Is it not the Catholic Church’s Tradition that has created your presupposed subconscious acceptance of St. John’s authorship that you rely on for your belief in Revelation’s inspiration? If your reliance is not on the Catholic Church’s Sacred Tradition, then what extra-biblical source are you relying on? What extra-biblical source are you using to, in fact, prove to your more-discerning observers that the Christian canon is not self-authenticating—prove that the “Bible only” cannot be your sole authority on matters of religion!
Now let us assume your intelligentsia does in fact believe what it expects Catholic Christians and the world to believe. Does the very fact that an Apostle wrote a letter, treatise, or instructions prove that such writings are inspired and belong in the Bible? If all the apostolic writings are inspired, then is the Protestant Bible complete even though it is lacking at least one letter by St. Paul? If your interpretation of 1 John 1:1-4 is that all the apostolic writings are inspired, which is precisely what your group expects Catholics and the world to believe in order for your theory of a self-authenticating canon to be accepted, then you must also admit your Bible has been corrupted and is an imperfect code—is unable to provide you with a trustworthy pattern from which to imitate. Or, perhaps, your interpretation is correct only when your community must provide a desperate argument for its Catholic-less canonical certitude?
The earliest extra-biblical Church document we have is called The Didache, also called The Teachings of the Twelve,and it may have been composed by the Apostles or their schools as early as A.D. 70. (I will address The Didache again in Chapter 7 in regards to ancient modes of Baptism.) Its authorship is no more spurious than the Book of Hebrews or Revelation, yet your group does not recognize it as inspired. The Catholic Church of Christ does not recognize The Didache as inspired either, but the Catholic Church does not force 1 John 1:1-4 to mean all the apostolic writings are inspired; your group does! Put differently, your group has no reason to believe that some of the books that are now included within the New Testament are inspired as proved by their alleged apostolic authorship, while The Didache is rightly not included within the New Testament even though it possesses equal apostolic status. In other words, your forced interpretation of the primary passage is not reasonable, and your group, as proved by its inconsistent use of its interpretation and acceptance of a canon that both includes and excludes apostolic writings, does not even believe its own argument for a self-authenticating canon. Why, then, should anyone else believe it?
The most sober understanding of St. John’s passage is precisely what he wrote, which is that we (the Apostles) wrote so that our (Apostles’ and readers’) joy may be complete. The text contains no hint, no clue, no inference, nothing at all that might suggest that all apostolic writings are inspired. Nor does the text offer any reason to believe all of St. John’s writings are inspired. And it is a fact that the early Church not only wrestled with the status of St. John’s writings, but with the discernment of which writings are authored by, and not authored by, St. John.
The Johannine collection is not found in the Bible because the Johannine collection says it belongs in the Bible, because it certainly does not say that; it is found in the Bible because an extra-biblical authority had determined it belongs there. And the now-determined apostolic writings are not found in the Bible because the apostolic writings say they belong in the Bible, because they certainly do not say that, either; they are found in the Bible because an extra-biblical authority had determined they belong there.
4 Available at http://godsbreath.net/2012/06/25/patrick-vandapool-1/ as of July 6, 2014.