Historical evidence for self-authenticating scripture?

The best protestant response to the problem of canon is, to my mind, self-authentication. For those who aren’t aware, the ‘problem of canon’ refers to the (alleged) problem that establishing a particular biblical canon is a problem for protestants, as they have no ultimate authority to turn to (Jesus never enunciates a biblical canon, nor did any of the apostles). A popular response is called ‘self-authentication’, which is the (alleged) process by which true scripture distinguishes itself from untrue scripture to the true believer.
I think it’s fairly indisputable that Matthew 16:18 asserts that there will never not be a true believer (“the gates of hell shall not prevail against [the church]”). That is, assuming that ‘the church’ does, in fact, refer to an ‘invisible body’ or some similar protestant idea, it is at least asserted that said church will never be empty. So we have:

  1. Since the resurrection, a true believer has always been alive.
  2. A true believer is able to discern true scripture from untrue scripture.
  3. Since the resurrection, there has always been someone able to discern true scripture from untrue scripture.

The ancient undivided Church established her canon by the fifth century; the reformation took place around a millenium later. My question for protestants is: Is there any historical evidence that such individuals, as described in (3), existed between the fifth and 16th century? I.e., who recognised the books Tobit, Judith, and Baruch (among others), as untrue scripture? Thanks for your time.

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I don’t think premise 2 is true. Nearly every letter of the NT was written to true believers who had tasted the gift of the Holy Spirit, etc., yet had to be corrected of misconduct and/or heading down wrong paths. Being a true believer does not guarantee infallibility and no one can truly claim the Bible self authenticates because no one could possibly claim this with any certainty (in the Protestant frame). And I don’t think any Protestant would disagree.

To start, regarding practice and doctrine, the use of the term “protestant” is folly.
One cannot, with any hope of accuracy, speak of protestants as if they are or ever were a “church”. As an example;

As someone raised Lutheran, I never heard this.

Regarding “invisible church”. We know that to be the case because of “wheat and tares”, “sheep and goats”, etc. But there is a visible Church, as recognized by the Lutheran Confessions - “The Church is the congregation of saints, in which the Gospel is rightly taught and the Sacraments are rightly administered.”

As for number two, I offer Martin Chemnitz:

"This is also certain, that no one should rely on his own wisdom in the interpretation of the Scripture, not even in the clear passages… We also gratefully and reverently use the labors of the fathers who by their commentaries have profitably clarified many passages of the Scripture. And we confess that we are greatly confirmed by the testimonies of the ancient church in the true and sound understanding of the Scripture. "

Clearly, this would also include the determination of the canon. And that is exactly the Lutheran approach to the canon.

As for numbers 3, “Since the resurrection, there has always been someone able to discern true scripture from untrue scripture,” you state:

The ancient, undivided Church makes no such statement. The ECF’s in no way are united on the canon, the eastern patriarchates have always had differing canons, and the councils of Rome, Hippo, and Carthage were local councils, not ecumenical.

First, you place an artificial beginning time. Why not consider Eusebius and Athanasius, not to mention the opinion of St. Jerome? In the article I linked to above, you’ll find that that is precisely what Lutherans do. Lutherans consider the entire work of the ancient Church, not to make a table of contents, but to evaluate each book in a way that the early Church did.
Personally, I have no problem considering the DC’s (and frankly, the Prayer of Manasseh) as canon.

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I know Protestants have historians and scholars. How do they manage to avoid it?
Revelations was the last book of the NT debated and added finally to the cannon. Was that a coincidence?

In your quest for historical evidence, look no further than St. Jerome. For a start, here’s what he wrote in his preface to the books of Samuel and Kings:

This preface to the Scriptures may serve as a “helmeted” introduction to all the books which we turn from Hebrew into Latin, so that we may be assured that what is not found in our list must be placed amongst the Apocryphal writings. Wisdom, therefore, which generally bears the name of Solomon, and the book of Jesus, the Son of Sirach, and Judith, and Tobias, and the Shepherd are not in the canon.


What, exactly, had Jerome found in Tobit, Sirach, Wisdom and the other deuterocanonicals, that led him to this conclusion? That’s not an easy question to answer. There are academics out there who produce a constant stream of books and articles on the subject. Take a look, for instance, at the footnotes to a recent paper by Edmon Gallagher of Heritage Christian University in Florence, Alabama:

Manage to avoid what?

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For example, the debate over Revelations being included in the NT. And ultimate decision.
Why Thomas is not in the NT.

How is it being avoided?

This just kicks the can down the road…who determines what a “true believer” is?

The question in this circumstance is generated by politics. A political motive is certainly a factor.

And, of course, that is why a broad consideration of the early Church and ECFs is so important.

Do you mean present-day politics, or politics in the time of the Roman Empire, when Jerome and others were settling the canon? Or in some other period?

The idea of self authentication is not historically correct. Inspired men chose one book for inclusion, one not.

We agree, though inspired men throughout the history of the early Church disagreed on particular books.
I’m still confused about what is being ignored by “Protestant” scholars.

Self Authentication belies the process historically. Revelations is one book where the debate was extensive

The Cannon was in the process of being settled via Jerome and others. It was not self authenticated. It was debated( Revelations ) being an example.

Okay. So you are saying that those communions/denominations that do this are ignoring the historical facts and teachings of the ECF’s, as well as the various conclusions drawn by the western See as well as other Sees.
I agree.

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Not just Revelation. James and Philemon, as well as other Antilegomena books were also disputed.

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What exactly did you mean when you wrote,

And what exactly did you mean when you wrote,

Who are the politicians you are referring to?

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