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W6. Adding to, or Subtracting from, the Written Word of God.    [Make a Comment]

We are to neither add nor subtract from the Written Word of God - the Scriptures.

This precept is derived from His Word (blessed be He):

Key Scriptures

Exodus 13:1(12:32) (Maimonides RN313-314; Meir MN159-160; Chinuch C454-455)
Everything I am commanding you, you are to take care to do. Do not add to it or subtract from it.

Revelation 22:18-19
I warn everyone hearing the words of the prophecy in this book that if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues written in this book. And if anyone takes anything away from the words in the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the Tree of Life and the holy city, as described in this book.


The foregoing Scriptures are sometimes used as proof texts that the canon of Scripture is closed. They are also used to teach against New Covenant prophecy or contemporary "Word gifts" by those who believe that such manifestations of the Ruach HaKodesh ended with "the Apostolic age". I do not agree that such gifts and benefits of the Holy Spirit have ended and, rather than being a denial of prophecy, I maintain that these Scriptures are a warning against false prophecy, and a warning to us to not add or subtract from God's written Word.

Another purpose of these Scriptures is to warn us away from contradicting or nullifying Scriptures through extra-biblical writings or oral traditions that are claimed to be inspired. Examples can be found in Roman Catholic law and interpretation, and also in Jewish halachah drawn from the Talmud. In the case of the Catholic Church, its tradition and the decisions of ecumenical Church councils and ex cathedra rulings of the Pope (very rare since the 19th century), were considered binding and almost inerrant; this is now being reevaluated. In regard to Jewish halakhah, an authority is claimed for the Oral Law that is equal to the Scriptures, and the decisions of the Talmudic and Pre-Talmudic Rabbis have the weight of binding the conscience.

Building fences around the Torah - that is, making rules that are more stringent than what God commands - is a part of Jewish halachah that tends to create de facto contradictions of Scripture. For example, the rabbinical prohibition of eating meat and drinking milk at the same meal eliminates a liberty that God wants us to have (Genesis 18:7-8), and it therefore adds to the Scriptures. The Scriptures need not affirmatively state that God allows us to eat milk and meat in order for a constructive addition to Scripture to exist.

Classical Commentators

Maimonides states his two mitzvot but does not comment on them. Meir defines his mitzvot as applying to both the written law (contained in the Torah) and the Oral Law (contained in the Talmud). He also says that building protective fences around the written Law is permissible and not a violation of either mitzvah. HaChinuch teaches that his two mitzvot only apply to the written Law and, therefore, building fences and declaring rabbinical rules is permissible because they only apply to the "Oral Torah". He uses the prohibition of mixing milk and meat as such an example and says that it adds to the "Oral Torah" but not to the written one, so it is allowed.


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