Q: #273. What is a Red Letter Bible?
A: A Red Letter Bible is simply a Bible in which all of the words spoken by Jesus are written in red ink rather than the usual black ink. This idea came to a man named Louis Klopsch in the 1800’s. He gathered a team of scholars to help him in this task, and after a period of time, their work was published in 1899 with a New Testament, followed by a whole Bible two years later.
I could not find an online copy of the Red Letter Bible that Klopsch first assembled, so I could not see for myself what he said about his purposes for putting this Bible together. However, I did find quotations that are supposedly taken from the “Explanatory Note” of his first Red Letter Bible. Here is what I found. “Modern Christianity is striving zealously to draw nearer to the great Founder of the Faith” and this Bible meant was to help “meet the needs of the student, the worker, and searchers after the truth everywhere.” In other words, He was striving to help people draw nearer to Jesus through seeing exactly what Jesus said “from His own lips.” Another purpose was to confirm “on the Authority of Christ himself, the authenticity of the Old Testament” and to enable “the student to trace the connection between the Old and the New, link by link, passage by passage.” Still another purpose was to shed “a new radiance upon the sacred pages, by which the reader is enabled to trace unerringly the scarlet thread of prophecy from Genesis to Malachi.” (Old Testament passages that Jesus quoted or referred to were also highlighted and cross-referenced.)
As I have stated before on this site, I am not a big fan of Red Letter Bibles. While Klopsch may have had very good intentions in creating this kind of Bible, I have found that MANY times people who read a Bible that emphasizes Jesus’ words in red tend to put those words above the rest of scripture. This is a grave and serious mistake. We need to understand that ALL of the words in the Bible were given by God Himself.
(2 Tim 3:16) All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:
(2 Pet 1:20-21) knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. (21) For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.
No place in the Bible is more or less inspired than another. Yes, Jesus is unquestionably the greatest man who ever lived, but His words should not be given any more weight than any other words in the Bible. God, through the Holy Spirit, sovereignly provided the words He wanted written in the Bible. He told the Gospel writers what words of Jesus to record just as He told Paul and the other Bible writers what to say. Each word is from God Himself and all are equally important.
When people place more importance on Jesus’ words, or lack thereof, we run into problems. For example, many in the homosexual movement say, “Jesus never mentioned that homosexuality was wrong, so I think it is ok.” In doing this, they are trying to justify an act which is condemned in many other places in the Bible, both Old and New Testament. Paul mentions this as sin (Rom 1:24,26-27)(1 Cor 6:9-10)(1 Tim 1:9-10). If the Bible says ANYWHERE that something is sin, God Himself has said it is sin. It doesn’t matter if it is in the Old Testament or New Testament. It doesn’t matter if Jesus said it, or Paul said it, or Moses said it, because ultimately the words are GOD’S words.