Randy Greenwald

Concerning Life as It Is Supposed to Be

Seeing Red

I once had a conversation with a seller of Christian books and Bibles who had tried to explain to a publisher why he thought the publisher should publish less ‘red letter’ editions of the Bible. The publisher was so puzzled by this sentiment that it seemed to him my friend had come from Mars.

I’m not certain of the history of the practice of highlighting the ‘words of Christ in red’ in our Bibles, but I have for some time been troubled by the practice. If Jesus is fully God (which he is), and if the whole Bible is the Word of God (which it is), then if we really wanted to put Christ’s words in red we should just highlight the whole thing. To do otherwise suggests that the words which Jesus spoke on earth were just somehow more important and weightier than those which he spoke through David or Moses. That is dangerous.

It’s an impossible task anyway. Unfortunately for modern publishers, the Greek of the New Testament did not come with quotation marks. We will never in this life know for certain whether Jesus or John was responsible for saying, ‘For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son….’ but that does not stop publishers from printing the whole in red.

The practice, though, is most odd when the words of Christ back up against the words of his heavenly Father as illustrated here.

Red Letter

The words of the incarnate Son, I suppose we are to understand, are of greater value than those of the non-incarnate Father. Very odd.

I’m not suggesting we toss our red letter bibles. I would, though, be delighted to see the demand for them diminish. That would be a message even publishers could understand.

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John Stott, 1921-2011

4 Comments

  1. Scott Kroeger

    Dr. R. Laird Harris used to say, “Red letter editions…bad theology!”

  2. More’s the pity about not listening to Dr, Harris. We had a terrible time several years ago finding an inexpensive pew bible edition that was NOT red letter. Amen from me!

  3. “It is doing despite, not only to the Spirit of God, but also to Jesus himself, to regard the teaching of the Holy Spirit, given through the apostles, as at all in ferior in authority to the teaching of Jesus.” — Machen

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