14 February 2011

What did Jesus (not) say about... the remaining 23 NT books?

by Dan Phillips

Dan Phillips's signature


DJP said...

As matters stand, Phil and I have traded days, for this week; so Tuesday is his.

For those writing the authoritative history of Pyromaniacs: I am pretty sure I wrote this (in my head, if not on pixels) before the meta for the previous installment. It's a companion-piece, tangentially. The real burden of the previous one will be brought out, DV, when I write the corresponding longer post.

trogdor said...

What's really special is that, even if Jesus had actually said that, the RLCs still get so much of it wrong.

Granted, a lot of the error is because they divorce his words from the context, the narrative from the authoritative explanations and millennia of background. But even taken in isolation, their explanations of his words are head-scratchers.

Anonymous said...

You can cross out the "red-letter" part, for He did not even say, "I want you to be Christians."

David Regier said...

He actually said, "If you haven't listened to the black letters that were before me, you won't listen to me. If you don't listen to me, you won't listen to the black letters I send after me."

(Matt 23:29-35)

DJP said...

Trog - I don't like red-letter Bibles, period. For one thing, I can't think of a defense for it that isn't doctrinally "off." For another, when you highlight those verses, they turn orange, which is just... brr-r-r-r.

But my point would be that, if they really listened to the red-letter words, they'd be steered away from the white-letters they prefer and to the black-letters they don't.

DJP said...

BFTLJ - You can cross out the "red-letter" part, for He did not even say, "I want you to be Christians."

I suppose we could say all sorts of silly things like that He didn't say any of those things, because He wasn't speaking in English. But I was hoping to stay away from silly.

James Kubecki said...

@blogforthelordjesus, sure he did. Just because He didn't use those exact words doesn't mean that the very idea is not core to His message:

19 "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:19-20

26 and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. For a whole year they met with the church and taught a great many people. And in Antioch the disciples were first called Christians. Acts 11:26

In other words, biblically, Christians is just a synonym for disciples, which is exactly what Jesus commanded us to be and make.

(At least in English, Dan. ;-) )

Robert said...

Jesus told Satan that man lives not off of bread alone, but every word that comes from the mouth of God. If we believe that the Bible is the Word of God, then how do we make disctinctions between the "red" and "black" letters? And how come the OT doesn't have red letters for the times when God spoke? I never understood that.

Brad Gilbert said...

I have a Scofield, wide-margine Bible that is NOT a red-letter edition...BUT you can tell it was printed off a version that was red letter because the words of Christ are a fadded balck color. Almost gray-like. It really confuses me sometimes.

JackW said...

Another reason to like OliveTree Biblereader, you can change to any color you want or turn off the “Words of Jesus” feature altogether. Hope everyone is having a red letter day.

FX Turk said...

annotation #1:

the origin of the red-letter Bible

annotation #2:

Apparently, Klopsch was too optimistic.

Strong Tower said...

A brown high-lighter turns them moron. Like setting them alone on a desert island...

oh... never mind.

"What did Jesus (not) say about... the remaining 23 NT books?"

They were addressed to those who were the immediate audience.

donsands said...

My newest Bible, ans ESV, left out the red-letters. I have grown quite fond of it. But it's weird at first, when all my Bibles up till then had the red letters.

I'm basically a Reformed Baptist serving and worshipping our Lord with a Reformed Episcapol church, and in this denom they honor the whole Word, but the four Gospels are honored just a bit more seems like.
Why is that I wonder? I'll have to kick that around with my pastors.

Jesus prayed to His Father: "Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth."

Thanks for making me think a little this morn. Have a joy filled day in Christ.

Phil said...
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Phil said...

If you are bold enough to not believe the whole Bible is red lettered and dedicated enough to willfully ignore the THUS SAYS THE LORD parts and you aren't smart enough to realize that Jesus didn't actually write anything down, then what does it matter what you say?

Scot said...

I'm interested to see where these posts will go. In the meantime, I thought of something a little lighter:

The Red-Letter Bible is soooo 2000. I have the new Authorized Refrigerator Magnet version. Do you know how much work it takes to make Jesus say precisely what he never meant to say? The ARM makes it a snap to slice and dice our Lord's words to say exactly what I would say. Why just this morning Jesus specifically told the crowds, "No one can enter the kingdom of God unless he sells his possessions."

Solameanie said...

Maybe they should just admit it. In my humble opinion, the "red letter" crowd (at least many of them) have what is known as APDS, otherwise known as "Apostle Paul Derangement Syndrome."

I don't have any scientific studies on which to base my quip, but from things I've read from time to time, that really does seem to be at the basement of many objections. They really, really don't like Paul.

Death or Glory Toad said...

I was rather disappointed when I received my new ESV and it was a red-letter. I wanted something easier to read (red stinks) and I agree that there's no good doctrinal use.

BUT: in defense of RLEs: I can rifle through the Gospels real quick and zap right to sections where Christ is talking. It comes in handy, just for page-geography.

Now, if I could just get rid of those pesky section headers. They drive me crazy. Seriously, they interrupt the flow of thought all too often and sometimes seem to be out of context.

This all coming from an amateur, of course. No doubt smarter men than me put those in for good reason.

ANiMaL (richard) said...


"looking back I see now I held an incorrect cosmology."


"Don't forget to relativize [my] (and Paul’s and the Apocalyticist’s) teachings on Heaven and Hell."

GW said...

So I take it that the main objections are that having Jesus words in red are.
1. The “Red Letter Christians” specifically state that they – “have committed ourselves first and foremost to doing what Jesus said”, as if Jesus was not the great I AM who inspired all 66 books.

2. It could imply that they are more important that the black ink words

Argument 1 seems pointless to me. Are you really going to let Tony Compolo dictate what color ink is used in your Bible?

When I read my bible, there are some verses with references to other parts of the bible. If something in the NT was referenced in the OT doesn’t that make it seem more important? Aren’t some of the references incomplete to save space on the page? Doesn’t that in some way, create the same problem the red letters do? Are the references inspired? Do you want them removed?

I’m against anything that give the publishers an excuse to make another edition of the Bible. You guys keep this up and they will be creating the Red Letter Post-it note Bible and the Non-Red Letter Post-it note Bible. The Red Letter Manga Bible and the Non-Red Letter Manga Bible. They can easily double the number of Bibles on the shelves and will make millions!

CGrim said...

This discussion brings to mind the pocket Gideon bibles that only have the NT, Psalms, and Proverbs.

Someone, somewhere along the line, probably with the best of intentions, decided to omit most of the Bible. I understand they want it to be pocket-sized, but why did they stop at that point instead of paring it down even further, say, to just John, Acts and Romans?

Robert said...


One of the men (now an elder) at my old church carries one of those around...one time I was leading a Bible study and asked him to read a passage from Isaiah and he couldn't because he only had the NT. (I didn't know this at the time) I know it is convenient, but it is like only having half of the sword of the Spirit available.

Rachael Starke said...

But.... the red words are the coolest! Bob the Tomato says so in the B-I-B-L-E song!

In all seriousness, being freed of that assumption completely changed how I approached the rest of the NT, and the OT also. If Jesus actually wrote James, for example, then I needed to approach it with confidence rather than fear.

Gov98 said...

My favorite point is that in Revelation 3:3 Christ (in Red Letters no less) tells the Church at Sardis to remember what they had received and heard and repent.

What had been received and heard up to the point of Revelation 3:3, Revelation 3:2 and before. Perfect!

Mike Westfall said...

Well, of course we don't pay attention only to the Red Letters. Heck, they're not even that important. What's Jesus got to do with anything, anyway?

What really matters are the telepathic messages and feelings I get when I'm "experiencing" the presence of the Holy Spirit.

Sheesh! "One moderator between God and man, the man Jesus." Who can believe that?

Anonymous said...

i'm not a fan of elevating the words of jesus above the other words of scripture. while i was attending a lutheran church, we would sit for all the OT and epistle readings and stand for the gospel readings. wasn't really a fan of that, and would always take my time getting up for that last reading ;)

Thomas Louw said...
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Thomas Louw said...

All of scripture is equally inspired. 1 Corinthians 2:7-14; 2 Peter 1:20-21. All of scripture was verbally inspired by God .2 Timothy 3:16.

So no part has more authority than another. All parts are equally true.

We Afrikaans guys have no “red letter” problem, to my knowledge no “Red letter” Bible has ever been given out.

Hey maybe I can make some money 
One question, so if you are a red letter guy don’t you do what Marcion did and throw out the entire Old Testament?

James S said...

You can toss into this argument another thing I hate -
highlighting ANYTHING in the bible with a highlighter or underlining it.

The whole bible is God's Word and is worthy of being one big highlighting.

Why do people then pick and choose which parts are "better' than others by highlighting parts? It is subjective merely to what one alreay believes. It's hard to continue learning if you are just remembering certain parts opposed to others.

The bible is not a textbook and should not be treated as such.
It is not on the same level as any other book in the world. It's so far above all others that I can't even do it proper justice by comparing it against other books.

I say write scriptures you want to remember in a separate notebook. Don't mark up the bible.

Robert said...


I mark up my Bible and write notes, underline, etc. because there are some verses that convict me in areas that I need to be really mindful of. It is not that I elevate their importance any more than the other verses...I just know that it would be easy for me to not stop and meditate upon certain verses when I need to. And I like to keep my notes in the margins so that I can reference them when I am reading certain passages. I carry my Bible almost everywhere with me, but I certainly would not be able to carry the amount of notebooks I could and have filled up with notes on the Bible.

All I am saying is that for you, marking up the Bible may be a bad thing...but I don't think you should try to throw blanket statements out saying that we shouldn't amrk up the Bible. I respect your convictions, but it helps me greatly to highlight and underline passages and add notes accordingly.

Lynda O said...

My previous NIV Bibles from the '90s were red-letter, and it does help to easily find Jesus' words, especially in the few places they are found in Revelation or some of Paul's letters, but otherwise it's distracting and harder to read anyway. I've been using a large-print no-red-letter ESV for about a year now, and it's much easier to read.

But the whole philosophy behind it does seem strange -- the whole Bible is God's word, all 66 books of it. Too many Christians, it seems, only want to focus on certain parts of it (more than the "red letter" part, but still limiting to only some sections) -- the red-letter Bibles only encourage that trend. But indeed the Old Testament includes many words spoken by the pre-incarnate Christ, and about Him -- plus teaching regarding the Trinity in Isaiah. Why ignore that and say, as some do, that we should only study the gospels, or only study the New Testament, etc?

Stefan Ewing said...

How about a red letter Bible in which all the words spoken by Yahweh in the Old Testament are also in red?

"Thus says the LORD, ...."

It might make one sit up and take notice!

Eric said...


Is it also inappropriate in your view to memorize certain passages of Scripture because you believe "it's hard to continue learning if you are just remembering certain parts opposed to others"?

You certainly don't need to highlight or underline in your Bible, but you should avoid admonishing others not to. You have no Biblical basis for your opinion, and you ought not bind the conscience of others with your preference. Many people are very helped in their study by underlining and making notations in their Bibles.

Stefan Ewing said...


I have a pristine red letter KJV: the very first Bible I bought, 21 years ago this summer, long before I gave my life to Jesus Christ.

My working Bible is a pocket cross-reference ESV. It's so marked up, there are pages filled with underlines, stars, and notes.

You are quite right that the whole Bible is the inspired, inerrant Word of God, and there isn't a single verse that we can ignore, unless we do so at our peril. At the same time, however, the Holy Spirit works through the Word of God, and lays His inspired Word onto our hearts.

For me, it's the covenants and promises of God, the promises of the Gospel in the Old Testament, and the great truths of God's grace and Christ's Kingship in the New Testament that jump out at me. I've got to underline them, especially because these are precisely the very truths that I rejected for most of my life.

Likewise for all the Apostolic exhortations to holiness, and all the Prophetic calls to repentance. I fall short of God's commands through them every single hour of every single day, which is all the more reason that I need to underline and star them, to remember that these words are for me, too.

(Someone has mockingly said, "You're so vain, you probably think this text is about you," riffing on Christians' tendency to personalize certain verses. But the Bible is about us, the people of God: it's about our sin, about His covenant with us, about Christ's death and resurrection for us!)

trogdor said...

Today I was reading John 3, and I saw in the footnotes that opinions differ on whether verses 16-21 are the words of Jesus or the commentary of John. That's really mean of John, not letting us know whether these verses are truly important or just regular scripture. I think we may have been apostolically punk'd.

Robert said...


If only John would have done the red letter ting lol

CGrim said...

"I say write scriptures you want to remember in a separate notebook. Don't mark up the bible."

I do my highlighting online at www.esvonline.org

I would urge you to be very cautious about elevating the medium over the message. The book, the paper, the ink are not the sacred part of scripture. God's remains sacred even when it's transmitted as electrons or radio waves or - oldest of all - simply read aloud.

CGrim said...

err... God's word, that is.