For over 100 years, Bibles have been printed with Jesus’ words in red letters. They are printed this way to set His teachings apart from the rest of Scripture and make them easier to find.
I was recently given a Bible that does not print Jesus’ words in red letters. While it surprised me at first, I’m actually glad for it! This is for a few reasons.
First, it isn’t always clear when to use red or black letters. In other words, it isn’t always clear who is speaking – Jesus or the writer. But it isn’t that big of a deal because the Gospel authors wouldn’t write anything that contradicts His teaching.
However, there is a second reason that is much more significant.
The Red Letters
It has become common for preachers to read Jesus’ words and say something like, “Those words are in red, so you know it’s true!” They do this to emphasize that His teaching is trustworthy and reliable.
But what does that imply about the rest of the Bible? If we can trust the red letters, what does that mean for the black letters? By making comments like this, preachers are accidentally undermining the inspiration of the rest of Scripture!
The Black Letters
The Bible says the black letters are just as inspired as the red letters. In other words, the rest of Scripture is just as inspired and authoritative as Jesus’ teaching.
Paul says, “All Scripture is God-breathed” (2 Timothy 3:16). Peter says, “No prophecy of Scripture ever came about by the prophet’s own interpretation…but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:20-21).
The New Testament was not complete at this time. So when its authors refer to “Scripture,” they are referring to the Old Testament – in other words, the black letters. Even the Old Testament itself says, “Every word of God is flawless” (Proverbs 30:5).
Jesus says His teaching did not originate with Him but was revealed to Him by God. He says, “All things have been committed to me by my Father” (Matthew 11:27). He also says, “My teaching is not my own. It comes from him who sent me.” (John 7:16)
In other words, Jesus’ teaching was inspired by the same Holy Spirit that inspired the prophets and authors of the Old Testament. He inspired the apostles and writers of the New Testament as well.
The red letters are not more important than the black letters. In other words, the teachings of Jesus are not somehow more inspired or authoritative than the rest of Scripture. And while we want our people to trust Him more, we shouldn’t say anything that causes them to trust the rest of the Bible less.
Should we give Jesus’ teaching more weight than the rest of Scripture? Leave your thoughts with a comment below!
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