Wednesday, May 14, 2008

In Defence of Red Letter Bibles

Red Letter Bibles are Bibles with the words of Jesus printed in red ink. This has been a fairly common and popular publishing format since Louis Klopsch printed his first Red Letter Testament in 1899 (or 1900). The terminology has recently been picked up by Tony Campolo in defining the idea of 'Red Letter Christians' as those who pay particular attention to Jesus' teaching: 'In adopting this name, we are saying that we are committed to living out the things that He said.' Campolo attaches this to what might be perceived as a somewhat left-wing agenda. This in turn has prompted Don Carson to complain that basing our theology on such 'foolishly printed Bibles' is basically just another form of having a 'canon within the canon' (summarised here, also printed last week in Evangelicals Now).

Without diving into this particular debate I do want to ask whether printing Jesus' words in red is foolish, or whether it preserves a genuine Christian instinct. As a historical point it is worth noting that in its origin the use of red ink was not actually an attempt to disconnect the words of Jesus from 'the narrative framework of each of the canonical gospels, in which the plot-line takes the reader to Jesus’s redeeming death and resurrection' (Carson). On the contrary, the use of red ink was intended to connect the words of Jesus precisely with the plot line of Jesus' redeeming death: it was the symbolism of Christ's blood, prompted by Luke 22.20 (“This cup is the new testament in my blood, which I shed for you”) which led Klopsch to print Christ's words in red.

But notwithstanding this important sybolism, the primary reason for treating Jesus’ own words as of particular importance is because this is what Jesus himself says: hearing and doing ‘these words of mine’ are foundational to the faithful life (Matt 7.24ff; Luke 6.47ff); and indeed, allegiance to ‘me and my words’ is announced as a criteria for judgement (Mark 8.38; Luke 9.26). Jesus’ words are eternal: ‘heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away’ (Matt 24.35; Mark 13.31; Luke 21.33). Since Jesus himself is the Word of God, his own words come directly from God, and so the one who loves Jesus will pay special attention to the words of Jesus (e.g. John 14.23f), abiding in Jesus involves abiding in his words (John 15.7).

A secondary reason is of course that the evangelists themselves place special emphasis on Jesus words - their emphasis is on his words not so much on their own. It is well known that the synoptic evangelists agree much more closely in the wording of the words of Jesus than in the narratives which surround those words. Matthew’s Gospel is particularly insistent on the importance of Jesus’ words (hence the five-fold discourse structure of Matthew), but so in various ways do Mark, Luke and John.

Paul too can be appealed to as treating the words of Jesus as of special importance in early Christian instruction. Although to be sure God’s revelation was not limited to what Jesus himself said, nevertheless he knew the difference between instruction based directly on Jesus’ words (e.g. 1 Cor 7.10; 9.14; 11.23ff) and instruction not based on Jesus’ words (1 Cor 7.12, 25).

So what do you think?

56 Comments:

Larry said...

First, i don't think that when Jesus refers to His words He is drawing a distinction between the Words of the Son and of the Father.

Second, we can't consider those words outside of Christ's to be the apostles words any more than we can consider Christ's words to be theirs. True, the authors wrote the words...but they were also the words of God.

Thirdly, The use of red letters, or anything setting apart the words of Jesus from the other words of God, is an invention of man.

Fourth, those who print red letters where Jesus speaks sometimes get it wrong which can lead to a misunderstanding in who is speaking.

If we want a translation to be transparent to the originals, color-coding would have to be left out. It puts emphasis where there is no emphasis in the originals.

Michael F. Bird said...

Peter,
Excellent stuff here that I agree with. On the one hand I don't want to make Jesus' words the canon with the canon or elevate Jesus' words to the point that I can play them off against Paul or Hebrews. But it is clear that the teachings of Jesus held special significance in the early church. This point was driven home to me by reading the apostolic fathers recently and it was clear from their Gospel citations that they were red-letter Christians. Normally when they cite the Gospels it is prefaced with, "As the Lord said ..."!

Anonymous said...

It's kinda like how the NASB prints OT quotations in CAPS. It's a feature. I don't see the big deal, either way.

Randall Buth said...

Maybe by personality type I don't like having to fix borders where they are blurred. John 3 is a classic locus where the words of Jesus and the gospel writer get entangled to the point of not knowing where to use red ink or black ink. It's hard enough putting in quotation marks without having to flag the decision in page-jumping colour.

Ron Bailey said...

A secondary reason is of course that the evangelists themselves place special emphasis on Jesus words - their emphasis is on his words not so much on their own.
this misses the whole point. Do we or don't we believe in the verbal inspiration and inerrancy of the Bible? This statement is seriously flawed as an expression of verbal inspiration and inerrancy. If we make the 'word of Jesus' more significant than the words of Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Paul, Peter, Jude, James etc we are underminig the whole concept of the inspiration of the whole scripture.

Tony Siew said...

Dear Peter, I agree with your observations. At first, I was quite put off from reading red letters (Jesus' words) but I began to appreciate that Jesus' words were unique, not only for the early Christians but for us today. Indeed, like Peter, we come to Jesus for He alone has "the words of eternal life" (John 6) and red letters just make them more prominent. Jesus' words for sure hold a special place and I would be surprised that if Paul's or other NT author's teachings do not have their reference in Jesus' words (whether red or black).

Peter M. Head said...

Ron said:
"This statement is seriously flawed as an expression of verbal inspiration and inerrancy. If we make the 'word of Jesus' more significant than the words of Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Paul, Peter, Jude, James etc we are undermining the whole concept of the inspiration of the whole scripture."

I think this is the normal objection to red letter Bibles, indeed the one I have made in the past. It is also basic to Larry's comment:
"True, the authors wrote the words...but they were also the words of God."

But is this objection really compelling?
Does it follow from the verbal and plenary inspiration of Scripture that every part of Scripture is equal? Equally important? No. Inspiration does not flatten out the whole Bible onto the same level. It has redemptive-historical peaks and troughs and a huge variety of genres etc. etc. If I argue that Scripture itself (i.e. Jesus, the evangelists, Paul) view Jesus' own words as having distintive importance, then invoking a doctrine of Scripture as if that can overrule what that Scripture actually says seems wrong-headed to me.

Of course one reason for this may be that unlike the words of the prophets and the apostles, Jesus' words were not "inspired" in the sense that their human words were (2 Tim 3.16; 2 Peter 1.21). His words didn't need inspiration, since they are the words of the Word of God himself. [Inspiration comes in at the level of their incorporation into the written Gospels of course.]

Peter M. Head said...

Larry said:
"The use of red letters, or anything setting apart the words of Jesus from the other words of God, is an invention of man."

Like manuscripts, pens, ink, printing, shops, the internet etc.

More seriously, yes any decision to print the words of Jesus in red is a human editorial decision. But so are a whole series of other decisions in translating, punctuating, paragraphing, font selection, notes etc. etc. etc. Is it any different in principle from any of these other editorial decisions?

Peter M. Head said...

Larry also said:
"those who print red letters where Jesus speaks sometimes get it wrong which can lead to a misunderstanding in who is speaking."
And Randall picked up this objection too:
"I don't like having to fix borders where they are blurred. John 3 is a classic locus where the words of Jesus and the gospel writer get entangled to the point of not knowing where to use red ink or black ink. It's hard enough putting in quotation marks without having to flag the decision in page-jumping colour."

I think the fact that it is a difficult decision (although I'm not sure that I can think of too many examples outside of John 3) is fair enough. But the decision has to be made anyway for translation into normal English which requires "quotation marks"! In any case I am really seeing whether a positive theological case can be made for the red letter printing.

Dirk Jongkind said...

Isn't the underlying linguistic justification for red-letter Bibles that the authors themselves highlighted some of the teaching of Jesus by reporting his words in direct speech rather than in indirect speech?
My problem is that by using red letters you create a bigger contrast between the direct speech of Jesus and other material than there has been throughout most of the manuscript tradition. And this increased contrast may lead to an imbalance in one's reading of the text.

A nice trinitarian problem is of course if the direct speech by God in the gospels ("This is my Son ...) should be in red as well. (I mean, if you don't, what are you indicating?) And if so in the gospels, should it also occur in the Old Testament. (And what about the words 'the Holy Spirit spoke' - through David -?).

If you cannot do a thing right, perhaps you should not do it at all.

Randall Buth said...

One can add a comment that might burst the bounds of this thread.

Maybe John's Jesus' words should be in maroon (or blackened red, half-red half-black).

John's intentions are clear -- to write a book that we might believe. However, it is not clear that he may not have written and edited a pastiche, a composite of idealized sayings and events so that we could appreciate the true Jesus within a two-hour presentation. It certainly has resonated with people around the world and outside of Jewish culture.

Does inspiration mean that we must believe in three temple cleansings? By the third time (Mark) Jesus would just show up and his intentions would be clear: "You guys can start walking on your own accord, or you can wait for some help and persuasion." And if John has re-ordered (Jn 2, maybe John 1) then he may have reworded (John 3) so that the whole message can be comprehended. Yes, they are the words of Jesus, but maybe more of a maroon than a red-letter. They are Jesus' words interpreted by John and perhaps with more editing and contexuatization than we are accustomed to in the synoptics. Inspiration and canonicity preserve the words for us as the word of God, without denying an editing hand by the evangelist. Of course, even if one colloquialized this description into "The Jesus Play", one could still mark Jesus' words in red. But they may be skewing John's methods and words directly from the Spirit of God.

Randall Buth said...

A PS to my previous comment.
If we see that John has rearranged and editorialized the sayings, he has nevertheless left them in the mouth of Jesus and may very well appreciate those red letters. In one sense, that is exactly what John the Evangelist has done, he has 'red-lettered' quite a few ideas and words of Jesus regardless of when and how communicated. So the literary person in me says 'red letter', but the historian says 'one-color text'.

Peter M. Head said...

I think you could attempt a red letter Old Testament. You would start from those passages which the NT treat as words of Jesus (e.g. Ps 69 based on Rom 15.3; Ps 40 based on Heb 10.5ff), and work out from there.

Peter M. Head said...

Dirk, although tempted to support me, said:
"My problem is that by using red letters you create a bigger contrast between the direct speech of Jesus and other material than there has been throughout most of the manuscript tradition. And this increased contrast may lead to an imbalance in one's reading of the text."

Yes, although I am glad you said 'most', since there are colour-coded manuscripts out there. I would suggest a preface outlining the thinking behind red letters and warning against possible imbalance.

Peter M. Head said...

Dirk added: "If you cannot do a thing right, perhaps you should not do it at all."

I suppose that in some situations there is wisdom in this. But red letter Bibles already exist (and not only KJV, also NIV, ESV etc.). I am simply attempting to see what sort of positive justification/explanation can be given for the practice (and presumably the popularity) of such Bibles.

Peter M. Head said...

Randall, thanks for the comments on John. There is a complication at the historical level, which the Jesus Seminar folk playfully and painfully exploited with their four-colour edition. Nevertheless I think that John's Gospel at a narrative level does focus attention on Jesus' words (even with tense differentiation).

Anonymous said...

Hi my view is posted at

http://the-holdfast.blogspot.com/2008/02/why-are-words-of-jesus-in-red.html

p.s. I find this blog helpful for updates to do with TC

Peter M. Head said...

Thanks Anonymous,

So the idea of a red letter OT has already been tried.

Peter M. Head said...

Rod Decker plainly thinks my argument is nuts, or more politely, unwise (http://ntresources.com/blog/?p=131#comments).

He asks: "Are Jesus’ inspired words any more the revelation of God than the inspired black ones?" I suppose I think this IS a question worth asking precisely because of the NT emphasis.

Let's ask another interesting question: is it interesting that the Decalogue is spoken by God directly and then inscribed by his own finger, whereas the rest of Deuteronomy is mediated through Moses? Could not that un-mediated directness reflect its particularly foundational nature within the Old Covenant? [cf. David L. Baker, ‘The Finger of God and the Forming of a Nation: The Origin and Purpose of the Decalogue’ Tyndale Bulletin 56.1 (2005): 1-24] Could this be analagous to the importance of the words of Jesus in the NT?

Christian Askeland said...

When I first began reading the Bible, I found the red letters helpful for a very practical reason. I did not have a well-formed conception of New Testament and Old Testament. The red letters did not just highlight the words of Jesus, but also the gospels. I found my way to the OT by going to the section before the red letters, and to Acts/Epistles by going to the section after the red letters.
I never conceived of the red letters as theologically elevating the words of Christ (via MatthMkLkJn) above the words of Paul/Isaiah/Moses. It was a statement about the supremacy of the person of Christ.

Anonymous said...

Someone said that redletter is the invention of man.

Well actually, the gospels were inspired twice. Once when Jesus said the words, and a second time when they were written down.

You could say that the redletter is the inspiration #1, and the black is the #2.

I don't think the exceptional problem in John 3 should matter much. The exception does not drive the general case.

Mike Holmes said...

Colleagues,
why stop with just one color? I continue to be intrigued by Greg-Aland MS 16, in which (acc. to Metzger) the general narrative is in vermillion; the words of Jesus and angels are in crimson and occasionally gold; OT quotations and words of the disciples are in blue; and words of the devil, the Pharisees, and Judas Iscariot in black.
tongue firmly in cheek,
Mike

Peter M. Head said...

Thanks for your support Mike,
For more details see: http://evangelicaltextualcriticism.blogspot.com/2006/08/colour-coded-manuscript.html

Reformed Renegade said...

It appears that I must disagree here. II Tim. 3:16 tells that, "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness." There is thus no scriptural warrant to elevate any part of scripture over any other. I believe we do ourselves an injustice by focusing, in one way or another, on certain parts of Scripture.

Phil said...

To the reformed renegade: while I accept 2 Tim 3:16 we need to give that some thought. All scripture is given by God and useful for His purposes but not all scriptures are useful for all the purposes all the time. Christians clearly believe that some scriptures are time limited in application and as such their application and instruction to us has changed over time.
Some are negative examples 'Don't do it like they did' and others are positive 'imitate me as I imitate Christ'.
No one applies all the scriptures to all situations in the same way, we use wisdom, discernment and understanding. We consider the whole counsel of scripture rather than proof texting our lives.
All I can say is that the words of Jesus carry more weight with me than the words of Pilate, Pharaoh, Jezebel, Judas, and even great examples such as Peter the denier, Paul the persecutor, Moses the murderer and Gideon the coward. They all have their words enshrined in scripture too...

Anonymous said...

I remember the first English Bible my parents gave me was the RSV (no red letters). I couldn't even read yet. The second English Bible my mother gave me was red letterd and even had a red cloth bookmark attached at the binding.

Like Christian Askeland the red letters served as a marker for the reason of it all and the red cloth bookmark the line to Him whose "blood shall never lose its power."

Jesus saved me before I knew Heilsgeschichte, Warfield, the history and formation of the canon, Charles Hodge, Greek, LXX, Hebrew, Tregelles, Conzelmann or Bernhard Weiss.

How ya lik' them apples-buster?

Malcolm

Wickiser said...

While I don't see any warrant for taking Jesus' words as more important than the rest of God's inspired word, I do find very practical purpose it it, even in more controversial areas such as John 3. It is very useful to see the red letters to understand that the speaker is Jesus. Sometimes reading in English we get bogged down with narratives and quotations and get confused on who is speaking, and it is important to know when it is Christ or someone else. Studying the Greek points out this need to me even more. It is hard to distinguish speakers sometimes, or you have to look back too far to figure out who is speaking and why.
The prayer in the garden of Gethsemane is a good example. I was reading it in my Greek NT, but I picked up in the middle of the prayer (by request of a friend to translate those verses). It was mighty confusing reading it until I knew who was speaking, which in English is settled by red letters.

Eric Rowe said...

So what's wrong with having a canon within the canon? Does Dr. Carson honestly expect anyone to believe that he doesn't?

Randall Buth said...

from Phil,
>"but not all scriptures are useful for all the purposes all the time."

Good quote. Dylan said that.

>"Christians clearly believe that some scriptures are time limited in application."

I'm not so sure how clear some popular, "Christian" time-limitations are. Some so-called 'time-limitations' appear to be limited to a people-group (followers of the Sinai covenant) rather than time. The tens-of thousands in the motherchurch (Acts 21:18-26) thought that circumcision, kashrut, kilayim, shabbatot ve-Haggim were directed for them to do til the Lord returns. They thought they were being good Jews, following the Messiah, and they were. We wouldn't want to disenfranchise the motherchurch. The rest of the church will feel funny without James, John,
Peter, Paul, and Mary.

I think reading vayyiqra as a centerpiece of holiness and practicality can be exciting for a follower of Jesus, even for those for whom the book is not covenantally binding (it is binding for the circumcised, Gal 5:3). It's like joining the Jesus' book club and entering into readings and discussions that would have been taking place in the afternoons 1980 years ago. The book certainly has a red thread, deserves some red ink, and has centerpieces like 'you shall act in love toward the foreign-resident who is like you.' Lv 19:34, cf. Luke 10:25-37.

Phil said...

Randall, good comments. There are plenty of other places to look than the differences between Jew and Gentile. Jesus after all fulfilled much of what was said about his coming and so we look back to that. I believe that Isaiah 53 has been fulfilled. I teach that quite differently to say Isaiah 60 where we look forward to another day, another coming of God from heaven. One instructs me about my past and present, one inspires me about the great future kingdom. There are certainly more...

Peter M. Head said...

Reformed Renegade said:
"II Tim. 3:16 tells that, "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness." There is thus no scriptural warrant to elevate any part of scripture over any other."

I think the main problem here is the word "thus". I have argued that Scripture itself provides a warrant for treating the words of our Lord as a special treasure for his people. And that this is fully compatible with the divine inspiration of Scripture. I don't see how you can use 2 Tim 3.16 to over-rule these other teachings of Scripture unless you think that you have some warrant to take 2 Tim 3.16 as a more fundamental truth than these others. And if you think that you've contradicted yourself.

Peter M. Head said...

Eric,
fair point. Don Carson may have an argument on this basis against the particular proposals of Campolo, I don't know; but I don't see it as an argument against the principle of the red letter Bible. And of course, there are good and important ways (as well as bad and important ways) of having a canon within the canon (cf. Gal 6.16).

Peter M. Head said...

For more info on the history: http://www.esv.org/blog/2006/03/red.letter.origin

Anonymous said...

Someone alluded to one particular problem which is that a lot of the gospel narrative is along the lines of "He said... then he said... then he said... and he replied...", and it can at times be hard to tell who is saying what.

NIV and other modern bibles "solve" this by replacing "he said" with "Jesus said" in hundreds of places. Another solution, which is more true to the original is to use coloured letters. And if someone wanted to have even more colours for more speakers, I would say more power to them!

And anyone who says red letters are not original, please read your bible in Greek uncials, scripta continua, with no punctuation. Thanks.

J. B. Hood said...

I did find it odd that Carson appealed to Matt 28:18-20 in his response--without noting that it seems to work FOR his interlocutors.

Matthew said...

First, in response to this: "the primary reason for treating Jesus’ own words as of particular importance is because this is what Jesus himself says: hearing and doing ‘these words of mine’ are foundational to the faithful life." This begs the question as to what are Jesus' words. You are claiming that only the words in red below to Jesus. I don't think that this is the case. If Jesus is the logos, that is all of the canon. In the story of Lazarus and the rich man, the rich mans tries to appeal to go and warn his brothers. But the response is that his brothers have everything that they need with Moses and the prophets. In Romans, Paul says that faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of Christ. So, if the rich man's brothers can get saved from the O.T., and you only get saved by the words of Christ, the O.T. must be the words of Christ. If any red ink is going to be used, the whole Bible should be red.

Second, red ink prompts false English bible exegesis. In Matthew 19:9, "And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery," I don't think that "except for sexual immorality" are the words of Jesus, rather the words of Matthew (I hold to the betrothal clause). I think that these words being in red, has caused more advocacy for divorce in the Christian community than any other reason to advocate.

Matthew R. Malcolm said...

Thanks for this stimulating post.

My own hesitation about this is that I'm not sure Paul is really making a distinction of 'elevation' in 1 Corinthians; in fact at one point he explicitly equates his own words with the words "of the Lord": "If any think they are prophets or otherwise gifted by the Spirit, let them acknowledge that what I am writing to you is the Lord's command. Those who ignore this will themselves be ignored." (1 Cor 14:36-38)

I can't imagine how Paul could have been any clearer that his commands deserve red-status.

Peter M. Head said...

It all depends on what you think the red ink is doing. I don't think that differentiated authority is in view here. It is a symbolic thing - it represents in visual form that in these words the sheep hear the voice of the good shepherd in a uniquely direct manner.
I also think some folk are a little confused about the implications of the inspiration of Scripture. All Scripture being inspired by God does not mean that any one bit of this inspired Scripture is just equally as important as every other bit (compare 1 Chron 1-9 with John 1-9) (and that is NOT to say that 1 Chron 1-9 is unimportant). Nor does the inspiration of Scripture mean that every bit of Scripture is equally directly authoritative for the Christian (just think about Leviticus - it sure is profitable for teaching etc., but it is NOT directly authoritative for the Christian).

Matthew R. Malcolm said...

Thanks Peter - I can see that you're not claiming that the words of Jesus are any more 'Scripture' than the rest of the Bible; and it's certainly true, as you've said, that not all of the Bible has equal governance over Christians' lives.

I guess I have three problems though:
1) I think that Paul's argument in 1 Cor 14 is that those who have the Spirit of Christ will hear the voice of their shepherd in Paul's writings
2) The sayings of Jesus in the Gospels are mediated through the Gospel-writers: eg. Mark says that Jesus' preaching consisted of "Repent and believe the gospel, for the kingdom of God is at hand." This is a Markan summary of Jesus' teaching, just as much as a Pauline letter is a Pauline encapsulation of "the Lord's command".
3) Will the average red-letter-Bible user really adopt your carefully nuanced understanding of the issue, or will the demarcation of Jesus' sayings imply a more significant division?

Thanks again for raising the issue.

Peter M. Head said...

Matthew,

I agree with your two first points. I have no idea about your third point. I myself have never owned or used a red letter Bible. I can see that there are potential problems. But I read somewhere that red letter Bibles make up 50% of all Bibles sold, and I know that when I meditate on the Gospels I am more drawn to what Jesus says than what says.

I see another problem in the focus on words alone and that this could unbalance the carefully balanced word and deed presentations of the evangelists.

But I am no longer willing simply to condemn or mock them as I used to do.

Peter M. Head said...

And of course Paul is not the only apostle in the canon!

Peter M. Head said...

Can't we make this up to fifty comments? I always feel better when a post gets fifty comments.

Matthew R. Malcolm said...

We can but try... only seven to go

Eric said...

Doesn't it seem like this all stems from certain people having too much time on their hands? Aren't there enough issues floating around?
I like knowing where my savior's words are, and I don't believe they are more inspired than the rest.

Anonymous said...

Towards fifty posts, I might as well confess that I thought D. Carson's presentation of the concept of the "Kingdom/Reign of God" a remarkable and able exposition in 500 pages or less.

And yes Peter this topic has proven to be a good salutory issue for discussion.

Malcolm

Anonymous said...

Peter Head wrote:

"I also think some folk are a little confused about the implications of the inspiration of Scripture. All Scripture being inspired by God does not mean that any one bit of this inspired Scripture is just equally as important as every other bit (compare 1 Chron 1-9 with John 1-9) (and that is NOT to say that 1 Chron 1-9 is unimportant).

As a Catholic I would have to agree with the above statement.

124 "The Word of God, which is the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith, is set forth and displays its power in a most wonderful way in the writings of the New Testament" which hand on the ultimate truth of God's Revelation. Their central object is Jesus Christ, God's incarnate Son: his acts, teachings, Passion and glorification, and his Church's beginnings under the Spirit's guidance.

125 The Gospels are the heart of all the Scriptures "because they are our principal source for the life and teaching of the Incarnate Word, our Savior". --- Catechism of the Catholic Church


Personally, I'm a little bemused that the existence of a Red Letter Bible could cause such a fuss. When I was a Protestant, I had one and liked using it. And the notion that there is not, and should not be a functional hierarchy among the Scriptures, doesn't reflect any reality I've ever known.

I think everyone of us would have to admit that we all value some portions of the Scriptures, more highly than others.

Pax,
John

Stephen C. Carlson said...

I tend to agree with Peter Head on this issue.

(Normally, I don't make a comment merely to agree, but I'll make an exception to hit the fifty comment goal!)

GUNNY said...

Interesting discussion, to be sure.

"Thirdly, The use of red letters, or anything setting apart the words of Jesus from the other words of God, is an invention of man."

Some have mentioned punctuation, but what about chapter and verse designations?

We all know (a) those weren't original and (b) they can sometimes be distracting or misguided.

But, I've never heard a campaign against them.

Sure, a person who only reads the red will be lacking, but it can be a handy bit when skimming through the gospels looking for something in particular ... much as the chapter and verse markings.

Randall Buth said...

Peter Head wrote:
(just think about Leviticus - it sure is profitable for teaching etc., but it is NOT directly authoritative for the Christian)

James, John, Peter, Paul and Mary
disagreed with Peter Head. (At least the Paul in Acts 21:18-26. Though the Paul of Gal 5:3 probably thought that Timothy needed to follow Leviticus, too, after being circumcised.) They thought that Leviticus remained directly authoritative for all Jews, including Messianic Jews. If they didn't, then they wouldn't have had to even ask about what to do with the gentiles.
(And to avoid the red herring: they didn't get 'saved' by following directly authoritative scripture any more than any christian gets 'saved' by going to church, reading the scriptures, or doing all the other things directly authoritative for them. [Red-herrrings do not get special ink.])

So you or someone can respond for comment 50.

Anonymous said...

I doubt that Paul considered Leviticus as still authoritative (in a literal sense) for the Jew since Paul himself was a Jew and he did not consider them binding on himself. We see in Galatians that he no longer considered the law as the way to relate to God (5:6).

I see nothing theologically amiss when it comes to red letters and any particular high-lighting it might give to Jesus words. In Paul's argument for the right to support in 1 Corinthians 9, he appealed to the command of the Lord as the highest authority over and above other scripture. So the sayings of Jesus that Paul was acquainted with, he gave (at times) higher authority.

--
Trierr

Randall Buth said...

on red-letter Leviticus and redherrings.
for Trierr-
Strange quoting Gal 5.6. How does universal, unpriviledged access to God through Christ change the need for good works? It doesn't change Gal 5:3, or abrogate the words of Jesus? (remember the red herring-the Law never saved, for Paul or anyone, ever.) It sounds like one of us is promoting the false Paul alluded to in Acts 21:21 "teaching the Jews in the diaspora to abandon the Tora and to stop circumcizing their kids." One of these views probably comes under the warning of 2Pet 3.16 about mis-reading Paul. So was Peter happier with the Paul in Acts 21:24 obeying the Law because he was Jewish, or was he happier with the implied false rumor of Acts 21:21 where Jews were "free" to abrogate vayyiqra? There are alot of scriptures read thru gentile eyes (like Mark 7) that never crossed the minds of Jewish hearers as a correct reading. (Peter in Acts 10 certainly didn't understand Jesus teaching on temporary purity states to abrogate food laws. The motherchurch didn't even think that Peter's afternoon vision had anything to do with the eternal validity of word of God.) On the otherhand, since the Tora was an eternal covenant for the Jewish people, in the eyes of the Hebrew Bible the Paul of the rumor in Acts 21:21 would be a false-prophet. I'm not sure red-ink or black ink could fix that. And the more I think about it, the more likely it seems that evangelicals will take red-letter gospels to subliminally abrogate the Tora. I love the words of Yeshua in any color, and I love Tora.

Peter M. Head said...

Thanks RB,
Just to be pedantic, if I said that "Leviticus -... it is NOT directly authoritative for the Christian"; that would not necessarily put me in conflict with "James, John, Peter, Paul and Mary" if they "thought that Leviticus remained directly authoritative for all Jews, including Messianic Jews."

And if I had said (as I almost did): "just think about Leviticus -... it is NOT directly authoritative for the GENTILE Christian", then that would be OK (on your view of things), yes?

Anonymous said...

Peter and Randall, we all know the Scriptures are a progressive historical revelation from God. The authority and relevance of all Scripture abides continually, and contra Semler (not a mere establishment of historical continuity - although this is an important aspect of it), its profitableness is always found PROS DIDASKALIAN, PROS ELEGMON, PROS EPANORQWSIN, PROS PAIDEIAN THN EN DIKAIOSUNH. (2 Tim 3:16; Rom 15:4-6)

Randall, you know very well what differentiates "an Israelite indeed" (Jn 1:47) and a mere ethnic Jew or the circumcision of the heart and merely that of the flesh (Rom 2:29).

In fact, the whole purpose of the APOSTOLH was the further authoritative didactic unfolding as well as establishment of the faith comprised of Gentiles and Jews as one NAON/LAOS/Israel/Kingdom (cf Eph 2:20-22, 4:11-16; Tit 2:14; Col 1:13 passim).

"God is canon," not Sadduccees, Pharisees, Nicoliatians, Judaizers, Antinomians et al.

But nowadays, the objective moral structure as well as socio-Christian relational differentiations are challenged.

Consequently, such issues as homosexual lifestyles as tolerable behaviour within the Church; the ordination of woman into Church offices; the conflict between Church and state on children's rights and behaviour models, have all worked to undermine the abiding in/ex-spirated nature and consequent authority of Scripture in toto.

Malcolm

Randall Buth said...

to Peter:
Yes. Gentile believers have a priviledge/allowance of a non-binding Leviticus. And if "Peter, Paul, and Mary" show up for a weekend, we can serve smoked goose breast with the waffles.

to Malcolm:
Yes, Nathaniel may have had a 'circumcision of the heart', a great spiritual metaphor from Deuteronomy. As Jesus says in John 3, teachers of the Hebrew Bible are supposed to know what a spiritual newbirth is.

Anonymous said...

I believe that Jesus words are the words of God and should be acknowledged. I remember the first bible I recieved with red letters. After receiving Christ's in my life, my first goal was to get to know him by reading his word. I believe that it makes it easier to study. I think this was an awesome idea. One I have relied on since recieving him in my life.

neilcolombé said...

Are we saying that all Jesus' words apply specifically, literally and equally to all humanity. If not then we need to take especial care to take them in context. To whom were they spoken, in what situation and under what prevailing circumstances (which covenant for example!) I think a red letter Bible might detract from such a dispassionate study. What do you think?