In summary, Peter defended Red Letter Bibles because:
* In effect, Jesus said hearing and doing ‘these words of mine’ are foundational to the faithful life; allegiance to ‘me and my words’ is announced as a criteria for judgement (Mark 8.38; Luke 9.26). His words are eternal (Matt 24.35; Mark 13.31; Luke 21.33). He is the Word of God, his own words come directly from God, and so the one who loves Jesus will pay special attention to his words (e.g. John 14.23f), abiding in Jesus involves abiding in his words (John 15.7).
* The evangelists themselves place special emphasis on Jesus words with the result that the synoptic evangelists agree much more closely in the wording of the words of Jesus than in the narratives which surround those words.
* Paul too seemed to place special importance in Jesus words as basis for Christian instruction (see e.g., 1 Cor 7.10; 9.14; 11.23ff; cf. instruction not based on Jesus' words in 1 Cor 7.12, 25).
He also pointed out that the red ink was originally intended to connect the words of Jesus with the plot line of Jesus' redeeming death: a symbolism of Christ's blood.
The post was followed by a very stimulating discussion with over fifty comments (admittedly with some help from Peter: "Can't we make this up to fifty comments? I always feel better when a post gets fifty comments.")
Anyway, I was reminded of this today when I read a post at The Eagle and Child who pointed out that two books isolating the words of Jesus have been published recently: The Words of Jesus: A Gospel of the Sayings of Our Lord with Reflections by Phyllis Tickle and The Red Letters: The Sayings and Teachings of Jesus by Timothy J. Beals.
The publisher of the latter book describes it thus:
A groundbreaking book that presents Jesus’ own words from the Gospels, topically arranged but without any commentary, so that people may hear his message in his terms.
While the entire Gospel narrative is essential to Christian theology, Jesus’ own words distinctively teach us how to live and how faith makes a difference in one’s life. The Red Letters gives a clear overview of Christianity’s foundational message in a unique way: allowing Jesus to speak for himself, without any human commentary.
This groundbreaking book simply includes all of Jesus’ words from the Gospels, arranged by topic and rendered in the ESV translation. Jesus’ own words. Nothing more, nothing less. For everyone who would like to rediscover the heart of Christianity—or perhaps discover it for the first time—as Jesus Christ himself communicated it.
This is of course something different than a Red Letter Bible since it means Jesus' words have been completely taken out of their context, which I find highly questionable; one may even get the impression that the black letters are equated with "human commentary."
To return to Red Letter Bibles, the Eagle and Child blog does not like them, basically because:
* The words of Christ are not "more Scripture."
* It is sometimes difficult to determine where Jesus' words begin and end, e.g., John 3:16 (is it still Jesus speaking?; TNIV does not include v 16 as part of Jesus' words).
* The red print is distracting.
I think it is a hard call, there are good arguments for and against, but in the end, I think I prefer my black letter Novum Testamentum.