Recently, I heard someone say they told a newer Christian to start reading their Bibles at the red letters. You’re probably aware that some Bibles have red letters in the New Testament. Why is this? The short answer is that the red letters represent the words of Jesus. While this can be helpful in some instances, there are also serious drawbacks to printing a Bible in two colors that many Christians have not thought through. Here are some to think about:

1) There is no precedence for a special emphasis on the words of Jesus in the original Greek text. While it may seem honoring to place a special emphasis on the words of Jesus, there is no indication in the original text that Jesus’ words are to stand out from the rest of the Gospels.

2) Having the words of Jesus in red can lead to a two-tiered view of inspiration. In other words, it can lead us to treat the red type in a different way from the black type. While the words of Jesus are certainly important, there is no reason for treating them as more important than the rest of Scripture. As Paul reminds us in 2 Timothy, “All Scripture is inspired…”

3) If we put Jesus’ words in red (as the 2nd person of the Trinity), then we should really put the words of the other members of the Trinity in their own color as well. Why shouldn’t the Father and the Holy Spirit have different colors for their words?

4) There is no precedence for a Red Letter Bible in Church history. The first one was published in America in 1901.

5) In a few instances, we’re not always sure where the words of Jesus end and the words of the Gospel writer begin. For example, does John 3:16 contain the words of Jesus or the words of John? The Greek is not clear. While most Red Letter Bibles put the words in red, New Testament scholars like Andreas Kostenberger and D.A. Carson argue that John 3:16 (and the following verses) are actually the words of John and not Jesus.