taking the words of Jesus seriously

We Red Letter Christians may sometimes wonder who thought up highlighting the words of Jesus recorded in the Bible in red letters, in the first place. Well, his name is Louis Klopsch (1852-1910). Klopsch believed the words should be highlighted in red in remembrance of the blood that Christ spilled for us on the cross. When the idea became a reality Klopsch wrote:

“Modern Christianity is striving zealously to draw nearer to the great Founder of the Faith. Setting aside mere human doctrines and theories regarding Him, it presses close to the Divine Presence, to gather from His own lips the definition of His mission to the world and His own revelation of the Father… The Red Letter Bible has been prepared and issued in the full conviction that it will meet the needs of the student, the worker, and the searchers after truth everywhere.”

A common criticism of Red Letter Christianity that I hear today is that it places the authority of the Red Letters above the authority of the letters in the Bible not attributed to Christ. Thereby making the Red Letters of primary importance where the black letters fall into a seemingly secondary role. Klopsch however, long before the issue was raised,  saw it in a different way:

“Here [in the Red Letter Bible] the actual words, quotations, references and allusions of Christ, not separated from their context, nor in a fragmentary or disconnected form, but in their own proper place, as an integral part of the Sacred Record, stand out vividly conspicuous in the distinction of color. The plan also possesses the advantage of showing how frequently and how extensively, on the Authority of Christ himself, the authenticity of the Old Testament is confirmed, thus greatly facilitating comparison and verification, and enabling the student to trace the connection between the Old and the New, link by link, passage by passage.”

In the Red Letter Bible we do not find a hierarchy of Scripture. Rather, what we find is a way of looking and reading the text that connects what Jesus said to the black letters both before and after the gospels. Whether Christ is referring back to Leviticus or Luke in the book of Acts is building on something Christ said, the Red Letters vividly show the connection between Christ’s words and the whole of Scripture.

The first Red Letter New Testament was printed in 1899 with the first Red Letter Bible being printed in 1900. Klopsch would be proud to know that his idea has continued to assist Biblical readers over 100 years later.

For a more detailed description of the origins of the Red Letters click here »

About The Author


Tony Campolo is Professor of Sociology at Eastern University, and was formerly on the faculty of the University of Pennsylvania. For 40 years, he founded and led the Evangelical Association for the Promotion of Education, an organization that created and supported programs serving needy communities in the Third World as well as in “at risk” neighborhoods across North America. More recently, Dr. Campolo has provided leadership for the Red Letter Christians movement. He blogs regularly at his own website. Tony and his wife Peggy live near Philadelphia, and have two children and four grandchildren.

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