Now, this may be a bit of a surprise to some. Namely, that there are those that identify themselves as “Red Letter” Christians.
Some of these individuals apparently give something like “more weight” to the words that are highlighted with the red-dye within the New Testament as, some would claim, are more significant (in some moral sense) than the rest of the New Testament text. I do suppose that this sounds a bit more pious, to an extent, as these individuals want to (I suppose) honor Christ in some sort of significant fashion. It should be stated that, from what I know, they do not necessarily reject the rest of the New Testament, but again, these individuals simply give more ear, and attention, to the words in red. Of course, if one identifies as a Christian at all, then it should follow that he adores, and lives by, the sayings/teaching of Jesus recorded within the Gospel narratives. I believe that it is safe to say that we can (or should) all agree.
Yet, should one simply single those sayings out as more significant, for any reason, presents a bit of a problem for multiple reasons. However, here we shall merely look at a few of them. But they are very significant.
The first might simply be that the words in red are most likely not direct quotes taken straight from the mouth of Christ, as if someone “copied and pasted” His latest Facebook status. Reason being, as an oral culture, and as time had passed from the event and the transmission, this was just not the concern. Now, strictly speaking, this is not a problem (or shouldn’t be) for even self-labeled “Red Letter” Christians. But it is a bit odd simply due to the fact that the red letters are not exactly tape recordings, either
But the second problem is much more substantial.
Jesus claims, in the “red letters,” that one has to read (and acknowledge) the rest of the New Testament with the same sort of significance that apparently, according to some of the “Red Letter” Christians, should only be given to the “red letters.” Well, this is odd, right?
For instance, Jesus, in the red letters, tells his disciples that, “The one who listens to you listens to me and the one who rejects you rejects me, and he who rejects me rejects the one who sent me.” Luke 10:16 – We can safely assume that “the 12” were there as he said this to, you know, the disciples. Now, one might object in claiming that this example was only to that specific context, or occasion – but the problem is that this is not the only occasion, or context, in which Jesus makes this type of charge (for instance, Christ states the same sort of charge again, in a different context and occasion, in Jn. 13: 20).
Now, Peter, one of Jesus’ “inner three,” was one of those individuals.
And he wrote a book (or two) of the New Testament. Namely (if the arguments for the traditional author hold) both 1st and 2nd Peter.
So, it seems that if you listen to the red letters, then you, per Jesus’ strong words of warning, must “listen to” Peter, who is telling of Jesus’ message, in 1st and 2nd Peter.
But there is more.
Peter, within those same books, teaches that Paul is also composing Scripture that tells of Christ – 2nd Peter 3:15-16.
Now, again, Jesus has already stated that “The one who listens to you listens to me…” So, if you truly listen to Jesus, then you must listen to Peter, and by extension, you must listen to Paul. However, as is already known, Paul composes more of the New Testament than any other single author. So, at least at this point, we have all of the Gospels, all of Peter’s texts, and all of Paul’s texts. (Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 and 2 Thessalonians, 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus, Philemon… you get the picture.)
Moreover, we now also have all of John’s texts, to boot – John, 1 John, 2 John, 3rd John, Revelation… Why? Obviously, John also being one of the “inner three” was among the disciples, when Christ told those very disciples, “The one who listens to you listens to me…” and these texts are just what John is “telling us.”
To add even more weight, Jesus promises these very disciples (in the red letters) that The Father will send “the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” – Jn 14:26.
Does the mere “Red Letter” Christian want to claim that Christ was wrong – or that the Holy Spirit actually failed to do what was promised there? That would “let the cat out of the bag” regarding what one actually believes concerning the ability of God to accomplish His promises…
Furthermore, just these few simple “red letter statements” give us the overwhelming majority of the New Testament – all of which include the apparently controversial “theology.”
But there may be another objection:
“Well, I believe that the “Red letters” are the real teachings of Jesus, and the other stuff was simply added by corrupt individuals with a competing agenda.”
First, all of the above arguments would have already placed such an objection on very thin ice if one actually believes the “red letters” – because Jesus had already promised something of a implied guard against that in those very letters – But it is even worse:
Why would the “Red Letter” Christians (those that might claim as much) even trust that those “red letters” are actually the teachings of Jesus to begin with?
This would create something of a dilemma:
If you are trusting some guy(s) to have recorded Jesus’ actual words, then it is arbitrary (and ad hoc) that you are not trusting that some guy actually recorded further teachings and truths of Jesus.
However, if you say that you are trusting that God/the Holy Spirit inspired or helped “that guy,” but not the others, then you must believe that the above statements, by Jesus, were divinely inspired – which, as the argument claims, point to the rest of the New Testament as divinely inspired, too.
But if one believes that if the red letters are actually authoritative and inspired, then one must believe that all of the above are authoritative and inspired.
But if one does not believe all of the above to be authoritative and inspired, then one cannot believe that the red letters are actually authoritative and inspired, either.
There could be another objection:
One might make the claim that all of the “other” texts were not truly written by those followers of Jesus. Now, if true, then it would absolve the “Red Letter” Christians from any obligation to follow through with the argument. Or would it?
The weaker response to such an objection would be to simply reply with the counter, “You are simply asserting that the writings are inauthentic – but assertions are not arguments – why should I believe your claim that the rest of the N.T. was not written by the traditional authors? In fact, we have a few thousand years worth of arguments that they are the authors. Do you have any such argument that compels me to think otherwise?”
Conversely, the stronger response would be to simply point out that, according to their own view, Christ, in the red letters, promised the protection, and guidance, of His message. But if the above objection is true, then He was not able to actually do so – which would simply create another dilemma for the “Red Letter” Christian, of which you can “cash out” for yourself.
So, in quick conclusion, “black” letters are equally as “red” as others, and they ought to be read as such.