Why Christ’s words are printed in red letters

Published 7:30 am Sunday, January 29, 2023

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Ever wonder why there are red letters in the Bible? In the New Testament of most Bibles, you will find the words of Christ printed in red ink.

Before 1900, Bibles were printed entirely in black ink. Today, a few Bibles are printed in black ink for those who prefer it or those who are colorblind and cannot read the color red.

The idea for the red letters in Bibles is attributed to Louis Klopsch, owner and editor of Christian Herald Magazine. On June 19, 1899, Klopsch was writing an editorial for the magazine when he read Luke 22:20, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you” (KJV).

Klopsch realized these were the words of Jesus at the Last Supper when our Lord instituted the observance of Communion. And knowing that blood is red, he asked himself, “Why not a red letter Bible with red words to be those of Jesus?”

After encouragement from his minister, Klopsch sought the help of eminent Bible scholars from America and Europe to submit passages that should be written in red.

In the November 1901 issue of the Christian Herald, a large advertisement offered red letter Bibles to readers. The first printing on his own press numbered 60,000 copies. These quickly sold, and the presses had to run “day and night to supply the demand.”

Klopsch wrote, “Modern Christianity is striving zealously to draw nearer to the great Founder of the Faith….This 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.”

He also believed, “In the Red Letter Bible, more clearly than in any other edition of the Holy Scriptures, it becomes plain that from beginning to end the central figure upon which all lines of law, history, poetry, and prophecy converge is Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the world.”

Louis Klopsch received a congratulatory message from the King of Sweden and an invitation from President Theodore Roosevelt to come to the White House, which he accepted. Klopsch died March 28, 1910.

What makes this story interesting is the way Jesus’ words stood out to Klopsch. All the Bible is inspired by God (2 Timothy 3:16) and the words in red are equally important as other scripture.

However, Jesus’ words help us know Him and His teachings. He taught some profound principles that still apply to us today. For instance, “Whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it” (Matthew 16:25 NIV).

“The Word became flesh and dwelt among us,” according to John 1:14 (KJV). I like the way a song writer has described the red words of Christ and His blood shed on the Cross. “I love you, I love you, That’s what Calvary says. I love you, I love you, I love you written in red.”

— Jan White has compiled a collection of her columns in her book, “Everyday Faith for Daily Life.”