Reading Christ’s Words In Red

Question: My question has to do with the Words of Christ. It seems to me that many if not most Protestant versions of the Bible will put the Words of Christ in red font letters. I don't see this in Catholic versions. Is there a reason, other than mere format and style, that this appears to be this way?

Secondly, if I wanted a very thorough, comprehensive Catholic Study Bible, are you able to recommend one? I feel as though I need to know and understand more of God's Living Word, and feel this will be a necessary addition to my library.

Discussion: Years ago, the red-letter edition of the Bible appealed to many Protestant readers, Sunday School classes, and Bible study groups since, as you mentioned, this immediately highlighted Christ's words, giving special emphasis to what he said. For several centuries, the majority of denominations had been using the King James Version (KJV), so the words stayed put, making them relatively easy to define in red ink. In the 1950's, the Revised Standard Version (RSV) of the Bible modernized the language of KJV while retaining its poetic rhythm and vocabulary, so that newer version also lent itself to highlighting the words of Christ in red.

Then something changed. Adequate time had now passed for Bible scholars to investigate and study some of the ancient manuscripts and biblical texts found among the many Dead Sea Scrolls. Since that work brought fresh insights into Bible customs, cultures, and languages, new translations followed. The spiritual truths of the Bible and the meaning of Christ's words did not change, but specific wording did, so Bible publishers seemed less inclined to emphasize quotations.

 Looking at many of the newer translations around my desk today, I find that only one has been printed as a red-letter edition, whereas another copy of the same translation has not. My copies of KJV and RSV also have no highlighting, so even newer printings of older translations do not necessarily use a red-letter format. It's really up to Bible publishing companies, who, like any business, try to supply what the people demand. This means, of course, we could probably demand highlighting from publishers of Catholic Bibles, but I'd be more apt to ask them to please, please, please add alphabetized concordances in the back of the book, so we can easily look up verses relating to a particular word or subject. As it is, I grab my New International Version Study Bible published by Zondervan or my Thompson Chain Reference Bible from B. B. Kirkbride Company to find what I want, even though neither of those excellent resources comes in a Catholic edition.

Regarding study Bibles, a recent Bible Talk article addressed this important topic. You'll also find helpful feedback posted by readers who suggested their favorite study editions. However, if you want the same translation (New American Bible) that's used in the Mass, I highly recommend The Catholic Study Bible published by Oxford. If you want the New Revised Standard Version, which is the translation quoted in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, I highly recommend The HarperCollins Study Bible. If you want a fresh and lively translation that includes outstanding footnotes, I highly recommend The New Jerusalem Bible published by Doubleday. I have a bunch more study Bibles, but those are my personal favorites.

The important question, however, is which of the many fine choices appeals the most to you? For my research, I want as many translations as possible in my office library along with an assortment of reliable Bible dictionaries, atlases, and encyclopedias. None of this matters much, though, unless I get out those favorites to read cover to cover or take to a Bible study group or meditate on or use for a scriptural "prayer partner." So I've belatedly realized I have some concerns about your statement that God's word "will be a necessary addition to my library," since I truly hope it will be more than that.

In scanning comments posted in the space below Bible Talk columns, I'm very happy to see the tremendous interest readers have shown in the Bible. I never dreamed such a column would get so many people talking about the Bible, which is wonderful. However, I'm concerned that we're talking about the Bible and not actually reading it. So what about this, Readers? Are your Bibles a library addition kept on a shelf at home, or are they being poured over, studied, and highlighted in your choice of colors to underline or emphasize what you emphatically believe and want to find again quickly at a glance?

Thanks be to God and the Catechism of the Catholic Church, we have a Bible-believing, Bible-based, Bible-loving Church, but some of us don't seem to know it! So my question is not, "Why don't our Bible have the words of Christ in red?" but, "Why aren't our Bibles read?" Oh, I heartily pray they are.

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  • Guest
  • Guest

    From the article: "New International Version Study Bible published by Zondervan or my Thompson Chain Reference Bible from B. B. Kirkbride Company to find what I want, even though neither of those excellent resources comes in a Catholic edition."

    Do you know of any Catholic concordances or indexes that are in the works or online?  I write in my study bible and have tried to invent my own system or an "index", but it is written by me and not complete in any sense of the word.

    GK – God is good!

  • Guest

    And don't forget the most excellent Catholic Scripture Study.  It is phenomenal.  We are finishing the Gospel of John, and can't wait to dive into the Book of Revelations in the Fall.  Yum!

  • Guest

    Another awesome online Bible study is at Catholic Apologetics International

    And whatever version you use, I'd like to add this — get Bible tabs and put them in your Bible. It will help you reduce frustration and find passages quickly.

  • Guest

    Dear GK,


    One thing about be on-line is that in any document you can always use the (ctrl f), the find function will allow to find any string in the text, that you want. 

  • Guest

    Don, thank you for the list of hotlinks. I'm eager to check them out. Re the helpful comment from another reader about Bible tabs, be sure to ask for ones for a Catholic Bible, or otherwise you'll be short a few. To GK, you asked about the very thing I keep wanting to find in a Catholic Bible – either a concordance or an index or both. So far, I haven't seen this vital help for finding verses according to subject, but I keep hoping a Catholic publisher will take note and add this excellent help. Re the Catholic Scripture Study, I also hear it's an excellent program, but a local group won't work in our area which is heavily populated with snow birds. i.e., If I understood correctly, the CSS program begins in the fall before many of our parishioners have returned, so we have to wait until November or December to have enough people for a Bible study group.

  • Guest


    Just buy the study and start when you can.  They are about 26-30 lessons long. It's worth it.

  • Guest

    Like Protect said, they are 26 to 30 lessons long.

    They SUGGEST following the school calendar (for those of us that are affected by it – kids home sometimes, most times in school, etc.), but it does not have to be that way.  For the snow birds, You might think about twice a week – then it'll be done in less than 4 months.  But it is intense!