This is a continuation of the previous post about the words of Jesus taking front and center in Christian living. Last time we talked about how the red letters came about in our Christian bibles and about an organization dedicated to putting them back in their proper place in Christianity. This time I want to tell you about a couple of books that put the red letters front and center.
The first is a book by Phyllis Tickle entitled The Words of Jesus. This book which was published in 2008 was the first time I have come across something dedicated entirely by the words coming from Jesus’ mouth (at least as reported in the Gospel text). Phyllis Tickle is a firm member of the emergent movement and therefore one of my current favorite authors. This book was a rather ambitious undertaking as she admits in the preface. It is broken down into categories including:
- Words of Public Teaching
- Words of Private Instructions
- Words of Healing Dialogue
- Words of Intimate Conversation
- Words of Post-Resurrection Encounters
I have used this book on several occasions as a way to find a particularly verse I was looking for. If you browse Amazon you will see it gets its share of low ratings from those who say all the words in the Bible are just as important as any others and also from those who say only their bible version is the “correct” one (she used several different versions). As Tickle points out in her book pulling the red letters away from their surroundings in the Gospel text allows us to see them without prejudice of others interpretation. But to some degree they also then deny us the wisdom of the early fathers. I have most often used this book as a way to find a particular verse and then go to the gospel text for further understanding.
The second book in this area is a recent one entitled the Red Letters edited by Timothy Beals. This book is pure red letters and is organized in two distinct sections. One is the words are presented in chronological order as they were spoken. The second listing is by topic including: Kingdom and Creed, Hearing and Doing, Warnings and Woes. This book resides on my Kindle beside the one above as a ready source for finding a particular verse for further study.
I would recommend both of these works to anyone serious about the teachings of Jesus. As pointed out above they do put all the emphasis on the unvarnished words of Jesus and then leave it up to you to understand the meaning. You do that by searching your heart and also looking at the surrounding text while keeping in mind that the surrounding text is just one man’s understanding of the words.
As I have mentioned several times on the blog over the years I believe it is up to each of us to come to our own understanding of what Christianity is all about and what the words of Jesus mean to us. While there have been literally thousands of theologians and such that have written their opinions very few of them seem to agree with each other.
If you want to know what Christianity is supposed to be about you must get that information directly from the foundation and that is Jesus. Any other source, which is always another person’s interpretation, is secondary at best.