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Red letter edition Bibles are those in which words spoken by Jesus, commonly only while he was on the Earth, are printed in red ink. This is not to be confused with the Red-Letter Christian movement, which emphasizes the teachings of Jesus in the Bible, particularly in regard to social justice.
The inspiration for printing the words of Jesus in red comes from Luke 22:20 - This cup is the new testament in my blood, which I shed for you. On June 19, 1899, Louis Klopsch, then editor of The Christian Herald magazine, conceived the idea while working on an editorial. Klopsch asked his mentor Rev. T. De Witt Talmage what he thought of a testament with the words spoken by Jesus printed in red ink and Dr. Talmage replied, "It could do no harm and it most certainly could do much good."
Klopsch published the first red-letter New Testament later in 1899. The first red-letter Bible was published in 1901. This style of Bible instantly became popular, and is sometimes favored by Protestant Christians in the United States. Especially in King James Bibles, this format can be useful, as quotation marks are not used.
Because the original texts do not have quotation marks, it is often up to interpretation as to what words were spoken by Jesus, as opposed to explanatory text that followed. For example, a footnote in the New International Version for John 3:21 explains "Some interpreters end the quotation after verse 15." In addition, some publishers have chosen to print the words spoken by Jesus after his Ascension to Heaven in red (for example in the words spoken to Saul on the road to Damascus in Acts 9, as well as words spoken to John of Patmos in Revelation 1-3). Thus, red-lettering may not match the quote marks, and may vary from edition to edition.