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To what extent can we be sure that the red letters in a KJV Bible are the actual words of Jesus?

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Hi, welcome. What do you mean by "actual words"? Jesus did not speak English. Some Bibles, not only KJV, use red letters for God's speech in the Old Testament and Jesus's speech in the New Testament. –  Mawia Oct 31 '13 at 17:44
What level of proof are you looking for? We do not have video recordings of his sermons. –  Ryan Frame Oct 31 '13 at 18:22
I'm not going to regurgitate the information from this site, just read this: crossway.org/blog/2006/03/red-letter-origin –  The Freemason Nov 1 '13 at 0:04

3 Answers 3

The 'red letters' are not themselves part of the KJV translation. The red letters appear in many different translation of the Bible.

To answer the question: no, there is not universal agreement about exactly what words in the Bible were spoken by Jesus. The New Testament languages did not include punctuation like quote marks. Most of the time it is pretty clear from the text where Jesus words begin and end. Occasionally however it is hard to tell where a quote of Jesus ends and where an explanation from the Gospel author begins. For example in John 3 there is some uncertainty about whether Jesus quote which begins in verse 10 continues to verse 21 or stops after verse 15, with the remainder being explanation by the author.

If you are asking about actual words, then Jesus probably spoke in Aramaic, and so even the original Greek is not an untranslated quote. English and other modern language renditions are further translations.

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TL;DR to the same extent we can be sure that the KJV translation is accurate at all

Bible translators use their understanding of ancient Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic to study the different Biblical manuscripts that they have available to them to determine how to translate the words. Since the manuscripts don't use quotation marks, the translation process includes determining which words are actually Christ's words. The practice of highlighting Christ's words in red text was started by Louis Klopsch in 1899. It's especially helpful in the KJV and in other translations that don't use quotation marks.

It's also important to know that not all of the words highlighted in red are where the author quoted Christ. Some Bibles also highlight Christophanies (basically visions of Christ) in the Old Testament and the Epistles.

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This is good additional info but it doesn't really answer the question. that could be fixed by adding something like "no we're not 100% sure, but here are some links to show why those words were chosen to be in red". And maybe summarizing them so it's not a link-only answer... –  David Stratton Nov 1 '13 at 3:01

Whether the words are red or black, those are the words of Jesus. Of course the words were originally written in Greek, Latin, or Hebrew. But nevertheless, these are the very words of Jesus through the eyewitnesses of those people in that time. Some translations are questionable.(I.E. The Message by Eugene Peterson) Some versions of the Bible translate it either word for word, or thought for thought. But overall, they are Inspired by God and written by Godly men.

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Welcome to the site! This next has nothing to do with the quality of your answer, it's just standard to help new visitors avoid misunderstanding the site (as I did at first.) As a new visitor, I'd recommend checking out the following two posts, which are meant to help newcomers "learn the ropes": help page and How we are different than other sites? –  David Stratton Nov 2 '13 at 14:15

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