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Tuesday, May 21st, 2024
the Week of Proper 2 / Ordinary 7
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Bible Dictionaries
Purple (2)

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament

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PURPLE.—The adj. πορφύρεος had originally no connexion with a particular colour either by derivation or by use (see Liddell and Scott’s Lex. s.v. πορφύρω). Similarly in the Latin poets purpureus regularly stands for nothing more than ‘bright.’ In Greek, after the discovery of the purple dye, the notion of colour became inherent. The gradations of colour were φοῖνιξ (darker shades—purple to crimson), πορφύρεος (brighter red, rosy), κόκκινος (scarlet). In Matthew 27:28, Mark 15:17; Mark 15:20, John 19:2; John 19:5, the last two words are used indiscriminately for the same colour (see art. Scarlet). Manufactured purples were of various kinds, all extracted from the juice of sea molluses. The following is a summary of their varieties, though the terms employed to describe them were not always confined to their proper use.

(1) Purple proper; of a bright red hue; obtained from the purple-snail (τορφύρα, purpura). This was used sometimes pure (called blatta), sometimes diluted (conchylium). Of the pure there were two sorts—(a) Tyrian, the most celebrated, which was ‘twice-dyed’; (b) amethystine, of a paler tint. One pound of wool dyed with Tyrian purple cost 1000 denarii, with amethystine 100 (Plin. HN ix. 38, 63). The use of such purples (especially the former) is mentioned frequently in satirists and historians as a feature of ancient luxury (cf. Juv. Sat. vii. 134 ff.; Mart. viii. 10, etc.); hence Christ’s expression in Luke 16:19.

(2) Common purple; of a violet hue (i.e. φοῖνιξ rather than πορφύρεος); obtained from the trumpet-snail (κῆρυξ). This was much less esteemed. Its colour apparently could even be compared to the dark blue of an Eastern sky (Josephus Ant. iii. vii. 7): but probably there were different tints.

The fiery-red purple (proper) of antiquity had practically no resemblance, as a colour, to the modern purple: the latter could never be described, even approximately, as ‘scarlet’ (Matthew 27:28). Yet, independently of the hue, the name carries with it in both cases the distinction of being the royal colour. Under the Roman Empire restrictions were imposed from time to time as to its general use; and the purple toga was the garb of the Emperor alone. It was as the badge of kingship that the purple formed part of the soldiers’ mockery (Mark 15:17; Mark 15:20 ||).

Literature.—Becker, Gallus, Excursus ii. p. 446 ff.; Schmidt, Forschungen auf dem Gebiet des Alterthums, pp. 96–212. An older work upon the subject is Amati, de Restitutione Purpurarum.

F. S. Ranken.

Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Purple (2)'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/​dictionaries/​eng/​hdn/​p/purple-2.html. 1906-1918.
 
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