Is the cloak red or purple?


The cloak thrown about Jesus in Mt. 27:28 is said to be scarlet, but seen to be purple in Mk. 15:17 and Jn.19:2. How do I explain this? Why would Scripture contradict itself like that?

And please… keep it from a Catholic perspective. (Edited)


It’s not a contradiction, so don’t be bothered by it. Purple and scarlet are very close in color and can easily be confused. Purple and scarlet were worn by officials of various kinds of a Roman officials. Purple for government officials and scarlet for Roman military officers. It could have been either one. The Gospel writers differ merely because it is not clear whose robe was used–a Roman government official’s or a Roman officer’s. In any case, it hardly matters which color it was–the important point is that the soldiers mocked him using such a cloak.


With guidance of the H.S. shouldn’t the author know which color? If no, why not?


Then the creation story would go something like:

  1. In the first period of 24-hours, God said “Let there be light”
  2. In the first period of 100-1 million days, described as a day since it is a common grouping of time periods, God said “Let there be light”


I hate to point this out… but Tyrian purple, the real Phoenician and Roman and Byzantine royal “born to the purple” purple… is a special shade of red. It’s not our “purple” at all.

Meanwhile, the Biblical scarlet embraces all sorts of reds, from deep red and Tyrian purple, and perhaps all the way out to orange.

So yes, the Holy Spirit is saying exactly what color the robe was.

One writer says “scarlet” because he’s referencing Scripture as to the Messiah’s robe being dyed scarlet with blood, being scarlet with the winepress and the blood of the grape, and “coming with dyed garments from Bosra.” (And also as a military leader.)

The other writer says “purple” because he’s referencing the Messiah as king and wealthy man of power, wearing clothes of the most precious and expensive color in the Greco-Roman world.

Both writers are absolutely correct and accurate, and they cross-reference each other.

Both writers show the soldiers’ mockery of Jesus’ poverty and powerlessness functioning as inadvertent prophecy and praise, just as the high priests and the Sanhedrin had become inadvertent prophets at Jesus’ trial.


Good to know. Thanks Mintaka. That was a perfect example of a Biblical “error” that had an explanation going beyond the typical and unhelpful “there are no errors in the Bible”. :thumbsup:


Little did they know, He is a King!


A little more practical info about ancient royal purples:

The premier luxury dye of the ancient world was Tyrian purple or royal purple, a purple-red dye which is extracted from several genera of sea snails, primarily the spiny dye-murex Murex brandaris (currently known as Bolinus brandaris). Murex dye was greatly prized in antiquity because it did not fade, but instead became brighter and more intense with weathering and sunlight. Murex dyeing may have been developed first by the Minoans of East Crete or the West Semites along the Levantine coast, and heaps of crushed murex shells have been discovered at a number of locations along the eastern Mediterranean dated to the mid-2nd millennium BC. The classical dye known as Phoenician Red was also derived from murex snails.[53]


I don’t know how the cloak can appear red to one evangelist and purple to another; I am still trying to understand why that blue and black dress appears white and gold to me…


Add to that the fact that most men can’t tell the difference between cranberry and puce, ecru and tan, rose and pink. :shrug:


Much like the typical and unhelpful topic of “can there be errors in the Bible?”




I think there is a difference between the red of the cloaks that the Roman soldiers wore and the “royal purple” color. In Josephus it is clear that there is a particular color purple that is recognized by everyone as being of royal ownage.

For instance, if a ship carried a member of Herod the Great’s family it flew a purple flag.

Whether a Roman Emperor flew this particular shade of purple is open to question.

I do think that Jesus probably wore the Royal Purple of the Herod family especially as the Gospels say that Herod Antipas dressed Jesus up in Royal robes and paraded him around for a bit.



I believe that the “purple” that Classical-era authors are talking about is closer to the color of wine, which is somewhere in between. I could also imagine that as His blood got on the cloth, that could be the “red” that they meant.


The Byzantine emperors had a room lined with “imperial porphyry”. Only a royal child born in that room could be called “porphyrogennetos”, which we call “born to the purple.”

We know where imperial porphyry was mined, we still have stuff made out of it in classical and Byzantine times, and the deposits are still there today in Egypt.

If you look on webpages and in the literature, imperial porphyry is sometimes described as “red with white flecks” and sometimes as “purple with white flecks.” It’s all the same color!

Here’s a picture of some imperial porphyry in an Oxford museum.

Here’s St. Helen’s imperial porphyry sarcophagus at the Vatican.


Check the second link’s mention of the occurrences in Reveleation 17:4 and 18:16.

The Knox version translates both words the same. Can’t we just say it was a reddish purple and call it a day?


I think it’s because the evangelists were writing for different audiences and were emphasizing different aspects of Jesus.

Matthew was a Jew writing for a Jewish audience. He is emphasizing that Jesus is the new Moses, the prophesied Messiah of the Hebrew Scriptures. In Matthew 5 when he delivers the Sermon on the Mount, he ascends the mountain and sits down to deliver his sermon, as Moses ascended Mt. Sinai. The scarlet is emphasizing the blood He will shed for the redemption of many (Mt 26:28). It recalls the first Passover in Exodus where the Jews were spared from the final plague by painting their doorposts with the blood (scarlet) of an unblemished lamb.

Mark was writing for an audience of primarily Gentile Christians in Rome who are undergoing persecution, so he is emphasizing that Jesus is lord. Purple is the color of the Imperial power in Rome, so he is emphasizing that Jesus is king even over the emperor and the Roman power. John is writing later than the other evangelists and he is emphasizing that Jesus is God made flesh. The purple robe is emphasizing that Jesus is the real power.

In Luke Jesus is sent to Herod by Pilate and it’s Herod’s soldiers, not the Romans, who mock him and put on him a garment described as “gorgeous” in the RSV and as “white” in the Douay-Rheims (Luke 23:11).


Red cabbage is purple.
Red wine is purple.



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