What colour was Jesus’ robe? And why does it matter?

If you read the accounts of Jesus’ trial and death, three things might strike you. First, it is very important to each of the gospel writers; it would be absurd in a modern text about a person’s life to spend such a large proportion of what are comparatively short documents focussing on just a few days—even a few hours—of someone’s life. But in the ancient world, that was the norm: you really see who someone is by focussing on a key moment in their life, particularly either their birth or death.

Secondly, you will be struck by the fact that there appears to be a large agreement on the key shape of the story, and the key incidents (this listing of the key events in each gospel is from Sir Colin Humphrey’s The Mystery of the Last Supper). But, thirdly, alongside this you will be struck by the fact that there appear to be significant differences. These are particularly evident if you read the accounts alongside another, and the easiest way to do that is by using a printed or electronic synopsis. One of the great debates is about the comparative chronology; the Synoptics appear to depict the Last Supper on the Thursday evening (on a traditional reading), whereas the Fourth gospel appears to depict it on the Wednesday evening.

A major part of both scholarly and popular debate about the gospels focuses on this question: can they be harmonised, and how do we reconcile both the similarities and the differences? Should we be using the gospel accounts as windows through which we can reconstruct the ‘real’ events, and learn from them? Or should we read each account in its own terms, and not worry about tensions and differences?

There is a legitimate apologetic concern behind the question of harmonisation. The gospels, as ancient ‘lives’ or bioi, certainly conform to what we might call the expectations of ancient historiography—that is, they appear to be intended to be read as accounts of historical events offered in a reliable way. This accounts for the multiple explicit and implicit references to eye-witnesses; in the ancient world, being connected with the personal testimony of eye-witnesses was seen as important, in contrast to our modern pre-occupation with ‘detached’ objectivity in historical investigation. (See my previous article here summarising Colin Humphrey’s own attempt at such a harmonisation.)

And it is also clear that the gospel writers are concerned to communicate that something significant has happened in the events of the death and resurrection of Jesus. The language of ‘gospel’, euangelion, an announcement of good news, is only used in Mark 1.1, but it came to apply to all these writings, even being considered a genre of writing. But is not a word used to describe someone’s teaching, or a new insight, or a philosophy, but a message about something that has happened and which makes a difference to the hearers. The gospel writers want us to know that something has happened, and that it makes all the difference in the world.

On the other hand, it is clear that each gospel writer is offering us an interpretation of the events that are being described. Something has happened, and it means something, and they are communicating not merely bare facts, but their meaning and significance for us as well. John Goldingay made this point very eloquently some years ago in his book Models for Scripture; Scripture is ‘witness tradition’, ‘authoritative canon’, ‘inspired word’, and ‘experienced revelation’. In the first of these (‘witnessing tradition’) he notes that testimony (witness) always has an irreducible facticity about it (testimony is offered to something that happened) but also an irreducible interpretative element (these things that happened mean something). We can see this emphasis on ‘witnessing tradition’ at key moments in the New Testament:

  • The language of the account of what has happened being ‘handed on’ from eyewitnesses in Luke 1.1–4;
  • Paul’s language of passing on what was passed on to him, mentioning eye-witnesses, in 1 Cor 15.3–8;
  • The language of testimony with a view to purpose in John 20.30–31, following the issue of eye-witness testimony for ‘doubting’ Thomas.

On key issues, the gospel writers often agree on what has happened at a particular moment, but they often diverge on the meaning of these events, depending on their perspective. (The hardest case for harmonisation is the accounts in Matthew and Luke-Acts about the death of Judas, but in fact they are easily harmonised, and the differences are about the way Judas is depicted in relation to the identity of Jesus in each of Matthew and Luke-Acts.)

This then takes us to a fascinating detail in the account of Jesus’ trial which is easy to miss—and which most English translations harmonise: the colour of the royal robe which Jesus is mockingly dressed in.

Here are the accounts in all four gospels of the robe:

Matt 27.27–29Mark 15.16–18Luke 23.11John 19.1–3
Then the governor’s soldiers took Jesus into the Praetorium and gathered the whole company of soldiers around him. They stripped him and put a scarlet robe (χλαμύδα κοκκίνην) on him, and then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on his head. They put a staff in his right hand as a scepter. Then they knelt in front of him and mocked him. “Hail, king of the Jews!” they said.The soldiers led Jesus away into the palace (that is, the Praetorium) and called together the whole company of soldiers. They put a purple robe (πορφύραν) on him, then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on him. And they began to call out to him, “Hail, king of the Jews!”Then Herod and his soldiers ridiculed and mocked him. Dressing him in an elegant robe, (ἐσθῆτα λαμπρὰν) they sent him back to Pilate.Then Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged. The soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head. They clothed him in a purple robe (ἱμάτιον πορφυροῦν) and went up to him again and again, saying, “Hail, king of the Jews!” And they slapped him in the face.

The most obvious difference in the accounts here is that Luke describes the robing as happening at the trial before Herod—but he is the only one who mentions Herod, even though this is always included in harmonised depictions of the Passion narrative. Luke also omits reference to the crown of thorns, which the other three all include.

But all four accounts agree that Jesus was clothed in an expensive robe, which mocked his claims to kingship. The most striking difference between the Synoptics is that they use three different terms for the colour of the robe, and James Bejon of Tyndale House offers this reflection on their significance:

Joseph isn’t the only beloved son to be given a multi-coloured coat. Jesus is given one too, though by the hands of ungodly men. In Matthew it’s scarlet (kokkinos); in Mark it’s purple (porphyra); and in Luke it’s white/resplendent (lampros) (Luke 23.11), like the linen of the saints (Rev 19.8).In each Synoptic, the colour of Jesus’ robe has its own significance. It answers to the way Jesus’ life is introduced.

Mark introduces us to Jesus as Israel’s king—the one before whom messengers run, crying out ‘Prepare the way of the Lord!’. And so, in Mark, Jesus is clothed in purple (the colour of royalty)—the colour of the kings of Midian (Judges 8.26), of Solomon’s chariot (Song of Songs 3.10), of Daniel’s royal robe (Daniel 5.29).

In Matthew, however, Jesus is not clothed in purple, but in scarlet. Jesus emerges from a genealogy stained with deep red—the colour both of sin and of its remedy (Matt 1, Isaiah 1.18). First we have Judah (Matt 1.3), the one destined to wash his garments in the blood of grapes (Gen 49.11); then we have Tamar (Matt 1.3), who ties a scarlet thread around her chosen son’s hand (Gen 38.28); and finally we have Rahab (Matt 1.5), saved by a scarlet thread (Gen 2.18). These strands of sin and salvation reach their climax in the true Son of Judah—the one who is clothed in scarlet as he bears his people’s sins to the cross.

Luke is different again. Luke doesn’t open his gospel with an account of the sin-stained history of Judah, nor does he open it with a royal fanfare. Instead, Luke talks to us about innocence and righteousness—about a blameless couple from the line of Aaron, a virgin overshadowed by the Holy Spirit (to bear the holy Son of God), a genealogy which connects Jesus with the innocence of Adam. And so, in Luke, Jesus begins his ministry at the priestly age of thirty. As he goes to the cross, he is arrayed in a white/resplendent robe, like the linen of the saints.

In the Synoptics, then, as Jesus fills up the pattern of Joseph, he wears a robe of purple, scarlet, and white—a coat of many colours. Moreover, the specific colours of his coat find a distinct echo in the colours of Joseph’s garments.

First Joseph is clothed like royalty, marked out as his father’s heir. The high priest transferred his authority to his successor by the transfer of his garments (Num. 20); so too did Jonathan and Elijah (I Sam. 18.4, 23.17, I Kgs. 19.19, II Kgs. 2); and so too did Jacob (Gen. 37.7). Next Joseph’s coat is stained scarlet with blood. And finally Joseph’s coat is exchanged for a linen one as he is sent into the courts of a Gentile king (Gen. 41.42, Luke 23.11).

There is even significance to the parties who witness the different garments. Joseph/Jesus’ brothers see his royal coat and hate what it signifies. A Gentile ruler sees Joseph/Jesus’ linen robe and vindicates him. And Joseph/Jesus’ father sees the blood.

There are many strands of salvation, intricately woven together.

I think James Bejon’s reflection is a beautiful illustration of what happens when we take seriously both the agreements on what happened, and the different meanings of this that each of the gospel writers offers—unity and diversity in the text. And it illustrates the rich way each gospel draws on their own scriptures to understand the meaning of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.

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72 thoughts on “What colour was Jesus’ robe? And why does it matter?”

  1. Ian, was it on this blog you wrote about the “wine dark sea”? A quote from ancient Greece. The Ancients had a different perception of colour. So, a ‘bright’ colour could be anything from pure white to highly saturated colour, depending on the context , for poetic contrast.

    • I am not sure. But you are quite right about the language of colour.

      The different gospel writers are therefore free to choose their terms, and they do so with a view to theological meaning.

      • “Then Achilles, in tears, moved far away from his companions, and sat down on the shore, and gazed out over the wine-dark sea.” (Iliad, 1. 351-353, trans. Stephen Mitchell)

        I found the quote: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wine-dark_sea_(Homer)

        and this: https://burnaway.org/magazine/blue-language-visual-perception/

        The scene before those who witnessed Jesus before Herod must have been highly charged. One witness might see a purple robe being put on Him from the front, another standing behind five minutes later might see a blood soaked robe.

        Homer’s wine dark face portrayed a brooding, emotional menace. It’s a shame we strip the gospel narative of its emotional, electric charge by only seeing pantone: 806 c 2x… or was it pantone 807c 2x? 🙂

        • Steve — I know that look well. I sail — I have a small 6.7m yacht. I have been in the marina when I would exactly describe the sea as wine-dark. I took photos of it some years ago. I never thought of Jesus robe as being as bright as 806C/807C, more 2356C or 207C

    • Yes, that is the way to make the accounts consistent, as they must be. The descriptive words for colours were not consistent across cultures.

      Death in Revelation rides a pale horse, but it is actually a pale green horse, the adjective being chloros. Chlorine gas was well named.

      And don’t forget that there is a Rainbow round the throne (Rev 4:3) – a phrase which comprises the title of a short Christian celebration/meditation of colour, written by an elderly Christian lady I knew who is now in that same colourful glory, and written before the rainbow got hijacked.

  2. Ian — I don’t see where the white comes from in Luke 23:11.

    There are some further interesting thoughts:
    1/ Men and women see colour differently with men only having 3 colour receptors and women having 3-5 (usually 5). This is physiological. Discernment of colour is therefore more difficult for men than women with men having a more limited or restricted colour gamut.
    2/ I do colour matching on video/film. Lighting affects things a lot. I rely both on my eyes (more limited as a man) and on instruments. You may remember that photo circulating where the colour perception was way off for most people. I instantly put it into a program to actually measure the colour realising that my eyes were being fooled.

    Hence… disregarding the white (which I don’t see from Luke 23:11) we’re discussing scarlet vs purple. Depending on the light reds will look more scarlet or more purple on the eye of the beholder. This would be particularly true if seen by daylight (higher colour temperature — adding blue to make it appear purple which I would call magenta) or candle/oil lamp (lower colour temperature — adding yellow to make it appear more scarlet which I’d just call red in colour matching) I therefore see the colour perceptions as coherent but interpreted for theological effect.

    As a painter I also use colour and wider descriptive names are interesting to help discern subtle differences of paints. The thing I learned doing portraits is that there are often colour hues present that are missed — on a face of a white person for instance we think of this as shades of pink, but there are greens and yellows present too. (I’d upload a photo of a portrait I’ve done to illustrate this but your blog doesn’t allow uploading images.) So when I read ‘scarlet’ and ‘purple’ I don’t see anything that needs reconciliation.

    • Thanks.

      Well, scarlet and purple are different colours referred to by different words; the table of the four texts includes the Greek terms, so you can see they are different. Matthew’s kokkinos means ‘a red cloak of the ‘sagum purpureum (paludamentum)’ of Roman soldiers, a cheaply dyed garment in contrast to the expensive ‘purple’ garments’. Mark’s porfuros is that rich, expensive purple.

      (Worth noting that Matthew is probably historically accurate, as the soldiers have made it; the ‘purple’ points to its meaning.)

      In Luke 23.11, the term he uses is completely different: ‘lampros’. It means ‘bright, shining’, and BDAG (a standard NT Greek lexicon) says:

      3. pert. to having a glistening quality
      a. of garments, esp. white ones: bright, shining; gleaming, glittering.

      So there is a prima facie difference that needs to be resolved. As I argue, the difference is not a historical one (they don’t think Jesus is wearing three different robes) but an interpretive, theological one: for each, this robe has slightly different meanings in the light of their theological emphases in the whole gospel story.

      • Ian — My point was not the words but the perceptions that led to the words.

        Another interesting thought came to me over dinner… colour synesthesia. I was chatting with musical friends about a year ago about this. One of the friends is a composer and the other a musician with vivid colour synesthesia. I’d recently colour graded a film using the music of my composer friend and I wondered what colours my friend with colour synesthesia saw for the music. I don’t have colour synesthesia so wondered if I’d created tones and hues that clashed. He said not only did they not clash but they exactly matched the colours he saw for that music. Which was wierd to me!

        So if colour synesthesia is as common as 1 in 200 to what extent might it also relate to experiences (especially significant or religious experiences) not just music hence the colours seen related in some way to the colour synesthesia of the experience. In other words the interpretation of the colours grew out of the experience of them rather than a cerebral writing of them. Kind of like the difference between exegisis and eisegisis in the writing.

        Certainly there is something that we are seeing reds and purples as regal not because the colours are implicitly regal but they became regal because of the ease or difficulty of making the dyes. This is one of the errors I believe with colour interpretation of scripture in some areas of the church. Especially alongside more normal warmer and cooler tones in colourimetry.

        • Richard, It could be as simple as the difference between, “she wore a cardigan and neclace” and “she wore a twinset and pearls.”
          Each conjures up a different look but the persons making the choice of words may not have thought it necessary to be more precise, they simply used whatever words came to mind.
          In the ancient mind any saturated colour was beautiful and the word ‘red’ covered a wide gamut.
          Perhaps Jesus demeanour was ‘sanguine’, that is ‘red’.

    • Do you have a reference for women having 3-5 different colour receptors?

      According to Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Color_vision) most humans have trichromacy, with those being colour-blind only dichromacy. Pentachromacy is “rare in vertebrates”

      I have heard that perhaps one in a million humans have tetrachromacy.

      If women really did have pentachromacy, it would mean that all the colour systems we have which mix three colours (RGB for additive or CMY for subtractive) would give results for women which would not be at all convincing.

      A quick search reveals that there is some evidence that women are better at perceiving small differences in hue – and men at discerning variations in space. But these changes might well be in the processing of the image data, as it were, rather than the actual detector hardware.

      • David B Wilson — reading more about it I realise I misunderstood slightly. It’s not that women have more common probability of tetrachromacy but because of the double XX gene their conical receptors frequently give a wider colour gamut of perception and discernment. This is particularly true in the green-blue area. Basically it appears that women are indeed better at perceiving differences at the shorted end of the visible spectrum.

        Personally I regularly calibrate all my computer monitors (once per month or even more often if I’m working on filming projects) with a Spyder X to ensure the monitors not only match but also are giving me the widest gamut possible.

    • That’s interesting, as I certainly have trouble distinguishing between certain colours, and as you say the effect of lighting/shade can be dramatic. I suspect if you and I had been witnesses and we told Mark or Matthew (whether or not he was the disciple), their accounts would indeed have been different.

  3. These are interesting and helpful comments on the robe. But I still don’t see how the accounts of the origins of the “Field of Blood” in Acts 1 can be sensibly reconciled, even if you can reconcile (with some difficulty) the two accounts of the death of Judas.

      • Yes, although I may have read fast because I’d read at least one of them before. If the argument is that “Judas bought a field and then died,” can be equivalent to “Judas died, and then the money was used by other people to buy a field in his name,” I don’t find it convincing. I don’t wish to offend you, Ian, especially because I’m about to send you an email asking for your assistance in a completely unrelated matter!

        • Penelope,
          People who hang themselves often take a running jump for a swift end. Whoever discovered the body may not have noticed a broken rope. Seems to me Judas bungled his own death and made a splash. Perhaps he was a tad overweight?

          • You have a point. But being ‘finance director’ I expect he had the only donkey, paid for accommodation on the company; ate separately and dodged the small, insignificant venues only meeting up at strategic locations. Sloping off drew no surprised looks from the rest. I bet he never actually witnessed a miracle, he was always doing something important.

        • I think the fact that different Greek words are used by Matthew and Luke for ‘bought/acquired’ is probably an important clue. If Matthew is correct, that Judas threw back the money at the priests, it couldnt officially become their/the Temple’s money as they refused to officially take it back, so from their point of view it was still Judas’ money. They then used his returned money to buy the field. Thus ‘officially’ the field belonged to Judas as it wasnt officially bought using the Temple’s money. So that part is, I think, reconcilable.

          However, what about the reason why it was called the Field of Blood. According to Matthew, it was so-called because the priests recognised it as ‘blood money’ which was used to ultimately lead to the death of someone. Matthew then sees that as fulfilment of prophecy. But Luke claims the reason for the name is because Judas’ body spilled out onto the field after being hanged. Quite different reasons. Perhaps Matthew’s version is the correct original reason why it was so-named, based on eyewitness account of what was said at the time by the priests. Whilst Luke’s reflects the ‘common’ belief that the local community believed, based on what his sources said. So while the two reasons are clearly different, they reflect the reality of what was believed at the time.

          Having said the above, I dont have a problem if the two accounts are in fact different and irreconcilable. I think both writers used Mark as a basis for their own gospels, and then took into account other eyewitness views. As these sources were different, it is not surprising if some details are different. And of course if each author had a different theological emphasis, it is inevitable that their versions would be slightly different. Only those who get their knickers in a twist about ‘inerrancy’ become desperate to reconcile everything. Mine are not in a twist.

  4. I am certified red-blind! I inherited this view of the world from my mother, who carried the red-blind gene. Her brother and my brother shared the same characteristic.

    The two colours you showed look to me like blue and black. Were I to have witnessed the robe being put on Jesus, I would probably told Matthew, Mark or Luke the wrong colour!

      • May I add that Isaiah 50:6 means he had a beard – for it was pulled out at his torture – contrary to many Christian artists’s depictions, and disproving the authenticity of the Turin Shroud.

        • Neither the word “beard” nor “hair” appears in Isaiah 50:6 in the Hebrew or Greek texts. A literal translation of the Hebrew Masoretic text from 1000 AD reads: “My back, I gave to (those) smiting, and my cheeks to plucking out, my face not I hid from insults and spitting.” There is no reference in this passage to hair or beard.

          There is only one complete Dead Sea scroll of Isaiah found in near Qumran. In this scroll (1QIsaa), the Hebrew reads, “My back, I gave to (those) smiting and my cheeks to those (striking with) a metal rod, my face not I turned away from insults and spitting.” It says nothing about plucking out of a beard.

          There are two major English translations of the Greek Septuagint. The 1851 Brenton translation which reads, “I gave my back to scourges, and my cheeks to blows; and I turned not away my face from the shame of spitting:” The 2007 NETS translation renders it, “I have given my back to scourges and my cheeks to blows, but I did not turn away my face from the shame of spittings.” Again, the ancient Greek translation says nothing about beards being plucked out, but instead that the Servant’s cheeks would be hit with blows. Notice: “And some began to spit on him and to cover his face and to strike him, saying to him, “Prophesy!” And the guards received him with blows.” (Mark 14:65) Again, no mention of any beard being ripped out in the New Testament accounts.

          There is strong linguistic agreement that the ancient DSS Hebrew text, the ancient Greek Septuagint and Gospels, all agreeing with the Rabbinic Masoretic Hebrew text. They all make reference to Jesus being struck in in the face with blows of a weapon. The best linguistic evidence would argue against Jesus having His whole beard ripped out.

          Besides, if you look closely at the centre of the beard below the chin you will notice an inverted “V” notch that indicates some missing hair. Pulling out a clump of hair, as it appears on the Shroud, would have been extremely painful and added to his torture. So, even if one accepts some translations of Isaiah 50:6, most accurate one never say they plucked off all of His facial hair and don’t mention a beard.

          • I think the Shroud is interesting. Some have argued even the imprint is a result of some sort of radiation burst from within. I understand the dating done decades ago was likely faulty and unreliable.

            However, how do you reconcile the Gospel accounts of there being a separate cloth covering Jesus’ face/head and the Shroud seemingly being one single cloth covering his whole body, including the face/head? I know Gary Habermas has argued that the cloth referenced in the Gospels is one that was tied around the face to keep the jaw/mouth closed after death, rather than a cloth wrapped around his whole head. Im not sure about that.

          • What do you think they plucked out of his cheeks? Do not duck this question, please.

            The word means pluck so as to make smooth; it is Strongs 4803 which is definitive (see also Nehemiah 13:25). Another test which the shroud fails. I expect you can find it in the Isaiah scroll in the Israel Museum, which is as old as the Septuagint and in the original tongue.

            The two forks (your inverted V notch) is standard mediaeval iconography for a beard. Do you not know this, which provides further evidence for the mediaeval origin of that shroud?

            In the summer of 1389 Bishop Pierre d’Arcis of Troyes, in France, drafted a letter to the man he viewed as the Pope, in Avignon (to which city the papacy had been displaced from Rome in 1309 by European politics; today the papacy is regarded as having returned to Rome in 1376, but rival claimants remained in the two cities for a few decades). D’Arcis’ letter reported an investigation in Lirey (in his diocese) about 35 years earlier by a previous Bishop of Troyes, Henri de Poitiers, who had been installed in 1354. D’Arcis states that the shroud in question was a forgery to which the artist had admitted. Here, translated from Latin, is part of what Bishop d’Arcis wrote:

            The Dean of… Lirey… not from any motive of devotion but only of gain, procured for his church a certain cloth cunningly painted, upon which by clever sleight of hand was depicted the twofold image of one man, that is to say, the back and the front, falsely declaring that this was the actual shroud in which our saviour Jesus Christ was enfolded in the tomb… and further to attract the multitude so that money might cunningly be wrung from them, pretended miracles were worked…after diligent enquiry and examination [Bishop Henri] discovered the fraud and how the said cloth had been cunningly painted, the truth being attested by the artist who had painted it, to wit, that it was a work of human skill and not miraculously wrought.

            Alternatively, Charles Freeman (The Origins of the Shroud of Turin, in History Today vol. 64, 11th November 2014) suggests that the Shroud is a 14th century painting on linen, created to represent Christ’s gravecloth at mediaeval Easter liturgical dramas, most likely the Quem Quaeritis re-enactment of the Resurrection tale (“whom do you seek?”). Such dramatisations were common in Eastern Orthodox liturgy, in which a representation on cloth of the dead Christ is known as an epitaphios. Freeman suggests that the paint has since crumbled off the Shroud due to regular unfolding and refolding for the pageant. Representations from the counter-Reformation era exist of Easter pageants in which this Shroud was held up, and they show a much stronger image, as the drama would require.

            Radiocarbon dating tests have placed the Turin Shroud in the 130 years prior to d’Arcis’ letter, with an accuracy of a few decades (Nature, vol. 337, p.611; 1989). Testing was done at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology and the Universities of Oxford and Arizona. These laboratories used the same techniques on materials of known age, including one from near Christ’s time. Results on these other materials confirmed the accuracy of the dating procedure. The three laboratories all concluded that the material tested from the Shroud was from the Middle Ages. There is no evidence visible on *either* side of the Shroud that the material tested was from a mediaeval repair. And the samples had been cleaned rigorously prior to the dating tests. In the Oxford tests they were cleaned with hot acid, then alkali, then bleach (all carbon-free) for several hours. Chemical discrepancies between the sample and the centre of the Shroud have been inferred from spectra observed under irradiation, but these are explicable by the amount of dirt on the edges and corners of the Shroud, which is visible to the eye and is due obviously to centuries of handling.

            It is very difficult to reconcile John’s account with the claim that the Shroud was placed over Jesus’ entire body and head, from which it picked up an imprint. A first century tomb in Jerusalem with surviving burial cloths was discovered in 2009, and the body had been tightly wound with the material (which survived because it was subsequently covered in plaster); there was a separate facecloth, just as John describes in Jesus’ case. The very large quantity of crushed spices specified by John would separate the body from the cloth and grossly distort any image.

            So where does this nonsense come from? Partly the Vatican’s silence on its authenticity, partly books by Ian Wilson and others suggesting that the Shroud came to France with Crusader knights, before which it might have been one of the ancient images known in the Byzantine Empire comprising Christians round the eastern Mediterranean; its capital, Constantinople (today Istanbul) was sacked by Crusaders in 1204. If, moreover, the Shroud is a particular image associated with the city of Edessa then it could date back centuries before the Crusades; then, by a legend of Edessa, to Christ’s time and place. The many problems with Wilson’s speculative travels of the Shroud are set out by Charles Freeman (The Shroud of Turin and the Image of Edessa: A Misguided Journey, in: Free Inquiry, 24th May 2012). In particular, extant copies of the Edessa image show the face of a live man, not a dead one.

            The Authenticity brigade make much of pollen samples taken from the shroud said to be from only the Holy Land. First, there may be contamination; second, those plants are found only in the Holy Land *today*. But what about 700 years ago?

            O for a Pope who acknowledges these things and makes the point by using it as a handkerchief!

          • Anton, are you conceding that the words “beard” and “hair” do not appear in Isaiah 50:6? That there is no prophecy Christ’s beard and facial hair would be completely pulled out?

            Medieval images of Christ were based on the Shroud of Turin, not the other way around.

            Bishop d’Arcis was wrong; so too Charles Freeman. There’s no paint on the Shroud. The image was most likely caused by a sudden burst of energy, a burst of energy no one has been able to replicate.

            The shroud is unique in that there is no plausible scientific explanation for how it could have been forged or even created by natural processes.

            Despite the fact that most people seem to think research on the Shroud came to an end with the carbon dating in 1988, it has become the most researched single artefact in history.

            The bottom line is that science has shown the image on the cloth is an ‘impossible’ image – one that cannot be replicated. One of the main reasons is, as scientists have now confirmed, the image on the Shroud had to be caused by a mysterious burst of light – that is, electromagnetic radiation.

            In short, the evidence indicates the Shroud was wrapped around a real body that simply ‘dematerialised’ without disturbing the perfectly formed blood clots on the cloth. That could only happen through an event like that described in the Gospels as the resurrection – an event that, as the Gospels state, freed Jesus’ body from material constraints.“

            The only evidence that has challenged the Shroud’s authenticity – the carbon dating – has now been shown to be flawed …

            The evidence that exists now confirms that the image on the 4-metre long cloth is an “impossible image” – one that can only be explained by some kind of “supernatural event”.

            The fact is the image on the Shroud has never been replicated by science and that’s because the evidence suggests it can’t be. It is a high-resolution, photographic-negative, 3-D image caused by a discoloration of a uniform layer of microscopic linen microfibres – something that could only be caused by a finely tuned burst of electromagnetic radiation that came from the body itself.

            PC1, The face-cloth (thesudarium) was a separate cloth that covered the face underneath the main burial shroud.

            The sudarium is said to be in Oviedo, Spain, and has a linked history to the Shroud of Turin. Blood stains on it are in the same locations relative to the shroud. Traces of limestone dust on the sudarium are also found on the shroud and also found at Calvary. Facial markings on the sudarium have patterns and geometries very similar to the face imprint on the shroud. The blood types on both sudarium abd shroud is AB – the rarest blood type in the world.

            As to the biblical mentioning of the shroud and the sudarium, John presents details about them – see John 20:5-8).

          • I am ‘conceding’ nothing. Jack. We got that far when we discussed this elsewhere, and as today you had no reply to my question of what you think they plucked out of his cheeks? Will you duck it a third time? They plucked his cheeks to smoothness, unlike the Shroud image.

            Bishop d’Arcis was wrong; so too Charles Freeman. There’s no paint on the Shroud. The image was most likely caused by a sudden burst of energy, a burst of energy no one has been able to replicate.

            That is an arbitrary assertion based more on wish-fulfilment than inference from the evidence. What is your evidence for it?

            The shroud is unique in that there is no plausible scientific explanation for how it could have been forged or even created by natural processes.

            What features of it rule out Freeman’s flaked-off paint hypothesis, and how do explain the counter-Reformation era drawings of Easter pageants with an image that is visually obvious, not so faint that you need a photographic negative to see it more clearly? Again, please do respond to this question.

            Your assertion that nobody has made a similar image using only mediaeval techniques is untrue. Joe Nickell did it. Not by Freeeman’s means, but enough to falsify your claim.

            The radiocarbon dating has NOT been shown to be wrong, at least to anything like the extent necessary for the Shroud to be 2000 years old. Only someone who doesn’t understand, or doesn’t want to understand, the science of radiocarbon dating, could say that.

            Nor have you explained how the image follows the shape of a body reasonably accurately despite several stones of spices being heaped on it according to St John’s inerrant account. Nor the fact that the Edesssa cloth claimed to be the same thing will show a living man, not a dead one.

            And why should the Resurrection involve a burst of electromagnetic radiation? This is guesswork. Nor is anything like that recorded in the case of Lazarus. There are multiple problems with your viewpoint.

          • HJ &Anton.
            What amazes me is that images of God are prohibited by God in scripture, yet we seek what is not permitted and to venerate it.
            And yes, Jesus is God the Son. So no images.

          • Geoff,

            The Turin Shroud seems to be believed by many Catholics (not all) and by some fundamentalist protestants. Very strange!

            I for one would never dare try to draw a representation of God the Father. Nor would I draw Christ’s face, for no great artist (let alone me) could do justice to the absence of sin in it. But drawings or paintings of Christ from behind, ministering to a crowd; or on the cross as seen from a distance? Or an actor in the part of Christ in a portrayal of the gospel story? Tricky!

          • Yes, Anton.
            It is the veneration of the object that is gravely amiss, verging on idolatry.
            And a deeper question is why would anyone, Christian, want to.
            What is certain is that Jesus was not white, middle class, middle minded. He was a Jew of his time.

          • ….. and we can image Jesus accurately, because we know that he was an Italian used car salesman (at least that is what most of the images seem to look like).

          • Ian, I posted this in the wrong place – please delete the first entry.

            @ Geoff

            And if it is a mysterious sign left by God, only fully discernible in the 20th/21st centuries, how is that man making an idolatrous image?

            God forbids us making craven images for the purpose of worshipping them, i.e., idolatry. Veneration means to show great respect or reverence, not worship.

            @ Anton
            Here’s a bibliography of articles on the shroud: https://www.academia.edu/49051090/The_Feasibility_of_a_Medieval_Artisan_Having_Produced_the_Shroud_of_Turin_an_Annotated_English_Language_Bibliography

            You’ll note, many scientists, medical experts and other specialists have arrived at differing conclusions about the shroud. However, what can be agreed on is that there is no current adequate explanation for the mysterious image on this cloth.

            Here’s an good summary of the teachings of the shroud: https://www.publish0x.com/deus-ex/the-holy-shroud-of-turin-is-the-image-of-jesus-christ-the-ma-xlglkyy

          • Jack,

            I’m not going to respond to websites you post without any summary of their content to show you understand them. Otherwise you can put up website after website with no thought or time and I expend effort and time in responding to them. Interact with me in a way by which we stand a chance of learning from each other; otherwise let us leave it to Ian’s readers to decide between us on the basis of our posts.

          • @ Anton

            That’s your prerogative, but I really don’t intend to enter into a lengthy (and fruitless) debate repeating the findings of well over 300,000 hours research. The first link is simply a summary, with attached references, of the research and different positions held on the shroud. There are some things science can neither prove nor disapprove – sure you’ll agree. The second link is worth a read too and is the position I hold. Alternatively, one can just say “we don’t know.” But a fake painting or some other type of fraudulent artefact from the middle ages or earlier is just not a tenable position.

          • @ Anton

            Then the burden of proof surely rests with those asserting this and, if they should do so , there’s a £1m reward on offer to the British Museum!

            There are only three possibilities: 1) human artistry, 2) natural processes, or 3) supernatural processes. The latter cannot be proven and the first two have yet to be plausibly demonstrated.

            For me, the shroud is literally document the Passion and the torture Jesus suffered. The forensic evidence indicates that the Gospel accounts are an accurate depiction of what happened during the crucifixion of Christ.

          • It’s not simply a question of faith. As there’s no substantial scientific consensus the shroud is the result of human artistry or natural processes, this just leaves a supernatural explanation.

          • There IS a ‘substantial scientific consensus’ and I have given the details. You can only point to websites you do not understand (or you’d be able to summarise the science in them) and fringe material purporting to be serious science. You have failed to engage with several specific arguments against the authenticity of this shroud, which I have detailed above.

  5. So, the question in my mind is this:
    If Achilles state of mind/emotion was summed up by describing the sea’s colour before him what does the use of colour in the gospels tell us about Jesus’ inner working? If any?
    Is it more than just an ironic depiction of royalty (purple), or identity as a commander of an army (red), bright, shining; gleaming, glittering (pagan priest??) or what? He seems to be inscrutable despite an attempt to look inside His head.

    • No, I think each writer, based on their own pool of witnesses/writings and Mark, described the soldiers dressing up Jesus as a ‘king’ as he had clearly already become known as some sort of kingly Messiah figure for some Jews, so as to mock him. Hence adding to his shame. I think sometimes too much is read into the text. Nice try though Steve!

      Personally Id rather read an historically accurate account of what happened, and draw conclusions from that.

      • You would prefer an historical account? Like a ship’s log? Or church minutes?
        I’d like to see the gospels rewritten as accurate company minutes. That would be interesting!

        • I want to know what actually happened, yes. If I had been a fly on the wall, what would I have seen and heard? Is that strange? I personally find watching films/tv series such as The Chosen often emotional because I think that’s probably what happened (roughly). Your mind is different from mine. Probably a good thing. Probably.

          • I find writing up my observations of scripture as fiction a good way to explore the truth. This part of Jesus trial is intriguing. I find your observations a healthy corrective to keep me grounded! Thanks Peter.

  6. Two thousand-ish years on we are so used to the Bible that we overlook some seemingly obvious points. The early Church did not have to have four Gospels in the canon. Life might have been simpler with a single Gospel, but that’s not what were given. If we have four Gospels, it’s because it was important to have multiple perspectives on the Good News. And interestingly, the apparent differences in details (the colour of Jesus’ robe) weren’t corrected. That tells us two things: the early Church wasn’t adding to or taking away from the Gospels (if they had been prepared to do that, they’d have been prepared to ‘correct’ them) and that the early Church was confident they were dealing with true Scripture. And of course those who compiled the canon would have been well aware of these differences in the details, and especially when you’re talking about the story of the crucifixion. This isn’t a secret we’ve just discovered. But for the early Church it doesn’t seem it mattered – all four Gospels are canonical in the original and ‘uncorrected’ form we’ve received them.

    • AJ Bell — I am most comfortable with your approach ‘for the early Church it doesn’t seem it mattered’. Fussing over detail is a very modernist way of looking in life IMHO. The variances add to the authenticity of the veracity of the accounts as we know from crime witnesses. Unless it’s very straightforward identical accounts make one suspect collusion. Minor variances project coherence.

  7. Is there reason to believe that Joseph had a multicoloured robe?
    I use Gesenius as a source which says that it is (by implication only) a tunic with long sleeves worn by boys and girls of nobler rank. Even Strong’s only seems to guess at the multicoloured interpretation.

  8. Joseph isn’t the only beloved son to be given a multi-coloured coat. Jesus is given one too, though by the hands of ungodly men. In Matthew it’s scarlet (kokkinos); in Mark it’s purple (porphyra); and in Luke it’s white/resplendent (lampros) (Luke 23.11), like the linen of the saints (Rev 19.8).In each Synoptic, the colour of Jesus’ robe has its own significance. It answers to the way Jesus’ life is introduced.

    Your reference to Joseph is quite apposite Ian

    For me, the life of Joseph is the Old Testament portrayal of the Life of Christ
    What does Joseph portray for us today?
    . “The story of Joseph, is a vivid representation of the great truth that ‘all things work together for good to [those] who loved God and are called according to His purposes ‘ (See Rom. 8:28.)

    God is sovereign over the darkest moments of our lives
    Though eventually Joseph rose to power, wealth, and prominence, he experienced many dark days. His brothers hated him and sold him into slavery; he spent years in jail for choosing not to engage in sin, and he was forgotten by those he helped for quite some time. Despite all these trials, he kept his faith. “The story of Joseph, the son of Jacob who was called Israel, is a vivid representation of the great truth
    And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God,
    to them who are the called according to his purpose [Will]. Romans 8 v 28

    In the storms of life, in the darkest moments, cling to God’s promises, knowing His sovereign plan involves the “Valley of the Shadow of Death” (Psalm 23:4), but He is with His children. Joseph shows how to glorify God in the dark places, and how to credit Him for carrying His followers through those places. [ theologyofwork.org/old-testament/genesis-12-50-and-work/joseph-genesis-372-5026/ ]

    “And now do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life… And God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors. So it was not you who sent me here, but God…” (Genesis 45:5&7-8a).
    Deliverance came and comes
    105:18 Whose feet they hurt with fetters: he was laid in iron:
    105:19 *Until the time that his word came: the word of the Lord tried him. *

    There is the trying of our faith until God sends his Word [Logos]to bring about His will of emancipation and bringing into the
    Glorious Liberty of the sons of God!

    Mat 8:8 The centurion answered and said, Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldest come under my roof: but speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed.

    JOB.33:28 He will deliver his soul from going into the pit, and his life shall see the light.
    33:29 Lo, all these things worketh God oftentimes with man,
    33:30 To bring back his soul from the pit, to be enlightened with the light of the living.

  9. Fascinating and enlightening: of some depth in the sweep of the canon of scripture and biblical theology.
    I wasn’t going to read the article as the title assumed an answer that it did matter!
    But the article pushes beyond the ( necessary) apologetics in response to the seeming contradictions spotted by skeptics into the blossoming field (but much overlooked) of the cross pollination of the Biblical Theological hermeneutic, (or scripture interpreting scripture) with a theological hermeneutic of scripture which seems to nonplus, bamboozle, skeptics, atheists and revisionists.
    Thank you for putting up this article.

  10. Cressida, I think it is what they used to call “straining at a gnat and swallowing a camel” It happens quite a lot amonst heavy weight
    { or perhaps even over – weight} theologians and to some midget ones as well.

    • I am not sure if you are referring to Happy Jack and Anton. I use to blog with them for years and years. They were both very popular especially with the (lady, female, opposite to male) bloggers..(.This is my woeful attempt at being p c.) They were fun. The well known Christian blog that I was referring to closed down and some of the marooned survivors are beginning to find each other again As far as I know neither were overweight and I don’t think either of them had any connection to Snow White.

  11. Ian, in your fifteenth paragraph we read:

    *Luke talks to us about innocence and righteousness—about a blameless couple from the line of Aaron, a virgin overshadowed by the Holy Spirit (to bear the holy Son of God), …*

    “From the line of Aaron”, Ian? Do you mean that literally, from the genealogical “line” of Aaron? But Aaron was descended from Levi. The genealogies in Matthew and Luke both give Joseph as a descendant of Judah.


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