Was there any significance to the colour purple, as described by the evangelists while mentioning the robe that Jesus was made to put on before His crucifixion? Both John 19:2 and Mark 15:7 mentioning the colour, would seem to signify that the colour did convey something, but what?

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Purple in the Roman Empire was associated with triumph, and came to be associated with the Emperors specifically. Along with the crown of thorns, the purple robe was a mocking symbol of Jesus' royalty.

  • At the time of Jesus, the dye used for making the colour purple, extracted from shell-fish, was one of the most expensive dyes. The colour-fast (non-fading) dye was an item of luxury trade, prized by Romans, who used it to colour ceremonial robes. The very fact that purple was an expensive color made it affordable only to the royals. That Jesus was made to put it on before his crucifixion, implies that the Romans were sending a strong signal to the Jews against any coup. Jul 4, 2015 at 16:32

Was there any significance to the colour purple, as described by the evangelists while mentioning the robe that Jesus was made to put on before His crucifixion?

The colour purple in antiquity did not always have the same significance or symbolism as it does in our modern culture.

In ancient times, purple symbolized royalty, nobility and imperialism. To a lesser degree it became associated with spirituality and holiness. In modern times purple symbolizes penance and Lent.

Purple symbolizes royalty, nobility and imperialism. In many European societies, the symbolism was even established by law: From ancient Rome to Elizabethan England, "sumptuary laws" forbade anyone except close members of the royal family to wear the color.

Purple's elite status stems from the rarity and cost of the dye originally used to produce it. Fabric traders obtained "Tyrian purple," as the dye was called, from a small mollusk that was found only in a region of the Mediterranean Sea near Tyre, a Phoenician trading city located in modern-day Lebanon. More than 9,000 mollusks were needed to create just one gram of Tyrian purple, and because only wealthy rulers could afford to buy and wear fabrics dyed with the color, it became associated with the imperial classes of Rome, Egypt and Persia.

Another consequence of this is that purple also came to represent spirituality and holiness, because the ancient emperors, kings and queens that wore the color were often considered to be gods or descendants of the gods. - How 8 Colors Got Their Symbolic Meanings

How the symbolic meaning of purple went from meaning royalty and the rich to the modern meaning of fasting, penance and Lent is not truly understood and may always remain a mystery.

In the twelfth century, Pope Innocent III was the first to specify the colours of the vestments that were to be used for the Roman Rite; almost certainly this reflected prevailing custom in Rome, not an invention on his part. Although a separate subject from this article, it is well to remember that it was only towards the end of the 1st Millenium that the question of vestment colour became a significant one. Black was designated for penitential and funeral liturgies, but violaceus was indicated as a substitute for black. Pope Innocent’s treatise De sacro altaris mysterio (Book I, chapter 65, which was written before his election as pope in 1198) seems to be the first indication that violaceus had come to be regarded as a penitential colour for the Roman Rite. - The Liturgical Colour violaceus in the Roman Rite

It is obvious that the Romans were mocking Jesus' royalty and divinity with this purple cloak.


It is full of significance. The symbolism of not just the purple, but all four colors of the robe viewed in the Gospel accounts from points of view.

Heb. 10:19-20 Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, By a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh;

This then relates to the pattern of the tabernacle of Moses wherein the veil was made of four colors.

Ex. 26:31 And thou shalt make a vail of blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine twined linen of cunning work: with cherubims shall it be made:

Blue [tekeleth], purple [argaman], scarlet, linen. So we see Christ clothed in the same, although the two purples refer to the blue and the purple and gorgeous may be translated white, like white linen.

John 19:2 And the soldiers platted a crown of thorns, and put it on his head, and they put on him a purple [porphyrus] robe,

Mt. 27:28 And they stripped him, and put on him a scarlet [kokkinos] robe.

Mk. 15:17 And they clothed him with purple [porphyra- purple fish],

Lk. 23:11 And Herod with his men of war set him at nought, and mocked him, and arrayed him in a gorgeous [lampros- white] robe, and sent him again to Pilate.

So, the color purple may have also related to royalty, but the primary point was to show Christ came in the flesh.


Emperors wore purple togas, so it was a way to make fun of Jesus after He claimed to be the Son of God, which He was.


In Numbers 4, all items in the tabernacle, when moved, are covered first with blue (HEAVEN) then the outer 'badger skin' (porpoise, or whatever).
However, in v. 13, the brazen altar (identified by context) is to be wrapped in purple.

The brazen altar, signifying both the humanity and the atonement of Jesus, would seem to indicate that during the suffering and disgrace, his was STILL king, and (in fact) was robed in purple at the time.

This verse 'could' be seen as a prophetic picture of the tortured Christ.

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