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Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament

Scarlet (2)

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SCARLET.1. Scarlet, as a dye, was obtained from the body of the female kermes insect (Lecanium ilicis), a native of S.E. Europe, where it lives upon a species of dwarf oak (Qucrcus coccifera). The insect is of the family Coccidae, to which also the cochineal of Mexico belongs. Its Latin name (derived from its appearance) was grana; hence the dye was called ‘grain’ (cf. Milton, Penser. 33, Par. Lost, xi. 242; Spenser, FQ i. vii. I; see Skeat, Etym. Dict. s.v.).

2. The colour is correctly represented by its name. Matthew 27:28 is the only passage in the Gospels where the word ‘scarlet’ (κόκκινος) occurs, and it is there a substitute for the ‘purple’ of || Mark 15:17; Mark 15:20, John 19:2; John 19:5, It is the latter word that has changed its meaning (see art. Purple).

‘The Gr. sense of colour seems to have been so comparatively dim and uncertain, that it is almost impossible to ascertain what the real idea was which they attached to any word alluding to hue’ (Ruskin, Mod. Painters, iii. 225. Cf. also Gladstone, Juv. Mundi, p. 540).

Yet the ancients, as a rule, carefully distinguished scarlet from purple (Becker, Gallus, p. 446). Probably Mt. gives the colour actually used, Mk. and Jn. the colour intended.

3. The ‘scarlet robe’ was undoubtedly a military cloak, either that of a common soldier (sagum) or that of a commanding officer (paludamentum). The latter was longer and of better quality; both were regularly of scarlet (Ellicott, Hist. Lectures, p. 348 n. [Note: note.] ). Westcott (on John 19:2; John 19:5) emphasizes, in the crown and robe, the idea of victory as well as of royalty: ‘this blood-stained robe was the true dress of a kingly conqueror.… So He was through life the suffering King, the true Soldier.’

F. S. Ranken.


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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Scarlet (2)'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/hdn/s/scarlet-2.html. 1906-1918.

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