A. “lakinthos” and “Porphyra” in the Greek Version of the Old Testament.

That Argaman was blatta purple1 (i.e., dyed with marine snail pigment) is attested by the Septuagint, the oldest translation of the Pentateuch. Wherever Argaman occurs in the Torah it is rendered by Porphyra or one of its derivatives, and this rendering is indeed adhered to throughout the rest of the Bible. Tekhelet, whether occurring by itself or in close association with Argaman, is represented by Iakinthos. The impression thus created is that Tekhelet does not fall under the appellation Prophyra. I do not wish to imply that Porphyra was not elastic enough to be used sometimes as a term embracing all kinds of purple, including Iakinthos, but that in its ordinary sense it denoted fabrics distinctly differing in colour from Iakinthos, so that its conjunction with the latter term involved no clashing or overlapping.

Iakinthos as the name of the coloured fabric, curiously enough, very rarely occurs in Greek literature outside the version of the Bible. So far as I know, there are only two solitary instances: Athenaeum lib. XII and Arrian lib. VI. In each of these passages Porphyra and Iakinthos occur together, presenting the same phenomenon as in the Septuagint and the other Greek translations. I cannot recall a parallel collocation in Latin literature. The nearest approach is Juvenal … “Purpura vendit causidicum, ventun amethystina.2

That Tekhelet (Iakinthos of the Greek versions) was also of (marine) molluscan origin has not been questioned, so far as I know, by any standard author. De Pierre3 quotes a certain writer. Birwood, to the effect that Tekhelet was indigo-blue. As he gives no reference, I have not been able to verify the source. Professor Flinders Petrie, in the letter referred to, seems to hold the same view at least, as far as the Tekhelet of the Tabernacle is concerned, but there is no need to go over again the ground already covered. If it were shown that the Tekhelet dye in the earliest time was of vegetable origin, it would follow that a later age made the change to a marine animal dyestuff, for, as will soon be made clear, we have indisputable evidence that at least in the last decades of the Second Temple Tekhelet was certainly of the latter origin. But so far there is no serious ground for assuming any such break in the Tekhelet tradition.



  1. Schmidt, W.A., ibid., passim.
  2. Juvenal, 7, 134.
  3. DePierre, “Historique de l’Indigo,” Teinture. v.III, Paris (1893).